How to make an Aeonium arboreum branch

Last year I ordered a small Aeonium arboreum ‘Zwartkop’ from an independent nursery off of eBay. In the summer it has a lovely single black rosette but that was it. I’d really like my Aeonium to branch.

To do this, the correct advice is that you should lop the top clean off and branches will sprout from the nodes. However, like most people I suspect, that felt very drastic and I’m less keen on plants with visible stumps above branch joints. So, I experimented.

First I tried making a cut directly above a node on the stem using a sharp knife – succulents cut like butter and I almost chopped it in half anyway. Cutting above a node on some plants can encourage the node beneath it into growth (I believe this practice is done on apple trees sometimes?) Alas, not this time on the Aeonium, nothing happened.  I’ll probably try again one day.

Last weekend though I was feeling fidgety and decided to carve out the growing point – again with a sharp knife – while keeping the majority of the rosette of leaves. I felt confident this would work because it’s effectively the same as cutting the top off. The risk, I thought, was that it may just sprout a single growing point.

To my absolute surprise and delight however, the Aeonium has, in just over a week already sprouted four new growing points at the tip. Succulents are generally slow growing but when they want to move fast, they move very fast.

You can see the new shoots already developing within the leaves of my Aeonium arboreum ‘Zwartkop’. There are four so far.

I did this now (early winter) because I felt that it would give the plant a head start of new growing points before the coming spring.

An additional benefit I suspect is that because the cut to remove the main growing tip was tiny, the plant wont have an unnatural looking stump, instead some more natural looking branching – I’ll update this page in future when I know for sure.

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Jack Wallington

I'm an RHS qualified garden designer living in Clapham, London who loves growing plants and designing with them. Follow me on Twitter.

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