Over the last couple of years we have sold plants of hybrid Echeverias on eBay and judging by some of the questions we have had there is a need for a short cultivation guide!
These plants have been developed from species which are Mexico's equivalent of alpines. They are plants that are accustomed to growing in areas of high UV/light intensity, consequently to keep the attractive colouration they will need to be grown in a bright spot. If growing indoors, a south or west facing windowsill is ideal. If grown in a greenhouse, avoid too much shade. Most of the varieties that are on offer can be safely housed outside for the summer, just remember to keep them out of the range of slugs & snails! Generally they will be ok from May to September.
Like all of this group of plants they respond better to being slightly under-potted than over potted. Many people believe that by putting a small plant in a big pot it will grow quickly - that is not the case with these plants! The size of the pot should be large enough to contain the root ball comfortably and perhaps a little smaller than the diameter of the leaf rosette.
They are equally happy in either a peat based compost or a John Innes (loam) type. Either way it should be gritty and well draining. The addition of grit, coarse sand and SERAMIS or similar should achieve this.
All plants benefit best from "little and often" when it comes to feeding. We suggest a high nitrogen feed to start the plants in to growth, then a high potash feed feed for the remainder of the season. This will encourage strong growth, attractive leaf colouring and a good show of flowers, which should be produced during August & September. We feed at every watering.
During the winter the plants can be kept fairly cool. We have overwintered our own plants at down to 3degC, but better if you can keep them a little warmer, then some water can be given. Normally the plants will be dormant over the winter. If given too much water they will try to grow and light levels in the UK are just not good enough, resulting in tiny leaves being developed and the plant being weakened. Some leaf loss is inevitable during the winter. This should not be a cause for concern - new leaves will develop when the plant comes in to growth in the spring.
Over a period of time the hybrid Echeverias will develop a tall stem, usually devoid of leaves except at the top. As they are most attractive as a compact rosette of leaves, you will need to shorten the stem to regain the plants natural beauty. Usually in May we cut off the rosette at the top of the plant, about 2 inches (5cm) below the bottom leaves. This rosette is then placed in an empty pot, small enough that the cut stem does not reach the bottom and wide enough to support the leaves of the rosette. Then place it in a light but shaded situation and just leave alone! After a couple of weeks pink roots will be seen to appear from the stem below the rosette. When these are about 1 inch (3cm) long the rosette can be potted in fresh compost.
Do not throw away the stump that was left behind when you did a "Queen of Hearts" (off with its head!) If you are lucky the old stump may produce you one or more new rosettes, which can in turn be detached and rooted down.
When you purchase these plants by mail order, they will usually be sent bare rooted and the sender should have dried the root ball out before packing. This is important, as the extra humidity while the plant is in transit could have several negative effects. Firstly, if the plant is in transit more than a couple of days and the root ball is wet, the plant will try to grow, forming weak leaves at the crown. These will be susceptible to mildew in the package, which is the other problem if sent too wet!
If the plant is sent with the root ball well dried out, all that should happen is that the leaves may become a little limp. They will soon perk up again when the plant is potted and watered.
Hopefully this will help you enjoy your plants to the full!