Last updated on August 25th, 2023 at 12:31 pm
Pachyphytum succulents are some of the most beautiful plants you can have in your home or garden, but because they’re easy to grow and stay healthy with minimal care, it’s important to know how to take good care of them.
Most succulents are well-known for their low-maintenance requirements, making them an excellent plant choice if you’re new to the world of houseplants or don’t have much time to care for them on a regular basis.
But Pachyphytum is one of the most unique and rare succulents, and they have specific growing requirements you should be aware of before making the decision to grow one yourself.
There are few succulents more unique than the pachyphytum, or barrel cactus, even if that name doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue! These plants have thick, fleshy roots and stems, as well as barrel-shaped (rather than spherical) bumps on their surface.
Many pachyphytum species are easy to grow in partial shade and well-drained soil; with the right care, your pachyphytum can be growing tall and strong within just a few months!
This collection of pachyphytum care tips will help you ensure that your pachyphytum plants thrive throughout their life cycle.
Origin and distribution
Pachyphytum is native to Mexico and Guatemala. It’s known as a moonstone plant because its translucent leaves have a shimmering, metallic appearance that makes them look like an opalescent gem. In nature, it grows as an epiphyte (air plant) in mountain forests and on cliff faces at elevations above 4,000 feet.
In cultivation, it can be grown in pots or outdoor garden beds. Its favorite soil mix consists of two parts sand to one part peat moss. The potting mix should be well-drained and kept moist but not soggy wet. Full sun is preferred but the plant will tolerate light shade.
Keep the soil evenly moist during spring, summer, and fall; allow the surface of the soil to dry out between waterings during winter dormancy periods.
Pachyphytum plants are propagated by division of offshoots, by offsets or seeds. Use a sharp knife to cut off an offset, leaving a portion of a leaf on it to act as an anchor.
Remove any developing flowers so that energy can be directed toward root growth. Soak pachyphytum cuttings in water for 24 hours prior to planting. Keep newly planted pachyphytums well-watered during their first growing season. Be careful not to overwater them and let the soil dry out between watering sessions.
From the second year onward, watering requirements depend on how quickly the plant has grown and what time of year it is (i.e., in winter, they will need less water than they would need in summer).
You’ll also want to fertilize your pachyphytum with a diluted liquid fertilizer every two weeks from spring through fall. In the fall, you’ll want to reduce this frequency to once every month.
Pachyphytum care information
While Pachyphytum doesn’t have many needs, they do have a couple of specific requirements. As a succulent, these plants need plenty of sunlight to look their best.
If you don’t live in an area with full sun (such as some regions in which winter lasts all year), grow these plants under grow lights for at least half of each day. While bright light is important, direct sun can burn your plant if it sits out in direct sunlight for too long.
This unique succulent plant can adapt to a wide range of light conditions, although it will thrive in indirect sunlight. To keep your Pachyphytum healthy and lush, try to find a spot with bright, but filtered sun, about 75 percent shade.
If you’re growing your plant indoors, place it in front of an east-facing window. Or if you have just one west-facing window, put the pot near that for about six hours each day. Outdoors in full sun is not recommended for this plant; too much heat can kill it!
Pachyphytums are succulents, which means they prefer soil that drains well. A mixture of 50% clean sand and 50% potting mix works great for these plants. Be sure to let your soil dry out a bit between waterings, pachyphytums have shallow roots and don’t like being left soggy.
Allow the top inch or so of the soil to dry before watering again. These plants also enjoy plenty of sunlight, so make sure you’re giving them plenty of light in their new home!
Keep Pachyphytums evenly moist at all times. Over-watering is as fatal as under-watering for these plants and can cause the rotting of roots or stems. Water when soil is dry about an inch deep.
You may find that once you become accustomed to growing them, they will tolerate irregular watering better than other succulents; use your instincts! When in doubt, err on the side of less water rather than more. The plant is native to areas with a lot of rain so make sure not to let it dry out too much.
It’s important not to over-pot the plant because this could result in shallow roots that cannot draw up enough moisture from their new potting medium. These plants are not frost tolerant so make sure you take them inside before freezing weather sets in if they are outside during warm seasons.
Pachyphytums are not heavy feeders. Use a light, high-phosphorus 20-20-20 liquid fertilizer or a balanced, water-soluble mix every two weeks during warm weather.
Reduce applications to once per month during cooler months. Fertilize monthly with compost tea for best results. For best results, fertilize immediately after pruning to encourage new growth and prevent plant shock from stress.
