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What's wrong with my aeonium zwartkop?

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Question from Steve Bustin


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I've recently bought a couple of aeonium zwartkop (or schwartzkopf, depending on the labelling - I'm told they're the same plant) but the plants are starting to look really unhappy. They're currently on the kitchen windowsill and the leaves are drying out and falling off the stem, leaving just a very small rosette at the top of the stem. I've been doing some reading on the web and some pages seem to say this is the result of over-watering and some say its a result of under-watering or conditions being too warm & dry.

Where should I be over-wintering the plants? Indoors, cold-frame, unheated greenhouse or even outside? Can I nurse this plant back to health or is it a goner?

  • Views: 8564
  • Replies: 2
  • Posted: Sun. 14th March 2010 21:38

Aeonium 'Zwartkop'

Reply from Katy Elton

Hi Steve,

Aeonium 'Zwartkop' can supposedly tolerate near zero temperatures over winter, although keeping it closer to 5°C is a safer bet. A cool windowsill should be absolutely perfect, or an unheated greenhouse similarly so.

As you've found in your research, it's very important to water aeonium sparingly in winter. Their leaves are succulent, and so store their own water supply for use over winter. The plant will let you know when it requires water by displaying wilting or drooping leaves. However, it sounds as though yours may have reached this point! Have you been watering them up til now? If so how much? It may be that the location you're keeping it in is fairly dry (i.e. centrally heated), and the plant has used more of its water supply than usual. Try watering a small amount to moisten the soil once a week, and see if this improves things. You might also want to try misting the leaves lightly. Alternatively you may want to think about trying a new location that is less drying - do you have a greenhouse?

As soon as the danger of frost has passed, put the plants outside in full sun. During the growing season you should be watering them about once a week, and feeding with a container plant food about once a month. Hopefully this will pep them up and give them a renewed vigour, equipping them to cope with next year's overwintering a little better!

As a bit of added insurance, why not try propagating them this spring? (I'd wait til April onwards this year). It's the ideal time to do so, and is fairly easy for this plant. Simply cut or snap off one of the (healthier) rosettes of leaves, leaving a couple of inches of stem attached. Leave to air dry in the shade for a couple of days, then pot up in the same potting mix as the adults plants (which ideally should be a cacti/ succulent mix). Water in well, and then water on the same schedule as the adult plants from then on.

Good luck! Hope your specimens make it! Keep us posted.

Regards, Katy

  • Posted: Mon. 15th March 2010 11:34

What's wrong with my aeonium zwartkop?

Reply from Steve Bustin

Thanks Katy, that's really useful. I've also managed to knock a young stem off one of the plants so I'll follow your propagation instructions to see if I can save it!

I think the kitchen windowsill is probably too warm and dry - I'm going to try moving them out to the greenhouse now that it's finally warming up a bit!

  • Posted: Wed. 17th March 2010 17:34