Thursday, February 18, 2021

The Wonderful World of Aeoniums

A few years ago, another garden blogger asked readers what they'd call their garden if they were to assign it a name.  As I recall, I blithely responded "Lizardville" or possibly "Aeoniumville" but actually, while lizards are present year-round, they're most invisible during the cooler months, while succulent Aeoniums are always readily evident.  When collecting photos for my recent February foliage post, I found myself snapping a lot of photos of Aeoniums.  I decided they deserved their own post so here it is.

I've often described Aeonium 'Kiwi' as my "gateway succulent" and indeed it was the only succulent I grew in my former tiny garden but I'm going to start off this post with Aeonium arboreum, a larger and more varied group introduced to my current garden soon after we moved here in December 2010.  A good friend brought me a few, as cuttings if I recall correctly.  I wasn't immediately sure what to do with them so those first specimens went into what I now call my Aeonium nursery.  From a few rosettes planted beneath three citrus trees, they grew into large clumps.

I recall thinking that they all looked alike, with large solid green rosettes, but they currently show some minor variation, which may be due to nothing more than the degree of sun exposure.  I call this my Aeonium nursery as I cut rosettes from these plants regularly, both for my own garden and to give away to others.

As my husband and I pulled out lawn and later dying shrubs, creating new beds, Aeonium arboreum cuttings gradually migrated into one spot after another.  In fact, they became my go-to plant to fill blank spots for which I didn't have more specific plans.

This stem, with a rosette larger than my head standing outside my office window, explains its species name.  It develops tall stems with many branches.

The plants flower too, although I can't say I like them much.  The rosette from which a flower springs dies back, although the other rosettes in the clump live on.

Aeonium arboreum can be found throughout my garden but my front slope is home to the largest mass of them.  They're well suited to the partially shaded conditions and dry soil there.  Aeoniums go dormant in summer here but, in partial shade with a little irrigation, they don't dry up into balls as they do under harsher conditions.

This area along our driveway shows the impact of harsher growing conditions.  The plants here survive mainly on rain and, even though this is currently our "rainy season," we've had less than 3 inches thus far and the Aeoniums here haven't entirely recovered from their long period of dormancy.

I've even stuck rosettes into pots.  These cement shoes have very small cavities to contain soil but, as you can see, they survived and even branched.

I've also mixed Aeonium arboreum with other Aeonium species, as well as other succulents.

This vignette across from my shade house contains Aeonium arboreum, A. 'Kiwi', and Crassula lycopodioides 

Aeonium arboreum and 'Kiwi' flourish on the moderate slope here.  I lot of the Aeonium rosettes were stuck directly into the dry stack wall.

One blogger told me that it looked like the Aeoniums were climbing up the side of a low wall here alongside our back patio but actually they've simply formed tall clumps

Like the plain green Aeonium arboreum, I use a lot of Aeonium haworthii 'Kiwi', partly because it's prolific and partly because it contributes a little yellow and red color to the mix.

Close up of 'Kiwi'

If 'Kiwi' doesn't get much sun, it doesn't develop red edges

It works particularly well planted along the edges of beds as shown here in the dry garden on the northeast side of the house

A few years ago, I picked up a handful of Aeonium haworthii 'Kiwi Verde' in 4-inch pots and discovered that it's even more vigorous than its 'Kiwi' cousin.

It develops a red edge like 'Kiwi' but it's otherwise green in color

It forms large clumps very fast!

Its vigor and speed of growth led me to pepper small cuttings of 'Kiwi Verde' in this newly planted area of the front slope.  The cuttings weren't rooted but just stuck straight into the ground.  Most experts recommend allowing the cut stem ends to callous over before planting but I don't even do that.

As I have a ready supply of 'Kiwi' and 'Kiwi Verde' to provide cuttings, I used these when I planted this cat topiary

As much as I love the color green, splashes of other colors are always welcome.  If you like red, there are lots of red-toned Aeoniums, many of which are hybrids of Aeonium arboreum

This is Aeonium 'Zwartkop', perhaps the most popular and readily available dark-colored Aeonium

I think this one is Aeonium 'Cyclops'

Aeonium 'Garnet' in a pot by our front door

I believe this one is Aeonium 'Silk Pinwheel', purchased by mail order in 2019 in a 2-inch pot

Aeonium 'Velour' is mostly green at present because it's in a shady spot

Aeonium 'Cabernet' develops red edges later in the season when it gets more sun

I bought this Aeonium 'Jack Catlin' by mail order 2 years ago but it's so well shaded between large Agaves and a Metrosideros it hasn't developed 'Jack Catlin's' characteristic color so I'm going to take cuttings to place in a sunnier setting

The conditions in which Aeoniums are grown often have a significant impact on their color.  This seems particularly true in the case of those with large rosettes - or at least that's been my experience.

I believed that the Aeonium arboreum cuttings I used here when I replanted the succulent bed in front of the garage were a plain solid green variety and I was startled when I found them changing color soon after I put them in

Aeoniums also come in variegated forms.

Aeonium 'Sunburst' is one of the most dramatic of the variegated forms

Aeonium 'Mardi Gras' may be the flashiest one I've seen.  Unfortunately, it's very slow to produce offset rosettes.

My Aeonium 'Fiesta' lost its characteristic variegation in the shade of a tree stump so I probably need to move it

There are a few other Aeoniums in my garden that are harder to find.

