Echeveria gibbiflora 'Rosea'
Oreja de Burro
Echeveria gibbiflora ‘Rosea’ is a stemless, compact grower that looks completely different from the ordinary echeverias.
The leaves are sea-green, heavily wavy and soft. The species is exceptionally varied and includes other types with brightly coloured and wavy leaves that grow really large and remind one of a volcano. Unfortunately they are rare and, according to growers, not easy to propagate.
What is important, though, is for us to issue a friendly word of warning to the gardener who is developing a liking for these succulents. If you start
collecting them, and learn how to propagate them, you are heading down a slippery slope, because the more you have, the more you want … Yes, plant obsessions do happen, and to the nicest of gardeners! It is the perfect construction and lovely texture of these plants that you initially fall in love with. When you hold a single rosette of the ordinary Echeveria elegans in your hands, you cannot but marvel at the mathematical genius and design skills behind its construction. The leaves are arranged neatly to form a symmetrical rosette reminiscent of an open rose. Each rosette is heavy and sturdy because the fleshy leaves store water, a characteristic that allows them to survive during periods of drought. Early every morning, the dewdrops gather at the heart of each rosette, looking like glistening pearls.
The colours of the leaves are generally ice-blue, dove-grey or pale green, but even E. elegans has variations in form and leaf colour, depending on growing conditions, and the colours are always more intense during autumn and spring.
A single plant can produce many ‘babies’ off its stem; they form perfect miniature rosettes that gradually grow larger and larger, eventually resting on the ground and detaching from the mother plant to grow on their own. When echeverias are planted in pots, the plump rosettes eventually hang over the rims – a lovely sight! They are ideal border plants for big beds; happily grow between stones in a rockery; are really pretty when planted en masse in rock and gravel gardens; and fill the hollows of concrete blocks in retaining walls with flair.
Do they bloom and when?
Flowering stems carrying bell-shaped structures rise above the leaves during spring and summer, and sometimes also during winter. The plants may flower repeatedly in different seasons.
Most suitable climate
Echeverias like warm temperate climates. Bitter cold and heavy frost kill them. However, gardeners in harsher climates need not lose out, because these plants are so at home and very attractive in containers – simply plant them in pots and keep them on a sheltered veranda or in a courtyard during the cold months.
What they need
Location: full sun or light shade. Morning sun and afternoon shade – or vice versa – are also good.
Soil: sandy soil that drains very well, enriched with compost. Many nurseries stock a growing medium specifically formulated for growing succulents in pots.
Water: echeverias are low water consumers, but unlike other hardy succulents and cacti, they like to be watered regularly. They can also tolerate more rain than the others, but they may develop root diseases when conditions are too wet. This can be controlled with a fungicide.
Fertilizing: feed potted echeverias regularly using watersoluble fertilizer.
Hanging basket tricks
Vertical gardens or hanging gardens are important nowadays because gardens are so much smaller. Echeverias look good in window boxes and are ideal for low-maintenance hanging baskets. They don’t need as much water and attention as the plants that are used in the traditional high-maintenance springflowering hanging baskets that are so popular in Europe, so here where it’s warmer you can use them (and the members of the
Graptopetalum and Sempervirens genera) to create your own version of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. This makes these plants a huge bonus for a busy balcony gardener with a yearning for a touch of green all year round.
Increase your stock
Patient gardeners can simply pull a few leaves from a rosette and place them on newspaper in a shallow box that is kept in the shade. Within a few weeks, bright pink roots will appear from the bases of the leaves and then they can be planted in little pots in a damp mixture for succulents. Only water them after a few days, once the roots have anchored. You can also remove individual rosettes from lush groups of plants and simply push the ends of the stems into the soil, where they will take root. The soil should be kept only slightly moist or these young plants will rot.
A propagation method that provides great pleasure, and has some décor value, is to place rosettes with short stems in the necks of empty glass bottles or old wine bottles (especially those made of blue glass) and display them on your windowsill. Don’t add any water – they have to be dry. Within a few weeks, roots will sprout from the eyes on the stems and then you can plant these ‘instant’ echeveria plants in pots, roots and all. While they are still displayed on your windowsill, you have serious bragging rights because all your visitors will take one look and start asking questions. And who knows, even a lifetime’s interest in gardening may begin for a youngster seeing a few simple echeveria cuttings taking root on your windowsill.
In a nutshell
* Plants to play with, for experienced and new gardeners.
* Good colour and texture contrasts for the fronts of beds.
* Interesting pot plants.
* Good for mass plantings.
* Water-wise in full sun and light shade.