Oh, My, Aeoniums!

– Posted in: Garden Adventures

When in Orange County recently, I stopped by a nursery I’d heard about—the Dana Point Nursery on Pacific Coast Highway in Dana Point. I experienced it through my camera, and lost track of time. I shot a lot of cool plants and container combos, but the aeoniums were my favorites.

Aeoniums are native to the Canary Islands, off the coast of Africa. They do really well in Southern California, because they like our dry summers. Aeoniums go dormant during the summer, and if they’re watered during that time, they may rot. Most of those shown here are cultivars.

This is Aeonium ‘Sunburst’. Pretty obvious how it got its name. This rosette was about 12 inches in diameter.

And this is Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’, from the German word for black. Yes, it’s really that glossy.

This is Aeonium ‘Kiwi’. I love it’s pointed leaves and variegation. Each rosette is about the size of a teacup.

Not sure which this is. Possibly one of the hybrids developed by Jack Catlin of the Huntington Botanical Gardens.

And one more: Aeonium undulata. What exquisite geometry! I was so busy taking photos that I forgot to buy anything. Looks like I’ll have to go back, won’t I?

My goal is to share the beauty of waterwise, easy-care succulents in gardens, containers and landscapes via blog postsnewsletterspublic speaking and workshopsphotosvideosmerchandise, and social media (Facebook and Pinterest). My books: Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardensand Succulents Simplified.  www.debraleebaldwin.com 


Debra Lee Baldwin
Award-winning garden photojournalist Debra Lee Baldwin authored Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardens, and Succulents Simplified, all Timber Press bestsellers. Her goal is to enhance others' enjoyment and awareness of waterwise plants and gardens by showcasing the beauty and design potential of succulents via books, articles, newsletters, photos, videos, social media and more. Debra and husband Jeff live in the foothills north of San Diego. She grew up in Southern California on an avocado ranch, speaks conversational Spanish, and at age 18 graduated magna cum laude from USIU with a degree in English Literature. Her hobbies include thrifting, birding and watercolor painting. Debra's YouTube channel has had over 3,000,000 views.
Debra Lee Baldwin
Debra Lee Baldwin
Debra Lee Baldwin

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Cathy October 8, 2011, 8:30 am

Absolutely stunning! And that “black” one is truly amazing! You’ve totally converted us!

Hi,Cathy — Everyone who sees Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’ wants it. I never seem to have much of it in my garden, because I give away so many cuttings! — Debra

Jane October 8, 2011, 11:47 am

Oh I feel your pain! poor you…having to revisit such a wonderful nursery! haha!! xx

It’s a bit of a drive from where I live (an hour or more, depending on traffic). Wish it were closer! — Debra

CathyA October 8, 2011, 12:51 pm

I am inspired to go plant some aeoniums. Your photos are fabulous! Especially the last one.

Hi, Ms. Cathy — Thank you! Those leaves are so glossy. It’s hard to take a bad photo of an aeonium, especially if you zoom in. — Debra

Zann October 8, 2011, 6:54 pm

Zwartkopf is one of my favorites! It’s a South African species. It literally means “black head” in Afrikaans.

Hi, Zann — I’d heard that. Though I “get” the name, I’m afraid I can’t help but associate blackheads with adolescent acne (eew). — Debra

GirlSprout October 8, 2011, 9:04 pm

The zwartkop looks supernatural. I agree; the geometry of all of them is beguiling.

Perfect word for aeoniums: Beguiling. — Debra

Dixie October 9, 2011, 4:32 am

Aeoniums are certainly stunning, and I have an A. haworthii bush that I’m very fond of, but I’m rather weary of them because they don’t like the summer rain. I had a zwartkop which rotted after a few weeks. Luckily A. haworthii is a bit tougher, though it still looks very sad during winter when it doesn’t get enough water. Maybe I should grow them indoors…

Hi, Dixie — They won’t do well indoors unless given a lot of light. Aeonium haworthii is a tough one, common in Southern CA gardens, and not often seen in nurseries because it starts so readily from cuttings. Why not position your aeoniums beneath an overhang that prevents them from being overwatered in summer? Ideally, they’ll get morning sun. They’ll lean a bit, but if in pots, you can rotate them to keep growth balanced. — Debra

ann October 9, 2011, 7:03 am

These pics are wonderful and plants are so like sedum that we call hen and chicks.

Hi, Ann — Thanks! The rosettes are reminiscent of hen-and-chicks, but the growth habit is much different. Aeonium rosettes are atop stems that (depending on the variety) can be as thick as your finger. Also the most common ones are solo, and over time (because new growth is from the center of the rosettes and older leaves fall off) you get tall stem with a rosette perched on top. That’s the time to cut off the rosette and replant it as a cutting, at least, that’s what I do, because I don’t like all those denuded stems in the garden. My most recent newsletter talks about autumn care for aeoniums. — Debra

Cathy October 12, 2011, 9:16 am

Well, I’ll be on a hunt for it in the spring for our new hypertufa succulent bed. How large across does the Zwartkop get?

It depends on the time of year. When dormant, they’re tighter, but figure anywhere from four inches across to eight (at maturity). Cultivars can be larger. — Debra

candy suter October 17, 2011, 2:43 am

Aeoniums are some of my favorites. I have some growing in a big cobalt blue pot in my front planter. It is green but as the seasons change so does the color. It can get very red. I am not sure if I’ve done a post on it but it would make a good subject. In my last post I show the Huntingtons Jack Calling. So gorgeous. Love your awesome shots Debra!

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