Succulents are well-loved houseplants and for good reason. They’re low-maintenance, easy to grow, and come in beautiful colors, shapes, and sizes.
They can even be grown in a small container on a sunny windowsill. But succulents aren’t just pretty; they’re also resilient plants that are able to survive in dry, arid conditions.
The term death bloom sounds like something straight out of a fantasy novel! It is a very commonly occurring phenomenon in most plants in real life.
If you notice a long flower stalk shooting through the top of your plant and looking ready to bloom, you might be coming across a death bloom.
However, just because you see a long flower stalk trying to bloom does not mean your plant will die.
Also, if a death bloom does occur, remember that it is a natural process, and you did not do anything wrong to allow your cactus to die just like that. Keep reading to know everything there is to know about a death bloom:
What Is a Death Bloom?
A death bloom refers to the death of a plant after it has produced flowers, fruit, and seeds. The production of the fruit and seeds and the flowers blooming are events in which all the energy that the plant generates is directed towards the flowering process.
This leaves little to no energy remaining for the other parts of the plant to utilize, which eventually slowly kills the plant.
Death bloom is so-called because it only happens once during the plant’s entire lifetime, and the plant dies afterward.
You have to wait for the plant to mature before it can produce a death bloom, which can take anywhere from 2 years to almost 100 years for some plants.
You do not have to worry about a death bloom on your plant if you see it give off flowers and fruits multiple times since a death bloom is a singular event. We use many fruits from plants that produce death blooms, such as cabbages and tomatoes.
The death bloom flower is a single flower stalk that grows vertically from the plant’s apex and is unusually tall.
The flower stalk will grow buds that will eventually grow into flowers and maybe even fruit. Once the blossoming process is over, the plant will slowly wilt and die.
Death bloom flowers can be pink, yellow, orange, or white. However, the color of the flower is not a factor in the identification of the death bloom.
You need to pay heed to the length of the flower stalk since that is the only part of the plant which will elongate.
Other than that, if you think your plant is growing a death bloom, you can look up your plant’s name and see if it is monocarpic.
If you see a single flower blooming from the apex of your plant, it is probably time to say goodbye to your precious little plant since it will likely not survive the bloom.
However, most monocarpic plants in the wild can survive through their fruits and seeds, which can eventually grow into new plants.
Do Cacti and Succulents Have a Death Bloom?
Yes, not all but many cacti and succulents have a death bloom. These cacti and succulents are known as monocarpic plants, which means that they only bloom once before they die.
You can identify if the plant is monocarpic if you see a long flower stalk growing from the center of the plant. The entire plant seems to only consist of the flower stalk if it’s a death bloom.
A normally flowering cactus is referred to as a polycarpic cactus. These cacti ensure that the energy they generate finds its way to all the parts of the plant.
These cacti also bloom multiple times. Typically, normally flowering cacti have flowers growing from the side of the stems instead of the center. This feature can be used to identify if the plant is monocarpic or polycarpic.
Most monocarpic cacti bloom after a long time. For example, many agaves bloom after around 25 or more years since they started growing.
However, some monocarpic cacti start blooming earlier than they should as well. This usually occurs when the growing conditions of the cactus are not optimal.
They might be receiving less sunlight or be over or under-watered. Therefore, the cactus brings forth its death bloom in hopes that the pups of the plant can find a better home this time around and receive plenty of sunlight and just the right amount of water and nutrition.
Does the Succulent Death Bloom Have Something to Do With the Death of the Cactus?
When we hear the term death bloom, it is a common concern that it means the cactus will die.
Unfortunately, death blooms do aim to kill your cactus. All of the cactus’s resources are directed towards making the plants bloom and produce fruits and seeds, and, therefore, there is nothing left for the rest of the plant to feed off of.
In a death blooming succulent, you will usually notice that the flower stalk is the most prominent part, and every other part of the plant seems to be on the sidelines.
It is not something you should be sad about, though. Yes, death blooms kill a cactus, but Mother Nature has let monocarpic plants survive since the advent of cacti.
If anything, you should be glad that you cared for your plant so well that it was able to generate enough energy to be able to bloom.
Blooming takes up a lot of the plant’s energy, and many monocarpic plants don’t bloom at all if they are not taken good care of.
Succulents that give off the death bloom usually die after leaving behind several monocarpic pups and many seeds. Therefore, you can easily re-grow your cactus from scratch even after the parent cactus dies.
The seeds produced by the plant’s fruits are used to grow the plant again and help it bloom again. Since one plant produces many seeds, you can actually grow multiple plants from the seeds of a single plant as well.
