How to grow and care for Aeonium plants.
An easy care guide to help you to grown Aeoniums – including methods of propagation and pest control.
- Botanical name: Aeonium spp.
- Common names: Tree Houseleek, Irish Rose
- Family: Crassulaceae
- Type: Evergreen succulent
- Flower colour: Usually yellow. Sometimes white or pale pink
- Height: Max. 1.5m (some species only)
- Spread: Max. 1.5m (some species only)
- Time to reach ultimate size: 2-5 years
- Light: Full sun
- Water: Little
- Temperature: Minimum 5°C. Not frost tolerant.
- Soil: Free-draining sandy or loamy
- Aspect: South or west-facing
What is an Aeonium?
Aeonium are an unusual succulent genus of approximately thirty-five different species. They have glossy, waxy leaves which are arranged in a rosette shape – similar to how they are on Echeveria and Sempervivums. They range greatly in size; from the flat, close-to-the-ground A. tabuliforme to the much larger, branching varieties like the A. arboreum.
They are fairly easy to grow and are relatively slow-growing. Aeonium come in many different varieties ranging from solid-coloured greens and dark reds of Aeonium arboreum and ‘Zwartkop’; to variegated cultivars striped in yellows, reds and whites like Aeonium decorum and ‘Sunburst’.
Where should I grow my Aeonium plant?
As with most succulents, Aeonium require a frost-free environment with plenty of light. So a sunny spot indoors or under protection (UK) is perfect. It is a really good idea to plant your Aeonium in pots so that you can move them outdoors in the summer to provide them with plenty of light, and to enjoy them in your garden. Central heating will not cause any issues if you keep them inside your home all year around, but they will just need a little more watering in order to stop them becoming too dry.
They can be live happily outside during warmer months, but most species will not tolerate frost at all and do not like sitting in soaking soil. Bring them inside in the Autumn.
How much water should I give my Aeonium?
Aeonium are succulents so do not require buckets of water. Allow your plant to dry out a bit between waterings and then don’t be afraid to give them a really good soaking. As with all succulents, it better to do this as this mimics the downpours in their natural habitats (rather than little and often waterings)*. It will also help your plant to develop a strong root system.
The easiest way to check if your Aeonium needs watering is to stick your finger into the soil. If the top couple of inches are dry, give it some water. Also get used to picking up the pot and feeling whether it requires water or not by the weight of the pot.
*The main growing season for Aeonium plants is Spring and Autumn, so water them more during these seasons; and reduce watering in Summer and Winter. Aeonium usually go dormant in the warmest Summer months when they will retract their leaves into tighter rosettes, and some of the leaves may fall off. This is the plant’s way of conserving its energy by using its own nutrients and water reserves. During this time, don’t over-water your plant as it won’t actually take up the water through its roots (in it’s dormant state). When your Aeonium has come out of dormancy you will see the leaves and rosettes start to open out and at this time you can resume watering more often again.
Why isn’t my Aeonium as brightly coloured as it should be?
If you have noticed that the colours of your plant are looking a bit pale or washed out, this could also be down to your watering regime. Try cutting back on the amount water you are giving it to see if this makes a difference. This will replicate its natural habitat and may result in the colours becoming more enhanced.
Also try not “potting-on” your Aeonium too often. Keep it slightly under-potted as, again, this will replicate its natural environment where the plant would be competing for nutrients. Its best to choose a pot that is the same size as the root ball – this will often result in the brighter colours.
What soil do Aeoniums like?Tree houseleeks like free-draining, soil. You can buy specialist compost for cacti and succulents or you can make your own. Generally I use a mix of grit or sand, perlite and multipurpose compost. The sand aids in drainage; the perlite is porous and wicks away excess moisture; and the soil retains an adequate amount of water.
What feed do Aeonium plants require?Aeoniums do not require much additional feed, but can benefit from a balanced liquid feed, once a month, during their active growing season (Spring and Autumn).
When do I re-pot my plant?
Aeoniums do not require regular repotting. It’s important only to repot your plant once it has outgrown its current pot. Sometimes you can see roots growing out the bottom and adventitious, aerial roots growing from the stems – both signs that your plant may no longer be getting what it requires from the pot it is in.
Before repotting, let the plant dry out completely, then pot on to just one size up (just a little larger than the root ball). The best time to repot your Aeonium is during its growing season, during the Spring.
Do Aeonium succulents need pruning?Your Aeonium may require pruning in order to encourage it to branch out. Often Aeoniums grow as a single stem with a single rosette at the top – pruning will help it to produce lateral buds which will become branching stems. It may also require pruning if it has become top-heavy.
