Aeoniums (Aeonium spp.) are succulent plants native to North Africa and the Canary Islands. They are perennials in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11, but in most of North America, they are grown as houseplants or as potted summer annuals.
Aeoniums put up branching stems with rosettes of leaves at the top. Typically, the lower leaves drop off the stems. The colors of the leaves are affected by the amount of sunlight, the season and the growing conditions for the plant. Most offer the brightest coloration in direct sun. Aeoniums bloom with small yellow flowers, but after blooming, the rosette dies. Like most succulents, Aeoniums can be propagated by stem cuttings.
Aeoniums need to stay above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so place them where they will be protected from drafts when growing indoors. They thrive in bright filtered sunlight, so set pots in a south-facing or west-facing window for the winter, but move them about 3 feet away from the window once summer comes. Alternately, move the plants to an unblocked, east-facing window for the summer.
Pot Aeoniums in cactus mix or combine equal parts crushed pumice and commercial potting soil, to provide good drainage. A terracotta pot with one big drainage hole is the best choice, because it allows quick drying of the soil, letting the roots breathe. Keep the plants dry in winter, soaking them only once a month. At other times, allow the soil to dry between waterings, but increase watering frequency in spring until May, when weekly watering will be needed. Begin reducing watering frequency in September.
Mealybugs are a frequent pest of succulents, including Aeoniums. Look for these small white insects or their cottony secretions where leaves join the stem. Remove the bugs with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol, then mist the plant all over with water to rinse off the residue.
Colors and Forms
Aeoniums that thrive as houseplants come in maroon, red, green and variegated forms. The most common are Aeonium arboreum cultivars, which reach 3 feet tall and include “Albovariegatum,” with pink, cream and green leaves, “Schwarzkopf,” with nearly black leaves, and “Atropurpureum,” with deep red-purple leaves. Aeonium haworthii is a small cultivar that grows 6 inches tall and has blue-green leaves.