Aeonium

 In Category Cactus

Family: Crassulaceae
Habitat: Canary Islands and Africa, depending on the considered species.
Cultivation: They require a growing environment full of sun and well ventilated. They love the high temperatures, but also resist to short periods of cold but never below 0° C.
Curiosity: The plants of the genus Aeonium are very efficient in the depuration of the environment and very robust. For these characteristics they are, among the plants, studied by NASA for future use inside the spacecraft.

AEONIUM KEY FEATURES

The Aeonium genus is part of Crassulaceae large family. Its name derives from the greek word aionios, which means eternal, immortal, a name that has earned both for its strength and for its affinity with the Sempervivum genus. In fact the Aeonium  are plants extremely robust even for the standard of the great family of succulents; they can tolerate long periods of drought, as well as short periods of intense cold. They are perennial plants: they sometimes take the form of small shrubberies,  and other times of herbaceous plants. The leaves are fleshy, swollen, they form symmetrical rosettes and have colors that can range from light green to dark purple till black, depending on the species and exposure to the sun. However, it is a mixed gender: the shape of rosettes, the plant size, the colors  vary, depending on the species that is observed.

The flowers, a sign of full maturity of the plant, may come out from the second year of life (in the smaller species) as well as after four or five years (in shrubby species). The individual flowers are very small, with just 1 or 1.5 cm in diameter. However, they are in corymb inflorescences  which in some species can be very showy. They have colors that range from white to yellow and to pink. The overall effect becomes very impressive, even more  for those Aeonium variety  which has got very light color flowers but dark foliage. This is, therefore, a very  appreciated plant in the decorative sphere. Often there are different species of them in the same pot, and this makes a really pleasant contrasting effect both in form and color.

VARIETY AND TYPES

They are from Canary Islands but they have  taken root in many areas of Africa, with different climates and soils, over time. So the  Aeonium genus is very diversified. There are more than 37 species. The highest have woody twigs where there are the leaves, grouped in rosettes while the smallest have grassy texture.

These are some of the most common species or particular:

  • The Aeonium arboreum has spread to all the countries bordering on the Mediterranean sea and in each place there is  a different variety, with peculiar colors. It is the tallest species and can reach a meter in height.
  • The Aeonium decorum or A. cooperii has the form of a branched bush and can reach 70-80 cm in height. The leaves are shaded from light green (the most recent, that are within the rosette) until the pink (older, who are in the outer circles). This two-color highlights the different rosettes created by the leaves and gives the illusion of a bouquet in perpetual bloom.
  • The Aeonium haworthii.It is lower than the other two (max. 50 cm in height) but always characterized by the shape of the shrub, this species has pointed shape leaves of green or gray-green color, sometimes with a reddish rim.
  • The Aeoniums tabulaeforme unlike the previous ones  has a  rosette structure completely flat (hence the name) that rests on the ground. A rosette can be 15 to 50 cm wide and be also composed of 200 leaves or more.
  • The Aeonium tabulaeforme crested is a variant of the previous type, from which it is distinguished by its very elongated shape and characteristic foliage.
  • The Aeonium sedifolium is very branched, and the classic rosette structure of the plant is less obvious.
  • The Aeonium canariense has a more flattened shape, with wide and flat leaves.
  • Finally, we also remember the Aeonium balsamiferum, not particularly widespread but with an intense balsamic odor – this characteristic is rather rare among the succulents in general.

TIPS FOR GROWING

The Aeonium plants come, as already said, from different climates and some varieties could, therefore, have different requirements in terms of watering and sun exposure. But what they all have in common is an extraordinary ability to adapt that makes the life of the gardener really easy.

In general, these guidelines are valid for all plants of the  Aeonium genus:

A sunny location. Direct sun also influences the coloring of the leaves positively , enhancing the effect of pink or violet pigments. If they are planted outdoors, directly into the ground, choose a well drained spot where the soil dries soon after a downpour. Although they are plants from hot climates, the Aeonium also bear long periods of cold temperatures but never below 0 °. If they are located outdoor, in case of frost they can be saved if covered with mulching sheeting. Regular watering,  every 10-15 days, but only when the soil is completely dry.

A sandy loam, light and with high drainage capacity. You can fertilize from February to May, at flowering, by diluting a special fertilizer in water and flushing with this solution every two weeks. Repot if necessary in slightly larger pots than the previous one, to let the plant grow in height and width.Lik e many other Crassulaceae, also plants of the Aeonium genus multiply by cuttings. You can start from the apical rosette or from a single leaf, but paying attention to maintain its base when you remove it. The cut part can be put to root only when  it is completely dry. The cutting  is advisable in the case of shrubs that begin to be too woody and messy; spring and autumn are the best periods. Alternatively, you can use the seeds – with the shrewdness , however, to maintain the soil well moist  throughout the first year of life of the plant.

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