Death bloom is just as dramatic as it sounds. Your beautiful plant is finally blooming. However, as the bloom begins to die, so does the plant. What happened?
Is it a cruel joke from the plant gods? Did you do something wrong? When this occurs, it’s known as death bloom.
What is Death Bloom?
Some succulents are the drama queens of the plant world. A plant with a death bloom is similar to a stage actor portraying a dramatic death scene. It even sounds dramatic.
These plants play a bit of a cruel trick on their beloved caretakers. The plant will produce one beautiful bloom, and then die. If you don’t know about death bloom, you may think this is your fault, instead of the plants natural life cycle.
Plants that have a death bloom are known as monocarpic. This term comes from two Greek words. Mono means single, and karpos means fruit or grain.
Plants That Are Monocarpic
The most well-known monocarpic plants are succulents. Families with all plants being monocarpic include Aeonium, Agave, Orostachys and Sempervivum. Other families have some species that produce a death bloom. These include Kalanchoe, Crassula, and Sedum.
It is possible for plants that aren’t typically monocarpic to produce a death bloom. This is a rare occurrence, however. When this happens, it’s due to a gene mutation.
When a plant that isn’t monocarpic produces a death bloom, the plant may be saved by removing the stalk with the bloom.
Common plants that produce a death bloom include:
- Century Plant (Agave americana)
- Small Century Plant (Agave parviflora)
- Queen Victoria Agave (Agave victoriae-reginae)
- Blue Agave (Agave tequilana)
- Paddle Plant (Kalanchoe luciae)
- Hens and Chicks or Common Houseleek (Sempervivum tectorum)
- Bromeliad ‘Orange’ (Aechmea blanchetiana)
- Yucca Plant (Yucca queretaroensis)
- Tree Houseleek (Aeonium hybrids)
Does Death Bloom Mean the Death of the Plant?
This depends on the plant species. Many types of succulents will produce offshoots. In this case, the parent plant dies. However, the offshoots will live. Others will flower and seed, but the plant itself will die.
Why Does Death Bloom Occur?
First, it’s important to know why succulents, or any plant, flowers. They flower as a method of reproduction. Flowers attract pollinators, like bees and birds.
These pollinators can pollinate plants, and spread their seeds. This allows the plant to reproduce, spreading its seeds over a wider area.
Why do some plants only bloom once, while others can bloom many times in their lifespan? It’s thought that hormonal changes occur in the monocarpic plants.
These changes cause the plant to put all of its resources towards flowering and producing seeds. It uses all its energy to do this, and has none left for survival.
It’s not well understood why some plants choose this method, while others bloom many times.
How to Identify Death Bloom
The simplest way to know if your plant is producing a death bloom is to know its species. If it’s monocarpic and producing a bloom, this is certainly a death bloom.
The other way to identify a death bloom is to look at the flower stalk. A death bloom will come from the center or apex of the plant. If the stalks come out in other ways, including horizontally from the sides or between the leaves, these are regular blooms, not a death bloom.
For example, Echeveria produces flowers, but not death blooms. They produce multiple flower stalks, while a death bloom is always one flower stalk.
What to Do When Death Bloom Occurs
You can save some monocarpic plants if you remove the flowers before they form seeds, or remove them before the flower buds bloom. The best way to do this is to cut a portion of the stem with the flower stalk, at least two inches below the rosette. Preferably before she starts to flower.
Place it in a glass or vase with no soil or water. It should bloom and produce seeds. You can expect it to bloom within one month, and produce seeds in another month.
The parent plant may survive using this process. You also have seeds to grow new plants. Some types of succulents will produce offshoots near the stump cutting, which will also survive, even if the parent plant dies.
When Do Succulents Produce Death Blooms?
Some succulents will produce a death bloom after a few years. Others, like agave, can go as long as 80 years before a death bloom.
Species of Agave and Sempervivum tectorum typically death bloom during summer. Kalanchoe, on the other hand, blooms in late winter or early spring.
The size of the death bloom also varies greatly from species to species. The Sempervivum tectorum, also known as the Common Houseleek or Hen and Chicks, produces a stalk 8 to 12 inches in length. Agave Americana can produce a stalk up to 30 feet long.
Your plant producing a death bloom is bittersweet. The bloom itself can be beautiful, but you know it signals the death of the plant. In many cases, the plant will continue to thrive due to offshoots. If this isn’t the case, you can use seeds to grow a new plant.
It can be hard to say goodbye to your beloved plant, but remember it’s just it’s natural cycle.