Echeverias (Echeveria spp.) hoard their own water supplies in rosettes of thick -- and often colorful -- foliage. Frequently mistaken for hens-and-chicks (Sempervivum spp.) which grow in U.S Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 8, echeverias grow outdoors in USDA zones 8 through 11, depending on variety. In colder climates, the easy-care succulents make excellent houseplants.
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Soil and Feeding
Like all succulents, echeverias need well-draining, loose garden soil or potting medium. For container-grown plants, a medium containing 4 parts commercial potting mix to 1 part crushed lava, pumice or coarse perlite works well. Between spring and fall, fertilize every four to six weeks with a balanced, water-soluble 15-15-15 formula. Feed outdoor plants with 1/2 tablespoon, or one-half the label's specified amount, of fertilizer dissolved in 1 gallon of water. For potted indoor plants, cut the fertilizer to one-fourth the specified amount per 1 gallon of water. Don't fertilize echeverias at all during winter.
When to Water
Thick leaves serving as reservoirs sustain echeverias for long periods between waterings, and overwatered echeverias are unhappy ones. Let their soil or medium dry out almost completely before saturating it, making sure the leaves stay dry. Cool, damp weather, shade or crowding the plants reduces their need for water.
Protection from the Elements
Growing your echeverias in containers lets you to move them to shelter when temperatures dip below freezing. Landscape cloth, which you can buy at a garden center, protects in-ground plantings from light frost. Although they're warm-climate plants, echeverias parch and burn in intense sun. Providing them afternoon shade usually solves the problem. If you choose trees, don't let leaf debris accumulate in the rosettes.
Unless echeverias are cold and wet, they don't have problems with diseases. Pests are their major threats. Aphids and mealybugs drain sap from the stems and leaves, covering them in gooey, transparent waste. Yellowish-black thrips steal it from the flowers, often speckling them with black waste. Kill the pests by spraying the plants until all their surfaces drip with ready-to-use insecticidal soap. Concentrate on their feeding sites inside the rosettes and beneath the stems. To avoid sun damage, spray in the early morning or after sundown. Repeat weekly, or at the label's recommended intervals, until the bugs are gone.
Snails, slugs and earwigs chew holes in echeverias after dark. Snails and slugs leave slimy trails behind. Hunt them with a flashlight and pick them from the plants. Wear gloves if you prefer. Set 12-inch lengths of rubber hose around your plants for the earwigs to shelter in after feeding. Drown the collected or trapped pests in soapy water.
Except for removing the tops of old, straggly plants to encourage strong new side branching, echeverias don't require pruning. Wipe your pruning tools down with a cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol between cuts to avoid spreading diseases.