Echeveria is a popular genus of succulent plants that are prized for their water filled leaves arranged in a rosette. A large number of people collect Echeveria and a lot of different species are available thanks to crossbreeding within the genus and with other genera too.
Some Echeverias are small growing, some can grow more than 30 cms in diameter, some have dusty leaves and some shiny leaves. There are countless variables. But can you grow Echeverias indoors?
Echeveria cannot be grown indoors for long periods of time in most circumstances and prefer to be outdoors in lots of light. However, they have been known to survive in sun-rooms, conservatories and rooms that receive all day sunlight.
Echeveria is a large genus of flowering plants that are native to Central America. Their habitat is mostly dry or semi-desert. To best understand their needs, this is very important to remember.
For many, the first attempt at growing Echeveria ends badly. A great number of people start with buying Echeveria in pretty pots and put them inside the house. While they will look fantastic for some weeks, many will eventually die. The lack of sunshine and proper airflow will make Echeveria either stretch towards the closest window or they will turn into a mush.
The thing with Echeveria (and the vast majority of succulents) is that they prefer being outdoors in plenty of sunshine and good airflow. Having said that, some Echeveria like more sun than others and in summer, when the temperatures climb over 35 Celsius or 95F, they can suffer in full sun. We have written a separate article on succulents and sun here as it is a lengthy topic.
From time to time our customers get back to us with feedback and on more than one occasion we have heard of people having great success with growing Echeveria indoors. It is quite rare, but it can be done. There are a few variables that will all have to be present to stand a chance with enjoying Echeveria indoors. Also, it requires a bit of commitment and extra care.
If you have lots of windows letting direct sunlight in for at least 6-7 hours per day, you may have a chance of keeping your Echeveria alive indoors. The room would have to be exceptionally bright as the plant will start stretching towards the window letting the most light in, resulting in elongated leaves and a stalk that is not natural. To avoid this leggy growth, sunshine has to be hitting the plant almost continually for the whole 6 hours.
People with sun rooms are also in luck as they create a perfect greenhouse environment and with a bit of extra care, Echeveria should thrive. A couple of hints for growing Echeveria in sun rooms. Keep an eye out for pests. Aphids, the dreaded mealybugs, gnats and even slugs can get in the house easily and breed happily as there will be a lack of predators in the closed-off environment. Keeping the sun room well ventilated is also very important as most succulents do not like humidity and can develop fungal disease and rot.
Speaking of airflow, with or without the sun room, succulents love fresh air and will survive better when it's plentiful. Keeping the windows open during the day will help indoor Echeveria immensely. Unless it is the middle of winter with freezing temperatures outside.
Many of you will know the struggles of keeping our precious succulent collection alive when there’s snow outside with temperatures below 0C. Echeveria and most other succulents are not frost hardy and there is no choice but to bring them inside. Many of us also don’t have the luxury of large bright windows (especially in cold countries where large windows=loss of heat) and so it seems nigh on impossible to push succulents through the worst of winter.
But fear not. There is a way succulents and especially outdoor loving plants like Echeveria can be grown indoors for short periods without direct sunlight and large windows.
Grow lights for plants have been on the market for a while and new, better technology comes out all the time. Products imitating sunshine exist and while we have not tried these ourselves yet (an experiment will be conducted soon!!) we believe grow lights can help immensely with keeping Echeveria indoors.
Getting back to growing Echeveria indoors permanently as house plants, we believe there is some evidence that with the combination of large, sunny windows and grow lights it is indeed possible to have sun-loving Echeveria inside. We are in a process of testing this out and a post will be published once we have a conclusion. Our guess at this time is that yes, they will survive but the colour and shape will not be as bright and compact as plants growing in natural sunlight outdoors.
If you have purchased an Echeveria and have been growing it indoors, but it is not doing very well, it can still be saved. Stretched and colourless Echeveria can be transferred outdoors gradually. If they are stretched too much, the rosette (top part) can be cut off and, dried for a day or two and replanted as a cutting in succulent potting mix. This is also referred to as be-heading succulents and we have a full article on the topic.
Do not discard the bottom bit with the roots as where the rosette has been cut off, new plants are very likely to emerge. In the growing season (spring, summer) most Echeveria will send roots down in 2-3 weeks. If the plant has been in the shade for too long it will need to be re-introduced to sun as otherwise the foliage can burn.
Keeping the plant in a bright spot with a bit of morning sun will help it get used to the sun's rays. Every few days the sun exposure can be increased. Most Echeverias like being in sun but take care in heatwaves as very few plants enjoy being exposed to sun in high 30's C (over 95F).
As for watering, let the potting mix completely dry out before watering again. Some Echeveria can develop fungal diseases or rot if watered too much. The majority of Echeveria can be also grown in the garden (a lot actually grow better in garden than pots- read more about succulents in the garden here), in ordinary soil just as long as they are in a raised bed or part of the garden that never gets waterlogged. Keep an eye out for aphids and mealy bugs. Many Echeveria are their favourite source of food.
There are succulents out there that have a better chance of surviving indoors. If you'd really like to try succulents indoors, you might have luck with plants like Haworthia, Aloe, Pepperomia or Gasteria. They will still need a bright spot and airflow, but they are not so fussy about getting direct sun.