Echeveria are not typically used as ground cover much, though there are some fabulous species that will spread beautifully in the garden.
The Best Ground Cover Echeveria
- Echeveria Prolifica
- Echeveria Glauca
- Echeveria Elegans ‘Mexican Snowball’
- Echeveria Topsy Turvy
- Echeveria Violet Queen
- Echeveria Ben Badis
- Echeveria Agavoides Jade Point
The trick is to choose Echeveria that produces many offsets every year as there are quite a few Echeveria species that either grow as solitary rosettes or only grow very few offsets. Some Echeveria also grow naturally tall and branch out so those species will never be a good groundcover.
By far the best, hardiest and easiest to grow groundcover Echeveria is the Prolifica. As the name suggests, this succulent is very prolific and keeps on spreading all year round. Prolifica will slow down in winter, but race ahead during the warmer months. It is also incredibly easy to propagate either by cuttings or leaves. Echeveria Prolofica is very hardy too and will pretty much take care of itself.
All the other Echeveria on the list are also good spreading succulents, but nothing like the Prolifica. They will usually grow a round of offsets every year and then the offsets will have offsets and so on.
Echeveria Glauca is also quite generous with its offsets and can create a gorgeous carpet of blue rosettes. It is quite popular for this reason and there are many photos on the internet if you search this succulent. Unfortunately, I don’t have any great ones as we pull the offsets off to propagate and sell at our nursery.
Echeveria Elegans ‘Mexican Snowball’ looks very much like its nickname and is grey-blue with a dusting of white. The offsets usually appear in autumn and are a good size by the end of spring.
Echeveria Topsy Turvy produces offsets almost all year round and has an unusual leaf shape, which makes it particularly attractive.
Echeveria Violet Queen changes colour in the cooler months to brilliant pink and looks fantastic mass planted.
Echeveria Ben Badis produces lots of offsets but, is quite small in size and so may be best suited to smaller gardens.
Echeveria Agavoides ‘Jade Point’ grows quite big (over 30cms in diameter). The waxy green leaves turn red on the tips and edges in the cold and a round of offsets will grow over winter.
Are Echeveria Good Groundcover Succulents
If you don’t mind the slightly slower growth, then some Echeveria species make dazzling groundcovers.
The leaves of all Echeveria are arranged in a rosette shape and thus the plants always look like a flower. To add to the beauty, Echeveria also produce flowers of their own, mostly in Spring.
How To Plant Echeveria To Create a Groundcover
To speed things up it is best to plant multiple plants, depending on the space. For instance, four Echeveria Glauca will cover about 0.5 square meters quite fast and will go on to spread out even more over time.
If the plants are about 10cm/4” leave some 20cm/8” between them so they have enough space to spread.
When the offsets grow big enough so they have a good stalk, they can be pulled of and planted elsewhere. This will prompt the mother plant itself to grow bigger and produce more offsets. Only pull the offsets off in the growing season (spring, summer) as they are unlikely to grow over winter and can rot.
To allow the offsets a chance to spread and send roots down it may be best to not mulch with stones but use woodchip mulch instead (not loads though). Stone mulch can make it harden for the plants to root, but a light sprinkling of woodchip mulch will not. It is not essential to mulch, if rain/water is not an issue as the plants will fill the space anyway.
How To Care For Groundcover Echeveria
All the Echeveria above are quite easy to care for if they are planted in the ground. The only thing that might be an issue is that none of these are frost tolerant.
They will grow best in morning sun-afternoon shade position, or in full sun. In climates where temperatures can soar over 40C/104F even Echeveria planted in the ground can burn. During extreme heatwaves it could be for the best to create some kind of shade over them for the afternoon, so the hot sun does not burn the foliage. Remember, temperatures in the weather forecast are shade temperatures, in full sun it will be much, much hotter.
The soil should have a decent quality potting mix worked in for best results. Echeveria will grow bigger and produce more pups when they have good growing medium.
Regular watering will help these plants with growth as well, especially in the warm months. In winter, watering can be left to the rain, unless it is very dry.
Echeveria should not be planted in flood areas or where water tends to pool when it rains heavily. Rain itself should not have any negative effect on the above plants, but if the roots are sitting in water for longer periods, the plants can rot.
Although, once the Echeveria are established they are quite hardy and can be pretty much left to fend for themselves, a little maintenance won’t hurt. Echeveria will naturally have some bottom leaves dry out which can be a bit unsightly and mealy bugs (a nasty pest that you might want to read up on) also like to hide and lay eggs in these dried out leaves. Although, its is not strictly necessary but the dead leaves should be pulled off. This will create a bit of breathing space and the plants will grow a slightly bigger.
Another pest that tends to appear mostly during flowering are Aphids. These little bugs will suck the sap out your plants and make marks on the leaves. They are, however, easily killed with a Pyrethrum based pesticide. If they are spotted on the flowers, the easiest way to get rid of them is to cut the stalks off and chuck in the bin.
To conclude, Echeveria will make a show stopping groundcover, that will mostly look after itself and create a magical scene in your garden. There are a few things to keep in mind such as getting the right species or planting in a suitable spot but, otherwise, their hardiness and beauty make Echeveria a great groundcover.