By: Tonya Barnett, (Author of FRESHCUTKY)
Echeveria is a small, rosette-type succulent plant. With its unique blue-green pastel color, it’s easy to see why the variety Echeveria derenbergii is a long-time favorite of succulent plant collectors and hobbyist gardeners. Keep reading to learn more about growing and caring for this “painted lady” plant.
About Painted Lady Echeveria
Also known as Painted Lady, due to its reddish leaf tips, this native Mexican plant dazzles with showy yellow-orange blooms each spring. Since these echeveria plants remain relatively small, usually growing to no more than 4 inches (10 cm.) in height, the Painted Lady succulent is perfect for container culture.
Echeveria Plant Care
Echeveria plants require warm climates to thrive. Grown outdoors in USDA zone 9 through 11, cultivation in pots or planters is often the best and most common planting option for gardeners living within zones that experience colder temperatures. Some growers may even choose to grow succulent containers outdoors during the summer months and move the plants back indoors to overwinter when cold weather and frost threatens.
To plant, simply fill the containers with well-draining soil. Since good drainage is an absolute necessity, it is best to use soil mixes specifically formulated for succulent growth. These mixes are often available at home improvement stores or local nurseries.
By nature, the Painted Lady succulent is drought tolerant and is quite adaptable in terms of how much sunlight is necessary. However, plants still require frequent watering during periods of active growth. Be careful to avoid directly watering the rosette of the plant, as this can lead to rot and other diseases.
When growing conditions are less than ideal, plants may become dormant. Dormant plants require even less watering and fertilization until new growth resumes.
Like many succulent plants, echeveria is known to produce numerous smaller offsets from the parent plant. These offsets can be removed and placed into their own containers as a means of propagation. New plants can also be rooted through stem cuttings and by rooting succulent leaves.
Always maintain good sanitation habits by removing dead or damaged parts of the plant. This is especially important, as dead leaves may attract pests to your plants.
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Painted lady echeveria (Echeveria derenbergii): HomePainted lady echeveria (Echeveria derenbergii) photo courtesy of Flickr cc/Bjorn S.
Painted lady echeveria (Echeveria derenbergii)
An important factor in determining the suitability of a plant to your home and envisioning the care it will need, is to know the origin of the plant. Plants that are native to desert regions will require substantial amount of sunlight and loose, fast-draining soil. Plants from the floor of a rainforest will need some protection from strong sunlight and generous humidity.
This Mexico native is a succulents plant with small, pale-green, dense, basal rosettes tipped with pink. It grows only 4 inches tall, produces many offshoots and flowers freely in the summer. Provide the brightest light as echeverias are particularly prone to "stretch" with inadequate sunlight. Echeveria is one of several plant genera that are sometimes referred to as stonecrop.
Light is where many succulent gardeners fall short of the needs of their plants. It is critical that you place your echeveria in a window where it will receive a minimum of six hours of sunlight per day. Without extended, direct light, your plant will begin to stretch and lose its attractive, compact form. A painted lady echeveria should continue to receive bright light even during its winter rest period.
If the sun in your sunniest window is not adequate, artificial lights should be considered, alone or in combination with natural light. A white fluorescent light, 6 to 12 inches above the plant will give good results. Artificial light is not equivalent to daylight in strength and must be delivered for at least 14 to 16 hours per day.
Water and Humidity:
Too much water is the most frequent cause of succulent failure and watering requires care. Your watering regime should vary with the time of year. Typically, in the low-light conditions of winter (October through February), water only as often as is necessary to prevent the leaves of your echeveria from puckering (once a month or so). Your plant is not in active growth at this time and prefers extended dry conditions.
When you water, allow the plant to take up tepid water from below so that you don't wet the leaves.As daylight hours increase, and the plant comes back into active growth, water more frequently but allow the soil to dry completely between waterings. Succulents have shallow roots and they will rot easily if over-watered. They do not need humidity to prosper and misting is not advised. Give them good air circulation rather than grouping them with leafy plants.
Succulents are happy with the temperature conditions achievable in New York area households. Daytime temperatures of 60 to 75° F. and night time temperatures ranging from 40 to 60° F. are well tolerated. Painted lady echeveria requires at least a 10-degree temperature fluctuation from day to night in order to grow successfully. During the winter rest period, daytime temperatures of 55º to 60º F. are best.
Your home is full of microclimates. Locations near windows may be sunny during the winter, but they are also cool (usually 10 degrees colder than the center of the room). In the summer, a south-facing window gets hotter during the day relative to the rest of the room and the rest of the house. Investigate your home’s microclimates in order to place your plants in the best spots. You may need to move plants to the most comfortable location for the season.
Re-pot in spring only when completely necessary. The soil and pot you choose for your succulent plays an important role in its health. Moisture trapped around the negligible root systems of these plants can lead to sudden death. The ideal soil should resemble the loose, free-draining mixture of a succulent's native habitat. Equal parts potting soil, peat and sand are generally best. Commercial cactus mixes are acceptable, if not ideal, and readily available but avoid those that have food already in the mix. Your pot must have a draining hole at its bottom.
