Well the heat is FINALLY subsiding and the “cool” weather season for San Diego is coming upon us. Not only is this a great time to smile at your air-conditioning bill, it’s an even greater time for the genus Aeonium as they emerge from their summer dormancy period and enter into fall and winter growth. This isn’t to say that there aren’t some that cant handle the heat of the kitchen (Aeonium ‘Zwartzkopf’, Aeonium leucoblepharum) but generally they like their misty, cool mornings with days staying at or below the low 80’s F range.
Aeoniums as we all know are the succulents that generally form tight and geometric rosettes ranging from half an inch across (Aeonium sedifolium) to nearly two feet wide (Aeonium davidbramwellii). The vast majority of this genus’ species come from the Canary Islands off Africa, with a few others being from east Africa, Morocco, Madeira Island, and Cape Verdes Islands. Having become very popular in landscaping and horticulture the more hardy varieties such as Aeonium haworthii and Aeonium urbicum have naturalized in Australia, North America, and Europe. Furthermore, with their ease of hybridization and trait select cultivation, many sports, variegates, and cultivars have been developed and are widely available.
With the exception of one species, the rosettes are monocarpic and die after flowering. But don’t fret, several species and varieties branch off forming shrubs allowing for new growth to over take the gap where a head has flowered and died.
Not only do they serve as a gorgeous and unique addition to any hobbyist’s collection, Aeoniums can serve in practical applications as well. With many species’ having their roots being shallow, numerous, and eternally prolific they can serve as a counter to run off from heavy rain. Also, and I speak from experience, certain varieties can ease the irritation caused by Euphorbia sap on the skin. Finally, shrubby varieties have been used as fire breaks in agriculture.
As with many of our beloved succulents, these plants are susceptible to the scourge that is bugs. Whether its mealy bugs working their way from the roots up to devour your rosettes crown, ants servicing those mealy and caking dirt up and around the stem, or aphids out to scar the leaves and attract more ants, there’s a battle to be had to keep these plants looking prime. Luckily, there is a laundry list of methods to address these challenges and with vigilance, you can emerge victorious and your plants healthy and beautiful.