I believe this one is Aeonium canariensis, sometimes referred to as a "tea cup" variety.  The rosettes are very large and slightly fuzzy.

These are Aeonium nobile, which develops a rusty orange color and large, thick-leaved rosettes.  I recently rescued these from areas in which they'd been squeezed and shaded by other succulents.  It develops an interesting flower but, as it's monocarpic, I'm in no hurry to see it.

This is Aeonium leucoblepharum, which I found at a succulent society sale years ago.  It's in a small pot so it hasn't gotten very big.

In the front here is Aeonium 'Lily Pad', a relatively small specimen with flatter rosettes

That's my collection.  I may have missed one or two varieties but this is as complete a run-down as I can provide.  If you've found an Aeonium you love, let me know!


All material © 2012-2021 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party


24 comments:

  1. Goodness! I was foolish to think there is a mere handful of Aeonium types... how I wish I could grow it in my Seattle garden. Aeonium 'Mardi Gras' is irresistible, and 'Sunburst's variegation is so perfect. Mixing these "stars" with solid green and red varieties as you do, really makes for a wonderful tapestry. I'd love to see more of the rescued Aeonium nobile once it's adjusted to it's new location.

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    1. I'm sure there are even more varieties than I know of! 'Mardi Gras' is hard to find - the only place I've seen it, and where I got mine, was a big box store. It doesn't produce offsets as readily as other varieties, although 'Sunburst' is only nominally better. I cut my very first tiny 'Mardi Gras' offsets this week and stuck them in the ground. It remains to be seen whether the baby plants will hold on to their parent's variegation.

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  2. I admire the massive clumps your aeoniums grow into (and Cousin Itt!) I was just prowling my garden recently wondering where canariensis disappeared to -- the aeoniums are on hiatus currently in my garden! Down the street a neighbor is growing one of those ginormous dinner plate kinds. Maybe I'll offer to buy a piece...

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    1. I can supply a canariensis if you want one, Denise. I don't have a tubuliforme but they are interesting. I made the mistake of checking the World of Succulents list of Aeoniums - wow!

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  3. I should stop thinking of your garden for it's massive flower output and start thinking of it for the huge quantities of aeonium. I love that you have a "nursery" supplying cutting material, and that you've identified a plant that does so well for you and spread it around your garden so fantastically. Up here I can only imagine having such aeonium riches since they have to be babied through the winter and look pretty anemic by the time they can go outdoors again. On another note, reading this post I felt the first stirrings of excitement for the new gardening year ahead. Those feelings are forced into dormancy each winter...and some springs I wonder if they'll make a return. Thank you for the brief flash of excitement!

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    1. I expect the problem in growing Aeoniums in your climate would be that they're at their best in the cooler fall/winter months and normally go dormant during the heat of summer when succulents normally shine for you. Mu guess is that they couldn't handle even a sniff of snow! I hope your melt is underway and you can start really seeing the promise in your garden soon.

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  4. Every time you show your Aeoniums I am greeen with envy. They are so beautiful in your garden. I have tried time and again to grow these beauties and of course I have to bring them inside for winter which is sure death. SIGH~~~

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    1. They're perfectly made for my climate, Lisa, but it seems they don't do well in climates that get more winter cold. Loree/danger garden raised the same concern. It's too bad they can't be successfully over-wintered inside.

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  5. I have, what I think is Zwartkop, and a plain green one.
    Yours are so loved and lovely, I need to go and nurture my neglected bits.

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    1. They require little support here once planted, Diana. They do fare better with some shade, however.

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  6. Definitely a workhorse in your garden, Kris, and you've got so many varieties! I think 'Mardi Gras' is my favorite. I remember when I first started following your blog years ago, all these plants were so new to me. Thanks for the education. ;)

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    1. I'm only sorry that you can't use more of the plants I've introduced you to, Eliza!

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  7. A good name for your garden, and they are certainly special plants, aren't they? I love the shoe planters and the cat topiary!

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    1. They're very easy to grow plants - at least here!

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  8. You grow the absolutes best aeoniums! That mardi gras is a stunner, but the combo of it with the...coprosma?- perfection. I wonder if people in colder climates might have better luck with varieties like your Aeonium leucoblepharum which are listed as summer growers.

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    1. 'Mardi Gras' is hard to find, possibly because it's so reluctant to produce offsets. Yes, that is Coprosma 'Fireburst' next to it - it's not the most robust Coprosma either but I love its color. I didn't know that about Aeonium leucoblepharum but will pass that advice on if asked - thanks!

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  9. They are a quick filler for a couple of years, aren't they? My fav is Zwartkop--a touch of black is a great accent. Discovered just lately it look fabulous with any purple flower.

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  10. A very lovely collection. Those cement shoes look like they could belong to the wicked witch of the East. Very cute.

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    1. Yes, assuming the Wicked Witch of the East had very slim feet ;)

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  11. Wonderful! My Grandad sometimes had succulent in his conservatory.

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    1. In colder climates than mine, Aeoniums would probably do well grown year-round in a conservatory.

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  12. You definitely should call your garden Aeouniumville. So many beautiful rosettes and colours. I have several in pots with Mardi Gras one of my favourites but it's not nearly as vigorous as others.

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    1. Aeoniums are very carefree plants here, Elaine. I can literally take a cutting, stick it directly in the ground, and leave it alone for years.

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