Echeveria is a genus of plants closely related to Sempervivum, or Hens and Chicks. Though these plants are less cold-hardy than their relatives, they make great houseplants for those with bright indoor lighting.
With so many species, the color palettes for this plant seem endless. They typically grow in a compact rosette shape with thick, succulent leaves.
Luckily, they’re also quite easy-care and can thrive in your home even if you’re someone who forgets to regularly water your houseplants.
General Echeveria Information
This is one of the most popular succulent types available, and you’ll find them all over in terrariums or succulent gardens. They’re also very popular in artwork, floral arrangements, succulent gardens, and even on wedding cakes. They have plump leaves, a pretty rosette shape, and a broad range of colors that give them a very close resemblance to flowers. In turn, this makes them easy to decorate with. Their low maintenance needs and unique look make them extremely popular.
Echeveria gets its name after Anastasio Echeverria, and he was an 18th-century Mexican draftsman and painter. The Spanish king sent several explorers to Mexico in an attempt to map the local flora, and Anastasio Echeveria painted and signed each new plant they found.
This plant belongs to the succulent family. The Echeveria genus has over 150 species of plants from Central America and Mexico. The word succulent derives from the Greek word for juice, succus. Succulents like this plant can store water to survive droughts intact, and they store water in the thicker leaves.
When to Water Echeveria
Succulents store water in their leaves, therefore they are much more tolerant of drought periods than most plants. They’re also more prone to being overwatered or developing root rot.
To keep your Echeveria thriving, allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings. You can use a moisture reader if you need it, but you can also use your fingers or a chopstick to check if the soil is still damp. The pot should also feel lighter when the soil is dry and ready to be watered.
Many varieties of Echeveria will show thirst through wrinkles on the undersides of the leaves. Leaves may also appear thinner or begin to dry out from the bottom of the plant upwards.
Never leave Echeveria in standing water. Make sure to empty the tray at the bottom of your pot after each watering, and make sure you choose a soil that dries out within a few days.
In the winter, pull back on watering as your plant goes into dormancy.
Three Echeveria Perle Von Nurnberg on a windowsill
How Much Light to Give Echeveria
These plants can take full morning sun when acclimated to it, but try to limit direct afternoon sunlight which can be harsher on the plant.
Indoors, a southern-facing windowsill is the best place to keep your plant. You can also try a western-facing sill or supplemental lighting. Keep in mind that some varieties require more sun, while others will tolerate lower-light conditions.
Temperature and Humidity
This plant does very well in dry, hot desert landscapes. They aren’t a plant that can survive in colder temperatures or in an area that gets colder drafts. Too much humidity will lead to rot around the roots too.
The average household humidity levels and temperature are just fine for this plant. You do want to avoid putting them in the more humid locations in your home like the bathroom or laundry room. They are cold-hardy to USDA zone 9a, and you can grow them in the ground without a problem. However, you will have to move them inside in colder areas before the ground freezes so they survive.
This plant won’t survive outdoors if you have cold winters, as it doesn’t tolerate below-freezing temperatures.
In warm climates, keep Echeveria out of direct sunlight on scorching hot days, as the combination of heat and intense sun will cause sunburn.
What Soil is best for Echeveria?
The best soil for these plants is acidic, inorganic, and drains freely. Some growers choose to use a gritty mixture for succulents, which is a soilless mix with large particles. This makes overwatering difficult and gives pests fewer places to hide.
Another popular mix is 50% succulent soil and 50% perlite. This mix is great for those who want an easy, cheap solution, but many indoor gardeners find that they dislike perlite as it floats to the top of the mix when watered.
An Echeveria beginning to bloom
When to Fertilize Echeveria
Echeverias do not need to be fertilized, as they naturally grow in very nutrient-deficient, inorganic soils. In a typical soil mixture, irregular repotting should be enough to keep them healthy.
In gritty mixes, you can purchase liquid fertilizer and add a small amount to your watering can to give the plant the nutrients it needs.
