Succulents are a popular plant species due to their soothing appearance and ease of care. They boast a wide variety of types and subtypes, some of which grow better in warm climates while others can adjust and thrive in the cold. Some succulents look similar and are hard to tell apart, but even among these, there are some differences that, if you know what to look for, will help distinguish them; such is the case with echeveria and aeonium plants.
While both echeveria and aeoniums have a rose-like appearance, they can mainly be distinguished from each other by the way their leaves grow. Echeverias grow with their leaves pointing upward; aeoniums, on the other hand, have leaves that grow flat. Other differences, such as origin and care, set them apart.
As you delve more into the world of succulents, you will start seeing the differences between these two flower-like succulents more readily. Take a look below to find out what makes each plant unique.
Echeveria vs. Aeonium Plants: General Differences
Though aeoniums and echeverias look very similar to one another to the point that they are often mistaken for each other, some differences in their physical appearance can help you tell them apart before you make a purchase. There are also some big differences in their life cycles and origin, which separate them from each other.
The following are the primary characteristics that make each plant unique:
As we mentioned above, aeoniums’ flatter leaves are what initially sets them apart from echeverias. However, other features of the leaves differ between the two succulents.
For example, while the leaves of both plants are spoon-shaped, aeonium leaves are not as round as echeverias leaves. Aeoniums also have teeth (or tiny points) at the end of their leaves, while echeverias do not.
Perhaps because there are more echeveria varieties, there is also more variety in the color they come in, which include blue, green, orange, pink, red, silver, and variegated (where the leaves have one color in the center but are edged in a different color), and yellow.
On the other hand, aeoniums have a much smaller color selection, including green, yellow, dark red/garnet, black, and yellow-striped.
Both echeverias and aeoniums have very small subspecies that clock in at around 2 inches when fully mature.
However, unlike echeverias, whose largest varieties top out around a foot tall when fully mature, there are varieties of aeoniums that can reach five feet tall if planted in the right surroundings.
2- Plant Origin
Aeoniums, being a succulent that thrives in a dry but slightly moister environment than echeverias, actually originated in the Canary Islands in Africa.
The echeveria, which holds moisture in their leaves through hot and dry spells, originated in Mexico and Central America’s other hot and dry areas.
3- Plant Varieties
Within each type of succulent, there are often multiple subtypes. While echeverias and aeoniums are similar in that they don’t break this rule, the number of subtypes for each of them differs greatly.
The echeveria has a huge variety of subtypes—over 100, with the most popular subtypes being the following:
- Echeveria Black Prince
- Echeveria Perle Von Nurberg
- Painted Echeveria Nodulosa
- Echeveria Violet Queen
Aeoniums also have quite a few varieties, but much fewer than echeverias (between 35-60), with the most common being:
- Aeonium arboreum
- Aeonium arboreum “Atropurpureum”
- Aeonium arboreum “Zwartkop”
- Aeonium “Garnet”
- Aeonium davidbramwelli “Sunburst”
- Aeonium haworthii “Tricolor or Kiwi”
One thing that every plant owner wants to know (especially if they have pets) is whether their plants are toxic or not.
If you have an echeveria, you have nothing to worry about. Though the plant probably doesn’t taste very good, if your pet takes a bite out of one of them, you don’t need to worry about them getting sick and having to visit the vet to get their stomachs pumped.
If you have an aeonium and a curious pet, you will have to be more careful than you would with an echeveria. Be sure to put it in a place they cannot reach or a room where they are not allowed.
While aeoniums are generally not lethal if ingested, they contain mildly toxic saponins to animals and can cause skin irritation and stomach problems such as nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.
5- Flower Production and Lifespan
Both echeverias and aeoniums produce flowers, and you can use the seeds from those flowers to make more of both plants, but aeoniums are monocarpic.
What this means is that once the aeoniums have produced flowers, the main plant will die. Echeverias, which are not monocarpic, will keep living after they produce flowers.
Echeveria vs. Aeonium: Differences in Plant Care
There are also some big differences in the care and maintenance of echeverias and aeoniums. While both are low maintenance, aeoniums are a bit more demanding than echeverias.
Some of the differences in care and requirements for each include the following:
1- Sunlight Required
One of the big differences between echeverias and aeoniums is the amount of light they need. Like many other species of succulents, Echeverias need lots of direct light each day.
The minimum amount of direct light they need daily is four hours, but six hours is ideal. If they do not get the recommended amount of light each day, two things will happen:
- They will get leggy. This happens when they start to grow extra branches and offshoots, giving them an unkempt and unhealthy look. The reason this happens is that the plant is reaching the closest source of light.
- They will not flower. A healthy echeveria that is getting lots of sunlight will produce flowering stalks that grow up out of the top of the plant.
Echeverias thrive during the summer, so if you have had it as an indoor plant and notice the above signs that it is not as healthy as it should be, move the pot outside, or plant it in the ground in a sunny area of your yard if you live in a warm or desert-like area year-round.
Aeoniums, on the other hand, grow best with a combination of shade AND sunlight. In fact, if you live in a desert climate or an area where the summers get very hot, it is best to bring your aeonium inside.
If that is not possible, find a shady area to place them in. If they get too much sun, the leaves will start to burn, indicated by pale spots on the leaves.
2- Soil Type Required
Another difference between aeoniums and echeverias is the type of soil that is best for each one.
Echeverias, much like cacti, need soil that drains well and is porous or has wide gaps between the soil particles so the water does not cling or stay too long in one spot.
This is because if the roots hold on to too much moisture, it will cause the echeveria to rot. A cactus potting mix is a great option for echeveria. However, if you want to make your own low-moisture soil, mix the following:
- Three parts potting soil
- Two parts coarse sand
- One-part perlite (volcanic glass that looks like white flakes)
On the other hand, Aeoniums thrive in soil that holds onto moisture a bit. The perfect soil for them falls between high-density soil, which holds a lot of moisture, and the more porous soil, ideal for echeverias.
