We all love our succulents and the thought of them dying fills us with dread. Succulents can die for many reasons. Sometimes it’s our fault and sometimes it is just nature doing its thing. In this post I will discuss death blooms, monocarpic succulents and what it all means.
What is a death bloom in succulents?
A death bloom is a terminal bloom some succulents can produce. When the flower starts dying the part of the succulent it has grown from will die with it. This can be a rosette or a branch.
Do Succulents Die After Flowering
The great majority of succulents will not die after flowering however, a small portion can partly die off. The good news is that most will grow offsets, produce seed or regrow after they have seemingly died following a death bloom.
When do succulents die completely after a death bloom?
Succulents can die completely without producing any offsets that continue to live on if the death bloom is mistakenly propagated as a cutting. A whole plant can also die if the offsets have been taken off prior to the bloom and the plant has not had time to produce more.
Sometimes death bloom or a regular flower stalk will look like an offset and it is an easy mistake to make. They can look exactly like a mini version of the original plant and only start opening up as a flower once they have sent roots.
If you’re keen on propagating succulents and have taken all the offsets from a plant that is about to shoot a terminal bloom, it may not have time to produce more pups and the plant will completely die with the flower.
What are monocarpic succulents?
Monocarpic means setting fruit only once and then die. Therefore, monocarpic succulents flower once, produce seed and die along with the flower. They also often grow many offsets and drops seeds to reproduce.
Which succulents have death blooms?
There are a few succulent genera where many or all species are monocarpic. Genera with most or all species producing a death bloom are Aeonium, Agave, Orostachys and Sempervivum. Genera with some species being monocarpic include Kalanchoe, Crassula, Sedum.
Pretty much all Sempervivum are monocarpic, but from experience it takes some years before a death bloom is produced by a rosette. By the time the death bloom appears, there are many offsets in the clump and so one dying rosettes will not make much of a difference. In 10 years of growing succulents I have only seen a handful of Sempervivum death blooms and we grow quite a variety here at the nursery.
All Aeonium are also monocarpic and like with the Sempervivum, the death blooms come up after the plant is a few years old.
Agave have some species that are monocarpic but the death bloom can take upwards of 20 years.
There are many more species that can have a death bloom. Some happen yearly and some can happen as a one-off for a species and is almost a mutation that would not happen/ happen very rarely in other plants of the same species.
How do you know if a succulent is monocarpic?
Some succulents are naturally monocarpic. The best way to find out is to research first genera, then species. Monocarpic succulents are in a minority so it should be quite easy to find out which species are monocarpic.
As mentioned above all Sempervivum and Aeonium are monocarpic, though some may not flower for years and only the flowering rosettes die, not the whole plant.
Death bloom can be ‘an accident’ or some kind of a mutation for some succulents but experience this is to be quite unlucky. We grow hundreds of thousands of plants every year and see very few death blooms (two or three) in plants that are not naturally monocarpic.
What does a death bloom look like?
A death bloom in succulents will usually grow from the centre of a rosette or middle of a branch. It is as if the plant elongates from the middle. Some will grow a stalk with flowers on top and some will grow lots of small flowers in-between the leaves, resembling a flower cone.
Succulents that are not monocarpic/ do not grow death blooms can also shoot a flower stalk from the centre (some Crassula, Delosperma etc.) and others will shoot their flower stalks from the side.
Do succulents bloom more than once?
In general, most succulents bloom yearly and can produce multiple flowers/ flower stalks during flowering time.
Monocarpic succulents, as a whole plant, can also bloom more than once. The rosette/branch producing the flower will die, but the remaining parts of the plant can bloom the next year and then grow a round of offsets that will flower the year after.
Why do succulents die after they bloom?
In case of monocarpic succulents, dying after flowering is in their DNA and it is just the way they naturally grow. Prior to growing death blooms monocarpic succulents produce offsets, flower, set seed and die along with the flower. The seed is then dispersed so the plant can reproduce even more.
Do succulents grow back after they die from death bloom?
Many succulents will grow back after death bloom in a sense that they will keep growing in form of offsets or germinate from seeds dispersed from the flowers. Some will even grow branches back from seemingly dead stalks or roots. This very much depends on the species.
Can you stop a death bloom?
It is very hard to stop a death bloom in monocarpic succulents as eventually, the outcome will be the same- the part of the plant that was meant to bloom will die. Succulents where a death bloom has occurred by accident can have the flower stalk cut off and should grow a round of offsets at the cut point.
I have tried cutting death blooms in Aeoniums and the outcome was similar to what would have happened anyway. The rosette has died off but produced offsets. Where a death bloom is not typical for a species, when it’s cut off the bottom part of the rosette should not die, but will instead grow offsets where the bloom stalk is cut off, just like when you behead a succulent.
Can Echeveria have death blooms?
Although Echeveria do not naturally grow death blooms and are not monocarpic, they still can produce one. It is not typical for this genus and can happen when a mutation occurs or when a flower stalk that looks like an offset is accidentally propagated.
If you bought and Echeveria that is all of a sudden blooming from the middle it is quite likely that the grower has propagated a flower stalk, rather than an offset. This can be a very easy mistake to make as some flower stalks really do like like chicks (see the photo at the beginning of this post). Flower stalks and chicks can grow at the same time. Leaves taken from succulent flower stalks rather can also grow into a plant that produces a death bloom.
It is entirely possible the death bloom is just a mutation and does not happen in the species normally and it is just bad luck..
To recap, succulents can die after flowering if they are naturally monocarpic, but in the majority of cases produce offsets before they die and the plant lives on. Accidental death blooms can occur in non monocarpic succulents, but it's quite rare.