Aeonium (2002)

By Jonathan Watt (February 2002)

Aeonium is a genus of succulents native to the Canary Islands. These island are located off the coast of North Africa inthe Atlantic Ocean. Aeoniums are endemic there, but have enjoyed a wide distribution because their growth habit is so unique.

The aeonoium tribe is a member of the Crassulaceae family. The plants grow in rosettes, usually in clusters, with individuals of different ages mixed together. This makes a pleasing scene, as some could be blooming, some just starting and some on their way out.

Some species grow flat on the ground, and some develop short stems with the rosettes on top. The predominant flower color is yellow. Flowers arise from the middle of the rosettes after they mature. The rosettes die after flowering, but there should be others waiting to grow and start the cycle again.

One variety to try is A. arboreum “Zwartkop,” a hybrid whose name means “black head” because of the dark, almost black leaves. It is a stemmed plant that can grow 2 to 3 feet tall and make a beautiful house plant. A. glandulosum is native to the island of Madeira. It looks like a green bird’s nest and is a ground grower. A. tabulaeforme is native to the island of Tenerife. The best way I know to describe this plant is a green pancake on a stick.

The Canary Islands are known for their great natural beauty. Geologically, they are volcanic in origin. In the middle of the ocean, they experience much sunny weather year-round. The climate is Mediterranean.

All of these elements are clues on how to grow aeoniums. Volcanic soils are loose and free-draining. These plants like a lot of year-round light – in summer and winter, especially. The Mediterranean climate includes mild, 40- to 50-degree winter temperatures with an occasional dip in the 30s, and sunny, dry summers.

Sounds like a great place for humans, too! Keep your mix loose with plenty of grit, don’t ever overwater and give your aeoniums plenty of light, and these plants will grow on you.