All You Need to Know About The Black Rose Succulent

Under shadowy moonlight, this plant can be described as a Dark Knight in the backyard as it adds incredible drama with its striking appearance. It boasts carefully layered, dark stubby rosettes sprouting at the tips of bare branches like Gothic pinwheels. When grown in the right conditions, it can add some fairy tale magic to your house or garden as it transforms into the enchanted tree of beautiful burgundy roses.

Meet the Aeonium Arboreum Zwartkop, otherwise known as the Black Rose succulent.

The Black Rose is a rather large, airy shrub that looks artificially perfect in a stand-alone whimsical planter, and at the same time, commands attention when grouped in masses. With fairly basic needs and a few grooming tips, the Black Rose succulent can easily be the point of conversation wherever it resides. 

The story behind the Black Rose succulent

The genus name of this succulent (Aeonium) comes from the ancient Greek word “aionos” which means ageless, referring to the youthful properties of the Dark Rose succulent. This evergreen falls under the subtropical plants of the family Crassulaceae and is a popular horticultural succulent.

The native habitat of the Black Rose succulent has been the Canary Islands, concentrating in Tenerife, El Hierro, Gran Canaria, La Palma and La Gomera. The succulent has been prevalent in North Africa, including Madeira, the western coast of Morocco, across the Semien Mountains of Ethiopia down to East Africa. Black Rose was introduced to the Greco-Roman world along the Mediterranean Sea between the 8th century BC and 6th century AD. The succulent has in the recent past been cultivated in California and the Iberian Peninsula on the South Western parts of Europe.

Zwartkop’ is the Dutch name it was registered under in the Abbey Gardens catalogs from the early 1980s. It also goes by the German name ‘Schwarzkopf‘, both of which can be translated into ‘Black Head’. There has been a debate on whether the plant originated in Holland or Germany, but it is agreed that its seedling was raised in Europe and imported to the US by UC Berkeley Botanic Garden.

The unusual appearance of large, dark, fleshy leaves and stalk-like stems have bestowed the Black Rose succulent the descriptive names of Aeoneum arboreum, Aeoneum ‘Black Rose’, Black Tree Aeoneum, Tree House Leek, Irish Rose, Purple Crest Aeoneum, and Aeoneum Black Top.

This cultivar was the recipient of the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit in 1993.

The Black Rose stands out in a crowd

Aeonium Black Rose is truly captivating, growing up to 3 feet (90 cm) tall with smooth arching stems and chunky rosettes of dark burgundy leaves. The succulent forms clumps of bare, gray-brown, meticulously positioned stems that start branching from the base of the plant.

Large, terminal rosettes with thick, waxy pointed leaves develop from the tips of the stems and can spread to between 6 and 8 inches (15.24 and 20.32 cm) in diameter. These succulents love to change color, appreciating the sunshine with leaves turning a dark almost black hue in the sun and in the cold, branding a reddish-purple tint with a green center.

Black Rose succulent owners get a special treat all summer long. Pyramid-shaped, bright yellow flowers bloom in long, conical clusters from the center of the rosettes of mature plants, creating a hyper-contrast against the dark leaves.

Aeoniums are monocarpic plants, meaning the rosette will only flower once and die thereafter. However, flowering does not happen every year and not all the rosettes will blossom at the same time, so you are assured of long-lasting plant life.

Caring for the Black Rose

Whereas most succulents are usually undemanding, the Black Rose Zwartkop requires some attention. This plant is particular about its soil requirements and water cravings, making it a unique succulent.

Let there be light all around the Black Rose succulent

The Black Rose is an avid sun worshiper, preferring to stay for a minimum of 6 hours under partial shade to full sun. Even so, it should be gradually introduced to intense sun exposure for the plant to acclimate without getting a sunburn on the leaves. Mature plants can handle the full sun experience better than younger, less established plants.

This aeonium succulent does not mind being indoors, as long as it is perched by the brightest window in the house. If possible, it would appreciate being outdoors for a few hours during the warmer months. If the plant cannot be moved, you may consider investing in a grow light.

This shrubby succulent relishes USDA hardiness zones 9-12 and can withstand temperatures up to 100°F (38°C). Aeonium Black Rose can tolerate mild frost but not freezing temperatures.

The Black Rose has specific earthy desires

Unlike most succulents, the Aeonium Black Rose will not cope well with a potting mix specifically for cacti and succulents. They need well-draining soil that is slightly or moderately acidic or neutral, favoring a light composition and pH range of about 5.6 to 7.3. These plants prefer dry to medium soil moisture but despise soggy soil. This succulent will be comfortable growing in a blend of cactus potting mix and perlite with a bit of peat moss to improve the soil’s porosity.

Offer refreshments as needed

Although the Black Rose succulent has low water needs, it is still a little thirstier than most succulents. The water wishes depend on the climate and humidity of the area they are growing in. Plants in areas with dry climates would need frequent watering. Black Rose succulents growing in areas with high humidity levels can cut back on the water demands.

In the summer, the Aeonium Black Rose can have a drink every seven days and this can be stretched to every twelve days when the weather cools down. When planted outside, it can rely mainly on rainwater to survive the winter.

These plants should never sit for long periods in wet soil. They do well with the ‘soak and dry’ method of serving drinks and should only receive a thirst quencher after the topsoil is visibly dry.

Propagating the Black Rose succulent

The easiest way to reproduce the Black Rose succulent is through stem cuttings. You can make exact duplicates of the mother plant because the clipping has the same characteristics as the mother plant. You can easily propagate the Black Rose by cutting a stem, allow it to dry, dip it in rooting hormone, let the stem seal or callous, and finally sticking them in well-draining potting soil. This method also works with the rosettes.

Threats to the Black Rose succulent

The biggest menace that every Black Rose succulent owner should be wary of is overwatering. These succulents have a small and shallow root system and are susceptible to drowning.

While generally pest-free, aphids and mealybugs love to munch on the stems and leaves of aeoniums. If you spot a line of ants going around your plant, or a white, cotton-like substance on the leaves, that is a sure sign that your succulent is infested with unwanted visitors. A good splash of insecticidal soap or neem oil will solve your bug problem.

When looking for a succulent that is sure to turn heads, the exceptional Aeonium Black Rose will add an exquisite buzz and charm as a backdrop plant in a rock garden or as a colorful display on a sunny windowsill.

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