Aeonium Advice

keltic_pickleMay 25, 2012

My Aeonium "zwartkopf" is a plant that I've always had a hard time with. I was just given one as a gift about a month ago. I treat it the way I treat my other succulents, but for some reason, they always end up doing poorly. The leaves will start curling downwards - that's always the first thing that happens... My current one has just started showing the downward curling leaves (see the pic). It's in a very high quality bonsai soil (drains extremely well), and it resides in an East facing window. Could it be that it's receiving too much direct sunlight/heat? According to what I've read that is one cause for the leaves to do this. Other sources say that the plant needs to go dormant during summer, as in their natural habitat, they are winter growers... Any advice would be appreciated!

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Not enough light. I am convinced they only do well outside with as much sun as you can give it. I have heard other gardeners repeat this.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 5:02PM
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Hmmm... OK, that could be it. Will see if I can find a brighter window for it. Thanks!

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 5:14PM
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Aeoniums are also going into dormancy, even as you and I read/type this. The leaf loss is perfectly normal as part of that, resulting in the tightened disc of colour that says 'It's summer' like nothing else.

You see how this A. arboreum v. rubrolineatum has lost most of its leaves.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 12:13AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Aeonium continually sheds older leaves as new leaves form. As the abscission layer forms at the base of a leaf before it's shed, the leaf loses turgidity and droops before it eventually turns crispy/dry. I usually pluck them off when they're in that state to keep things neat.

One thing I've noticed about the tightness of the rosettes, is that they tend to get tighter & tighter as the plant becomes more root bound, which stands to reason because we know that root bound conditions produce reduced extension via shortened internodes.

I've been growing the same A a "Zwartkopf" for at least 20 years by reproducing the plant through cuttings, and I can't even count the number of started cuttings I've given away - I have about 10 rooting now as give-aways. I've never lost a plant or even had one seem pouty. All I do is: Gritty mix, full sun or under lights in winter, fertilize regularly with Foliage-Pro 9-3-6, water them right along with all my other houseplants.

I have found that most commercially prepared bonsai soils have too many fines in them to suit my taste. You might try screening it over insect screen to get rid of some of the fine particles so watering isn't so critical. Also, what are you fertilizing with?

Also - I have no idea if Aeonium is supposed to be a winter grower, and would concede the point immediately to CM if he says they are - because I know he's really into succulents and I trust what he says; but my own observation is mine put on little mass in the winter under lights and put on almost all of their annual growth in the outdoor summer sun.


    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 5:21AM
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I understand about the lower leaves dropping. That's not what I'm concerned with. It's the fact that all of the leaves appear curled downwards as you can see in the pic. And this bonsai soil is excellent. That's definitely not to blame. I have read about them being winter growers but wasn't sure that applied to plants kept indoors in parts of the world that are in a different hemisphere from where they occur naturally. So I'm uncertain as to whether I should let it go dormant or continue to water regularly and fertilize.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 8:34AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

You really can't 'let' a plant go into a predictive dormancy, which is what you're talking about, because you have no way to stop it from occurring. Usually photo-period holds rein over predictive dormancy with temperature playing a secondary part in temperate plants. Consequential dormancies are another issue and CAN be forced upon plants that tolerate them. Usually that occurs by drought induction and lowered light/temperatures.

I treat mine exactly the same throughout the growth cycle with no hint of the plants balking at their treatment.


    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 12:15PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Speaking of "Zwartkopf" cuttings sent far and wide....

Here's one of them on my back deck rail this morning. Please excuse the oak pollen....
we had quite a rain last night, and the pollen left its yellow residue on most of my plants.

I grow it as Al does, in a gritty mix, fertilized with Foliage Pro. I, too, have heard that
Aeonium should not be watered during the Summer, but I wonder if the gritty mix will
stave off any ill-effects of excess moisture.


    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 2:47PM
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Josh and Al,

It depends on the species - the A. arboreum v. atropurpureum and its hybrids are a lot more forgiving of summer water, but some you would want to keep bone-dry (like A. smithii).

Additionally, mature plants, such as both of yours, can handle adverse / not-usual conditions more so than cuttings.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2012 at 3:36PM
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Al - what I meant by letting it go into dormancy, is letting it go dry and stay dry for the summer. Which seems to be the proper care for this plant, notwithstanding the success you and others have had watering them in the summer months.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2012 at 3:43PM
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If it was my plant, I'd give it a sometimes sip, but only that, about 1-2x a month.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2012 at 4:15PM
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Hi Keltic.
I too read Aeoniums go dormant in summer.

