Please take time to explore this masterclass of winter care for Aeoniums, sharing invaluable tips from our extensive experience nurturing these unique plants over the years.
We know the importance of protection for these stunning plants during winter, this article covers a wide range of challenges we all face, to list a few such as extreme weather, how to take cuttings and protecting from the cold frosty nights and days. Please enjoy the read, we are sure there’s some valuable information that helps you.
As winter nears, your plants may undergo a colour shift. Darker varieties turn greener, while variegated Aeoniums shine with enhanced colours and patterns, serving as a winter reminder of brighter summer days. The transformation from mid-summer to mid-winter can make an Aeonium appear like a completely different variety making it difficult to identify.
Light and Temperature
Winter light is vital for Aeonium health and for keeping them compact. Inadequate light can result in leggy Aeonium growth, increasing vulnerability to pests and diseases.
Most Aeonium species grow in the sunny haven of the Canary Islands, where they have adapted to frost-free conditions. However, when cultivating them in colder regions like the UK where light levels dip and temperatures plummet, a bit of TLC is in order. Providing cover for Aeoniums significantly enhances their winter survival. Ideal options include a greenhouse, porch, or conservatory to shield them from the harshest weather. Full sun and temperatures between 6 and 12 Celsius during winter are ideal.
If Aeoniums are kept in a conservatory above 15 degrees Celsius, they’ll be craving more light, potentially resulting in a leggier stature – unless you introduce some grow lights to mimic extended daylight hours.
Light levels are crucial to keep your plants looking their best year-round, especially during the winter. Even when kept in cooler conditions, the higher the light levels, the healthier the plant.
Pests and disease
As temperatures cool, pest activity may dwindle, but don’t let your guard down – they’re still lingering. Aphids, mealy bugs, and sneaky caterpillars can hide among Aeonium leaves. Stay vigilant and swiftly remove any you spot. Pests lurking under the soil, like vine weevils, pose a threat by munching on Aeonium stems. Look for signs like a shrinking rosette, excessive leaf drop, a soft stem base, or even the plant toppling over. Early detection and removal go a long way in safeguarding your Aeoniums.
Aeoniums generally resist diseases, but maintaining good airflow is crucial to prevent any potential disease or fungal build-up.
Protecting from cold temperatures
In the challenging UK winter, safeguarding Aeoniums from freezing is paramount. If you have a heated greenhouse or conservatory, maintain temperatures above 5°C. We recommend our tried and tested top-quality fleece for unheated greenhouses, protecting down to -10°C. Keeping them drier will encourage their natural defence mechanism, allowing them to withstand slightly lower temperatures. Nevertheless, vigilance is key; even in greenhouses, hard frosts can pose a threat, so monitor forecasts and always act when temperatures drop below 5°C.
Elevating plants above ground onto benches and shelves within a greenhouse can provide extra relief from the cold, as temperatures can be a few degrees warmer from ground level due to the cold air sinking. Place your plants on benches and shield them with fleece. In colder regions, insulate the greenhouse by lining the inside of the glass with horticultural bubble wrap. Consider installing glasshouse heaters to ward off extremely cold temperatures.
Winter is still a viable time for Aeonium cuttings. Opt for older stems rather than fresh growth for better success. Use sharp, clean garden snips to cut a rosette with a 3-4 inch stem. Let the cutting callous over for 3-5 days to prevent soil-borne infections. Prepare a mix of 50% multipurpose compost and 50% horticultural grit or perlite. Dip the cutting in rooting powder if available, make a hole in the mixture, and plant it. Ensure it’s in a bright spot with good airflow. Within three weeks, the cutting should root. Keep the soil slightly moist but not wet for optimal results.
While Aeoniums are often associated with winter growth, their optimal temperature for growth ranges between 15-21 degrees Celsius. Lower temperatures won’t halt their growth; instead, it will slow down the growth rate. The ideal time for Aeonium growth is during spring and autumn. Some areas of the UK may be better suited for Aeonium winter growth, such as inner cities and coastal regions, as temperatures are slightly higher.
Dealing with extreme weather
In the face of extreme cold weather, safeguarding Aeoniums within a greenhouse can become relatively challenging. To help your plants through this period, consider trimming the rosettes or even harvesting entire plants, then bringing them indoors during these delicate times.
Once the cold spell subsides, place the Aeonium cuttings into empty pots without soil. They will happily sustain themselves, drawing on reserves stored in their stems and leaves. If extreme cold weather reappears, bring these cuttings back indoors for protection. By spring, there’s a high likelihood that the Aeoniums will have developed roots. You can then pot them up once spring arrives.
