Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Let's talk echeveria 'Compton Carousel'

One of those stop in your tracks plants, if you have seen one chances are it is on your wish list.

My second plant in May 2013, the first suddenly decided to die.
That is where the fun starts as it is not always easy to come by. In the UK it is fairly simple you can simply go to Southfield Catus (home of cactusland). I always tell people, look there first and find out the price, as if you buy it off ebay you'll pay 2 to 3 times as much. I understand in the USA it is a lot harder to find, although there will be somewhere with a constant supply at more reasonable price.

Right so you have searched and found your plant, you get it home and settle back to enjoy your prize only for it to suddenly up and die.  You are devastated; apart from the money, you're back to trying to track one down again. You treated it the same as your other plants, it is an echeveria after all so shouldn't be that fussy. So what went wrong?

This years flowers, the best to date.
I am always getting asked about how I treat them, so it's time for a post on what I have found works for me.

Firstly and this is important. What works for me may not work for you. The most common mistake with this plant is to think as an echeveria it is simple and will cope with the usual succulent stuff. I find them to be sensitive to light, heat and water.

Light. Mine are grown in the the greenhouse in the UK, this means they do not get direct sunlight.  I have not tried one outside but in full sun I would expect them to burn.  The leaves are not strong at all and do not need an excuse to curl up and die. The same goes for low light, they are prone to get leggy.

Heat. They do not seem to cope with extreme heat and even in the UK on hot days in the green house they can go from nice plant to mess.  It goes without saying that they do not cope with cold, I did leave one in the green house over this winter which went down to -3C. But that was totally dry from November - March.

Water. Where most people go wrong as they are really prone to rot and drying out.  This is especially true as they settle into a new home or when taking offsets.  I tend to give them half the amount of water other plants get, whenever I move them.  Initially you want the soil to be damp not wet and never get water in the crown. If it is hot, keep a eye on the water as they will need to be watered, as hot and too dry will cause you problems as well. Once settled and growing you can go back to a more normal water regime, but still avoid water in the crown.

Linked to all of this is the soil mix. It must be free draining as you do not want plants sitting in any water. It also needs to have some food; they are weak plants and need all the help they can get.  I use blood, fish and bone in the mix and feed them one a month from May - July.

It is vital to work out what is required for your location, it will vary, but watch your plants and they will tell you what is working. Once you work that out, they are easy:

My collection of plants May 2016, all from that one original plant
So you have the basics and your plant is alive. At this point it will start to behave like any other echeveria and will want to offset.  Again there are a few tricks.

Firstly they throw out quite a few white pups.  As amazing as they are, treat them like flowers. Admire while there are around and know they will die.  I have managed to get one through two seasons, most last only one.  Except that and you will enjoy them and save yourself a lot of heartbreak.

There are a few tricks you can use to get offsets. Feed you plants as mentioned before, a strong plant will offset nicely. If things are not happening quick enough, forcing the plant in lower light.  The elongated stem will produce lots of pup.

If you leave the leaves on you will find you get offsets like the one on the left in the photo above.  If you take the leaves off you will get good offsets on the trunk as can be seen as well. Remember this plant is weak, so some transplanted offsets will not root. Do not treat them like you do for other offsets.  A lot less water to start with, then intensive care monitoring the watering building it up little by little over a month.

To be honest I tend to do the reverse of my normal and propagate by top cutting, that way you get lots of plants in the original pot and as can be seen form the photos. The stems on the main plant form roots and stand more chance to re-root, this seems far more successful than trying to remove pups.

Top cutting a plant once it has roots visible, will give a nice new plant. Remember take the watering slow to start with and keep it in the shade.  The plants that remain in the original pot will grow quickly to fill the space and give you a pot full of plants by the end of that season. These will eventually get leggy, offset, and send out their own roots and the process can start again.

Flower stalk with variegated laves as well.
As you can see once you have your routine down, plants will not be a problem. Quite the reverse and you will have the alternate problem: keep or sell.  So far I have not sold a single plant, a lot have been given away to friends. for me this is a plant grown for the pleasure, not money. My OH on the other hand likes to work out what she could buy with the proceeds from a single pot (there are 15 plants in the photo above).

I would like to say I never loose plants, but of course I do. Especially when trying to root offsets. Accept it and keep note of what works and what doesn't.  People who have followed for a while, know I like my experiments and recording my results.  For this plant I physically write down when I water and feed offsets and the outcome.

Finally settle back and enjoy them and the looks of envy you get from any other succulent lovers who see your plants still alive. Just don't tell anyone your secrets!

I hope this helps, please feel free to leave comments, either without or without your name. Let me know if I have missed anything and what works for you.


  1. I have this exact plant on my patio.. and I do exactly what you do... I have found that if I ignore this plant, it does well... I've taken cuttings and stuck them on my slope which is heavily shaded and during the summer it gives off a humid effect.. I did make the mistake of overwatering and noticed the leaves underneath fall off or they give a leggy look... Less is more as far as care.

    1. Interesting that yours are OK outside in full shade. Hope they do well for you.

    2. Where I live, its hot and dry... sometimes its humid, winters-- can be super cold or warm... California is where I live, no distinct season... We had a warm winter, so most plants have flowered.. our humidity is more prevalent this year....plants grow better in the shade since the sun can be a scorcher..

  2. It's a beauty ! I will have to start saving . I actually have an Echevera , rather neglected in a pot outside all winter , no idea which variety / name it is. ...but the pot is lying on it's side , which protects it from too much rain , plus we are in Cornwall where the weather is milder .I,d be a lot more careful with your lovely E.Compton carousel .I love their sweet bell flowers too .

    1. Thank you. My first flowers on this one, and the variegated stalks are a big plus as the flowers themselves are small and uninteresting.

  3. Well you obviously are doing a great job with them. They look wonderful. That and Aloe polyphylla! I am envious.

    I saw them for sale here a few weeks ago, for the first time ever, and didn't buy--they are too sensitive for my lazy ways.

    1. They would really struggle in your heat I would guess.

  4. Thanks a million for this very informative post. I've bookmarked it in case I *ever* find one here in California. They're still the holy grail for many collectors. In spite of their reputation for being challenging, I'd try my hand at one :-).

    1. Pleased to be of help. A good succulent for shade for you.

  5. I've been able to purchase three these last couple of months and would like to know your opinion on what your soil consists of? I'm using Miracle Grow Cactus/Succulent Mix and some perlite mixed in. My oldest Compton, I just noticed today has three leaves fall off and not bottom leaves. One had black on the end, but the others two didn't. I don't see any black on the stem of the plant. And the rest of the leaves are firm. I'm wondering if I should hold off on watering until Spring now. I'm in the U.S. Any suggestions on how I can keep from losing this plant would be greatly appreciated!

    1. They are really worrying to look after for the first year. I plant mine in my usual cactus soil, just afree draining soil. The trick is to ensure you let them dry out totally between watering. If you are noticing leaves fall off I would maybe be tempted to unpot it and see how wet the soil is and also check the roots.

    2. Thanks for your advice. Unfortunately, I lost all three. And the pots were bone dry! All three had black in the middle of the stems and some of the tips of the leaves had a touch of black on them. Not sure how it could have rotted since I didn't give them hardly any water! Oh well. I just decided these are not for me, I guess! Thanks again.