How to Grow and Care for Echeveria

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.

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.

2. 3 Perle Von Nurnbergs
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.

Echeveria Hardiness

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.

Alternatives include Pumice, lava rocks, and aquarium gravel. There are many drainage materials out there that you can experiment with to find the mix that works best for you and your plants.

3. Blooming Echeveria
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.

4. Topsy Turvy Easy Resize.com
A top-heavy Topsy Turvy

Pruning Echeveria

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!

Repotting Echeveria

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.

5. Leaf Propagation Easy Resize.com
A small pot of leaf-propagated Echeveria

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:

Leaf Propagation

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.

6. Topsy Turvey Propagation Easy Resize.com
A beheaded Topsy Turvey with new growth

Beheading/Stem Cuttings

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

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.

7. Echeveria Lola Easy Resize.com
Echeveria Lola

Yellow Leaves

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.

Drying Leaves

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

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

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.

Common Varieties

8. Perle Von Nurnberg Easy Resize.com
A P
erle Von Nurnberg in a terra cotta 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.

1. Grow and Care for Echeveria