Tips On Growing Echeveria Outdoors

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Echeveria is a popular perennial succulent member of the Crassulaceae family of plants. There are about 200 species in the Echeveria genus and many hybrids. 

These versatile succulents are native to parts of Central America, South America, and Mexico. 

Growing Echeveria OutdoorsPin

They are best known as houseplants, which can also be grown outdoors in planters or the landscape. 

Your choice of planting space and the care methods you use will greatly depend on your climate and location. 

In this article, we share tips on growing Echeveria outdoors. Read on to learn more about proper Echeveria care. 

8 Tips on Growing Echeveria Outdoors

1. Provide just the right amount of sunlight and shade by choosing the right location. 

Echeveria plants come to us from areas such as Argentina and southwest Texas. They thrive with ample amounts of sunlight, and the rich colors of the plant’s leaves are at their best with plenty of sun. 

Even so, too much hot, harsh, direct sunlight can cause damage, so placement is important. 

Your plants should live in a setting that receives approximately six hours of direct light per day. 

Remember that Echeverias will become elongated and leggy and will unlikely flower if they do not receive full sun exposure.

In very hot climates, full morning sun with noonday and afternoon shade is a good choice. In cooler climates, six hours of afternoon sun may be a better choice. 

Generally speaking, Echeveria may get sunburned leaves with sun exposure at high noon, so you may toss a shade cloth over your plants at noontime to protect them. 

Planting in the landscape or containers under a tree that provides high, dappled shade at noontime and allows direct sunlight in the morning or afternoon can be a perfect choice. 

Moreover, these succulent plants grow worry-free in USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11.

2. Get good drainage with just the right location and soil mix. 

As with most plants, good drainage is absolutely essential when growing Echeveria and other succulents and cacti. In containers (with ample drainage holes), you should provide a sharply draining soil mixture. 

In the landscape, a setting such as a rock garden will naturally supply bright sunlight and excellent drainage. 

Echeveria makes a good addition to a rock garden thanks to its colorful leaves and pretty blooms that attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators to a setting that might otherwise tend to be dull and barren. 

Whether in a container garden, a raised bed garden, or in the landscape, Echeverias will do best with a soil mixture that contains equal amounts of:

  • Light, airy organic material (e.g., worm castings, coco coir)
  • Sharply draining gritty material (e.g., coarse sand, fine gravel, pumice)
  • Good quality potting, container, or garden mix, depending upon where you plant your Echeveria. 

Standard cactus potting mixes also work well with echeverias.

They will also do with existing soil with well-draining substrates like gravel, sand, pumice, and perlite.

It is also a good idea to mulch around your plants with pumice or gravel to prevent the leaves from coming in contact with the soil. 

When succulent leaves stay in contact with wet soil for a long time, they tend to develop fungal infections. 

3. Provide excellent nourishment with the right soil and fertilizer combinations. 

When constructing just the right soil for Echeveria, you can kill two birds with one stone by adding worm castings to improve soil structure and drainage and provide just the right nourishment for these plants. 

Worm castings are all-natural, full of potassium, phosphorus, nitrogen, calcium, iron, and sulfur, and structured so they cannot become compacted. 

As such, they are the perfect amendment to the soil for succulents indoors, in containers, or the landscape. 

High-quality worm castings are pH-neutral and odor free. When you use them to make up a third of your planting mix, you will have created a substrate that retains just the right amount of water and slowly releases nutrition and beneficial microbes every time you water.

When you plant with worm castings, you will probably not need to fertilize your Echeveria for a year or more. You can also use worm castings as a top or side dressing for succulents early in the springtime and monthly throughout the growing season to provide all the nourishment your plants need. 

If you do not have worm castings, you can provide your Echeveria with diluted feedings of fish emulsion, manure tea, or a good quality all-purpose fertilizer with a balanced NPK ratio (e.g., 20-20-20). 

This should be diluted to half or a quarter of the recommended strength and used only twice during the growing season – once early in the springtime and again mid-summer. 

Very young plants should be started in a nourishment-rich soil mixture. If you use fertilizer on young plants, ensure it is a low-nitrogen formula. 

4. Avoid overwatering desert-dwelling Echeveria. 

Drought-tolerant Echeveria store water in their leaves, as do other succulent plants. For this reason, you will do a lot more harm by overwatering than by underwatering. 

Overwatering can cause leaf and root rot, which can be difficult or impossible to resolve. Underwatering will cause wilting, but good watering will take care of the problem. 

Moreover, water sitting in the plant’s rosette will cause rot or fungal diseases, which can kill the plant.

Soak-and-dry watering is the best choice for Echeveria and other succulents and cacti. Water deeply and well when the top several inches of your plants’ soil is nearly or completely dry. 

You can do this by pouring water generously at soil level from a watering can or by placing the end of your garden hose or a soaker hose near your plants and allowing the water to flow slowly over a period of time. 

Deep, slow watering at the soil level promotes strong root growth and protects the leaves against rot. Avoid overhead watering because getting the leaves wet can cause leaf rot. Water in the morning so excess moisture can evaporate during the day. 

Depending on your climate and the amount of rainfall you receive, well-established outdoor Echeveria may not need additional watering. 

5. Reduce watering as winter approaches.

For the most part, Echeveria should be watered deeply, occasionally throughout the growing season (spring, summer, and early autumn) and lightly and seldom (or not at all) during the late autumn and winter months when they are dormant. 

6. Echeveria plants need consistently warm temperatures. 

Remember that these plants are mostly desert plants, so they like temperatures ranging from 60° to 80° degrees Fahrenheit. 

