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What's Blooming in March? Succulent flowers of the Southwestern U.S.

By Geoff Stein (palmbobApril 2, 2012
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March is another great month for succulents flowers (most winter and spring months are), though this one is more evenly spread out among the various succulent and related families. This article is an introductory guide to what one might expect to be blooming this time of year.

Gardening picture

March is still somewhat dominated by aloe flowers, but for pure mass of color, the Mesembs have taken over.  Some of these ice-plant relatives blanket the gardens and landscapes of southern California and other Mediterranean climates this month and next with overpowering displays of color.  Additionally, this is the first month the cacti really show off in numbers, though Mammillarias have been showing flowers off and on ever since January.   As usual, Agaves and Aeoniums are flowering in large numbers, but now Echeverias are adding into the mix.  Not to be left out are the Puyas, terrestrial bromeliads that are often planted alongside cacti and succulents thanks to their drought tolerance and similar habitat preference. 

Bowiea volubilis flower 

One can search around carefully for small, delicate flowering wonders like this 0.5cm Bowiea volubilis (Climbing Onion) flower 

 Huntington flowering scene

or look over the landscape at this typical March scene at the Huntington Gardens showing the last great aloe flowering masses alongside the first spectacular Mesembrynaceae bloomers (in lavendar pink) 

Aloes:

 Aloe africana 

Aloe africana flowers  Aloe africana flowersclose

Aloe africana is one of the most prolific of all the tree aloes this month, cranking out many flower stalks per plant sometimes.  This aloe can be identified by its typical upward swoop of the opening flowers 

Aloe California  Aloe claviflora Aloe conifera

Aloe 'Blue Elf' is a common sight blooming throughout southern California in March (left);  Aloe claviflora (middle) is a much less common sight;  Aloe conifera (right) is represented in some of hte botanical gardens 

 Aloe debrana  Aloe debrana closer

Aloe debrana is fairly well represented at several botanical gardens, as well as private gardens, in southern California and this species is a wonderful landscape aloe when planted in groups.  Some gardens may have it identified as Aloe behrana (old name). 

 Aloe debrana close up Aloe petricola

Aloe debrana flowers close up (left);  right is the end of Aloe petricola flowering time... this is really a February flowerer, but one can usually catch glimpses of it in March as well (right) .  It is a welcome change from the predominance of red flowers one seems to encounter in aloes in March (this is red flower month to me)

 Aloe camperi Cornuta Aloe spicata

This curious plant, Aloe camperi 'Cornuta' is another fairly common bloomer seen in southern California botanical gardens in March (left), but what it's relationship to Aloe camperi is unclear, as it is a very different looking plant (huge in comparison), had different colored flowers, and blooms at a different time of year... are they really related?  Makes great mass plantings, too, though.  Left is Aloe spicata (which could just as well be Aloe vryheidensis for all I can tell), another later-in-the-season bloomer. 

Aloe globulogemma 

A globulogemmacloser

Aloe globulogemma is one of my favorites as it has a unique inflorescence.  It starts in February and ends in mid March almost like clockwork (both above shots) 

 Aloe striata  a striata

Aloe striata is one of the most commonly planted landscape aloes in public areas, and for good reason.  It is an extremely reliable and easy March bloomer 

 Aloe aristata  A broomii Aloe umfoloziensis

Aloe aristata is a plant that blooms sometimes several times in the year, and March is one of them (left);  Aloe broomii is often seen in bloom this month, when it flowers at all (center); and Aloe umfoloziensis is a major bloomer in my yard this month, sometimes the only remaining aloe in bloom by the end of March (right) 

 Aloe excelsa  Aloe excelsa mine

Aloe excelsa is still in bloom in March, but only about half way through (left is less common orange flowering form, right is plant in my yard) 

Aloe capitata  Aloe chabaudii Aloe hildebrantii

Aloe capitata is usually finishing up in March (left) as is Aloe chabaudii (middle photo), while Aloe hildebrandtii (right) is usually in bloom every month of the year 