Keep in mind that some monocarpic plants can survive after blooming if the flower is removed before it blooms or begins to form seeds.
You should carefully cut a part of the stem of the flower, around three inches below the bud, and place that part of the stem in a separate vase.
That flower in that vase can begin to blossom and produce seeds without using the resources from the cactus it was attached to. This is a rare occurrence but absolutely worth a shot if you are attached to your cactus!
In some cases, the plant that is left behind after the flower stalk is removed also survives. You can even use the stalk seeds to plant more of the monocarpic plants.
However, in many cases, even if the flower survives, the succulent is unable to do so. Therefore, we should let nature run its course in these cases and look forward to planting more of the succulent once the seeds are produced.
What Are Monocarpic Succulents?
A monocarpic succulent refers to any succulent that blooms only once in its lifetime. This process can sometimes take up to 80 years as well. You can check to see if your succulent is monocarpic or polycarpic and take care of it accordingly.
Once the monocarpic succulents begin to bloom, you will notice a long flower stalk elongating vertically towards the sky.
All the resources of the plant then go towards helping this long flower bloom and produce seeds. In most cases, you will be unable to save the plant after it has started to bloom.
However, to make sure that you don’t have to say goodbye permanently, you can plant the cactus’s pups right away.
The great thing about monocarpic succulents is that they produce plenty of seeds and pups, which almost ensure that you can get your plant back in no time.
This is because they take up most of the plant’s resources and utilize them just for the flower, fruit, and seeds. Therefore, the pups are very resilient and can guarantee you a new cactus baby in no time.
The pups produced by most polycarpic cacti are not quite as resilient or plentiful. This is because polycarpic cacti bloom many times in their lifetime, and their energy doesn’t just go into producing flowers and seeds. They continuously utilize their energy for survival as well.
Types of Monocarpic Succulents?
There are not a lot of monocarpic succulents that we find in nature. However, there are only a few types we can think of currently. These include the Agave, Sempervivum, Aeoniums, and Kalanchoe.
The Agave is a monocarpic succulent that can take anywhere from 25 years to more than 80 years to bloom.
Even though the Agave has a long lifespan and garners many resources over its lifetime, it will still die once it has had a chance to bloom. In fact, it reserves a lot of that energy simply to bloom once the time arises.
The flower stalk of some types of Agave can grow up to 8 feet tall! These stems are thick and very resilient, so you can see where all that stored energy went as well!
The Agave may be a monocarpic plant, but it does not die immediately after it blooms. It takes many months for the Agave to utilize its remaining energy before it dies. The Agave may even take a few years to finally pass away in some cases.
Not all types of Agave are monocarpic, there are many agaves that are polycarpic, which means they bloom several times in their lifetime.
Semperviva is mostly monocarpic, and it may take up to four years to bloom. This is much less than an agave’s bloom, but the flowers don’t seem to be as resilient either.
Even the Sempervivum provides you with an abundance of cactus pups and seeds once it dies, which means that you can quickly grow the plant back after it blooms and dies the first time.
All species of the Sempervivum give the death bloom, after which they peacefully die over time.
These are fuzzy houseplants that have a rosette appearance. The plant dies after giving off its flowers but has enough pups and seeds by then that you can easily reintroduce it to your garden. Not all types of Aeoniums are monocarpic since many actually survive after their bloom.
Some kalanchoe are monocarpic as well. They have thick, succulent leaves that give them a unique appearance.
The Kalanchoe can produce red, yellow, or white flowers, which eventually give off seeds that you can use to plant in the garden and get more cactus plants. Not all species of Kalanchoe are monocarpic, though.
How to Grow Monocarpic Succulents?
Learning about monocarpic succulents can be quite disheartening for most people since we wonder why we are growing a plant if it will just die one day.
However, this sad story does not exempt monocarpic succulents from being among the fascinating plants out there.
In fact, growing succulents with death blooms can actually be a challenge for most people. Not to mention that they give off some of the best fruit out there, making their presence even more meaningful.
So if you want to take up the challenge and grow a monocarpic succulent, here is how you would go about it:
You can grow and take care of a monocarpic succulent just like you would for any other plant.
Monocarpic succulents like Agave actually last for over 25 years, which means that you can keep the plant around for a long time before it can die.
When you see the flower stalk shooting from the apex of the plant, you can choose to care for the plant or not.
You can water the plant as regularly as you would otherwise and make sure that the plant receives enough sunlight and nutrients as well.
Alternatively, you can also clip the flower stalk off a few inches below the base of the flower and allow the flower to bloom in a separate vase without soil.