Prune during its active growth phase in the Spring.
Pruning out the growth bud of your Aeonium - this encourages branching from the leading stem.
- When your plant is at least 15cm tall, remove some leaves at the very centre of the rosette on the maid stem (the “leader”). Remove approximately x10 leaves and the growth bud, to leave a bare patch in the middle of the rosette.
- Allow the bare patch to dry out (callous). After some weeks, small buds will begin to form around the scab. These will become small rosettes and eventually form the new branches.
“Chop and drop” your Aeonium - this reduces the length of the leading stem at the base.
- Choose an Aeonium that has a “leggy”, bare leading stem and use secateurs to chop it off just above soil level.
- Allow the end of the stem to callous-over (dry out) for a day or two.
- Replant the plant deep in a pot so that the whole of the bare, unbranching stem is beneath the soil (you can bury where it starts branching out too if your pot is deep enough).
- Your plant will produce a strong root system along the length of the buried stem, which creates stability for the plant. The branching stems above soil level will be more stable and may branch out further.
Pruning top-heavy Aeonium plants - for plant stability and to create a more balanced plant
- Choose lengthy, bare stems; or branches which have grown asymmetrically and are causing the plant to be unbalanced. Use secateurs to cut your chosen branch off where it meets the adjoining stem. This piece is essentially a long cutting.
- Follow the “chop and drop” technique above to plant your cutting. Make sure you cut off any overly lengthy sections of stem, to allow you enough room to replant them into a pot below the soil level. As above, let the cut end callous before replanting.
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Will my Aeonium flower?
Yes, it probably will. Flowering Aeoniums can be quite spectacular, often producing large panicles of tiny star-shaped, yellow flowers. Sometimes the flowers are white or pink-ish.
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Do I need to remove the flowers of my Aeonium once they have died?
Yes. You need to deadhead an Aeonium in the same way that you would most other plants. It is quite normal for your plant to die after flowering. This is because Aeonium plants are “monocarpic”. For branching species, only the rosette that produced a flower will die, and the rest of the plant will continue to grow. Cut off the faded flower head stem right back to where it branches from/meets the rest of the plant.
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How do I propagate Aeonium succulents?
Aeoniums can be propagated by sowing seeds or by stem cuttings/cutting off rosettes. Always take cutting and sow seeds during active growth, in Spring.
Aeonium propagation by “beheading the rosette” -Use this method to encourage an unbranching plant to branch. The portion you cut off can be treated as a long cutting.
- Cut off the top section of your Aeonium between 8 – 30cm below the rosette. Treat the bit you have cut off as a long cutting.
- Allow the end of the cutting to callous-over (dry out) for a day or two.
- Replant the cutting at least 8cm into gritty compost (as described earlier). You can plant it right up to the rosette so that the foliage is sitting just above soil level.
- Keep the stump and the beheaded cutting barely moist, in bright, indirect sunlight.
- The cutting should root within a couple of weeks. The stump will regrow eventually - you might have to be patient as it can take some time in the UK.
Aeonium propagation by stem cutting-
- Select young shoots with lots of vigour, for your cuttings. Older, woodier shoots will not root so easily.
- Cut shoots off approximately 10cm down from the rosette. Use clean, sharp secateurs.
- Allow the ends of the cuttings to callous-over (dry out) for a day or two. This reduces the chance of the cuttings developing rot later on.
- Insert each cutting halfway into a small pot, filled with gritty compost (as described earlier). The rosette should be approximately 5cm above the soil, with half the stem below compost level.
- Top-dress with grit or perlite to improve drainage and keep the stem dry.
- Water very lightly and keep in bright, indirect sunlight. Keep the soil barely moist until the cuttings have rooted.
- The cuttings should root within a couple of weeks. Move the potted cuttings to their final positioning and resume a normal Aeonium watering schedule (watering thoroughly only when the top layer of compost has dried out).
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What pests and diseases are Aeonium prone to?
As with many succulents Aeonium plants are generally pest-free when grown indoors, but are at risk of mealybug and vine weevil. Wipe mealybug off with an organic insecticide on a cotton pad. Watch out for signs of vine weevil – adult beetles on the foliage, grubs in the compost or your plant suddenly dying for no reason. Remove them immediately and treat with a nematode watered into the soil in early Autumn. Find out more about vine weevil here.
What can I do if I have more questions about my Aeonium?
If you have questions about how to care for your plant, please get in touch and I will be happy to try and help.