If you prefer to fertilize, you can do so a few times a year during the growing season. Just beware of over-fertilizing.
A top-heavy Topsy Turvy
When they’re not given enough sun, these plants grow long and leggy, losing their compact form. They might also grow a long “trunk” in good conditions, as they naturally shed old leaves.
If your Echeveria has grown leggy from lack of sun, you should first change its conditions. Gradually introduce the plant to brighter light and let it continue growing until you see a fair amount of healthy new growth at the top of the plant.
Once you have healthy, compact growth to work with, use a sterilized knife, scissors, or gardening shears to trim the top of the plant down to the desired height. Allow the cut area to callous and heal, then place the cutting in soil. Water after roots have formed.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to get rid of the old stem. If you leave it, it will grow new “pups” or offshoots. This is a super fun way to propagate succulents!
Beheading a Leggy Echeveria
If your succulent doesn’t get enough light wherever you have it, it’ll start to grow taller. The leaves will get sparse and spread out along a thin, long stem. This is because the plant will start to reach for the light. The only way to fix it is to ensure that the plant is in a more sunny location and behead it to start again.
Even when you move it to a spot where there is more light, you want to consider buying grow lights for succulents so it doesn’t happen to other plants you have. Once you fix the lack of light, you can beahead the plant to start new by:
- Cut the plant’s stem just below the head. This should be between ½ and 1 ½-centimeter from the head with a clean, sharp razor or knife.
- Dry out or cure your cut plant head in the air for a minimum of eight hours and a maximum of three days.
- Put the plant’s head in a new pot with a fresh soil mix. The mix should contain equal parts compost, soil, and sand.
- Look for new roots to start sprouting between three weeks and one month at the cut mark.
You can take the plant leaves that are left on the stem and make cuttings for a type of leaf propagation. The slang term is leaf props.
Repot your Echeveria as needed, preferably in the spring. Choose a pot that is one inch larger than the previous, and make sure it isn’t too deep.
The reason behind this is because succulents have shallow root systems, and are prone to overwatering. A ton of excess soil at the bottom of the pot will hold moisture longer.
If you aren’t using a new soil mix, simply add a few inches of soil to the bottom of the new pot. Gently remove the plant from its old pot and set it on top of this fresh soil, then fill in around the edges. Press the soil down with your fingers to make sure it’s packed in well.
When using a new soil that’s very different from the old mix, remove as much old soil as possible from the plant. My favorite way of doing this is to take it outside and spray it down with the jet setting on the hose. I’ve found it’s the best way to remove dirt without breaking roots.
If this isn’t an option for you, simply remove the soil the best you can with what you have. Then, pot like normal.
After repotting, give the plant about a week before watering. This allows any damaged roots to heal and helps prevent root rot.
A small pot of leaf-propagated Echeveria
Ideal Pots for Echeveria
Getting the correct pot for this plant is essential to having them grow and thrive. Remember, bigger pots have a larger soil volume. So, this means that it will hold onto more moisture each time you water it than a smaller one would, and this increases your chances of your plant developing root rot.
Ideally, you should pick out a pot that is 5% to 10% bigger than the size of the plant at the surface level. So, if you have a plant that is roughly four-inches wide, you want to get a pot that is 4.5-inches in diameter. This will make it a little bit bigger than the rosette on your plant.
As for the type of pot, this succulent does well in terracotta ones with a lot of drainage. These pots have more porous walls to them, and this allows more moisture to escape when you water. It stops your plant from sitting in water too long. Also, the terracotta pots have an unglazed interior, and this gives your plant’s roots something to cling to as they start to grow.
Can You Propagate Echeveria?
These succulents propagate so easily, you can turn one plant into many in no time. Here are a couple of popular methods:
This can be as simple as taking a leaf that’s naturally fallen and letting it do its thing. I’ve had leaves fall onto the windowsill behind the rest of my plants, and later found them growing all on their own.
