Echeveria Elegans Care “Mexican Snowball”

echeveria elegans
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Echeveria elegans is one of the many species in the genus Echeveria, which belongs to the Crassulaceae family. These succulent rosettes are drought tolerant and appreciate bright sunlight to partial shade. Perfect for windowsill culture or outdoor containers, they will reward you with their beautiful foliage (rose-colored leaves) and striking bloom spikes.

Echeveria elegans is one of many species in this genus, found growing naturally, as far north as Colorado and New Mexico, south to Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina.  They have a rosette of succulent leaves that grow from a fleshy taproot (not the stem). The beautiful rose-colored leaves contrast beautifully with the fuzzy leaves of Sempervivum

The flowers aren’t as showy as those in some Echeveria species; the pink or white flowers are tubular and produced from the base of the rosette, which offsets via stolons.  The flower spike usually rises above the plant’s rosette of leaves (to about 10 inches)

The Echeveria genus

The Echeveria genus belongs to the Crassulaceae family of succulent plants.  They grow naturally in Mexico, Central America, and parts of the southwestern United States. They are desert plants that store water in their fleshy leaves (rosettes).

Echeveria plants have separated rosettes or clusters of leaves that grow from a central point.  These plants vary in size, shape, and color; most have fleshy rosettes that are globose to elongate and can be solitary or in clusters (often with offsets).

When they bloom, Echeveria produces inflorescences of pink or white tubular flowers that are usually offset via stolons from the base of the plant.  Since Echeveria are closely related to Sempervivum (Hens and chicks), their flowers resemble those of their perennial cousins.

Echeveria elegans propagation

echeveria elegans

Propagating these succulents is easy and there are several methods.  Several varieties of Echeveria can be propagated from leaf cuttings or clippings.  Plants with leaves that have rosette formations (dish-shaped) will send off stolons, which will eventually produce a new plant.  This method works well with Echeveria rosettes that have been trimmed of some leaves, which will eventually root in the soil.  Succulent cuttings and/or tip cuttings can also be propagated from these rosette-forming plants.  Use a clean container, plastic, glass, or clay pots that have drainage holes in the bottom (metal containers will rust) for propagation.

Echeveria can be propagated from seed.  Sow fresh seeds outdoors after the danger of frost has passed or sow indoors before the average last frost date for your area.  Sow the seeds shallowly as they need light to germinate.  Keep seeds damp, but not wet until germination has occurred.

Propagating from cuttings or leaf offsetting is easy with Echeveria species.  Succulent leaves can be trimmed and placed in well-draining soil or a propagation medium. The stem of the parent plant should remain intact until new growth emerges from the cutting.  Leave the cutting in a sunny windowsill until new roots develop.  Plants will need to be potted only when they are larger and have developed enough roots to sustain themselves (usually after one year).

Echeveria elegans care

echeveria elegans

Echeveria elegans is an easy Echeveria species to grow. They enjoy sun, but appreciate some shade during the hottest parts of the day and will survive with watering every one or two weeks during light summer rains.

They like well-draining soil with a pH of 6.0–6.5. Use cactus potting soil or a mix of ¾ sand and ¼ potting soil.  Echeveria will not grow in organic soil (and will likely die or get diseases).

Light requirements

Echeveria elegans is a succulent that grows in the wild in full sun at altitudes of up to 2000m. It makes an attractive and compact plant for growing indoors as well, but it needs some shade from bright sunshine especially during hot weather.

Receiving too much light causes leaves to turn yellow or white This can also cause the leaves to fall off, and overly long periods of bright light will lead to the formation of leggy stems.

Echeveria elegans is fairly tolerant when it comes to exposure to sunlight.

Light period 

Some species of Echeveria are very sensitive to changes in light, and become stressed if they are subjected to a wide range of light intensities – too little light and they become elongated, leggy, and weak in growth; too much light leads to the production of leaves that are thin, narrow and yellowish.

Echeveria elegans is not as sensitive to changes in light as some other species so it will tolerate more variation in this respect.

During the summer, Echeveria elegans will benefit from some shade in order to reduce leaf burn and stem elongation caused by too much sunlight – make sure that there is a break during the day where there is no direct light.

The easiest way to do this is to move the plant away from a large window.

During the winter, Echeveria elegans will benefit from a high light level, but at this time of year, it should not be placed in direct sunlight.

Soil/potting mix 

echeveria elegans

Echeveria elegans has a relatively large root system compared to the other species of Echeveria, and so it should be planted in a larger container – an 8 inch (20cm) diameter pot will allow plenty of room for growth. Because the roots are large, they prefer to be planted in a well-aerated soil/potting mix.

