Species Spotlight ~ Echeveria! aka Mexican Hens and Chicks Plant

All About Growing Echeveria

Periodically, we are going to do a deep dive into a group of succulents, putting them in the “species spotlight” to give you information on their form, their variety, hardiness zones, uses and care. First up – the exquisite rosette forming echeveria!

{Please note, some links in this post may be affiliate links to sites that pay me a small commission if you click on the link and make a purchase. This commission is at absolutely no cost to you. I only recommend products and companies that I have worked with and truly love! ~Kat}

Echeveria (etch-uh-VAIR-ee-uh) is a genus composed of hundreds of species, hybrids and cultivars of rosette-forming succulents, native to the semi-desert regions stretching from northern Mexico through Central America and the northwestern reaches of South America. Mature plants range in size from barely 2-inches to 18-inches across. Colorful leaves develop in shades of blue, green, silver, red, “black”, silver and even white. The fleshy leaves grow in concentric circles, or in rows around a common center point, with the leaves curling inward, much like the petals of a rose.

echeveria perle von nurnberg

See how it looks like a rose?  Unlike a rose, however, an echeveria will remain full of color, holding its form and looking its very best for many months – or even years – at a time! Surely, this is one of the many reasons we love succulents so much! They look their very best most of the time, neither fading nor drooping like the flowers they resemble.


Echeveria Blooms

echeveria blooms

Echeveria do bloom, developing two modified stems that reach up to 12-16″, arching over the top of the plant, with multiple lantern-like blooms hanging from the graceful stem. The blooms range from cream to yellow, amber, pink, orange or red or a combination of colors. Highly attractive to hummingbirds, the waxy blooms are very long-lasting.

echeveria Lola

Planting Echeveria

All varieties of echeveria make excellent container plants, but they can also be planted into the ground and survive year-round in gardens in Sunset zones 8, 9, 12 – 24 (USDA hardiness zones 8-11). While most varieties will tolerate sub-freezing temps for short periods of time, it is best to protect them from freezing weather. Settle echeveria micro-climates in your garden, at the base of the house or a stone wall, under a large tree, or plan to bring them indoors in colder climates. While the plants will survive frost damage, the scarred leaves will look unsightly on the long-lived rosettes, so protecting them from freezing is best.


Succulent Soil for Echeveria

succulent soil for growing echeveria

Like most succulents, echeveria should be planted in fast draining soil with large, gritty particles that allow for plenty of air in the soil. You can make your own succulent soil from many recipes online, or just get soil labeled for palms and cactus for an excellent choice. For an in-depth review of what succulents need from their soil, click here.

Watering Echeveria

how to water echeveria succulents

Like most succulents, echeveria require a light hand with the water. When it is time to water, be generous, saturating the soil. Do not leave the plant sitting in water – empty the catch tray, and let the soil dry out well before watering again. Apply water at the soil line, not from overhead. You do not want water to collect inside the rosette, where it could lead to rot. Watering correctly is so important for the health of your echeveria, read here about how to water your succulents.

Lighting

Your echeveria will grow best with a good amount of indirect light throughout the day. A few hours of direct sun will not hurt the plants. Take care to watch for signs of stress or sunburn during the heat of the day. Echeveria will do well indoors, too, but only if you can provide a ton of light. You can supplement indoor lighting with artificial lighting or try moving the plant into a sunnier spot for a few hours each day or week. Insufficient lighting will lead to the plant stretching as it reaches for more light.

Epicuticular Wax on Echeveria

Many varieties of echeveria sport a whitish, waxy film on their leaves. This is called epicuticular wax, and it protects the plant against damage due to UV rays, moisture loss and insect damage. This wax is beneficial to the plant’s health, and should not be wiped away. Instead, use a soft-bristled paintbrush to whisk away soil from between the leaves.

Thank you, Thelma S Cruz, for the use of this photo!

Propagating Echeveria

echeveria silver blue rosettes

Echeveria is often called “hens and chicks” for the habit of forming small, baby rosettes at the base of the mother plant. The tiny rosettes clustered around the base of the large, rose-formed plant looks a lot like the tiny baby chicks with their protective mother hen. Leaving the baby echeveria, called “pups” in place will yield a full planting of many rosettes like the image above. Removing a pup is one easy way to increase your collection of echeveria. This is called stem cutting propagation. Make a clean cut just one inch below the rosette. Set the cutting aside to heal over for a few days, outside of direct sunlight. Within a few weeks, you will see many tiny roots will form at the base of the plant. Now it is time to plant your cutting to begin the new plant! Take care to water only lightly until the new plant fully roots.


echeveria leaf propagation

You can also propagate your echeveria by the leaves. Remove a leaf from the base of the plant, taking care not to tear it. Again, set it aside in a dry spot, out of direct sun. Soon, it will form tiny roots, followed by new little leaves forming a tiny new rosette! Simply move your rooting leaf to a small pot of succulent soil. Tuck the roots gently into the top of the soil. Your new plant will develop from there!

