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The Aeonium Arboreum Atropurpurem: A Succulent for the Mediterranean Garden

Sherry has maintained homes and landscaped yards for 48 years in Southern California. She has collected water-wise succulents for 12 years.

Spring version of red-purple aeonium

Spring version of red-purple aeonium

The Colorful Aeonium Flower Spike 'Atropurpurem'

There are many types of succulents, and the aeonium is a big group.The succulent plant pictured here is an Aeonium arboreum 'atropurpurem.' The common name is in question because each nursery seems to have a different name. Purple aeonium is one common name.

My first focus on succulents was in the seventies. I was a single mom then, and they were an enjoyment for the householder who could not afford to buy plants. My next period of huge interest started about ten years ago when our slope needed a do-over.

Researching the subject of succulents and cactus, both via internet and books, has made the slope gardening project a very absorbing pursuit. Pinning down the name of a single plant can be exasperating. To do serious shopping for this plant, it is best to go by Aeonium arboreum 'atropurpurem,' an easy-care succulent to accent your flowerbeds or grow in pots.

Spring blooms.

Spring blooms.

How to Maintain a Potted Plant

In the photo above, the plant had been in that pot for three years. It is a beautiful walkway accent. To keep a good-looking shape, break off long or weak branches and clean off dry leaf segments.

Summer Care

This plant gets twice a week watering in the hot summer.

Winter Care

The plant gets full sun all day during the winter months when temperatures are between 60 and 80 degrees during the day. Occasional night frost does not cause damage.

Spring Care

Before spring comes, break off long stems and pull out big heavy sections by the roots, and start new with a few 9- to 12-inch stems with branching rosettes.

During the summer the rosettes will appear tight and smaller.

During the summer the rosettes will appear tight and smaller.

The Chocolate Is a Summer Color

The dark phase of the plant is pictured above. This is the warm, dry summertime result. The plant is stressed, but shrinking and closing up are perfectly natural and do not hurt the plant. In the spring, the same stems will have full leaves and big yellow spikes of flowers. These seasonal changes allow aeonium to survive.

Rich chocolate or purple color of the dry summer phase.

Rich chocolate or purple color of the dry summer phase.

Aeonium arboreum Succulent Flower

Below is the potted plant in bloom for the first time. It had been in the pot for three years at the time of this photo. Most types of aeonium have these cone-shaped yellow spikes, but none are as showy as the purple aeonium.

After the blooms wither and turn brown, break the spikes off at the first branching underneath. These are hardy plants and will tolerate breakage. Neglected plantings in landscapes will shed and break, minimizing work for trimming. Two or three plants will produce cuttings for friends and extras to throw away.

This aeonium is in bloom for the first time.

This aeonium is in bloom for the first time.

A close-up of the yellow blooms.

A close-up of the yellow blooms.

Succulent stems ready for planting.

Succulent stems ready for planting.

Propagating the Aeonium arboreum

I have several purple aeoniums in the succulent garden. There may be accidental breakage of branches or, most often, I will break branches off to keep a particular plant in the desired shape.

  1. Let the branch dry out at the tip as shown in the picture above. A couple of days is all it needs to dry the end and allow new roots to form. The drying will prevent the end from getting mushy or moldy—a condition not good for replanting.
  2. Now the succulent cuttings are ready to put in the soil. Use standard planting mix if it is going into a pot. If it is going into the yard, put the branch in the ground three inches deep, cover the hole with the same soil, and pat down so the branch remains standing.
  3. Give it water once a week in the summer. If you live in any Mediterranean climate, once the plant is rooted, it can dry out for several days to one month between watering.

The Mediterranean climate is a zone that receives about 7 to 9+ inches of rain in the winter with almost no rain in the summer.

Mother Plant of all aeonium photos on this page.

Mother Plant of all aeonium photos on this page.

The colors of aeonium are gorgeous.

The colors of aeonium are gorgeous.

My Aeonium arboreum Planting Projects

At one time, Cannas filled the area between the bench and wall in my yard. The less-thirsty purple aeonium is the new plant for this location. Six cuttings and stems no bigger than the ones shown with the dog started the project. Hank is my constant helper when I am working in the yard.

Hank is my garden helper.

Hank is my garden helper.

Mass planting the following spring.

Mass planting the following spring.

The succulents have grown full and showy.

Pulling out the plants that get too tall and replacing them with a new cutting should keep the look trim and colorful.

Aeonium arboreum 'atropurpurem.'

Aeonium arboreum 'atropurpurem.'

Do You Grow Succulents?

© 2011 Sherry Venegas

Leave a message about your experience with this plant.

Patti on January 11, 2020:

I have green and purple in a large pot that I brought to Colorado from California 1 1/2 yrs ago. It lives inside now, but outside in the summer.

It's getting ready to bloom for the first time inside in January! I love this plant! Thank you for posting , a lot of good information!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on March 29, 2016:

These are beautiful. I remembered my mother having a collection of these.

GrammieOlivia on March 14, 2014:

Nice plants, wish I could grow them here. But they would not be very happy and might not grow at all. That would make me sad! So I'll just have to admire yours! Moving it over to FB Weekend Gardeners page........

noner on June 14, 2013:

Friends keep urging me to try a succulent since I'm a killer of green things and they swear they are herder to kill. I've not gotten brave enough yet.

rubyandmahoney on May 30, 2012:

I am just starting out with succulents. This is a beautiful one! I hope mine grow as well as yours.

KimGiancaterino on May 18, 2012:

My neighbor's Aeonium is in full bloom right now. Bees galore. She gave me a few starters, so I have several in pots and around the garden. Hank is sure a cutie pie. It's always nice to have a companion while gardening.

Frankie Kangas from California on May 10, 2012:

I love succulents. I have them in pots and in the yard both. Great lens with excellent photos and info. Thanks for sharing. Bear hugs, Frankster

Aquavel on April 04, 2012:

They are in my new garden (we just moved). Still trying to identify all the succulents and learning how to care for them. I just found out that a couple of the branches that had broken off (because of my dog, who thinks the whole garden is hers) can be replanted and will grow! That's wonderful! Great lens!

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on January 01, 2012:

I sure enjoyed reading about the Aeonium Succulents and Hank is precious!

emmaklarkins on December 07, 2011:

This is excellent! I didn't know that succulents come in red (my favorite color!)

jlshernandez on June 16, 2011:

The latest succulent I have acquired is a Rock Pursiane which looks like a cross between an orchid and a succulent. I love it. Thanks for this lens on succulents and the useful tips.

ohcaroline on May 13, 2011:

Great coverage on this particular succulent. Lensrolling to my Succulent Plants lens.

Wanda Fitzgerald from Central Florida on April 02, 2011:

I think I have one of these. I have lots of different succulents in my Florida garden and don't remember all of them. They work well here because sometimes it's very dry and sometimes we seem to have monsoons. They live through anything.

Wanda Fitzgerald from Central Florida on April 01, 2011:

I try to use lots of succulents in my garden because they do so well in the heat here in Florida.

Paula Atwell from Cleveland, OH on February 24, 2011:

Awesome lens, and wonderful pictures and descriptions. Loved it.

rwoman on January 29, 2011:

You've inspired me...especially after my roses scratched up today...I just might trade them in!