Echeveria elegans does not like having its roots disturbed, and so when re-potting, it is best to use a container with sharp drainage holes that will prevent the plant from becoming waterlogged if there are any problems with watering.

Watering

During the winter, when it’s not growing actively, Echeveria elegans will need only a little water every 7 to 10 days. During the spring and summer months, it will need more frequent watering to keep the soil moist – you should be able to feel that there is moisture in the top 1-2 cm of soil but no water should run out of the holes in the container. If you do not have a way to measure moisture levels, it is also possible to tell whether or not your plant needs watering by sticking your finger into the soil – if it feels moist then it doesn’t need water; if it feels dry, then give it a light watering.

You should avoid getting any water on the leaves. When in bloom, keep the soil moist at all times and feed with a high potassium fertilizer every couple of weeks to ensure that the plant will produce flowers during this time.

Fertilizing 

It is also important to supply Echeveria elegans with some nitrogen when it is growing actively – using a high nitrogen flowering fertilizer (10-5-14) diluted to half strength will do the trick.

Fertilizers that contain iron and magnesium are also useful for keeping Echeveria healthy as these nutrients tend to leach out of the soil quickly.

Note: You should avoid using high phosphorus fertilizers when growing Echeveria elegans.

Echeveria elegans do not need to be fed much during the winter and spring. During this time you should cut back on fertilizer to prevent the growth of green leaves that will eventually turn yellowish as they age, something known as ‘old man’s beard’. If you do want to feed it, using a weak solution of high potassium fertilizer (such as tomato feed) every couple of weeks will help to keep the leaves in good condition.

Temperature

Another consideration is temperature. In order for Echeveria elegans to grow and flower well, it needs to be able to tolerate slightly cooler temperatures than some other species. Echeveria elegans is a frost-hardy plant and will tolerate temperatures as low as -10C. But it grows best between 18 degrees C and 25 degrees C which makes it ideal for growing in most homes.

Echeveria can be grown in warmer climates but the growth of the plant may slow down a little in high temperatures.

Echeveria elegans requires a minimum temperature of 50°F (10°C) to survive the winter. This temperature may be hard to reach in areas with a short growing season. Echeveria elegans has been grown outside under full sun in protected locations below the frost line (i.e. it is not planted directly into soil that comes into contact with the ground) and survived temperatures as low as 10°F (-12°C).

Echeveria elegans has grown outside in Phoenix, Arizona, the United States of America, which has an expected minimum winter temperature of 40°F (4°C).

In the right conditions and with a protected location, Echeveria elegans can tolerate mild frost, but it is important not to let the plant experience long periods of freezing temperatures especially if it is in a container, as the plant will likely not survive.

Echeveria elegans has a low cold tolerance so it requires shelter with very little airflow to protect itself from strong winds.  It can be grown outdoors successfully in many places and make an attractive addition to any garden or large pot.

Humidity

The humidity requirement for Echeveria elegans is the same as most succulent plants, i.e. around 50-60% relative humidity.

Pruning

Some people cut Echeveria elegans back to the base after flowering and this will produce a branched cluster of offsets.  If no pruning is done after flowering, the plant may retain its rosette form but not produce any offsets.

It is best to remove spent flowers soon after they fall off as these attract animal pests such as ants.

When to repot

echeveria elegans

Echeveria elegans is a slow-growing plant so it will need repotting infrequently. The potting mix should be a well draining and use a cactus mix that is low in nutrients and water holding capacity to minimize the risk of root rot.

It is best to re-pot when the roots have filled the pot, particularly if it is in a small container.

Hardiness zones

Echeveria elegans will grow almost anywhere, although the optimum temperature range for growing Echeveria elegans and producing a good number of offsets is between 18 degrees C and 25 degrees C (65 degrees F to 80 degrees F).

Locations with a hardiness zone rating higher than 8 can potentially grow Echeveria elegans outdoors year-round, while those with a hardiness zone rating less than 8 may grow the plant outdoors in warmer months only.

Plants need to be protected from frost which should ideally not fall below -10 degrees C (14 degrees F). Echeveria elegans can still survive temperatures as low as 10°F (-12 °C).

Toxicity

As is the case with most other members of the Crassulaceae family, Echeveria elegans is poisonous if ingested. Its leaves contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which can cause liver damage and death in large quantities.

Pests and diseases

Echeveria elegans is susceptible to attack by mealybugs and thrips. If a plant becomes infected with mealybugs it may be necessary to physically remove the insects rather than put the plant into quarantine.

So, it is best not to introduce any new plants into a garden or home until the previous occupants have been identified.


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