If you want to purposefully leaf propagate your plant, it’s best to begin with an Echeveria that’s been recently watered. This way, the leaves are plump and healthy. Remove an older leaf from the plant gently, wiggling it back and forth until it comes free. Don’t damage the base of the leaf, or it won’t be able to propagate.
Allow the edge of the leaf to dry and callous over, then set it in soil or water to propagate. I prefer soil for leaf cuttings, as I just find it easier due to their small size.
Some people mist leaf cuttings, while others wait for roots to form before watering. No method is wrong, in my experience, but the important thing is consistency.
Feel free to experiment to see what works best for you, but experiment with separate cuttings, not by radically changing your plants’ conditions.
A beheaded Topsy Turvey with new growth
You’ll usually behead these plants when they become too leggy for your taste. This might be due to lack of sunlight, or just because the plant has aged and dying leaves have left a long stem behind.
Simply use a sterilized utensil, like a knife or gardening shears, to cut the top of the plant off at the desired height. Set it aside and allow it to dry, then put it in soil. Water regularly once roots begin to form.
When using this method, you can also keep the base of your plant, which will continue to grow so long as you’ve left leaf nodes behind.
Is Echeveria Toxic?
Echeveria is non-toxic to cats, dogs, horses, and people.
Echeveria Pests and Diseases
Root rot is the most common Echeveria killer. It affects plants that have been overwatered or are sitting in water for long periods.
The rot begins at the root of the plant but typically isn’t caught until it’s already made its way to the stem or leaves. It shows itself in dark black or brown coloration that makes its way up from the base of the plant.
Your plant also may appear under-watered, even after a thorough watering. This is because, without healthy roots, the plant can no longer take in water.
If you catch root rot early enough, you can cut off affected roots or trim the plant above the rot where the stem is still green and re-root.
If you do manage to save your plant, keep it in a well-draining mixture and a pot with drainage holes. Set it in a brightly-lit area and don’t overwater. This should stop the problem from returning.
Yellow, translucent leaves are a sign of overwatering or poor drainage. Make sure your soil is drying out quickly and the plant is never left in wet soil for more than a couple of days.
If the leaves begin to dry from the bottom up, this is typically a sign you’re under-watering your plant.
However, dried leaves can also be a side-effect of root rot if the roots are so damaged they’re no longer taking in moisture.
Mealybugs like to hide in the crevices created by the compact rosette shape of these succulents and can be difficult to spot and eliminate for this reason.
Look for stickiness on the underside of the leaves, and check where the stem meets the leaves for hidden pests.
To treat a mealybug-infested plant, first remove the pests you can see with a q-tip or by washing the plant down with a hose or showerhead.
Then, treat with neem oil, or another homemade or chemical solution. Repeat until the mealybugs are completely gone from the plant.
Keep treated plants away from pets and children. Though Echeveria is non-toxic, most pesticides are not.
Spider mites are small pests. You’ll usually see their webs before you spot the pests themselves.
Wash the plant to remove as many mites as possible, then treat with a pesticide of your choice. You could also try a homemade solution.
Spider mites can be difficult to get rid of, so you’ll likely have to repeat this process several times before you’ve eliminated the infestation completely.
Be sure to keep treated plants away from children and pets.
A Perle Von Nurnberg in a terracotta pot
There are around 100 different species of Echeveria. Here are some of the most common:
- Perle von Nurnberg – These succulents have rounded purple leaves which may turn pinker when sun-stressed.
- Lola – This plant has wide, rounded leaves that end with a pointed tip. They are typically green in color but turn pink when sun-stressed.
- Topsy Turvy – The uniquely-shaped leaves of this plant fold downward, sometimes looking like little hearts at the edges. They are dusty blue in color.
- Black Prince – These plants’ pointed leaves turn a dark purple or black color when given proper lighting. Plants kept in low-light conditions will revert to green.
- Lilacina – Sometimes confused for Echeveria Lola, these plants look quite similar but tend to have a longer leaf shape.
Dos and Don’ts of Echeveria Care
Just like any type of plant, there are a few things you should and shouldn’t do to encourage healthy plant growth. Ignoring these things is a quick way to end up with an unhealthy or dying plant.