A 1/2 teaspoon of Epsom salts in each gallon of water can be used as an alternative, safe way to provide magnesium if your soil is low in this essential nutrient.
If you have not been fertilizing your pachyphytum regularly, do so for at least three months before planting it outside in order to build up its tolerance for the harsh conditions outside.
The pachyphytum is a unique succulent that requires similar growing conditions to most cacti. The moonstone plant will do best when temperatures are between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (18-21 degrees Celsius).
If you live in a climate that’s dry most of the year, be careful to avoid too much humidity when watering your Pachyphytum. Damp soil is best; when it’s too wet, though, roots can rot and stems can split or crack.
Overwatering during dormancy is also a concern because although they won’t suffer from root rot or stem splitting, they could end up succumbing to root and stem rots.
The ideal humidity range is between 40-60% with an average of 50%. Be sure to provide plenty of air circulation as well.
In winter, reduce watering and fertilize less often than usual. Too much water will cause leaves to fall off so only water plants if the top inch or two of soil feels dry (if rain has just stopped).
Allowing Pachyphytums to become too large will make them difficult to maintain, so we recommend trimming monthly or as needed. During our summer heat, many of us forget about our plants. However, a little pruning can help get it back on track.
There are no set rules on how often you should prune your Pachyphytum; it depends on how fast it grows and other factors, but there are some general guidelines for when to perform pruning.
We recommend checking the plant weekly during the hot summer months to see if any branches have grown long enough that they may be pinching the plant’s leaves and stems.
In addition, remove any yellowed leaves or those that are drooping from lack of water by cutting off the branch at its base with sharp scissors.
When to repot
Pachyphytums are relatively slow-growing, so it’s best to repot these succulents every couple of years. Look for signs of overcrowding in your plant—bulging stems from too much foliage or roots popping out of pots, as indicators that it’s time to move up a size.
If your plant has grown substantially but is still healthy and producing new leaves, you can trim down its roots instead of repotting it. Cut back on the number of pups and cut off any dead branches before moving the plant into a pot one size larger than what it currently resides in.
Remember, this process should be done gradually, over the course of two weeks.
While Pachyphytums have a fairly cold tolerance, they still need some time off in winter. You can’t just store them away in their pots and forget about them. (Trust me.) If you live in an area where it does freeze during the winter, I would suggest a greenhouse or unheated room that stays consistently around 40-50 degrees F (4-10 degrees C).
Move your plant to an area with bright light, but no direct sun exposure. Once nighttime temperatures are above 50 degrees F (10 degrees C), put your plant back outside. Once nighttime temperatures are back below 50 degrees F, bring the plants inside again for dormancy until spring.
Flower & fragrance
Pachyphytum is considered a fragrant succulent, and they have a sweet fragrance that some say is similar to vanilla or cinnamon. Because of their fragrance, pachyphytum can be an attractive addition to indoor spaces and is commonly used in offices and residential homes as houseplants. Each plant has its own unique smell, so if you plan on having multiple pachyphytum in your home, expect to enjoy quite a variety of scents!
They are fast-growing plants and make excellent specimens for dish gardens. They will reach an average height of about 8-10 inches and will grow up to about 5-6 feet wide. It can take a few years before they reach maturity though. If you want to get faster results, then it’s best to start from cuttings or offsets instead of seeds or starter plants.
Pachyphytum plants are generally not toxic to humans or animals, although there is some debate about whether consumption of large amounts of sap might cause stomach upset in susceptible individuals. Be sure to thoroughly wash your hands after handling Pachyphytum.
There are no definitive accounts of toxicity in humans from handling any part of a Pachyphytum plant. Pachyphytum plants may also cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.
USDA hardiness zones
Pachyphytum thrives in USDA hardiness zones 9-11. They are drought-tolerant plants that grow best when they receive bright sunlight and dry air. The pachyphytum should be watered once every two weeks or so, but should not be overwatered.
Pests and diseases
There are not a lot of pests or diseases that will attack pachyphytums, but spider mites are known to be a problem. Spider mites usually appear during spring and summer when temperatures outside are high.
When you notice webbing on your plant, it is already too late for a spray with water should help get rid of them. If you notice yellowing leaves, suspect spider mites and look more closely at your plant.
It’s a little-known fact that pachyphytums are incredible indoor plants for most climates, and if cared for properly, can be very low maintenance.
Not only do they look great, but they also release oxygen at night into your home which has been shown to have many positive effects on those with breathing problems such as asthma. There are so many different varieties of pachyphytums that there is surely one out there perfect for you! Now go take care of your plant!