It’s summer (news flash!) and sometimes we just want to hide. From the sun. That fiery sphere serves a noble purpose, of course, but occasional time apart is healthy. Our succulent pals, though, we always want close by…even when in shady-friendly spots.
Even if not necessarily lovers of deep shade, aeoniums can relate, as they are also susceptible to sunburns, as well as leaf curling, when overly exposed. They have a distinctive, daisy-like appearance. The leaves can vary in color from black to rose to green to yellow. The rosettes grow on the ends of stems that, depending on the variety, may be a quarter inch or more in diameter. We should all take a cue from these diversely hued succulents that like nothing more during summer than to chill. They perk up in winter to spring, when the weather is cooler and on the damper side.
Let’s look at some varieties:
Aeonium percarneum ‘Kiwi’ (above): A small, branching, variegated variety — green, yellow or cream, and red — with pointed, ovate leaves in the shape of a star. Keeps to 8 inches or so tall and a foot wide.
Aeonium arboretum: So much pretty, bright green with this one. Rosettes sit atop clustering stems, reaching 18 inches tall or more. From there in late winter or early spring, a cone-shaped, flowering spike erupts with star-shaped yellow flowers.
Aeonium ‘Blushing Beauty’: Tight, clustering rosettes of variegated leaves with green centers and reds on the outer portions. The reddish-bronze aspect will likely not flourish, though, if the plant is in a shady place.
Aeonium ‘Sunburst’: This variegated stunner will brighten up any shade-friendly spot. You’ll want another and another when you see the effect it has on a space. Its yellow- or cream-and-green striped leaves are often tipped with pink or bright red.
Aeonium urbicum (saucer plant): A succulent that does well in partial shade as well as sun. Pink flowers emerge late winter/early spring. Featuring green leaves with reddish tips, this one can climb to 6 feet, with a pyramidal inflorescence that can tack on another 3 feet, and plenty wide too.
Below are some possible pairings for aeoniums that should do well in a filtered light environment.
Agave attenuata (fox tail agave): This graceful, pale green beauty (left) forms large rosettes of broad, sword-shaped leaves. Its curved stem helps it stand out from other agaves. It can get to 4 feet high and wide with ease; quite possibly more. At maturity, it is liable to shoot up a 5- to 10-foot stalk of yellow flowers.
Haworthia fasciata ‘Zebra Plant’: Another pearly plant. This South African native features an upright, slender rosette with tapering, incurved, dark green leaves covered with silvery white raised “pearls” that connect to form bands that give the impression of zebra stripes.
Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’: Tolkien fans are all but obligated to have one of their own, if primarily to make “my precious” jokes when showing it off. Well, that and because of this gnarly plant’s bonsai-appropriate growth habit. ‘Gollum’ (right) is considered to be a monstrose form of jade plant. Star-shaped white flowers come in winter.
Portulacaria afra (elephant bush/elephant food): Note that it’s elephant food, not people food. This popular garden choice, with delicate green leaves on reddish-brown stems, will reach 6 feet if left alone. Appreciates some water in the hotter months. We have a few different varieties available here and here.
Senecio rowleyanus ‘String of Pearls’: Perfect for a hanging basket, it has pendant stems to 3 feet or more with unusual, round “leaves,” giving the impression of a string of pearls. Just keep it out of the reach of pirates and you should be fine.