In some rare cases, you will be able to save the cactus while also allowing the flower to bloom and produce seeds.
However, in many cases, this tactic does not work, and you will have to endure the eventual death of your cactus.
When you see the flower begin to sprout from the center of the plant, you can save the plant from never gracing your garden again by harvesting the cactus pups and planting them immediately.
You might just have more cacti on your hands than the singular plant you just lost.
How To Harvest And Grow Monocarpic Cactus Pups
It is important to know how to harvest and plant cactus pups so we may be able to compensate for the death of our old buddy by planting pups that would be their children.
Like all other cacti, even monocarpic cacti are surrounded by pups. Pups are baby cacti that start growing around the parent cactus on their own.
You need to harvest a cactus pup carefully, separating the little pup from its mother and carefully pulling it out of the soil. Make sure you are wearing gloves for this process since it is easy to get injured when handling cacti!
If the pup comes off with the roots intact, you can simply re-pot it in a different pot.
If the pup comes off without roots, you will have to treat it like a graft. You should leave the graft in a shady area so that the wound from the cutting gets callused.
Some people also leave the cactus cut out till it begins to grow roots. Once the cactus has become callused, you can plant it in a pot.
Make sure the soil is well-draining to ensure proper growth of the pup. A mixture of soil and gravel is ideal for this purpose.
How to Care For Monocarpic Succulents?
Taking care of monocarpic succulents is the same as taking care of most other cacti and succulents. Some monocarpic succulents need special care to grow to their fullest potential.
Even though it may seem redundant sometimes to care for a monocarpic succulent since they’ll just die after blooming, the plant usually doesn’t flower for a few years. However, taking less than necessary care of the plant can make it bloom early, killing it in the process.
Here are some tips on how to take care of your cactus:
Use Well-Draining Soil
Most cacti are used to surviving in the heat of the desert where water is scarcely available. One of the defining features of a cactus is that they need very little water to survive, which holds true for monocarpic cacti.
Make sure the soil you use for your cactus is well-draining. You can use a mixture of soil and gravel and even add calcium carbonate to the mix to make it drain properly when needed. Allowing too much water to stand in the soil of a cactus can cause the roots to rot.
Use a Well-Draining Container
Most pots used for cacti and succulents have holes in them or are porous. These pots are perfect for succulents because they are well-draining.
Pots that don’t allow water to pass from between their walls can cause the cactus to rot since it is easy to overwater these plants.
Do Not Over Water or Under Water
Like all other cacti, a monocarpic cactus needs very little water to survive. You should make it a point to only water the plant either once a week or once in two weeks.
If you increase the frequency of watering the cactus, you will run the risk of overwatering them. Overwatering is one of the biggest concerns for a cactus.
On the other hand, if you let the cactus be by itself for too long and forget to water it for months, it will be under-watered and eventually die.
Give Them Ample Sunlight
If your monocarpic cactus does not receive ample sunlight, it might cause it to bloom early and die, in hopes of doing better in terms of survival once its pups and seeds are planted.
Therefore, make sure the cactus receives enough sunlight every day.
Protect Them From Pests
Pests like scale, mealy bugs, and spider mites can attack the cactus and leave behind white substances on the plant’s stems and pads.
Many of these pests can also hide under this white substance and make themselves comfortable.
Keep your cactus clean and free of dust and grime by spraying the stems and pads with water and dish soap.
If you notice some pests already attacking the cactus, you can even use a very diluted spray of vinegar, dish soap, and water to spray on the plant and get rid of the pests.
Know When To Re-Pot
You can see the roots of some cacti jutting out of the sides of the pot you have planted it in when it is starting to outgrow its container. You should try to re-pot the cactus into a larger pot when you see this.
Lastly, the best way to care for a monocarpic cactus is by staying alert and noticing the plant’s changes.
If you see anything unusual, you can contact cactus experts to help you with it. It is important to be vigilant and notice the lifecycle of your monocarpic cactus if you want them to thrive.
A succulent death bloom refers to the eventual death of a succulent plant after it has flowered once. We can identify the death bloom of a monocarpic plant by noticing a long flower stalk shooting from the center of the plant.
Once the flower stalk appears, it is very difficult to save the plant since it directs all its resources to grow the flower and propagate. However, you can replant the pups and get your precious little plant back in no time.
The succulent death bloom is a monumental achievement and a scientific masterpiece. Due to its novelty, the succulent death bloom has caught the attention of scientists and horticulturalists.
The succulent death bloom is also an important milestone in horticultural research, which will lead to the invention of new and intriguing plants.