 Aloe dorotheae Aloe cremnophila Aloe hereoensis

Aloe dorotheae (left) is often in bloom this month, but many other months as well;  Aloe cremnophila is a March bloomer only (center), and Aloe hereoensis blooms over several months, this usually being the last (right) 

Aloe glauca  Aloe glauca more

Aloe glauca does most of its flowering activity in March.  left photo shows both forms of Aloe glauca, which is eihter a small suckering form (also seen in right photo) or a large, solitary plant in the foreground of the left shot 

aloe humilsi  Aloe humilis aloe humilis mine

Aloe humilis is another dependable March bloomer and not an uncommon plant to find in both arboretums as well as private collections 

Aloe castanea  Aloe lineata Aloe littoralis

Aloes vryheidensis and castanea (left), Aloe lineata (center) and Aloe littoralis were seen blooming in my front yard in March 

 Aloe ellenbeckii  Aloe ellenbeckii flowers

Aloe ellenbeckii is a smaller species, but has nice bright two-toned flowers in March 

 Aloe Goldilocks Aloe percrassa Aloe divaricata

These three aloes were seen this March blooming at the Huntington Gardens in southern California:  Aloe 'Goldilocks' (left); Aloe percrassa (center) and the nice Madagascan species, Aloe divaricata (right) 

Aloe harlana   Aloe harlana flower

Aloe harlana is one of my favorite species and flowers very nicely every March 

Aloe ortholopha

though it does nof flower for me every year, when it does, Aloe ortholopha makes these nice laterally oriented orange to red flwoers in March 

 Aloe vera Aloe aculeata Aloe pratensis

Aloe vera blooms in March, but many other months as well (left); Aloe aculeata blooms in March in my yard (center) but usually a bit earlier elsewhere for some reason; and Aloe pratensis (right) is a nice aloe to have 'end the flowering season' with  

 Aloe rupestris Aloe rupestris flowers

Aloe rupestris is one of the last tree aloes to flower in the season, and they can be really showy 

Aloe sabaea  Aloe sabaea closer  Aloe sabaea closest

Aloe sabaea from Yemen is another late season tree aloe bloomer and one of the odder looking species 

 Aloe plicatilis  Aloe plicatilis flowers

this unique tree aloe, Aloe plicatilis, is another late season tree aloe bloomer 

 Aloe pubescens Aloe trichosantha flower Aloe trichosantha in bloom

in the pink fuzzy flower department, Aloes pubescens (left) and trichosantha (center and right) produce these similar looking fuzz-covered flowers in March (though Aloe trichosantha blooms duringa few other months as well) 

Aloe virens   Aloe virens mass

Aloe 'virens' is another late season bloomer and makes a fantastic red spash in the landscape this month when planted in large numbers 

Euphorbias 

 Euphorbia milii

Euphorbia milii varieties seem to be endless, and many of them are blooming nicely starting in March, adding nice pinpoints of color to any succulent garden 

Euphorbia milli yellow Euphorbia milli hybrid Euph giant E milii white

Above are some of the variations I spied this month around southern California of Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii

 E atropurpurea e esculenta

other Euphorbia species are in flower (or in 'cythia') as well, including Euphorbia atropurpurea (left) and Euphorbia esculenta (right) 

 snowflake polygona E polygona cyathia

Euphorbia polygona typically flowers this month ('Snowflake' version left, normal green version right) 

 E lambii

Euphorbia lambii 'trees' make spectacular masses of lime green when in flower in March (above and below) 

 E lambii tree  E lambii close

 E grandialata E pseudocactus

many species of columnar Euphorbia are in their finest yellow bloom this month.  Euphorbia grandialata (left) and Euphorbia pseudocactus (right) 

 Euphorbia xanti E antisyphylitica

Euphorbia xanti makes a large, shrubby bush, but when in flower (left) can be quite showy;  right shows some small, but interesting Euphorbia antisyphylitica cyathia 

E tasmanian   E tasmanian tiger

one of my favorite ornamental Euphorbias in my yard is Euphorbia characias 'Tasmanian Tiger' and it always blooms in March 

