Shown on the right is a small sampling of the
many cultivars of Aeoniums
available. They are available in a wide range of plant
and leaf sizes, plus leaf coloration (light green,
dark green, burgundy, variegated and
combinations... great for the collector). Some
aeoniums have rosettes of foliage with a diameter of
just 2 inches (5 centimeters) and others have
individual rosettes that are easily a foot across
(30 centimeters). The colorful plant on the upper left
is a Kiwi, and the black one on the upper right is a Schwarzkopf.
The Schwarzkopf is 5 years old. A tennis ball has been included
to give a sense of scale.
Aeoniums are originally from the islands off the North
coast of Africa and are generally winter-growing and
summer-dormant. Despite what many "experts" say, Aeoniums
will do quite well in the Phoenix metro as long as you
select suitable varieties (non tropical types) and as
long as you give them plenty of sun in winter, and
light shade (and less water) in summer.
Heat Tolerance and Sun Exposure
In the Phoenix metro,
aeoniums thrive in partial to full sun from autumn
through spring (say, November through April or so).
Once the blast furnace kicks in for summer, they
prefer partial shade to full bright shade. Aeoniums are
ideal for containers which can be relocated through
the seasons to adjust to these needs, and are
relatively good candidates for growing in the ground
under deciduous trees where they get
winter sun and summer shade.
Cold tolerance varies greatly with variety, so it is good to do some
research before choosing one. Typically aeoniums are fine to 28 degrees F
( -2 C), but the more tropical types (generally with
large, floppy leaves) will want to be kept warmer. I've
grown the dark-leaf variety 'Schwartzkopf' outside in
outer North Scottsdale for five years with no damage
from cold. They're certainly are happier in warmer
winters, but many are fairly cold tolerant (for here).
None will tolerate a long, hard freeze, so bring them
indoors for a day or two if you expect such
I grow my aeoniums in basic
cactus/succulent mix, which for me is about one part
regular houseplant potting soil, one part pumice, and
one part coarse sand. I generally grow them in porous
terracotta pots. If planted in the ground, again make
sure they get winter sun and summer shade, and keep
them in a fast-draining location.
Fertilizing, Watering, and Growth Rate
One key aspect of culture to remember is that aeoniums grow actively
during the cooler months, generally November through
May or June, so those are the months to water and fertilize
them regularly. Even though watering is more frequent, it is
still important to let them dry out between waterings.
During these active months, water once a week and fertilize once
a month with a basic water-soluble
house plant fertilizer, or water-soluble tomato plant
Now for the tricky part. In summer, when
it's the hottest, aeoniums enter dormancy and require very
little water. Watering frequency drops to approximately every two weeks.
Over watering aeoniums in summer is their number one
killer. Do not fertilize them during this time.
When they are dormant in summer, they are not
the most beautiful plants and will drop many of
their lower leaves and the rosettes of foliage often
curve in on themselves to create shade. They can look
a bit like Brussels sprouts on long stems. But rest assured,
as temperatures cool down, they will relax and begin active, vigorous
Aeoniums are very easy to propagate from
stem cuttings in late winter and early spring. Just
snap or cut a rosette of leaves off with an inch (or
two, or three, or six) of stem attached. Remove any
lower leaves and let the cutting air-dry in the shade
for two days and plant in the same mix as the adults.
Water well and water on the same schedule as the adult
plants. They root quickly and easily, but again, only
during their active growth during the cool months.
Cuttings in summer almost always rot and those in
winter usually are slow to start due to low temps and
Aeoniums are relatively pest-free. They can be
attacked by the usual suspects like scale or aphids,
or mealy bugs, but these are easily treated with your
method of choice. Some alternatives are:
70% rubbing alcohol rubbed on the
insects, insecticidal soap, and systemic insecticide.
My aeoniums have yet to be bothered by any pests.