Adorable rose succulents are trending in the plant world, and it's easy to see why. As their name suggests, these cute little plants, grow in the shape of a rose, and while they're usually green, some can be found in a beautiful dusty pink color. So, is it a succulent, or is it a rose? We spoke to Kim Chen, who runs the popular Instagram account @Rare_Succulent, and Debra Lee Baldwin, the award-winning garden photojournalist, author, and succulent expert, and learned everything you could possible want to know about the popular plant.
Kim Chen / Rare_Succulent
What exactly are "rose succulents"?
"The mountain rose (otherwise known as rose succulents) originally refers to the genus of Greenovia, which is small and only has five original species," explains Chen, who also sells rare succulents in her Etsy shop. "In fact, the genus of Greenovia is no longer in existence. In 2003, it was incorporated into the genus of Aeonium by taxonomists, and there are officially four varieties of mountain roses." The species that looks like a rosebud is a cultivar of Aeonium aureum or Aeonium dodrantale. These rare beauties hail from the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago off of the coast of northwestern Africa and, more specifically, the islands of Gran Canaria, Tenerife, El Hierro, La Gomera, and La Palma. "As for the terrain they prefer, they grow in the rocky crevices and coniferous forest of canyons and mountains," Chen says.
How do you care for them?
This question isn't as simple as "water them every few days." Luckily, Baldwin has all the expert tips to make sure your rose succulents are happy: "Aeoniums thrive in mild climates with low humidity and minimal summer rainfall—such as southern and coastal California from the Bay Area south," she says. "It's best to grow delicate varieties like [these] in pots, ideally on a patio or balcony that's sunny in the morning and shady during the heat of the afternoon." More keen on having your rose succulents indoors? "Put plants under full-spectrum grow lights or near a sunny window (but not so close they'll scorch)," advises Baldwin. "For soil, use bagged cactus mix. Water thoroughly, then let the soil go nearly dry (wait a week or so)."
Baldwin also suggests placing your rose succulents in bright shade during the summer, otherwise their rosettes will close in order to conserve moisture and protect their vital cores from sunburn. "Make sure to water only enough to keep the soil barely moist. Resume regular watering and feed half-strength liquid fertilizer at the start of the plants' growing season, in October or November," she says.
Kim Chen / Rare_Succulent
How do you propagate rose succulents?
Luckily, propagating rose succulents isn't terribly complicated. "Aeoniums are best propagated by cuttings. Little rosettes that branch from the stem can be cut off and rooted. Place a cutting upright in potting soil so the stem is buried and the rosette is atop the soil. Roots will grow from the stem and the base of the rosette," says Baldwin. "The best time to do this is when Aeonium are emerging from summer dormancy. Keep soil on the dry side until roots form—which will be around a week."
How do you get a pink rose succulent?
"The pink mountain rose is named after the island of El Hierro in the Canary Islands (where it was originally grown)," says Chen. "It turns pink during its dormant season, and then will turn green during its growing season." It is possible to find a pure blush-toned one, though. "Pink ones do exist and are occasionally sold by nurseries that specialize in rare succulents," says Baldwin. "In general, the more green, the more vigor. But because pink rose succulents are in high demand for their beauty and novelty, it's likely supply will eventually catch up."