Echeveria Elegans is a small, attractive succulent. Popular for its colorful foliage and flowers, these rosette shaped specimens with pointed leaves add masses of decorative interest to a garden or indoor plant collection.
Easy to care for, if you want to learn how to add Echeveria Elegans to your plant collection, this guide is designed to take you through everything that you need to know.
The compact rosette of the Mexican Snowball.
What is Echeveria Elegans?
Echeveria Elegans is part of the Echeveria plant family. In addition to the Elegans cultivat, there are over 150 different types of plant in this genus. Some of the most commonly grown include the silver-green Violet Queen, Afterglow and Back Prince which is popular for its dark, triangular leaves.
Despite being an increasingly popular decorative plant, in the wild Echeveria Elegans is actually quite a rare succulent. While other Echeveria plants are native to large areas of both Mexico and Guatemala, the Elegans cultivar can only be found growing in the semi-desert regions of Mexico.
Traditionally the plant was believed able to drive away evil spirits.
Often called the Mexican Snowball, other names for these plants include Mexican Gem and Hens-and-Chicks. Despite this latter name, do not confuse Echeveria Elegans with the more commonly grown Sempervivum Hens and Chicks plant.
Easy to recognize, Echeveria Elegans develops into a light green rosette shape. Similar in shape to the Aloe plant, Echeveria Elegans is a more colorful specimen. When exposed to lots of light the foliage can develop a soft-blue hue with pink tips. In the pink stems emerge. On these sit yellow flowers with pink tips.
The colorful floral spike and flower of the Mexican Snowball. Source: Echeveria Elegans by Stepehn Boisvert / CC 2.0
Can I Grow Echeveria Elegans Outside?
This is not a cold tolerant plant. It is considered hardy in USDA Zones 9b to 11a.
If your garden experiences winter temperatures lower than 20℉ it is advised that you either cultivate Mexican Snowball as an indoor plant or grow it in a container and move it inside during the winter months.
If you can grow Echeveria Elegans outside, it can form part of a colorful rock garden. You can also use the plant on a green roof or as colorful ground cover.
In warm climates you can grow the plants outside.
Wherever you are able to grow your Echeveria Elegans it is important that the plant is able to bask in lots of light. Ideally they should receive around 12 hours of light each day. This can be a mixture of direct and indirect light.
If you are able to grow Mexican Snowball outside, you can plant in either a full or partial sun position.
In the northern hemisphere, plants growing indoors should be placed near a south facing window. If you are growing undercover, you can use a grow light to artificially boost natural light levels.
Protect the plant from the direct glare of the midday sun. When the sun is at its most intense it can scorch or burn the leaves of the plant.
Temperature and Humidity
The Mexican Snowball is a hardy succulent. It is capable of withstanding a wide range of temperatures and humidity levels. Despite this tolerance, the plants do best in moderate environments with lots of light.
Do not expose your Echeveria Elegans to extremes of heat or cold for extended periods of time. This can cause long lasting damage.
The optimal temperature range for your Mexican Snowball plant is 55 to 75 ℉. Do not let nighttime temperatures fall below 45 ℉.
Humidity levels around the plant should stay within a range of 40 to 80%. Misting the plants regularly with a Plant Mister Spray Bottle can help to maintain humidity levels.
You can also place the plants close to a Cool Mist Humidifier to artificially raise humidity levels.
Placing pot plants close together is a good way to artificially raise humidity levels. Source: Echeveria ‘Gilva’ & ‘Gilva Spreader’ by Sean A. O’Hara / CC 2.0
How to Plant Echeveria Elegans
To plant your Mexican Snowball outside ensure that your soil is well draining. Working in amendments such as sand, compost or organic matter can help to lighten the soil and improve drainage.
The day before transplanting, water the plant well. This helps to reduce transplant shock.
Make a hole in the soil large enough to hold the plant and carefully remove it from its container.
Center your Mexican Snowball in the prepared hole and backfill. Ensure that the root system is fully covered and water well.
How to Pot and Repot Echeveria Elegans
It is time to transplant your Mexican Snowball when the plant shows signs of outgrowing its pot. The most obvious signs are roots sticking out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot and growth slowing.
You may also find yourself having to water the plant more often than usual.
Before transplanting water the plant well.
To repot, remove the plant from the old container. Take care not to damage your Echeveria Elegans plant as you handle it.
While you may need to loosen the root ball to prevent the roots becoming entangled, try to keep as much of the soil intact as possible. This helps to minimize water loss.
Fill the new pot with a well draining or succulent appropriate potting mix. Water well.
