Are Echeverias Actually Desert Plants? Not Really.

When you think of a desert, what do you imagine? I know what I imagine. Intense heat, lots of sand, tumbleweeds, towering saguaros. And if you listen to marketing from big box stores somewhere in that image, you'll imagine Echeveria.

Take a quick glance at the infographic labeled "Diversidad De Echeveria's En Mexico". It'll show you just that, the diversity of echeverias found in Mexico.  You'll find 154 species of Echeveria originate in Mexico, many from or found around the Oaxaca area. Oaxaca is a subtropical climate with mild weather and high elevations. Echeveria's native climate has low humidity, and rarely receives extreme temperatures.
Infographic showing echeverias from their respective habitats. Created by Jerónimo Reyes Santiago, María de Los Ángeles Islas Luna, Julia Etter, and Martín Kristen.

Most Echeverias are NOT found in blazing hot deserts but rather arid, cool, high altitude out-croppings. The image below shows just that. An Echeveria 'Secunda' var. glauca found 12,894 feet above sea level in what looks like some pretty frigid conditions. Clearly, this beauty doesn't mind at all. Just look at that coloration.

Echeveria 'Secunda' var. glauca . Photo by Panuncio Jerónimo Reyes Santiago.

 Go to your local home improvement store, and I guarantee you'll find the cactus and succulents together. The misconception that succulents are strictly desert plants most likely comes from this group marketing at big box stores. This is not to say that these plants cannot grow and thrive together, but most Echeveria won't be found in your typical desert environment but rather a semi-arid setting.

The misconception that echeveria comes from extreme temperature deserts leads many gardeners to damage or even kill their plants. Assuming they're desert plants, many allow their echeveria to experience full sun and extreme heat—opposite of echeverias native conditions. Many echeverias will burn in full sun and will especially do so once temperatures exceed eighty degrees Celcius.

Nature often times provides echeverias with a natural shade clothe. Species photographed in the wild were often shielded from the full sun, whether from the shadows of boulders, rock formations, or even larger plants and foliage. The image below shows nature's shade clothe in action. 

E. Chiclensis var Backebergii growing underneath dense woody vegetation. Photo by Guillermo Pino.

The misconception that echeveria comes from extreme temperature deserts also leads many gardeners to chronically underwater their plants. Echeverias native regions receive a decent amount of rain and humid fog. The Oaxaca region, where many varieties can be found, receives an annual 26 inches of rain. To put that into perspective, Seattle receives about 37 inches annually. Course, rocky, fast-draining soil prevents overwatering and rot. Below you'll find an echeveria growing in situ among very green leafy foliage. 

Echeveria deltoidea growing with lush green foliage. Photo by Guillermo Pino and Vilcapoma Segovia.

When we replicate the conditions of our echeverias native environment is when we'll receive the best results. Don't be afraid to expose your echeverias to cold, chilly weather. For many, that's what they're used to. Go easy on how much sun you expose them too many are not made for the blazing hot intense sun, while others may be more tolerant. Lastly, don't be afraid to water your echeverias. Succulents should be watered often as long as they're in fast-draining soil with plenty of airflow. 

Thanks for reading!


  • Pino, Guillermo, and Graciela Vilcapoma Segovia. “The Echeverias of the Chillón River Valley, Lima, Perú, Including Three New Taxa.” Cactus and Succulent Journal, Cactus and Succulent Society of America, 1 Sept. 2018,
  • Santiago, Jerónimo Reyes, et al. “Diversidad De Echeveria's En Mexico.” Gobierno De Mexico, 5 May 2015,
  • Santiago, Panuncio, et al. “Echeveria Manual Del Perfil Diagnóstico Del Género Echeveria En México.” Unknown,


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