They can tolerate some variation, but it’s best to situate your Echeveria plants so they are protected against extreme temperatures and punishing sunlight, harsh winds, and violent weather. 

Echeverias and most succulent plants are not frost-hardy, so if you live in an area with very cold winters, it’s best to plant your outdoor Echeverias in containers that can be brought indoors for the winter. 

In areas where the winter months are cold but not freezing, you may be able to leave your plants outdoors during the winter as long as you cover them with frost cloth when the temperatures are expected to drop below 50° degrees Fahrenheit. 

If you have many plants in the landscape, or if your containers are too big to bring indoors, you may wish to take cuttings or simply dig up and pot a representative of each type to keep as houseplants during the winter months. 

When this is the case, try mulching over the plants you leave behind. A heavy mulch of bark or leaves may be enough to protect them through the winter. 

If so, you’ll be pleasantly surprised come spring. If not, you’ve lost nothing and can till the mulch into your soil. 

7. Propagate new plants from leaves or offshoots. 

Echeverias don’t typically need to be pruned, but you may occasionally want to trim away dead or damaged leaves to shape the plant. 

When your plant finishes blooming, you can tidy up its appearance by trimming away spent flower stalks. When you prune your plant, use a very sharp, sterilized cutting implement. Make clean cuts very close to the plant’s stem or base. 

When you remove healthy leaves, you can use them to start new plants, or you may wish to separate offshoots or pups when you repot or when winter is approaching. 

Propagating new plants from leaf cuttings or offshoots can ensure you have Echeveria to plant outdoors again in the springtime. 

It is very easy to start a new Echeveria from leaves. Begin by choosing a few healthy leaves and gently twist them away from the plant at the leaf base. 

This method is more effective for propagation than cutting because you’ll be more certain of getting an intact leaf base. The base is where new roots are formed. 

To give these leaves a good start, just drop them onto the surface of fresh, new succulent potting mix in a tray and place them in an area that stays consistently warm and receives bright, indirect sunlight. Allow them to air for a day or two, and then give them a light water misting. 

Repeat this every few days. You’ll soon see new roots begin to grow. When they do, you can cover them lightly with a little bit of potting mix. 

Continue misting every few days. When your plants grow new leaves, you can provide a moderate amount of water and proceed with soak-and-dry watering as your plants grow and mature. 

In the landscape or containers, your Echeveria will produce offsets. These can be separated by hand or with a set of sharp, sterilized pruning shears. 

In this video, the presenter demonstrates sharply pruning and taking cuttings from healthy plants to create a mixed succulent garden that includes several Echeveria types and some interesting companion succulents.

How to Create a Succulent Pocket Garden, with Laura Eubanks

8. Good care naturally repels pests and diseases. 

Echeveria are very hardy plants, and if you follow the tips presented here, you are unlikely to have problems with pests or diseases. 

Plants weakened by too much or too little warmth, water, and sun are susceptible to infestation by common pests, such as spider mites, mealybugs, and aphids. 

If you notice signs of these pests (e.g., leaf spots, webbing, sticky residue, discolored leaves), inspect your plant carefully to identify the culprits. 

Prune away affected foliage and manually remove any pests you can see. There are a couple of ways to do this. 

  • For small container plants, wipe the pests off using a paper towel and cotton swabs, and a 50/50 mix of rubbing alcohol and water.
  • For large container plants or those in the landscape, wash the pests off with a blast of water from the hose.

Follow up by spraying the plant thoroughly with insecticidal soap or neem oil spray. 

Overwatered succulents are very susceptible to fungal infection of both the roots and the leaves. This is especially true if the plants are not getting enough sunlight and/or are kept at very cool temperatures. 

To avoid the development of fungus, be sure to:

  • Provide plenty of drainage holes in outdoor containers
  • Practice soak-and-dry watering techniques
  • Use sharply draining planting medium
  • Provide 6+ hours of sunlight daily
  • Maintain temperatures of 60° to 80° degrees Fahrenheit. 

It is hard, if not impossible, to save an Echeveria or any succulent from fungal infection. If your plants do develop a fungal infection, prune away damaged leaves using a clean, sharp-cutting implement. 

It’s always a good idea to see if you can find some healthy leaves on the plant that you can use for propagation. 

Withhold water, and be sure your plant is in a warm setting with ample sunlight. Note that fungus can spread, so it’s a good idea to isolate plants that are infected with a fungus of any kind. 

If your plant does not improve within a week and you continue to see fungal growth, you may need to report it using an entirely clean potting medium and a clean, new container. Inspect the roots for rot and prune away any that are dark, damaged, and/or mushy. 

For containers, terracotta pots will work well.

When repotting or relocating a plant with root rot, it’s a good idea to let it air out for a few days in a warm, dry area with low lighting before putting it back into the soil. 

Treat the plant and roots with antifungal treatment, such as copper fungicide, potassium bicarbonate, or a neem oil solution. 

After the airing period is finished, set the patient into a fresh planting medium that is just barely damp (as it would be taken right out of the potting soil bag). 

Put your ailing plant in a warm, sheltered, comfortably lit area and let it settle for a few days before watering it lightly. 

Maintain these conditions until you begin to see new growth. Once this happens, you can move your plant to a more brightly lit area and commence soak-and-dry watering. Take great care not to overwater.

Well-Cared-For Outdoor Echeveria Plants Bring Delight Year-After-Year

Echeveria can be a wonderful addition to your outdoor container plant collection or your landscape. 

Follow the tips presented here to choose the right location, provide adequate warmth, sunlight, and shade, and concoct just the right combination of excellent soil and perfect fertilizer. 

Use skillful pruning techniques to keep your plants looking pretty and propagate more plants for year-round enjoyment.

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