Dig out a hole in the center of the pot and plant. There should be at least one inch of soil above the top of the root system.
Gently pat the soil down and water just enough to settle the plant.
What Sort of Pot Should I Use?
Your chosen succulent pot should be clean and have ample drainage holes in the bottom. An unglazed or terracotta pot is often recommended. These materials are porous, meaning that excess moisture is able to escape and isn’t trapped in the soil.
Plastic pots can also be used but be careful not to overwater the plant.
Succulents are best planted in a porous container. Source: Potosina by scott / CC 2.0
The Right Type of Potting Medium
Planting Echeveria Elegans in the right type of soil is key to successfully growing these plants.
Your chosen potting medium should be well draining and contain all the essential nutrients that the plant needs to survive. Mineral salts and a supply of carbon dioxide are vital as is the ability to retain some, but not lots of, water. A succulent potting soil is ideal.
You can also make your own potting medium by combining one-part potting soil with one to two parts perlite and a handful of coarse sand. This creates a light, well draining mix which holds just the right amount of moisture to hydrate your Mexican Snowball.
For more information on planting Echeveria Elegans or any other type of succulent, check out our how to plant guide.
How to Care for Echeveria Elegans
Best planted or placed in a warm, sheltered spot with partial shade, once you find a favorable position for your Echeveria Elegans, care is pleasingly minimal.
If you are growing Echeveria Elegans as an indoor plant, during the warmer months of the year you can place the plant outside in your garden or on a balcony to enjoy some fresh air. Just make sure that it isn’t exposed to too much direct light.
Healthy green leaves are an indication that you are caring for your plant correctly.
When to Water
Once established, Mexican Snowball is a drought tolerant specimen.
Water once every few weeks during the spring and summer months using the soak and dry method. Avoid watering in the winter, when the plant is dormant.
During hot spells plants may require more frequent watering.
The easiest way to work out when to water your plant is to check the soil. If the top inch feels dry to the touch, water well. Do not water wet soil. It can be difficult to know when to water your plants. I have found a Soil Moisture Sensor, a great investment that helps me to avoid overwatering my plants.
It is best to water your Echeveria Elegans in the morning. This gives the leaves time to dry out in the sun before the cooler evening temperatures arrive. Damp leaves and cool temperatures are a breeding ground for fungal issues such as powdery mildew.
To water plants in pots, place the pot in a larger container partly filled with water and allow the soil to absorb as much moisture as it wants. Allow the plant to sit in water for around 20 minutes before returning it to its usual growing position.
Aim to keep the foliage dry when watering. Source: Dew by Filipe Rodrigues / CC 2.0
When to Fertilize
Echeveria Elegans is not a heavy feeding plant.
Apply a dose of succulent appropriate or granulated all purpose fertilizer in the spring as new growth emerges. Scatter the granules as evenly as possible around the base of the plant before watering in well. This encourages maximum absorption.
A regular dose of fertilizer helps to stimulate healthy growth and promote flowering.
A light dose of fertilizer promotes flowering. Source DSC_0199 by Rachid H / CC 2.0
Pruning Echeveria Elegans
Compared to some plants, Echeveria Elegans is a slow growing plant. The plant typically achieves a maximum height of around 8 inches and spreads 10 to 12 inches wide.
This slow growth habit means that there is no need to prune the plant to maintain its size.
However, you may need to prune the plant to keep it compact and prevent it from outgrowing its position. This is particularly true if you are growing the plant in a pot. Regularly pruning the plant helps to prevent legginess.
The best time to prune Mexican Snowball is during the summer months when the plant is actively growing. You can also lightly prune after repotting and before new roots develop to help stimulate growth.
Use a small garden or pruning scissors to remove around one-third of the oldest leaves. Cut the leaves at the stem. As you prune, try not to damage the newer leaves.
Common Pests and Diseases
Healthy Echeveria Elegans plants are largely pest and disease free. However, even with the best care, like all indoor plants, infestations can sometimes occur.
Thriving in warm, humid conditions, mealy bugs can infest many succulents and indoor plants. Covering the plant with a cottony wax-like substance mealy bug infestations can stunt growth and damage tender, young leaves.
Difficult to spot, luckily an unsightly infestation of mealy bugs is rarely deadly. Should the worst happen, our How to Get Rid of Succulent Mealy Bugs guide explains how to identify and cure an infestation.
Another problematic pest, aphids suck the sap from the plant. This can, if left untreated, stunt growth and deter flowering. Aphids also excrete a sticky substance called honeydew. If allowed to remain on the leaves of the plant this can cause sooty mold to develop.
