Echeveria elegans is a friendly, easy-growing succulent. Once you become familiar with its characteristics, you’ll want to collect more and more!
Sometimes referred to as “Mexican Snowballs,” Echeveria elegans need a low level of care. They are easily propagated, adding fascinating beauty and texture to any sunny outdoor garden or indoor plant display. But just because they are ‘easy’ does not mean you don’t need to be familiar with their steady and healthy growth requirements.
As a general rule for all succulents, only water when the soil is completely dry. When placed outdoors, it does well in full sun or very light partial shade while Kept indoors, a bright sunny window is the absolute light conditions.
Did you know that sometimes Echeveria elegans is confused with Sempervivum? But despite being both referred to as “Hens and Chicks” plants, there are crucial differences between the two. We will get into that later in this article. For now, notice the common characteristic, which is that the mother plant (the “hen”) produces smaller babies surrounding it (the “chicks”).
Naturally, these low-growing plants look best in the front borders of a garden where they can be seen and admired. Echeveria is also a terrific succulent to enjoy indoors, perhaps on a windowsill or a workspace that you frequent often.
Variations of the Echeveria genus include:
- Echeveria albicans
- Echeveria algavoides
- Echeveria gilva (a hybrid of echeveria elegans and echeveria algavoides)
- Echeveria Violet Queen and Echeveria Blue Lotus are a hybrid of Echeveria elegans and Sedum suaveolens.
Echeveria Elegans (Mexican Snowball) Plant Details
To not be confused with Graptoveria, Echeveria elegans grow in tight, rosette formations. Often in waxy hues of silvery green to a pale blueish or purplish shade. When flowering (in the late winter to spring in the northern hemisphere), the plant sends out shoots of tiny pink—the yellow-tipped flowers shaped like lanterns, on a reddish stalk.
These succulents are often seen spreading in rock gardens or clay pots, native to the southern United States, Mexico, and Central America.
By this, you can deduce the conditions they require:
- Hardy in US zones 9a to 11b (they cannot endure frost or freezing temperatures
- Prefers cactus/succulent soil, or a combination of regular potting soil mixed with coarse sand or perlite
- Prefers the “soak-and-dry” watering method
- Resistant to pests, deer, and diseases, although mealybugs or aphids can present a problem
- Requires at least 6 hours daily of direct or indirect sunlight
- Slow growing, to only about 8″ tall (20.3 cm) and 12″ (30 cm) wide· Non-toxic to pets and humans
- Winter dormant
How to Grow and Care for Echeveria Elegans
The most important thing to remember about these cuties is to NOT over-water them! Like most succulents, Echeveria elegans prefers the “soak-and-dry” watering method. You only water when the soil is completely dry, giving them a soak, but not allowing the roots to remain wet in a watery drip tray. If water drains from the pot into the drip tray, discard the extra water immediately. Allow the soil to dry before watering again. Reduce watering in the winter months while the plant is dormant, even to the point of a once-per-month watering until spring arrives.
If outdoors, plant Echeveria Elegans in your garden area that receives at least six hours of direct or indirect sunlight a day. In scorching climates, be aware that prolonged direct afternoon sun may cause the leaves to dry up and fade. If this should happen, move the plant to a partially sunny area.
If indoors, Mexican Snowballs can thrive under grow lights or west or south-facing windows (for those in the Northern hemisphere).
Soil & Fertilization
These plants do well in sandy, quick-drying soil that is low in nutrients. Avoid humus-rich soil, which holds water for too long. If desired, a small amount of fertilizer designed for succulents may be used early to mid-spring to help spur the development of buds.
If pests such as aphids should appear, do not spray the wavy leaves directly with insecticide. The insecticide will damage their natural protective coating. Instead, use a soil-drenching insecticide when it is time to water.
Echeveria Elegans Pruning & Propagation
Mexican Snowballs do not require much pruning, but the best part is, they are easy to propagate! You can accomplish this in one of two ways:
- Leaf Propagation – gently twist a leaf so that it “pops” off, being careful not to tear it. Place the leaf on dry soil and leave it for a couple of days to form a scab or callous at the base. Fill a pot with well-draining soil and place the calloused end into the soil. Water lightly every few days or when the soil is dry. Once the roots have secured themselves, and a rosette has formed, and the initial leaf has withered away, it is then time to transplant or repot.
- Offset Propagation – Echeveria elegans produce small offsets from the plant base, and these too may be used for propagation. Break off the offset and let it dry for two or three days. Fill a container with well-draining soil, and then soak it. Place the root end of the offset into the soil but not too deeply. You may rewater once the soil is completely dry, or the offset leaves appear to be withered.
Repotting Echeveria Elegans
These slow-growing beauties do not need to be repotted very often. They look quite nice when crowded together in a hens and chicks sort of “family”, or even by themselves in a pot nearly encompassed by their sphere.
Do note that if you should see any roots protruding from the pot’s drainage holes, it is surely time to repot. A pot that is 2″ to 3″ larger in circumference than the previous pot will be large enough since Echeveria elegans is slow-growing.
Difference between Echeveria and Sempervivum
Often these two succulents are confused with each other. All it takes is a little bit of specialized knowledge to remember the difference.
As we mentioned earlier, Echeveria cannot tolerate the cold and so it is known as a “soft” or a “tender” succulent. In contrast, the Sempervivum is a “hard” succulent, which means it requires a cold spell to go dormant and rest up for a new growing season. Fall evenings are when the Sempervivum begins to show a color change with its leaves turning a soft crimson along the tips and edges.
Another way to tell the difference between these two “cousins” is the look or feel of the leaf edges. Echeveria have smooth, hairless leaf edges with a waxy coating. Sempervivum, if you look very closely, have tiny hairs that are almost fur-like.
Still a third way to tell the difference between these two is their flowering characteristics. Echeveria flowers develop from near the middle of the plant, at the tips of long reddish stalks. Eventually, this stem or stalk dies, as does the bell-shaped flower, and the main plant lives on.
With Sempervivum, the plant will flower (they look a bit like crowns that a fairy might wear) and then the plant dies after the bloom is spent.
In ancient times, people believed that Echeveria Elegans could ward off evil spirits. With over 150 distinct varieties in the Echeveria genus, today, we recognize the Echeveria Elegans as a perfect accompaniment to wedding bouquets, rock gardens, and green rooftop gardens.
Considering this plant’s easy-care mixed with natural beauty, it is no wonder that Echeveria Elegans can be found in many a gardening center.
Do you have Echeveria in your home or garden?
What do you love most about it?
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