Favorite plant: Hechtia lanata

Every plant in our garden is a favorite plant. That’s what I’d like to believe, although it isn’t entirely true. In reality, my preferences change constantly and favorites come and go. But this week, the plant I’ve been looking at more than any other is Hechtia lanata. I have two of them, and the larger one—the one in the ground—is approaching maturity:

It has a beautiful fountain shape with leaves that curl under. Viewed from the top, there’s wonderful symmetry:

Hechtia lanata knows how to defend itself: The barbed teeth grab you if you get too close.

Below is Hechtia lanata next to Agave ‘Chisum’ (a cross between Agave colorata and Agave pablocarrilloi, the species previously known as Agave gypsophila). This Hechtia lanata isn’t large, about 13 inches across and 11 inches tall. It’s dwarfed by the agave, but visually it holds its own—and then some.

Hechtia lanata is a terrestrial bromeliad native to the Mexican state of Oaxaca. It’s only found in a small area in southeastern Oaxaca at an elevation of 7,800 ft. (2,400 m). It’s considered a lithophyte, i.e. it grows on bare rock, feeding off nutrients from rainwater and decaying plants nearby.

Hechtia lanata has been in cultivation for decades, but for reasons I can’t quite figure out, it’s hard to find and expensive. But that could be said for all hechtias: Aside from a few crazy collectors, nobody pays any attention to these fiercely armed—and fiercely beautiful—plants.

My larger plant (photos above) came from Andy Siekkinen. I also have a smaller plant from Jeremy Spath of Hidden Agave Ranch:

It was a small seedling when Jeremy gave it to me, but it’s done a lot of growing this year.

While the Hechtia lanata from Andy stays silvery green year round, the one from Jeremy has taken on reddish hues. And check out those trichomes—the white flocking on the leaves. The trichomes reflect sunlight, helping keep the leaves cooler.

The species name echoes the fuzziness of the leaves: lanata means woolly. But there are a forms with virtually naked leaves, like this one at Aloes in Wonderland, Jeff Chemnick’s garden and nursery in Santa Barbara:

Jeff’s plant is also a very active clumper. Other lanatas I’ve seen are a bit more shy about offsetting.

Earlier this year I started a small batch of seeds and I’ve had very good germination. It looks like I’ll soon be able to plant Hechtia lanata in other spots in the garden:

I haven't been able to find any definitive information on how cold-tolerant Hechtia lanata is, but my plant in the ground has been through three winters with no damage whatsoever. I'd be comfortable  leaving it outside if winter temperatures rarely drop below 28°F.

© Gerhard Bock, 2022. All rights reserved. To receive all new posts by email, please subscribe here.


  1. Gorgeous plants and yes very well armed. Question: what is the difference between hechtias and dyckias? I have a silver hechtia(?) (possibly argentea) but then I see pictures of silver dyckia and they both look the same. How does one tell them apart?

    1. Elaine, your question about the differences between hechtias and dyckias gave me the idea for this post, “Hechtia vs. Dyckia.”

  2. Have you thought of a name for your future plant nursery yet? Both the Hechtia and that Agave are beautiful plants. I can't believe that yet another plant, Agave gypsophila, has been reclassified. If they have to reclassify/rename plants, I do wish they'd simplify the names rather than make them even harder to remember ;)

    1. The Agave gypsophila complex was split into five separate species in 2013: Agave gypsophila, A. abisaii, A. andreae, A. kristenii, and A. pablocarrilloi. The plant we knew as gypsophila (offsetting) is now known as pablocarrilloi; the redefined gypsophila is solitary and virtually unknown in cultivation. More info here.

  3. One of these days I'll find a Hechtia !

  4. Your Hechtia is beautiful, though I wonder if "the barbed teeth grab you if you get too close" has something to do with it not being more available ;-D I'm impressed with the level of germination you have... it's so exciting. When will those Hechtia be ready for the garden?

    1. Yes, the scarcity factor seems to make plants more desirable.

      It'll be a few years before my Hechtia lanata seedlings are large enough to be planted out.

  5. I wondered if you were going to share that clump at Aloes in Wonderland. It certainly captured my attention! Glad to know you're on your way to having a clump of your own.


Post a Comment