There are a number of ways to treat an aphid infestation. After isolating the plant, to prevent the issue spreading to other plants in your collection, wipe neem oil or a soapy water solution onto the foliage. Rubbing alcohol such as Swan Isopropyl Alcohol 70% is both safe to use on plants and pleasingly effective.
Check the foliage for signs of infestation.
Wiping the leaves with an appropriate solution should dislodge the insects. Large infestations may require repeated treatments over the course of a few weeks before the plant is fully cured.
Transplanting your plant into a clean pot and fresh potting soil helps to remove any pests that may be lurking in the soil.
Finally, clean your hands and tools after handling each plant. This helps to prevent the accidental spread of disease or infestation from one plant to another.
Should I Worry About Dying Leaves?
Leaves at the bottom of the rosette fading and falling from the plant are rarely symptomatic of a serious issue. These are usually old leaves that the plant is discarding as part of the natural life cycle.
Leaves at the top or center of the rosette drying out and falling from the plant when touched can be a sign of overwatering. Mexican Snowball plants tend to be more susceptible to overwatering than other types of succulent.
The condition of the foliage tells you lots about the health of the plant.
Other signs of overwatering can include leaves turning transparent, mushy or soggy. Black spots may also develop on the stem or foliage.
If your plant shows signs of overwatering, cease watering immediately. If the soil is wet to the touch, transplant into a fresh pot filled with a well draining, dry cactus potting soil. Wait for the leaves to show signs of drying out before watering again.
When you resume watering, water less than previously. It is far easier to correct issues caused by underwatering than overwatering a plant.
Visible signs of underwatering include the upper leaves hardening or becoming more crispy. The leaves may also shrink.
If you struggle to work out when to water your plant, our guide to when to water succulents is designed to take you through this tricky process. With a little patience you should soon be able to work out the ideal routine for your plants.
Can I Propagate Echeveria Elegans?
There are 2 ways to propagate your Mexican Snowball plant to create new, smaller specimens. These can be used to either expand your collection or to create gifts to give to plant loving friends and family. The two methods are:
- Taking leaf cuttings,
- Harvesting offsets.
Both are pleasingly straightforward and, if done correctly, reliable.
Small offsets crowd around the parent plant. These can be separated and potted on to create more plants.
Taking Leaf Cuttings
Use a sharp knife to remove a firm, healthy leaf from the plant. Taking a few cuttings helps to protect against failure.
Place the leaf in a dry, sunny spot to dry out. A windowsill is ideal. Once a callus has formed over the cut area you can move onto the next stage.
Fill a small pot with a fresh potting medium. Wet the soil, allowing excess moisture to drain away. Place the dried cutting on top of the soil. If the leaf has a stem this can be buried, but not too deeply, in the soil.
If you have harvested more than one leaf, space them out. Root no more than 3 leaves per pot.
Put the pot in a light, sheltered place. Water the pot gently every few days. Aim to keep the soil surface evenly moist.
It can take a few weeks for the roots to develop. Soon after this development, new growth starts to emerge.
Allow the root system to develop and a small rosette to form. As this happens the mother leaf dies away.
Once the new plant is large enough to handle it can be lifted from the pot and transplanted into its own container.
How to Harvest Offsets
Offsets are small pups that develop on the edge of the mother plant. These are easy to propagate. Simply use a sharp knife to cut the offset away from close to the root of the parent plant. Remove any soil or dirt that remains on the offset.
Allow the harvested offsets to dry out overnight before planting on.
Plant either in individual small, shallow pots filled with a cactus appropriate mix or you can plant a couple of offsets in a larger pot. Plant no more than 3 per pot. Space the cuttings out to encourage air circulation.
Water well and place in a favorable position.
Regularly check on your offsets, misting the soil when it shows signs of drying out.
The development of new growth is a sign that a root system has developed below the soil. At this stage the small plants can be replanted into larger, individual pots.
Both of these propagation methods can be used to propagate a range of different succulents.
Is Echeveria Elegans Toxic?
Further adding to the attraction of these low maintenance plants is the fact that they are not considered toxic. This makes them safe to grow around children and pets.
Echeveria plants are safe to grow around pets and children.
People with a latex allergy should probably avoid contact with Echeveria Elegans. Contact with the plant can irritate the skin, causing a rash or itchiness to develop. If you do have a latex allergy, wear gloves to protect your skin when handling the plant.
Attractive and easy to care for, Echeveria Elegans is a rewarding addition to any rock garden or indoor plant collection.