Plant enthusiasts are familiar with Echeverias as small, attractive rosettes that in time form the “Hen & Chick” clusters so well suited to window culture, and as container plants on the patio in singular or multiple plantings. Few are aware of the potential of the larger Echeverias with regards to xeriscaping.

The culture for these plants is not complicated. Echeverias prefer excellent air circulation, well draining soil, and will thrive in slightly cooler, temperate climes. Echeverias may become somewhat dormant in extreme heat, but begin growing again once the temperature cools in the fall. It is preferable to protect Echeverias from frost to prevent the subsequent scarring of the plant.

Over the years, much hybridization has been done with Echeverias, to the extent that these plants now exist in nearly every color of the rainbow, and with many variable shapes. These striking plants, for the most part, are descendants of Echeveria gibbiflora, which has its natural habitat in forests at 2000 feet of altitude in Mexico. Some sport caruncles, or raised areas on the leaves, often blushed with a contrasting color, resembling volcanic lava erupting from a cinder cone. Others have intricately ruffled or crinkly edges, with ever concentric patterns, exhibiting fascinating fractal design. Opalescent blue, blushed with fiery pink, dark coppery bronze, mahogany, lavender violet, powdery alabaster, and lime green with red tips are just a few of the possible color combinations. These beautiful rosettes can grow to impressive diameters of 15″ to over 20″ when planted in the garden, and will provide dramatic color and shape accents for other xerophytic plants.

Original Article by Renee O’Connell
Originally published in Garden Compass magazine
Jan/Feb 2003
Used with permission.