Coloring and Form

echeveria black knight

Echeveria dazzle in a dizzying array of colors and forms. Most develop smooth, slender leaves that come to a refined point, like those shown above. Some others produce rounded, or very thick leaves that are liberally sprinkled with bumps and knobby growths called carbuncles. Still others sport heavily ruffled leaves and wide open aspects like the sunset-hued Mona Loa below.


echeveria mauna loa ruffled echeveria

Whether you are new to succulents and looking for a place to start, or are a committed succulent fanatic, echeveria is the perfect plant for your next succulent. Echeveria are easy to care for and absolutely gorgeous. With a wide range of colors, sizes and forms, you are certain to find several to fall in love with. Nearly every store that offers any form of succulent will have a couple of echeveria to offer.  For a spectacular selection, I recommend shopping with Mountain Crest Gardens – a one-stop source of exceptional quality for a wide range of many succulents. At this moment, they offer 42 varieties of echeveria alone, as well as a remarkable array of other varieties! {Please note, as described above, I have an affiliate relationship with Mountain Crest Gardens}

I hope you have enjoyed this close up look at echeveria! I would love to know if you already grow echeveria, or if you plan to? Please take a moment to leave a comment. And please feel free to ask me any questions – I am here to help! 🙂

Happy gardening!

Kat McCarthy, The Succulent Eclectic

P.S. Please subscribe to The Succulent Eclectic. Thanks! 🙂

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echeveria care, varieties and information

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6 thoughts on “Species Spotlight ~ Echeveria! aka Mexican Hens and Chicks Plant”

  1. This is 1 LOVES article!
    Sure wish I could grow these succulents. I’m not going to give up……I don’t think mine drain quick enough even though I have cactus mix. What is the best and most natural gritty substance I can add to my
    soil?
    I have great luck propagating from leaves but as soon as I get the roots in soil they either never grow or they wither away.

    1. Hi Lynna,
      Thanks so much for the comment – we can get your succulents thriving for you! 🙂
      I recommend adding pumice to any mix that needs better drainage for succulents. It is versatile, and a terrific amendment.
      Does your container have good drainage holes?
      I’d love to work with you from the start. We can correspond from the time you get a plant and want to pot it up, and confer at each stage, if you like.
      Start with a healthy plant and good, succulent soil. Be sure the container has good drainage holes, and that if you have a catch tray, you must empty it after 5 minutes. Also, take care that the pot is not too large for your plant. All the extra space will hold water that the roots cannot make use of, and this will risk rot.
      I promise – you can do this!
      Kat

  2. Hiya! I enjoyed this article as well. My ? is regarding the white film on the leaves. I just purchased mine from a local grocery store. How do I tell if it is the film you discuss or powdery white mildew I found another page refering too? I just removed it from my other plants as I don’t want them to get ill. Plus I bought it to try to eventually propagate for our companion parrot. I didn’t realize that these were tough to grow. My mother had them in an old vintage enameled wash pan that sat on our front lawn. I know there were no drainage holes. I dont think there was more then potting soil. They were crazy growing every summer. She never tended them to my knowledge.
    Thanks TM

    1. Hi TM,
      Thanks!
      The main clue to telling between the natural, protective epicuticular wax on an echeveria and something like whiteflies is how fine and even the appearance is. The wax is also referred to as farina, a superfine flour. If the white film is very, very fine, and looks like an even haze over the color of the leaves, it is the natural wax and should be left in place. if instead, it is clumpy, and heavy here, but patchy there, with specks mixed in, it is likely an issue like insects or mildew.
      If you still aren’t sure, ask someone who knows. Either snap a photo and send it to me, or share it with people in a succulent Facebook forum. Or take a photo or the plant to a local nursery to have someone who knows about this take a look. This does not mean someone in the garden department at Walmart – they may not know anything about plants. Check first that they truly know about succulents.
      Feel free to send me some photos! Kat@TheSucculentEclectic.com.
      I promise – it gets so much easier with just a little time and attenion! 🙂
      ~Kat

  3. Wow what a speedy response!!!!
    Thank you Kat!
    This totally clarified it. It’s like a coating of flour. I was worried it was the mildew because when I bumped the petal it rubbed right off. Its like white flour poofed all over so perfectly. There wasn’t a bump to be found. You kept me from having to track someone down @ a nursery. Traveling isn’t very easy so I greatly appreciate your help! Have a great week!
    TM

    1. Hi TM,
      Exactly! It is the “perfectness” of the coating that tells you it is a natural protection for the plant. It does wipe away easily, so use a soft paint brush to wisk soil off the leaves.
      You are always welcome to shoot me a picture any time I can provide some insight for you!
      ~Kat

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