Crassulaceae

Aeonium bloom Aeonium Garnet

Aenoniums tend to bloom over much of the year, but March seems to be a particularly active month for these winter growers (above and below)

 Aeonium Zwartkop  Aeonium closer

E elegans

March is the best month to see Echeveria elegans planted in large masses in the ground (or pots) as it is cranking out nice, colorful flowers this month 

 Echeveria pallida Echeveria pallida flowre Echeveria elegans flower

Echeveria pallidas are in bloom this month (left);  Echeveria pallida flower (center) compared to Echeveria elegans flower (right) 

Dudleya brittonii  Kalanchoe in bloom

Dudleya brittonii seems to bloom over many months, but March has to be the primary month (left);  large planting of Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi all in bloom at the same time, mid March (right)

Kalanchoe bracteata Kalanchoe mortagei Kalanchoe wulpendorfii

Kalanchoe bracteata, a species becoming rapidly popular, is a very timely March bloomer (left);  Kalanchoe mortagei has spectacular flowers that start in February, but don't actually open up for the bees and hummingbirds until March (center), and the colorful Kalanchoe walheimii only flowers in March that I can tell (right)

 Crassula multicava  Pachyphytum hybrid

Crassula multicava is a nice ground cover species, and has lots of delicate white flowers in March (left);  this remarkable hybrid between a Graptopetalum and Pachyphytum makes a fascinating group planting, particularly when they are all flowering in March  (right) 

 Crassula pubescens ssp radicans Crassula Morgans Beauty

Crassula pubescens ssp. radicans is a nice groundcover or potted plant in March (left); and Crassula 'Morgan's Beauty' sometimes flowers for me in March (right) 

 Sedum pachyphyllum Sedum praeltum

Sedum pachyphyllum (left and below) and Sedum praeltum (right) and two more members of the family Crassulaceae that bloom in March 

 Sedum pachyphyllummass

Cacti

Astrophytum ornatum Borzicactus 1 Borzicactus 2

The very common Astrophytum ornatum is a reliable March bloomer (left);  Matucanas aureflora (center) and formosa (right) also tend to bloom this month 

 Cleistocactus samaipatanus  Cleisto flowers Cleisto in Hunt

Cleistocactus samaipatanus is a prolific flowerer in March (left and center);  other species of Cleistocacti also tend to flower this month (right) 

 Cleistocactus ferrarei Cleistocactus strausii Cleisto winteri

In my garden, Cleistocacti are also blooming this month:  left is one of my favorite of all cacti, Cleistocactus ferrarei;  middle is the ever blooming Cleistocactus strausii and Cleistocactus winteri on right

Echinocereus 1  Stenocactus  Eriosyce

Some other cacti with great pink color in March: an Echinocactus sp. (left), Stenocactus sp. (center) and Eriosyce sp. (right) 

 Ferocactus g. n Rebutia hoffmanii Rhipsalis grandiflora

Ferocactus glaucescens var. nudum always flowers for me this month (left);  Rebutia hoffmanii in March (center) and my Rhipsalis grandiflora also gets covered with tiny white flowers in March (right) 

 Ferocacti glaucescens spiny

Ferocactus glausescens, the spiny normal form can sometimes bloom this early, too, as is the colony on the right here in the Huntington Gardens, California 

 Aporophyllum mine aporophyllum cascade flower

Aporophyllum 'Cascade' is a hanging cactus that blooms for much of late winter and early spring in my yard, but March is by far the most prolific month 

 Mammillaria pink Mammillaria red pink Mamm compressa 2

Mammillarias wagneriana (left), melanocentra (center) and compressa (right) are all March bloomers in southern California 

 Mammillaria geminispina mamm mystax

Mammillaria geminispina (left) and Mammillaria mystax are two more that flower this month (many more than these do, too) 

 Pilosocereus pachycladus flowers pilosocereus lanuginosa flower Pilosocereus ulei

Pilosocereus pachycladus (left), lanuginosa (center) and ulei (right) bloom in March 

 Thelocactus conothelos Thelocactus rinconensis

Thelocactus conothelos (left) and Thelocactus rinconensis (right) can be seen in flower in March, too 

Mesembs

 Cephalophylllum Red Spike

Cephalophyllum 'Red Spike' is just one of dozens of brilliantly flowering 'ice plants' in March 

 Cephalophyllum frutescens Cephalophyllum sp.