Regular potting soil works well if you are growing your aeoniums in a pot. If you plan to grow it in denser gardening soil outside, add peat moss to the area you are planting it in so water drains down into the soil easier.
3- Amount of Water Required
Speaking of moisture in the soil, the frequency of watering is also different between these two plants. Echeverias are built to handle dryness. It is far worse to give them too much water than too little, as too much water will cause the plant to rot, whereas being too dry is easily remedied by adding more water. It is easy to tell when you should water your echeveria as the leaves will start to wrinkle.
It is recommended that you do not water echeverias until all the soil has dried, then water it thoroughly, making sure the pot has a good source of drainage so that water doesn’t sit.
If your echeveria plant is growing outside, then you should water them about once a week during the summer or any other point during the year that has high heat. Bring them inside, if possible, during the winter months, and keep a close eye on the soil and the leaves.
Aeoniums, on the other hand, need more moisture. Instead of waiting for all the soil in the pot to dry out completely, stick your finger down an inch into the soil (or two inches if the roots are strong). If it is dry to that depth, then it should be watered. However, you have to be careful because too much watering can lead to the roots rotting.
A light watering once a week during the summer and once a month during winter is sufficient for aeoniums. However, do not stick to a strict schedule; instead, keep an eye on the moisture level in the soil to let you know when the plant needs to be watered.
4- Fertilizer Requirements
One of the great parts of many species of succulents is that they do not a lot of extra care—they are pretty hardy on their own.
One way this shows up in echeverias is that they do not need extra fertilizer in their soil. Echeverias thrive in rougher soil, like desert plants, the same as cacti. In fact, if you fertilize echeverias, it can lead to the plants burning due to the nutrition being pulled out of the leaves. Some indications of fertilizer burn include:
- Yellow or brown color on the leaves
- Withered or crumpled leaves
Aeoniums, once again, differ from echeverias on this point. It is important to fertilize the soil during the growing season (winter and spring) once a month. However, unlike some other plants, this fertilizer should not be at half strength—meaning you put half the amount of fertilizer as stated by the directions with the same amount of water.
When the aeonium is dormant (typically during the summer months), you do not need to and should not add fertilizer to the soil, as what they receive during their growth periods is enough to sustain them during this time.
5- Area of the Country Ideal for Growth
Because of their origins, aeoniums and echeverias have different needs regarding the amount of moisture they receive. The parts of the country where they tend to grow and thrive the most are different too.
For echeverias, the more desert-like areas of the country are their happy place. They will grow as long as they receive lots of sunlight and not a lot of moisture. States such as Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming are the ideal growing ground for echeverias.
On the other hand, aeoniums thrive in the more Mediterranean climates, also known as the USDA zone 9-11. In these zones, the temperatures do not get below 25 degrees Fahrenheit even during the winter but are generally more mild or warm and higher in moisture.
Their growing season is during late winter and early spring when the temperatures are in the mid-60s-70s, and they sleep during the warmer months. Some states which are in this zone include:
Note: Keep in mind that even if you do not live in the ideal climate for your preferred succulent, there are ways to work around it. For example, if you live in Florida and have an echeveria, place them in a spot near a window with direct sunlight for most of the day but far away from moist areas of the house (such as restrooms).
Similarly, if you live in a dryer part of the country but want an aeonium, place them in an area of the house where they receive less sunlight, such as a windowsill that only gets direct light for a couple of hours a day.
6- Repotting Requirements
If you are growing either of these succulents in pots, they may need to be repotted, but the timing will differ between them.
- An echeveria will only need to be repotted once it has grown too big for the pot it is in, which tends to be between 12-18 months.
- Aeoniums usually need to be repotted every 2 to 3 years, and unlike echeverias, they will need fresh soil when transplanted into their new pots.
7- Propagating New Plants
Succulents are the type of plant where it is easy to make new plants from old ones. Propagating is simple for both aeoniums and echeverias, but the process and timing will differ.
Some of the main differences include the following:
- Echeverias can be propagated by pulling off a leaf from the stem by moving it back and forth until it separates from the main plant. Aeonium leaves need to include part of the stem, which must be cut with scissors.
- Echeverias only need the leaf, and the rosette will grow on the leaf after its cut; aeonium leaves need to include a rosette before they are cut off.
- Echeveria leaves need to be buried completely in the soil, while aeoniums need the cut tip buried deep enough to remain upright.
- Once echeverias have been replanted, they only need to be watered the same amount as a mature echeveria plant. That is to say, sparingly, aeoniums must be watered lightly about once a week until they have matured.
Echeveria vs. Aeonium: Similarities
With all of the differences between these two plants, you may be wondering why it’s so easy for people to confuse them with one another.
For one, besides both of them being types of succulents, their appearance is quite similar. They both have a petal-like appearance similar to daisies, and they both have rounded leaves.
Additionally, echeverias and aeoniums can get leggy or produce unwieldy long branches when unhealthy.
However, once you know that aeoniums have pointed “teeth” at the ends of their leaves and that they lie flatter than echeverias, it will be easier to tell them apart.
Still, it can easily confuse them if they are both a smaller variety and a crossover color such as green or yellow.
Echeverias and aeoniums are easily confused, but if you are trying to tell them apart, some of the main aspects to keep in mind are the leaves’ shape—whether they’re rounder or narrow or come to a point. If a plant looks like an echeveria but is larger than a foot, it is probably an aeonium.
Other differences between the two include the type of soil, the amount of water they need, whether they need fertilizer, their level of toxicity, and their areas of origin. Knowing all these aspects can help you decide which is best for you and your home.