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The Aeonium Arboreum 'atropurpurem' Is A Striking Addition to the Mediterranean Garden

Updated on April 26, 2017
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Sherry has maintained homes and landscaped yards for 45 years in Southern California. She has collected water-wise succulents for 10 years.

Well watered spring version
Well watered spring version

The Aeonium Arboreum 'atropurpurem'

The succulent plant pictured here is an Aeonium arboreum 'atropurpurem'. The common name is in question because each nursery seems to have a different name. Purple aeonium is one name. There are many types of succulents and the aeonium is a big group.

My last focus on succulents was in the seventies. I was a single Mom then and they were an enjoyment for the householder that could not afford buying plants. My next huge interest started about ten years ago when I decided to plant our slope with succulent and cactus.

The internet and published books on the subject of succulents and cactus have made the gardening project a very absorbing pursuit. Pinning down the name of a single plant can be exasperating. It seems that variations can be easily started by using suckers and some crossing of species.

This overview of the red/green or purple aeonium arboeum 'atropurpurem' is written so you can enjoy and recognize this plant and accent your flowerbeds with this easy to care for succulent.

Aeonium Arboreum 'atropurpurem'

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Rich chocolate color of the dry summer phase
Rich chocolate color of the dry summer phase
Rich chocolate color of the dry summer phase

The Chocolate is a Summer Color

As you can see the dark of this plant is pictured above. This is the warm dry summertime results. The plant is stressed but this shrinking and closing up is perfectly natural and does not hurt the plant. In the spring the same stems will have full leaves and big yellow spikes of flowers. This is natural for the aeonium to survive.

succulent in a pot
succulent in a pot

One Common Name for the Aeonium

I have seen one TV landscaping guru mention this plant as a chocolate aeonium. It seems many color hues are flavors these days. I like the reference. I am a big fan of chocolate.

If you want to do serious shopping for this plant it is best to go by Aeonium arboreum 'atropurpurem'.

In Southern California's long dry summer the red-green rosettes you see here do turn a rich dark semi-sweet chocolate color. There are three different looks the plant can assume and still be healthy and easy to care for. Growth is very active and new rosettes and branches will form a vigorous plant. This plant has been in the present pot for three years. To keep its shape break off a few branches and clean off dry leaf segments. It gets twice a week watering in the hot summer. It has become a beautiful walkway accent.

The Plant Response to the Environment - Aeonium Arboreum Characteristics

Close up of the plant that gets full sun all day during the winter months when temperatures are between 60-80 degrees during the day.

We did have a couple of nights of marginal frost; it did not sustain any damage. Spring 2011.

Aeonium Arboreum in winter shade
Aeonium Arboreum in winter shade

Purple Aeonium

A common named for Aeonium arboreum 'atropurpurem'

The same plant in total shade during the winter. It lacks the full red hues but the plant is very healthy here. In the summer it will get 11am to 6pm sun and will turn red and have tighter rosettes.

This summer when we have lack of rain and hotter temperatures I will take pictures of the chocolate stage of the aeonium arboreum.

I think I know why this plant is sometimes labeled "purple". My husband called it purple the other day without any prompt from me. So men see the color differently than I do.

The same potted plant during the summer months gets full sun, but it is much hotter.

The rosettes compensate for the heat and sun by closing up and shrinking. The sun makes it darker, as well. Summer 2011.

Aeonium arboreum Succulent Flower

and how to trim succulent

Here is the potted plant in bloom for the first time. It has been in the pot 3 years. Three nicely clustered spikes. My husband called the blooms fireworks.

After the blooms were spent I broke the spikes off at the first branching below the spike.

I had another plant with the succulent flowers and the spikes were tall individual stems. I broke them off at the base of the plant. These are hardy plants and will tolerate any minimal breakage. This spring, 2013, several of these plants are 3-4 years old and long branches are breaking off on their own. I have lots of succulent cuttings for more planting. Most types of aeonium have these cones shaped yellow spikes.

