Aeonium rosettes resemble big, fleshy-petalled daisies. Colors include green, yellow and garnet. Leaves of Aeonium 'Sunburst' are striped with yellow or cream. Aeonium 'Zwartkop', another show-stopper, is magenta-black.
There exist many aeonium hybrids. Some species are shrub-forming; all produce rosettes at the tips of ever-lengthening stems. In the Gallery below, you'll see those that do well in residential gardens.
Aeoniums, from the Canary Islands off the coast of North Africa, thrive in mild, dry climates. Give them the same care as other soft-leaved succulents (as explained in my books and on this site's Succulent Care Basics page). Most can't handle temperatures into the 20s F, intense sun, desert heat, high humidity or the summer rain typical of the southeastern US and Hawaii (sorry!).
Aeoniums are on my list of succulents for coastal Southern CA gardens. Farther inland, protect them from harsh midday sun. Mine do best as understory plants in bright or dappled shade. (I'm inland from San Diego, Zone 9b).
Rosettes elongate into multi-branched bloom spikes massed with dainty flowers. These are shades of yellow, and uncommonly white or rose. Bloom time depends on variety, but is generally spring or summer.
Aeoniums are monocarpic, meaning they die after blooming. But many varieties are branching, and not all rosettes on a shrub flower at once, so you seldom lose an entire plant. Aeonium blooms make long-lasting cut flowers.
Should You Withhold Summer Water?
Above is how my Aeonium canariense typically looks at the end of summer. Rosettes have closed to protect their vital cores from sunburn and desiccation. (Compare with the photo of the same plant, in spring, in the Gallery below.) Is it OK to water aeoniums in summer? Yes and no. They may rot if they've already gone fully dormant. But if they're semi-dormant (still green), regular irrigation will keep them that way...that is, in a summer-dry climate.
Prune and Replant in Fall
When aeoniums get leggy, cut off the tops, leaving an inch or two of stem, and throw the rest of the plant away, roots and all. Replant each rosette as a cutting. Insert it into the soil, so it sits just above the ground. The best time for this is in the fall, after the weather cools, when the plants begin to come out of summer dormancy. See the video.
Greenovias, a type of Aeonium, hail from the Canary Islands too. During dormancy, greenovias become egg-shaped. Leaves that flare slightly outward at the top suggest rose buds beginning to open. In addition to their whorled shape, greenovias differ from other aeoniums in that they have double the number of petals on their flowers.
Aeoniums For Your Garden (3:16)
Debra's Dozen Easy-Grow Succulents, from Aeonium to Zebra Plant. A must-read for beginners trying to make sense of succulents. Discover lovely, readily available varieties anyone can grow.