Cephalophyllum frutescens (left) and this unnamed species of Cephalophyllum (right) were seen this month blooming in the Huntington Gardens 

 Erepsia hetero Glottyphyllum

Erepsia heteropetala (left) flowering in March and Glottyphyllum oligocarupum  in flower the same time (right) 

 Lampranthus amoensis

Lampranthus amoensis makes a wonderul bright purple carpet in march 

 Lampranthus arauntiacus Lampranthus saturatus

Lampranthus arauntiacus (left) and Lampranthus saturatus (right) also produce colorful carpets of flowers in March 

 Lampranthus arauntiacus Orange

Lampranthus arauntiacus 'Orange' is another March flowerer 

 Lampranthus glaucus Lampranth pink

Lampranthus glaucus (left) and this un-named Lampranthus sp. (right) were also spied at the Huntington this month 

 Malephora crocea

Malephora crocea is another early spring Mesemb bloomer 

 Ruschia pulchella Ruschia dchroa

Ruschia pulchella (left) and dichroa (right) also flower this time of year 

 malephora white mesemb 1 mesemb 2

Malephora 'White' (left) and these other two unlabeled Mesembs were seen in flower in southern California this month 

 mesemb 3 mesemb 4

two more March sightings in the Huntington in March 

Other Succulent Plants

 agave Boitin Blue agave attenuta

Two forms of Agave attenuata (the Foxtail Agave) seen above -  variety 'Boitin Blue' on the right has upright flowers while the 'normal' form (left) has the classic arching flowers 

 Agave capensis Agave parryi like Agave salmaniana

Agave capensis flowers often, but mostly in March (left);  this Agave parryi-like plant is starting to shoot up a flower this month (center), and Agave salmaniana is also shooting up a huge flower spike (right) 

 Bescheronia Agaave parryi

Beschornearia yuccuoides is a close Agave relative that makes a colorful, red and green flower in March (left);  Agave parryi truncata making a huge flower spike this month (right) 

 Veltheimia flower Veltheimia flower mine Veltheimia in garden

Veltheimia capensis is a succulent bulb that makes wonderful flowers this month 

 bulbine alooides Bulbine latifolia 

Bulbine alooides (left) and Bulbine latifolia (right) are Aloe relatives that flower in March 

 Gasteria gloermatat Gasteria glomerata flowers

Gasteria glomerata (another Aloe relative) always seems to pick March to show off its deep orange-pink flowers 

Haworthia flowering  Haworthia flower

Perhaps far from spectacular, Haworhias can often be seen blooming throughout the year, but activity is particularly high in some species in March 

 Jatropha podagrica  Jatropha malaphensis

Jatropha podagrica (left) and malaphensis (right), though not exclusively limited to March, do seem particularly apt to make flowers this month 

Non-Succulents 

 Puya betreoana Puya berteroniana flowers Puya b flower

Puya berteroniana, though not a succulent, is a terrestrial xeric bromeliad that is often grown among succulents and has some of the most spectacular flowers of all the winter and spring bloomers 

Erythrina acanthocarpa Also not really a succulent, this Erythrina acanthocarpa has a succulent root, and some of the most amazing flowers around this month.  This shrubby tree is sometimes planted in cactus gardens as its needs are very similar to those of many cacti and succulents


  About Geoff Stein  
Geoff SteinVeterinarian and Exotic Plant Lover... and obsessive, compulsive collector of all oddball tropical and desert plants.

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Discussion about this article:
SubjectTopic StarterRepliesViewsLast Post
nice sharing IRFAN_LODHI 0 8 Apr 10, 2012 12:24 AM
Psychedelic! huckleberry6 0 10 Apr 5, 2012 8:51 PM
Wow! KanapahaLEW 2 20 Apr 2, 2012 3:07 PM
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