Succulent Aeonium Ready for Propagation
Succulent Aeonium Ready for Propagation

Propagating the Aeonium Arboreum

Succulent Plant Care

I have several red aeonium's or Purple aeoniums in the succulent garden. Occasionally, there may be accidental breakage of branches or most often, I will break branches off to keep a particular plant in a desired shape. Let the branch dry out at the tip as shown in the picture. A couple of days is all it needs to dry the end and allow new roots to form. The drying will avoid the end from getting mushy or moldy. A condition not good for replanting.

Now the succulent cuttings are ready to put in soil. I use standard planting mix if it is going into a pot. If it is going into the yard somewhere I dig a three to four inch hole put the branch in about three inches, cover the hole with the same soil and pat down so the branch remains standing.

Note the branches pictured here have been drying for a few weeks. Here the purple hue has finally revealed itself.

Give it water as needed. If you live in Southern California or any Mediterranean climate, once the plant is established, the area can dry out for several days to one month between watering.

The Mediterranean climate is a zone that receives about 7-9+ inches of rain in the winter with hardly none in the summer.

Mother Plant of aeonium  in Paperfacets images
Mother Plant of aeonium in Paperfacets images

All the plants pictured in this blog are from this "mother" plant. This is the original plant that provided branches for all the others.

This plant is from my sister in-law's slope garden she had at one time.

Favorite Digging Tool

Ames Razor-Back 4" Trenching Shovel With 47" Handle
Ames Razor-Back 4" Trenching Shovel With 47" Handle

This is the shovel I always use when working in the yard. It slices into the clay soil easier than any other shovel we have in the shed.

Gardening Project
Gardening Project

My Aeonium Arboreum Planting Projects

This is one area that I had cannas planted. I have decided to scrap that idea and put the red-green aeonium in. They are more drought resistant. I have planted six new plants behind the bench. The cuttings are no bigger than the ones shown with the dog. Hank is my constant helper when I am working in the yard.

The succulent cuttings went in before Christmas 2010. I will show you future photos.

Start of Project 2010

Succulent Planting Project

aeonium mass planting
aeonium mass planting

Here the succulents have grown full and showy. Springtime photo, April 2013.

I plan on pulling out the plants that get too tall and thin and replacing them with a new cutting. This area should look like this each year with a little tending.

new succulent planting area
new succulent planting area

Grow Succulents Anywhere

The Second Aeonium Project

This new wall needs to have some color and aeomiums are going in because the plantings will not cost a red cent. I am going to plant the more vertical red-green and the lower growing green variety that grows into a full round mound. Photo January, 2011.

A/O April, 2013. There is still not much to see against this wall, yet. I have ignored this project. Will post an image when it has something new to show.

Do You Have Succulents?

aeonium arboreum
aeonium arboreum

Vote for the answer that applies to you.

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Get an aeonium this summer.

Ebay has over 1200 succulents to choose from. It is a fun browse.

© 2011 Sherry Venegas

Leave a message about your experience with this plant.

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    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 15 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      These are beautiful. I remembered my mother having a collection of these.

    • profile image

      GrammieOlivia 3 years ago

      Nice plants, wish I could grow them here. But they would not be very happy and might not grow at all. That would make me sad! So I'll just have to admire yours! Moving it over to FB Weekend Gardeners page........

    • noner profile image

      noner 4 years ago

      Friends keep urging me to try a succulent since I'm a killer of green things and they swear they are herder to kill. I've not gotten brave enough yet.

    • rubyandmahoney profile image

      rubyandmahoney 5 years ago

      I am just starting out with succulents. This is a beautiful one! I hope mine grow as well as yours.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 5 years ago

      My neighbor's Aeonium is in full bloom right now. Bees galore. She gave me a few starters, so I have several in pots and around the garden. Hank is sure a cutie pie. It's always nice to have a companion while gardening.

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