Mexican Snowball, Mexican Gem
The Echeveria Elegans succulent also referred to as Mexican Snowball or Mexican Gem is a firm favorite amongst houseplant-lovers in general, not to mention succulent enthusiasts.
Distinguishable by their silver-blue scoop-shaped leaves that form in clumps of rosettes, they can often be seen to sparkle rather charmingly in the sunlight.
This little beauty makes an attractive addition to any succulent display setting. For outdoor growing, it will provide luscious ground cover in a gravel or rock garden and can also enhance the look of a container display. Alternatively, when grown indoors, this succulent makes a great talking piece in a houseplant or terrarium collection.
Native to Mexico, Echeveria Elegans is often also referred to as Mexican Snowball and Mexican Gem and when they are seen glistening in the sunlight it’s no surprise why they get these nicknames.
Whilst Mexican Snowball is particularly drought-tolerant and used to shallow, nutrient-lacking soil, it still manages to produce rather pretty, bright yellow flowers that dangle from long pink spikes in late spring to early summer. The contract in color truly is a sight to behold.
Position Full sun but can tolerate partial shade
Watering Water thoroughly but infrequently
Size Height: Up to 8″ / Diameter: Up to 12″
Climate Not cold hardy Zone 9-12 (Min 41° F | 5° C)
Propagate Leaves, cuttings, and offsets
Seasonality Evergreen, Winter Dormant
Toxicity Non toxic
Flowers Bright, yellow flowers in late spring
Echeveria Elegans Care
Echeveria Elegans is a great choice for succulent newbies or those who want to branch out into more adventurous succulent growing and it’s just so rewarding when offsets begin to develop. With just a little care and attention and the right conditions, growing Mexican Snowballs for yourself can be as easy as A, B, C.
Since Echeveria Elegans is native to the dry and arid climates of Mexico, this plant prefers full sun although it can tolerate light shade.
For colder climates and areas that may endure freezing temperatures and snow, this plant is best kept in a succulent container or pot and brought indoors during the winter.
Height And Spread
One of the attractions of Echeveria Elegans is its ability to produce off-sets. These off-sets can either be left alone to grow larger or removed and replanted to create new plants.
When left attached to the main plant, these offsets eventually grow large enough to be classed as rosettes and will join with other rosettes to form the ‘carpet’ or spread that is perfect for ground coverage. Expect a spread of up to 12 inches wide by 8 inches in height when left to develop.
The prolific reproductive nature of these off-sets means that lots of new plants can be formed and either used in other displays or gifted.
Echeveria plants are known for their tolerance to drought due to the climate and conditions of their natural growing habitat and this succulent is no exception.
Echeveria Elegans plants prefer dry roots and will not tolerate being kept in damp soil. The key is giving them a thorough watering when needed and then also exposing them to a dry period to allow roots to grow and get the oxygen they need to thrive.
You also want to ensure that you water the potting mix rather than the succulent plant itself as getting the leaves of your Mexican Gem wet can lead to leaf rot. I find the best way to do this is to use a long-spouted watering can as this provides more precision to where you’re pouring water.
During the summer growing season water thoroughly but infrequently and always ensure that the soil is completely dry before watering again. In winter, when Echeveria Elegans is dormant, water less frequently.
To test the dryness of the soil press your finger at least a quarter of an inch into the potting mix or prod around the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. If the potting mix feels dry, it’s time to water your plant.
If you are still unsure about the moisture levels in your potting mix then you could always invest in a soil moisture test kit. They come in handy for testing the moisture levels in all types of potting medium both indoors and outdoors.
It’s easy to spot when you have either over watered or under watered your succulent. Indicators of over-watering include soggy, mushy, and brown-colored leaves.
The leaves of under-watered succulents will look deflated and may also turn brown or drop off. You may also start to notice little or no growth at all.
Don’t be tempted to use a spray bottle or mister to water succulents. Firstly, the roots of the succulent will not get the required amount of water they need to hydrate. Secondly, any water that settles and remains on the leaves can lead to leaf rot, disease, or potentially encourage pests.
Your Echeveria Elegans will thank you for being planted in shallow, sandy and well-draining soil just like that found in its native Mexico.
Echeveria will not tolerate damp or soggy soil so always use soil for succulents and cactus that contains plenty of grit or sand or is rocky to ensure good drainage. This will ensure the roots are free from excess moisture and will also help you better monitor the watering needs of your plant.
The flowers of Echeveria Elegans succulents appear in late spring and early summer. They are pretty, little sunshine yellow blooms that appear on the end of pink stems. They are a real treat to behold thanks to the contrast against the silvery ice-blue leaves.
How To Fertilize Echeveria Elegans
To encourage a good, strong root system and healthy growth use a ready-mixed succulent or cactus fertilizer that has been diluted to 25%. Fertilize just once during the summertime growing season.
