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Echeveria is one of the largest genera of drought-resistant plants in the Crassulaceae family, consisting of over 150 recognized species. These succulents can be easily identified by their rosettes of colorful fleshy leaves. Most Echeveria species are extremely hardy and are able to tolerate harsh, arid climates. There are also more delicate Echeverias that are grown as houseplants. Nearly all species are native to Mexico, but Echeverias are now grown by gardeners throughout the world.
Also known as hen and chicks, Echeverias have thick succulent leaves that are often covered in wax, hairs or a dusty meal. These leaves are usually a shade of blue-green with red or brown tips. More exotic species of Echeveria have bright red or orange leaves that have deeply frilled edges.
The most popular Echeveria species on the market are evergreen succulents like Echeveria elegans, Echeveria domingo and Echeveria spp "Cinderella." E. elegans has the typical hen and chicks formation with tightly packed rosettes that rapidly develop new plants as offshoots. An excellent garden succulent, E. domingo has a formal gray rosette with a stunning stem of pink bell-shaped flowers when the plant is in bloom. Echeveria spp "Cinderella" is a hybrid succulent with large leaves that change from yellow-green to bright red as the plant develops.
Unlike most succulents that are grown as garden plants, Echeverias usually need to be repotted or rerooted after two or three years. The top foliage of the plants should remain healthy throughout the year, but the older bottom leaves typically die back. This can result in an unpleasant appearance that can only be fixed by replanting the entire plant.
Echeverias are particularly susceptible to mealybugs when they are grown as a houseplant. Mealybugs can be detected by white and black specks that form on the leaves of the plant. A minor infestation can be addressed with soap and water. Larger mealybug infestations can be eradicated with a commercial insecticidal spray.
Like many succulents, Echeverias can be propagated using cuttings, offshoots, seeds or even single leaves. These plants require soil that has excellent drainage in order to avoid root rot. Echeverias should be planted where they will receive direct sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon. Most of these succulents can handle a variety of climates. There are a handful of species from Northern Mexico that can survive temperatures as low as 20° Fahrenheit (-7° Celsius).
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