Wrong winter locations
Certain locations are a big no-no for Aeoniums during winter, such as a garage, dark room or a dark enclosed shed. These dry, dark and stale environments cause accelerated leaf drop, leggy stems, and an untidy appearance by spring, if they survive at all. These environments also invite pests, contributing to an unsightly outcome when the warmer weather of spring arrives. You want to keep them in bright, cool conditions with sufficient air flow for the best results.
Preparing for spring and flowering
As the Aeoniums prepare themselves for the following season, you may notice them beginning their flowering phase, if they do decide to flower. This process typically initiates with rosettes changing shape, often noticeable as early as November, readying a spectacular spring showcase. Gradually feed every 10 days with a well-balanced fertiliser as the warmer weather takes hold to encourage a more impressive flowering display. The long-lasting blossoms serve as a remarkable nectar source for bees, butterflies and other insects, especially outdoors in a sunny spot.
Watering and Feeding
When watering Aeoniums in winter, you must stay vigilant to the weather. Lower temperatures and diminished light levels mean slower plant growth, reducing the need for watering and feeding. Our practice involves watering every six weeks, occasionally supplementing with a seaweed solution feed if conditions allow (such as a mild winter). Unlike the growing season where we drench the soil, we limit the water they receive so the soil can dry out efficiently. Allowing the soil to dry between waterings can boost their health, excessive water during winter would mean the plant is also holding more moisture, which isn’t good when combined with freezing temperatures.
In the face of an imminent frost, it’s advisable to abstain from both watering and feeding altogether.
Growing outdoors in winter
Growing Aeoniums outdoors in winter is more feasible in coastal regions and inner cities, where temperatures tend to be milder compared to rural areas or valleys. Growing your Aeoniums in pots becomes advantageous due to the ability to move them away from approaching cold weather. Micro-climates within a garden, such as near windows, where escaping house heat provides warmth, courtyards, or balconies can serve as suitable locations as these add an element of protection. However, dropping temperatures might render these plants vulnerable to the cold. Creating protective structures or draping fleece over the plants on exceptionally cold nights can be the thing that keeps your Aeoniums alive.
It is crucial to guard against winter storms, particularly strong winds, as they can potentially harm the plants. Also, hailstones may leave marks on the leaves, so using fleece is advisable when hail is forecast. Potting or planting them in a well-draining soil mix is essential to prevent adverse effects from excessive water during the wetter months. Fortunately, Aeoniums generally handle water well in winter, especially outdoors where there is good air circulation. Feeding isn’t necessary during the winter if they’re grown outdoors.
Growing indoors during winter
Aeoniums can be grown indoors, so a suitable environment is crucial to keep your plants healthy. A suitable environment would be a bright and cool area with adequate airflow. If you do not have enough natural light available, grow lights can be helpful, and fans help keep plants healthy by circulating the air.
Once dry, you should give them small amounts of water. You may notice the lower leaves dropping off. Do not worry; this is a natural process in the plant’s growth.
Selecting the right plant for your environment
Selecting the right Aeonium for your environment is crucial, as their hardiness varies. Some, like Aeonium ‘Phoenix Flame’ or Aeonium ‘Emerald Flame’, exhibit remarkable resilience, enduring temperatures as low as -6 or -7 degrees. To assist in identifying plants suitable for your garden, explore our website’s hardy filters for tailored recommendations.
Using fleece to protect your plants during winter is an excellent strategy and extremely cost-effective. It allows about 30% less light to penetrate; the lower light level doesn’t negatively impact the plants beneath. Moreover, the fleece permits modest airflow, allowing the plants to stay healthy. If the fleece remains on for an extended period of time, it’s good to allow the plants to breathe on sunny winter days (but only if temperatures are above freezing). This allows you to inspect the plants and address potential issues like pests or fungal diseases that may have developed underneath. Remember, preserving your plants from frost damage is paramount, making the use of fleece a valuable protective measure.
Identifying plant health after frost
In the unfortunate event of your plants enduring freezing temperatures, don’t lose hope – sometimes, all it takes is a bit of time and warmer weather to reveal their resilience in spring. However, if the frost has hit the plant, trimming off these damaged parts promptly is advisable. You can identify these parts by looking for black and mushy rosettes or stems. Like frostbite in animals and humans, this damage can spread, and early intervention minimises the further chances of damage and death. Light frosting may result in superficial damage, with dark stripes on the leaves indicating cell damage. Fortunately, this is something the plant can recover from, and by mid-spring, new growth will replace these affected leaves, especially after repotting and feeding.