After a few tries, my Aeons would die, so I decided to follow the advice, care for as a winter grower.

Can't recall its species, but it did great. I watered more during winter months, and let dry in summer. BTW, this Aeon was kept indoors, year round.
Also, I didn't force dormancy..this Aeon went dormant on its own. It was then I decided to follow instructions, reduce watering and withhold fertilizer.

After it's 3rd or 4th year, I put it out during summer. It died. lol.

Because my current Aeon's are summered outdoors, I changed tactics. More water and fertilize in summer, dormant in winter. So far, so good.

Perhaps it depends on the species, like Cactusmcharris said. Toni

    Bookmark   May 31, 2012 at 4:20PM
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Thanks, Toni & MC. I shall follow your advice, MC. :)

    Bookmark   May 31, 2012 at 4:31PM
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Hi, I see that this post is pretty old, but I was wondering if your Aeonium is doing better? If it is, what did you change? Same goes for if it didn't, lol.

I started growing aeoniums a few years ago and I was really annoyed that none of mine did what they were "supposed" to do after thorough research. So, I started letting them tell me what they needed and when. A small kiwi pinwheel became so leggy that the stems broke and it had almost no variegation. That told me it needed sun, and I rooted the rosettes that broke off and gave it more light. Perfect. Now it looks more like the clumpy mound that I was hoping for. If the soil feels bone dry, I water it no matter what time of year. I had a Z that started like the one in your photo and I had it in full, hot sun (indoors). Even in the winter, the rosettes would fold upward and even turn away from the window. I moved it farther from the window and by the next morning, each rosette was beautifully flat. I would gauge it's water needs by the plumpness of the leaves. At the time, I lived in northern MT. I find that trial and error give me better results with my plants than trying to Google myself to death, lol.

When looking at the photo you posted, I would agree with the others who said it looked like a lighting issue. The leaves look very healthy but the downward curve seems like it would benefit from more light. You did say that you thought it had too much light, and that would make me question the soil. You mentioned that you use a high quality bonsai mix and another poster mentioned that it contained a lot of fine particles. I have found that too fine of a mix tends to sort of inhibit the root growth of mine. So, I began using plain old potting soil mixed with rough gravel at 70/30 with a few small rough stones thrown in. I know it doesn't sound very scientific or sophisticated, but I've had the best results with "nothin' fancy". I fertilize with water from my fishtank or with Schultz 10-15-10 if I remember and that's been it. I've watched a 6" tall single-stemmed rosette Z cutting grow to a 18", multi-branched (branches on branches-yay!) beauty in a little over a year by doing just what I've described. I know that everyone gets results differently and I'm curious to hear how yours is doing. I've never tried a bonsai mix and I think I might pick some up now. :-)

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 11:14PM
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Here is a shot of the Z taken at one year, this past March. It was pretty leggy here and you can see the rosettes sort of closing up like they seem to do when I keep them in the "heat" of the window. It began to plump up this past summer. You can see the growth in the change of trunk diameter. It has filled out quite nicely since this photo and I am not sure if this could be the reason, but I have since kept it in morning-only direct light during the summer. I've moved to Cali since and it has been outside since July. Morning direct sun, dappled shade for the rest of the day. Sorry, I don't have any recent pics except for one showing deer damage to a rosette.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 11:48PM
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Hi. Thanks for your messages. My aeonium is looking just the same as it did before, possibly a little worse. I followed the advice by the last few posters, and didn't water but a few light sips over the summer. As the fall has arrived, I've started watering it the way I water my other succulents during the summer. So far, it's not looking any better. But perhaps it's too soon to tell.

The soil is not the issue. Pretty certain of that. This is good stuff - from New England Bonsai - and doesn't contain too many fine particles. I keep all of my plants in this mix (mostly succulents, as well as a Monstera and a willow leaf ficus), and they all do great. The aeonium is the only plant that looks pathetic. It gets plenty of light - direct in the morning, and bright light through the early afternoon (it's in an East facing window).

I agree with your methods for gauging plants' needs, and have become successful with many of them based on years of experimentation and observing how they respond to whatever I'm doing. That combined with a healthy dose of common sense, and I've done quite well. I'm hoping that the winter watering regime does the trick. But at this point, I'm not overly optimistic.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 1:36AM
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By the way, your plant looks great. I'd love to be able to get this one to grow to that height and branch out like yours.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 1:37AM
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grabmebymyhandle(6 Kentucky)

Did you ever adjust the light?

I really think thats the culprit!

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 11:00AM
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It may well be the light, yes. But sadly I don't have a brighter spot for it. :-(

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 11:36AM
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