My top choice is the Miracle-Gro Succulent Plant Food because it gets to work instantly and it’s dispensed in a no-mess pump action bottle. This means there’s less chance of getting fertilizer on the leaves.
Pruning is only necessary for aesthetic reasons to tidy your Echeveria Elegans plant up from time to time if it becomes a little leggy or to prune back damaged, yellow or dead leave.
Always use a sharp and sterile scissors or a knife when pruning.
Echeveria Elegans are not particularly fussy and can tolerate being rootbound for a time. They are also used to nutrient-less soil and so don’t need fresh potting medium all that often. Indeed, you may only need to repot it every 3-4 years.
When you do need to re-pot your Echeveria Elegans choose a new succulent pot or container that is only slightly bigger than the previous pot and one that has sufficient drainage holes.
Always use fresh well-draining succulent or cacti soil and once planted, water generously until water runs through the drainage holes. Then allow water to drain off completely before placing it on a drainage tray or back in its decorative container.
How to Propagate Echeveria Elegans
Echeveria Elegans can be propagated from cuttings, leaves, and offsets. Even a rosette or leaf that has dropped off has the potential to take root and produce a new plant quickly given the right environment.
See below for a step-by-step guide on how to propagate from Echeveria Elegans.
To take a cutting from Echeveria Elegans use a sharp, sterile knife or pair of scissors to remove a leaf from the main plant. Make sure the cut is as clean as possible and as close to the main plant as you can.
Place some kitchen paper in a container or tray and put the cutting on top. There’s no need to place the cutting in soil at this point.
Keep the cutting dry for the next few days or so to allow it to form a protective barrier or to ‘callous off’.
Once the callous has developed you can lay the cutting on top of a thin layer of succulent or cactus soil and wait for the roots to start to grow. This will take a few weeks. Water the soil only when it has completely dried out.
When roots appear, plant in a pot or container using succulent or cactus soil. It’s best to mound the soil up around the newly rooted cutting so that it sits slightly proud of the pot. Press down to secure and cover with a layer of grit. Do not water until the following day.
After watering press the soil down around the cutting once more. Position in in a bright spot and move into shade to avoid full sun.
Always select a healthy leaf and take care to remove the entire leaf from the stem. Hold the leaf between thumb and forefinger as near to the stem as possible. Give it a gentle but confident twist to ensure the leaf remains intact. Damaged leaves are less likely to be successful in propagation.
Place the leaf on kitchen paper and allow it to callous off for a couple of days. Once dry, lay the leaf on well-draining succulent or cactus soil. Water only when the soil is completely dry. Roots are likely to take several weeks to develop.
Propagate offsets by removing as near to the base of the stem as possible with a sharp, sterile knife. Allow the cut to callous off for a day or so.
Place the offset into a small pot with drainage holes and fill it with well-draining soil. Place the stem of the offset into the soil and place it in a bright spot, ideally on a window sill. Water only when the soil is completely dry. Roots can take several weeks to develop.
Common problems with Echeveria Elegans
Echeveria Elegans are pretty much trouble free providing they are not exposed to too much water. If excessive water remains in the potting medium, it will likely result in your succulent getting root rot. Similarly, if leaves are left damp for long periods, it can often lead to an infestation of pests.
The quick answer here is to use a well-draining potting mix and hold off on watering. But for a more in-depth answer, have a read of what you can do to prevent and treat these problems.
The main threat to the health of your Echeveria Elegans is root rot. This will occur if the soil remains wet rather than allowing it to dry completely between watering. Unless you check your plant regularly one of the first signs of root rot is brown, yellow, or squishy lower leaves.
To check whether the actual roots are rotten, remove your plant from the pot and carefully brush off any remaining soil. Roots that are brown or black and soft and mushy are rotten and need trimming off.
Allow the cut roots to dry before repotting with fresh soil in a clean pot. Resume watering your plant, but much less frequently, and always ensure the soil is completely dry before watering.
These little critters can often be found in the crevices of succulents between where the leaves and stems meet. Mealybugs produce a distinctive cotton-like mass on the plant’s surface. They feed on the plant’s sap by piecing their straw-like mouth into the foliage.
Use household insect spray, neem oil, detergent or soapy water to wash them away. I recommend only treating your succulent in this way once per week but you’ll need to keep treating it until all signs of the infestation have subsided.
Once you have finished cleaning away any pests, be sure to dry the leaves thoroughly. I like to use kitchen paper to blot off excess water and then lay my Echeveria Elegans plant on its side to make sure all traces of water are drained away.
Aphids are a pest that breed at a phenomenal rate, feeding on the plant’s sap. They are most commonly green, white, or black. They tend to breed in massive numbers around new growth. Treat with a detergent or any household horticultural bug spray as described above for Mealybugs.