Updated/Fact-Chacked on February 25, 2022 by John
Monocarpic Succulents are notorious for being difficult plants to look after and dying when they seem to be flourishing. Monocarpic Succulents are strong plants, but once they bloom, they die. Though, with the right care, you can extend their lifespan or propagate new plants from their seeds.
Before you buy any succulent plant, it’s worth reading up on succulent varieties in case you buy a monocarpic succulent unknowingly.
What are Monocarpic Succulents?
Monocarpic Succulents will flower once and then die. The term is derived from Latin, ”mono’ meaning one and ‘carpic’ meaning fruit or flower for these succulents.
Polycarpic vs Monocarpic Succulents
These succulents continue to grow after flowering — polycarpic’ meaning many fruits. In other words, the polycarpic succulent will produce flowers and seeds year after year. Aloe is a polycarpic succulent and is a popular home medical remedy plant.
What many people do not realise is that even though a monocarpic succulent will die after flowering, this can take decades. Some Agave species live for over 100 years, so it is worth considering as a lifelong addition to your garden.
Dreaded Death Bloom
Death bloom is a general sign of a plant nearing the end of its lifespan. With Succulents, the stalks will stretch out, and the leaves will lose their vibrance. This death bloom is the point where the plant’s energy goes into producing seeds and flowers.
New stalks growing out from the soil or towards the outside of the layers are normal growth patterns. Death follows close after a new stalk grows out from the centre of the plant. This central stork will flower then die, taking the rest of the plant with it.
Can I Save My Monocarpic Succulent From Death Bloom?
It is possible to prevent the early demise of some Succulents by trimming them after you see their flower appearing. You can then leave this seed baring flower to dry out and keep it for planting. Once the spring comes around, you can plant the seeds from your dead succulent.
The longer you leave the seeds to grow, the better the chance you have of replanting them— but blooming will kill the parent plant. Some gardeners prefer to work with the plant’s life cycle and leave it to die off. Once the plant is dead, you can harvest the seeds and plant them.
What Are the Types of Monocarpic Succulent?
Monocarpic plants are popular in homes as a way of adding some colour and freshness. Since these are evergreen plants, you do not get the kind of mess that other house plants can cause, but certain varieties make great outdoor succulents. This lack of shedding makes them perfect for hanging in a kitchen or near a bathroom window and can look great if potted well.
Types of Monocarpic Succulent
Sempervivum Tectorum (Hen and Chicks)
Hen and chicks are a common favourite for gardeners that want low upkeep evergreen plants. Their thick leaves allow them to cope well with long periods of drought, and their slow growth means that they do not need pruning.
Hen and Chicks bloom with rosettes of thick green petals with red and purple tips. You can grow these plants in sand and with full exposure to the sun. The plant is also disease resistant and easy to propagate from the seeds they bear.
Otherwise known as the Tree Houseleek’ — it blooms with multiples of spiky yellow, magenta, or cream rosettes. Originating from the islands off the coast of North Africa, Aeoniums enjoy dry growing conditions and strong sunlight.
Some varieties are not Monocarpic, so they will flower more than once in their life before dying. The flowers also last longer than other monocarpic Succulents when cut. There are over 35 species of Aeonium, each with dense high-gloss leaves of vivid green.
Agave is a popular and essential plant in the making of tequila. This species can grow to 12 metres tall (40 feet), though variations will grow no taller than waist height. The Agave is a long-lasting plant, but it can take up to 60 years to flower.
A flower will develop out of a tall narrow stem, emanating from the middle, and will signal the end of the plant. Though, some species will grow out of the remains of the base of the old plant without the need to replant the seeds.
Kalanchoe (Flapjacks/Paddle Plant)
The Kalanchoe needs little water and will continue to flourish in direct sunlight and arid conditions. As an example of how resilient this succulent is, it was one of the first plants to go into space. In nature, you may see these growing at high altitudes on the rocky outcrops of mountains.
Though you can plant the Madagascan Kalanchoe beharensis that grows to six metres tall, most species will top-out at one metre. Flowers have vibrant small petals of purple while others are softer pastels of orange.
Orostachys (Dunce Caps)
Also known as the Chinese Dunce Cap, these plants grow into pinecone-like-formations. In nature, you can find these succulents in the cold mountain regions of Mongolia and Japan. This is a tough plant that copes well with dry sandy soil.
You can plant Orostachys in direct sunlight, either in your garden if you live in a warm climate or a pot in the sunniest place in your home. Mealybugs are one of a few pests that like to feed on the leaves, which you can treat with isopropyl alcohol.
This is a wonderful plant to grow indoors or in a greenhouse — anywhere you get a lot of sunlight. The powerful greens will brighten bathrooms and kitchens, and you do not need to worry about cleaning up endless leaves falling onto the floor.
Out of the 1500 recorded species, most produce think and long oval leaves and stop growing at 30 centimetres in height. The Peperomia does flower, but with small petals that are difficult to spot. A great choice for hanging baskets.
The Sinocrassula is a high-altitude plant that grows in Southern China and Burma. Its rosettes consist of narrow triangular spiky leaves — and the entire plant will grow up to 20 centimetres tall in the right conditions.
These succulents need less sun than their cousins and can survive in shady areas of a home, as long as the plant does not freeze. The Sinocrassula needs occasional watering, and it is possible to plant the seeds that you can get from each plant.
John Green is a 46-year-old graphic designer living in Durham. John is RHS level 3 certified and owns an allotment in Durham.