By Chuck Nicholls, Master Gardener
Echeverias/succulents have recently become very trendy plants in the horticultural industry. Fortunately for those of us living in South Florida, it is possible to grow many of them either directly in the ground or in containers. Because of their popularity, there are many new and colorful varieties that have become available. They are not only used for landscaping purposes, but also have become increasing popular in the floral industry. Mark Turner, a local event planner, has used them in bouquets and centerpieces. He recently completed a magnificent topiary tree for one of his clients using them.
Echeveria is named after a Mexican Botanist/artist Atanasio Echeverria y Godoy. Echeverias are included in a very large group of plants within the Crassulacea family mostly originating from Mexico and Central/South America. The plants grown in this area are evergreen with flowers that come from the base of rosettes from the succulent leaves. The flowers are not generally showy and do not last although there are exceptions.
Older plants often produce new plants by offsets that originate at the base of the mother plant. Another method of propagation is relatively easy by taking leaf cuttings (removing the leaf from the central core of the plant) and placing in a very loose and moist soil within a flat or pot that should be located in a shady location. A light misting of water during the hot weather is essential. New plants will develop within 6-8 weeks. Experienced gardeners many want to plant seeds only if the plant is not a hybrid.
Good drainage is essential whether they are grown in the ground or in containers. A good mix is ½ organic material sand ½ materials that can be used for drainage such as course sand, perlite or pumice. Do not feed them a fertilizer high in Nitrogen. I recommend bone meal which is 2-10-10. Plants can be grown in full sun. Generally speaking plants should be watered thoroughly twice weekly during the hot summer and once in the winter months. A good rain counts as one good watering.
Plants are widely distributed and can be found at most nurseries and Garden Centers. Home Depot and Lowes generally have a nice collection in their garden centers. Mountain Crest Gardens has a great web site for echeverias (http://mountaincrestgardens.com).
You can learn more about echeverias and other plants by attending The Equality Park Garden Club which meets at the Pride Center every third Wednesday of the month at 7:30 pm. The Pride Center is located at 2040 North Dixie Highway, Wilton Manors.
Chuck Nicholls is Past President and founder of The Equality Park Garden Club and founder of the The Annual Tropical Plant Fair held in Wilton Manors.