Echeveria derenbergii “Painted Lady”

Echeveria derenbergii, the delicate-looking silvery blue, also green, succulent known as the painted lady, aggressively offsets from a young age, forming clusters quickly. Short arching racemes of golden-yellow flowers with red tips hang over those pastel rosettes of triangular leaves. Great for windowsill or dish garden culture. Also makes an attractive small mound in the landscape in areas without regular freezes. Bright light is required to prevent “stretching” of echeverias (stretching occurs when a moderately fast growing plant such as an echeveria, is grown in dim light or over-fertilized, which causes overly lush growth that contributes to weak, pallid plants).

Recommended pairings: Pachysedum ‘Ganzhou’, Mammillaria bocasana
Bloom time: Spring
Size: To 4 inches tall and 1-3 feet wide
Plant in porous, well-draining soil
Bright light with ample airflow
Water thoroughly when soil is completely dry to the touch
Hardiness: USDA Zone 9a (20-25° F)

APPEARANCE

Part of what makes succulents so fascinating are the myriad ways they express themselves throughout the year, depending on light, season, temperature, soil, and hydration. For those and other reasons, the plants you receive may not look exactly as they appear on our website.

Echeveria ‘Lola’ and painted lady echeveria look similar for a reason

We recently posted a photo to our Instagram of a cute-as-can-be trio of Echeveria derenbergii, a species lovingly referred to as the “painted lady” echeveria. Painted lady is a quick-to-clump hen-and-chicks species from Mexico that forms small rosettes of triangular green or green-blue leaves with pointed tips. It bears a clear resemblance to another lovely “lady,” the succulent enthusiast favorite Echeveria ‘Lola’, introduced decades ago by famed hybridizer Dick Wright. There’s a reason for that, which we will get to shortly (have a guess as to what that is?). Someone commented on our post that she had thought these three little echeverias were ‘Lola’. Which prompted us to look at a whole bunch of photos of the two plants and do some reading and querying. The comment was totally understandable. There are so many species, hybrids and clones out in the collective “wild” of the nursery trade and hobbyist culture. Pretty much all of us are bound to get confused or unsure from time to time, especially when trying to make definitive IDs from photos.

So, the reason for ‘Lola’s’ resemblance to painted lady? Well, that’s because E. derenbergii is most likely one of the two parents of ‘Lola’, the other being Echeveria lilacina. You will see this as the credited parentage for ‘Lola’ in many online sources, but not all. Some say it’s E. lilacina and Echeveria ‘Deresina’, which is a hybrid created by Alfred Gräser (of ‘Perle von Nurnberg’ legend) involving derenbergii. So not wildly different. And then a well-regarded online resource on succulents lists the reported parentage as E. lilacina and E. ‘Tippy’, another hybrid of Wright’s. But it gets sticky. While it credits Wright for being the source of ‘Tippy’ having come from E. agavoides and E. derenbergii (there “she” is again!), this resource questions whether ‘Tippy’ truly could be a cross of agavoides and derenbergii.

We’re now going to step out of that thicket, hoping you’re still with us, and just make a case for ‘Lola’ being a “descendant” of derenbergii. The low inflorescences of ‘Lola’, with fewer flowers than some other echeverias, is a derenbergii trait, and seems to express in later generations. (By the way, have you noticed just how low the flower stalks of painted lady are? Super low.) The somewhat larger, slightly more open corolla (petals) is another. The shape of the leaves is similar to derenbergii, and when coupled with the more spatulate leaves of lilacina, appears to account for the leaf shape of ‘Lola’. The rosette form, somewhat shaped like the anthesis of a rosebud, the time at which it is beginning to open, is also expressed in derenbergii. And then there is the similar coloring.

So there you have it. With all the different species, cultivars and hybrids available today, it is quite easy to confuse or mistake one for the other based on a photograph. Especially when you factor in things like differences in growing conditions from one plant to the next, or even just the lighting of an image. That goes for whether you are just starting out in the hobby or are a professional nurserywoman or man. In this case, we have two echeverias that are almost certainly related, but the precise “how” is not universally accepted.

Echeveria derenbergii and Echeveria ‘Lola’ are both available at shopaltmanplants.com or cactusshop.com (wholesale). We love succulents no matter their pedigrees!

Both varieties are among those you may receive with our Valentine’s Day Rosette Succulent Collection, an online exclusive, at shopaltmanplants.com.

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Plant Highlight: Echeveria derenbergii

April 2018

Many species of Echeveria are notable for their highly ornamental tight rosettes of succulent leaves, and most of these come from Mexico. A good example is Echeveria derenbergii, native to northern Oaxaca and just across the border in southeastern Puebla. This small clumping species has been popular as a cultivated plant since its discovery in the 1920’s, used in pots, planter boxes, rock gardens and plantings of succulents.

Echeveria derenbergii has chubby pale blue-green leaves with pointed tips, and the tips are often flushed pinkish-red. Each rosette is normally less than 3 inches in diameter (7½ cm), but plants are quick to make offsets and form clumps. The species comes from a mountainous area and has fairly good cold tolerance, withstanding winter lows down to 20° F (-7° C).

The flower stalks on E. derenbergii are shorter than most species, rising only to a height of about 4 inches (10 cm) and bearing about 3 to 6 flowers. Each flower is cupped within a ring of five bracts which match the color of the leaves. At the bud stage, the flowers are red-orange or coral-red with paler bases, but when they open they show off their yellow interiors. This is a spring-flowering species, with its peak season coming in late March and April.

Echeveria derenbergii is easy to grow if given good drainage, and can be readily propagated by removing offsets. In cooler coastal conditions, it does well in full sun, but in warmer interior gardens it benefits from a little shade in the hottest part of the afternoon.

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