Rock rose or White Mexican rose
This old fashioned plant is making a real comeback in the modern garden. Its durability, versatility and drought tolerance, coupled with year round good looks, make it an ideal plant for lending the finishing touches to any garden.
Originating from Mexico, Echeveria elegans is a short stemmed, clump-forming succulent with rosettes of fleshy, spoon-shaped leaves. The leaves are described as silver-blue in colour, often with a pink to rose-red margin. They are coated with a white powder, which can rub off on the hands when touched. At certain times the whole leaf may change colour to shades of grey and pink. This is especially so in winter when plants are dry and temperatures are cooler. In spring wiry flower spikes up to 30 cm long produce up to 10 rose pink flowers with yellow tips. The flowers are attractive enough, though very definitely a secondary feature of the plant. It is the leaves, arranged in such perfect symmetry, that make the charming little plant so highly desirable.
Mature clumps can keep spreading (space permitting) to almost a metre in diameter, with each single rosette of leaves seldom exceeding 15 cm across. For best results, clumps need to be broken up and replanted every 2 to 3 years to maintain vigorous growth. This is best done immediately after flowering, in late spring. Tolerant of light frosts only, plants seem to thrive almost anywhere in warm, sunny positions. Shade causes plants to become weak, insipid and ineffective.
Garden uses are numerous, interesting and creative, these are just a few options, you’re certain to find many, many more as you get to know the plant better. Formal gardens, especially Victorian knot gardens, often have single rosettes of leaves arranged in geometric patterns to form the outlines of specific shapes. Rock gardens have clumps growing amongst the rocks, especially in all the little nooks and crannies where the rocks join one another. It is a wonderful edging plant for flowerbeds and a wonderful ground cover, filling up bare patches of soil, especially in dry areas where not much else grows.
Pots, containers, window boxes and hanging baskets – no matter how large or small – all benefit from the addition of Echeverias. They can either be used on their own or as mixed plantings, especially with other little succulent plants. An interesting and very effective method of planting up a hanging basket is to cover the entire outside of the wire basket with rosettes of similar size. Simply insert stems from the outside of the basket, through the basket liner into the soil, leaving the leaves on the outside. Once the stems root you end up with an attractive, living ball.
Though the plants are drought tolerant and easy to grow, they still benefit from regular fertilising and feeding through the growing season. The best method is to use a water-soluble plant food every four to six weeks. Ensure that it is applied at the recommended dilution rate as plants may be damaged by over feeding.