Encyclopedia of Houseplants

How to Grow and Care for Echeveria Plants

updated Jun 6, 2020
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Closeup of an echeveria
Credit: Joe Lingeman

Echieveria is the kind of succulent that makes you do a double take in a plant shop because of its gorgeous pastel-tinged colors and shapes. Here’s some extra good news: The showstopper is also incredibly low-maintenance. In fact, it’s so drought-tolerant, you can nearly set it on your windowsill or a sunny tabletop and forget about it—although, with its rose-like appearance, forgetting about it might be a hard thing to do.

The down-low on Echeveria

Originating in Central America, Echeveria is a large genus named after Mexican botanical artist Atanasio Echeverría y Godoy. The succulent grows out from the center, creating a rosette that normally measures between 2 and 6 inches across. 

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) specifically lists Blue Echeveria as nontoxic to animals (hooray!).

Echeveria types

There are about 100 species of Echeveria that come in a variety of colors (we’re talking blue, purple, silver, green, pink, red), so it’s basically guaranteed to match any vibe. Here are just a few of them:

Echeveria elegans (also known as the Mexican snowball) is the classic, thick, plump, and green rosette we’re used to thinking of when we talk about this specific succulent. It also comes in a beautiful raspberry variation.

Echeveria agavoides carries pointier ends on their leaves. There’s even a popular variation that goes by “Lipstick.”

If you’re into a more calming succulent vibe, Echeveria “Afterglow” has tints of purple and pink, while Echeveria “Black Prince” swings in a completely different direction with its dark tones.

Can’t decide? Don’t worry: You can get an already-prepared combo of several varieties of Echeveria.

Echeveria environment

Find the brightest spot you can in your household—that’s where Echeveria will be happiest. Because Echeveria will grow toward its light source, keep rotating yours in order to maintain an even bloom all around. For outdoor Echeveria, pick a spot with all-day sun or, at the very least, afternoon sun. 

If Echeveria is not receiving enough light, its “petals” will begin to open up and stretch out of the rosette form, as if it is grasping for more light.

Credit: Shutterstock

Echeveria care

As with all succulents, be careful not to overwater your Echeveria. Instead, only water when the top several inches of soil are dry to the touch. Make sure the water hits the top of the soil, not the leaves. You should also have a proper drainage system in place, whether that’s well-draining potting soil or gravel that breaks up the flow of water. 

You may water Echeveria from the bottom by placing the succulent in a shallow dish of water and letting it drink up the water that way, as long as your pot has good drainage holes. But don’t allow it to sit in the water for too long, as that will lead to root rot, which is a common problem for Echeveria.

Another issue you may encounter is pesky mealybugs. If you find a white residue on your succulent, act quickly because they spread fast. There are several ways to treat a mealybug problem, but I prefer the following technique: Isolate the succulent that has mealybugs. Wipe off the white residue with a Q-tip dabbed in isopropyl alcohol (be sure to get those hard-to-reach places), then add neem oil to the leaves by mixing 1 ounce per gallon of water. Reapply when necessary. 

Echeveria propagation

Echeveria is often referred to as “hens and chicks” due to how easily it propagates. Echeveria naturally produce little “chicks” next to the mother “hen” rosette. While it can multiply on its own, it’s also relatively easy for you to make happen.

There are multiple ways to propagate Echeveria, but leaf propagation is the simplest. You’ll want to either collect leaves that have just fallen from your Echeveria, or grasp a leaf of the rosette and gently move it from side to side until it detaches. Lay the leaves on a tray, and keep them out of direct sun. Within a few weeks, a small plantlet with roots will form on the end of the leaf (technically called the meristem tissue). At that point, you can place your leaf’s roots in succulent potting soil and mist the plantlet with water every few days. If you put it in bright shade, eventually the original leaf will dry up, leaving behind the newly formed rosette.