Have you ever had a succulent that dies right after blooming? There is no reason to be sad and blame yourself. Your plant might be monocarpic. Read on to find out more about these types of succulents.
What Are Monocarpic Succulents?
For any succulent grower, a blooming plant is one of the most exciting things to see. The brightly colored flowers are sure to bring a smile to any face. But for a monocarpic succulent, this signals the end of their lives.
The term monocarpic came from the words mono and karpos which means ‘single’ and ‘fruit’ respectively. This means that the plant will produce flowers and fruit only once in its life, and then they die (1).
Succulents are not the only kind of plants that are monocarpic, other plants like bamboos, palms, and bromeliads also fall in this category.
It may sound upsetting, but it is completely normal. It is your succulent’s way of safeguarding its progeny by directing all its resources towards producing seeds (2).
How Long Do Monocarpic Plants Live?
If you have a monocarpic succulent and worry about your plant’s longevity, you do not have to because these plants can live for many years before they flower. Some monocarpic succulents, like Agave and Aeonium, can even live for a long time after flowering.
And, since most monocarpic succulents can also produce offsets and reproduce vegetatively, you can easily propagate your plant in between these years.
Can You Stop a Monocarpic Succulent from Dying?
It is uncertain whether you can stop a monocarpic succulent from dying. While some gardeners are able to, the success is still not guaranteed. Our best advice is to keep your succulent healthy to maximize its life cycle. Succulents will produce flowers early if they are stressed. You can also extend the life of your succulent by cutting off the flower stalk as soon as they appear.
Which Succulents Are Monocarpic?
Only some agave plants are monocarpic. Agaves, such as the century plant (Agave americana) can take up to 25 years to bloom. Even then, the flowers can last for months, even years. The telling sign of an agave flowering is when it starts to develop a long, thick stem at the middle of its rosette. Clusters of colorful flowers will soon bloom from atop this stem (3).
Kalanchoe plants are another type of monocarpic plants. Unlike agave, kalanchoes can last only a few years before they flower and die. Fortunately, kalanchoes are a very prolific plant and can produce many offsets (4).
All sempervivum plants are monocarpic. They generally last up to 3 years before blooming and dying. Like kalanchoe, sempervivums are very prolific growers and can produce many offsets in the 2 years before the plants bloom (4).
Agave, kalanchoe, and sempervivum are only the three most common types of monocarpic succulents. There are other monocarpic succulents such as Aeonium, Sinocrassula, Orostachys, and Peperomia.
How to Care for Monocarpic Succulents
Despite having a fated demise, monocarpic succulents can still last for a long time. The care and maintenance will depend on the type of succulent you have. As mentioned above, monocarpic plants must be kept healthy and away from stress as it may induce early flowering.
Once your monocarpic succulent starts to flower, you can either cut them off to prolong their life, or you can keep them and let your plant go with the last hurrah. Whichever way you choose, you need to continue with its usual care.
If your plant has pups, you can harvest them and continue your plant’s life. If you want to save some of the seeds, keep the parent plant healthy and unstressed to ensure the seed’s viability.
If you love growing succulents, check these types of succulents with pictures.
(1) Cresson C. ‘Charles Cresson on the American Flower Garden’. Prentice Hall. 1993. PP. 41.
(2) Leshem Y.Y., Halevy A.H., Frenkel C. ‘Processes and Control of Plant Senescence’. Elsevier. 2012. PP. 120.
(3) Gentry H.S. ‘Agaves of Continental North America’. University of Arizona Press. 2004. PP. 30.
(4) Afra A. ‘The Succulent Manual: A guide to care and repair for all climates’. Andrea Afra. 2018.
*image by photo_story/depositphotos