Painted lady echeveria should be fed only during their growing season (March through September). A cactus or houseplant food, fed at half strength, three or four times per growing period is generally advised. Any plant food with a high nitrogen value should be avoided. This plant will spread up to several feet wide unless food is restricted.
Once the temperature warms up outside and the sunlight is plentiful, consider giving your echeveria a holiday in the great outdoors. Acclimatize the plant to changes in light and temperature by taking the pot outside for increasing periods over a couple of weeks. Avoid the most direct, midday sunlight and keep a careful eye on the increased water requirements outdoors. Your plant's enhanced vigor will reward you!
Winter Rest Period:
It is very important to differentiate the non-active growth period of your echeveria and to give it a rest. From October through February, this plant needs reduced water, food and temperature, though direct sunlight should continue.
What to Watch for:
Keep just barely moist, watering from below. Never let water pool in the leaf crown or it will rot.
Remove dead leaves from the bottom of the rosette to avoid hidden infestations of insects.
Echeverias elongate if not given the light they need or if over-watered in the winter.
Leaves will drop if they are watered with very cold water.
Painted lady echeveria (Echeveria derenbergii) in flower photo courtesy of Flickr cc/Bjorn S.
- Light:Full sun. Perfect for a sunny window.
- Water: Water during the summer and spring, making sure drainage is immaculate. Reduce water in the winter to monthly.
- Temperature: Prefers average summer temps (65 F to 70 F). In winter, cool to 50 F.
- Soil: A well-drained succulent mix, with an ideal pH around 6.0 (slightly acidic).
- Fertilizer: Feed with a controlled-release fertilizer at the beginning of the season or weekly with a weak liquid solution. Use a balanced 20-20-20 fertilizer at 1/4 strength on mature plants, and a fertilizer with less nitrogen on young plants.
In terms of size and growth, the Painted Lady Echeveria is a relatively moderate grower, which makes things somewhat easy for any plant enthusiast.
But, how big does the Painted Lady Echeveria actually get? What should you expect in terms of size? Let’s dive right in…
The Echeveria Derenbergii can grow up to 3″ – 4″ (7cm – 10cm) in 3″ – 4″ (7cm – 10cm) and 1′ – 3′ (30cm – 90cm) in 1′ – 3′ (30cm – 90cm).
These dimensions make the Painted Lady Echeveria a relatively medium cactus/succulent compared to others, so it’s best to keep this fact in mind since it will affect where you want to keep yours at home.
Also, expect it to grow in a wonderful mounding shape, which is something worthwhile to remember when making your garden landscape plans.
This is why experts recommend keeping an area of approximately 12″ (30cm) free so the Painted Lady Echeveria can spread to its best extent.
Propagating Echeveria Succulents By Seed
Here, we come to the most involved method of propagating echeveria plants. But before going through all the steps for this method, I should mention that echeveria varieties that are a hybrid of two different species tend to produce seeds that are sterile. However, if it’s a hybrid of different varieties of the same species (or it’s not a hybrid at all), the seeds should be fertile – as long as they’re not too old.
So, you can collect the tiny black seeds produced by your own echeveria plants by harvesting them from the pods of flowers that have bloomed and closed up again. Although not all echeveria plants will flower, you can encourage mature plants to bloom in the springtime by keeping them cool and dry during the winter and placing them outdoors if there’s no risk of freezing, so they will experience a marked difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures. Also, make sure to care for them properly so they are healthy enough to have the energy to produce blooms.
If you choose to purchase seeds instead, be sure to buy them from a reputable dealer. And regardless of how you’ve obtained them, only use fresh, dry seeds to grow your plants.
Now, on to germinating the seeds. You should do this in the springtime to give the plants the longest growing season possible before they go into winter dormancy.
To prepare your dust-like echeveria seeds for planting, first make a mixture of one part seeds to two parts very fine sand. Next, prepare a growing tray with fast-draining succulent soil and water it thoroughly. Then spread the softened seeds sparsely over the soil.
Place the planter in a warm location with plenty of indirect sunlight and mist the seeds daily. To help keep the seeds moist and warm, particularly if you live in a cool or dry climate, consider covering the planter with a large clear plastic bag or plastic wrap, or use some other method of making a clear shell to create a mini greenhouse.
After about two weeks, your seeds should start to germinate, and seedlings will begin to appear at around three weeks, at which point you should remove the cover. After six weeks, you can begin watering the seedlings less often, allowing the surface of the soil to dry out between waterings.
It takes about two months for true leaves to begin forming. The new plants will be ready to repot when a gentle tug meets resistance, which indicates that your echeveria plants have successfully rooted.
If you want to learn some more about growing succulents indoors, I’ve written a useful guide over here.
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