Echeveria Care Dos
- Give your plant as much light as you possibly can. Ideally, they should spend the majority of their time outside under the sunlight. Inside, you want them to go into a south-facing window.
- Allow the plant’s soil to dry completely before you water it again. When you water it, make sure you do so thoroughly until the excess water starts coming out of the drainage holes.
- Get a specific gritty cactus soil or make a well-draining soil blend on your own. Standard potting soil holds onto way too much water, and this causes the plants to get mushy and start to rot.
- Make sure your planter has drainage holes to avoid rot. If you’re going to put it into an unconventional planter like a teacup or birdcage, you might have to be extremely careful when you water. You may also find yourself making drainage adjustments.
- It’s possible to tightly pack your succulents together when you plant them. They have very shallow root systems that grow slowly, so you can pack your planters without worrying about them competing.
- Do some research on the specific plant you want to get. Most succulents do like a lot of sunlight, but some like a lot of shade, like the Christmas Cactus or the epiphytic cacti.
- You can propagate succulents as much as you want. They’re excellent gifts for your local plant community, friends, and family.
Echeveria Care Don’ts
- Don’t Overwater – Make a point to not overwater your succulents because this is the easiest way to kill them. If you have any doubt, hold off on watering them.
- Don’t Put Them in Direct Sunlight Outside – Place your succulents in full sunlight after they’ve been inside after you give them time to adjust. Put them under a shaded tree or in a shaded nursery for a week or so to avoid sunburn on the leaves.
- Don’t Keep the Soil Moist – Treat your succulents like you would your houseplants and water them sparingly. When it’s time to water your plants and the soil is dry, water them deeply.
- Don’t Water as Much in the Winter – Water less as the weather starts to cool off. They need more infrequent drinks during the late fall and winter months.
- Don’t Stress Out – Even though keeping your echeveria alive seems stressful, if you hit the drainage holes, sun, water deeper, and let the soil dry between watering sessions, you should be fine.
Echeveria Frequently Asked Questions
Echeveria by PINKE / CC BY-NC 2.0 Since we threw a lot of information at you about this plant in general, it’s not uncommon for you to have a host of questions. We picked out the most common ones and answered them for you below.
- Can you easily grow echeveria indoors?
Generally speaking, it’s very difficult to grow this plant indoors all year-round. They prefer to be outside with a lot of sunlight. However, if you have a conservatory or sunroom in your home and you put the plant there, they have been known to tolerate it and survive. The key is making sure they have light all day long.
- Why is the plant dropping leaves?
One of the most common reasons this plant drops leaves is due to poor watering habits. Under or overwatering can produce similar issues for your plant, including shriveling, wilting, and dropping leaves. This is why you only water it deeply when the soil dries out.
- Is it a good idea to remove the dead leaves off your echeveria?
Most succulents will seal off any damaged parts to stop it from negatively impacting the plant. However, it’s still a good idea to remove any dead, diseased, or broken leaves, flower stalks, or stems from your plant when you spot them. New growth usually sprouts near the cut ends, so all you have to do is trim away the dead parts to encourage new growth.
- Should you mist your succulents?
Fully grown succulents don’t like when you mist them because they do best when they’re in very arid climates. Misting these plants will change the direct humidity levels around the plant, and this can quickly lead to rot. You can mist baby plants to give their delicate roots a little water, but do so sparingly.
- Can you tell if a succulent is healthy or unhealthy by touch?
Generally, a succulent will yield if you touch it. If the plant is healthy, it should be rigid when you touch it. An unhealthy succulent could be flaccid or turbid. Some sick plants can stay rigid, but they won’t be anywhere as still as healthy plants. If it’s healthy, it might not yield to your touch.
Echeveria seems like it’s a difficult plant to grow, but it can actually be relatively easy and low-maintenance once you get the growing conditions correct. We’ve listed out everything you need to know about this plant, and you can take this guide and make your succulent thrive.