If you’re like me, you have an insatiable appetite for new succulent varieties, and nurseries are more than happy to create hybrids for us to enjoy! Nurseries use hybridization to create new plants with a specific combination of traits in mind. Right now, the biggest supplier of hybrid succulents is South Korea.
How are succulents hybridized?
Hybridization is the process of breeding two plants of different species.
This time-consuming and labor-intensive process begins with pollinating one species of succulent with the pollen of another species of succulent. The pollinated plant is then protected from being unintentionally pollinated by any other plant (or even from itself!). It’s usually kept in seclusion until the seeds are ready to harvest.
Once the seeds have been collected and planted, it’s simply a matter of waiting until the seeds sprout. The cultivator won’t know the results of the hybridization until they’ve grown up. Once the young succulents are big enough to determine if they’ve inherited the desired traits, it can be decided whether or not the cross has been a success.
Plant hybridization naming
Hybridization can be done on both a species level AND a genus level. Nurseries often label their cultivars with such interesting names as Echeveria ‘Alba Beauty’ or Echeveria ‘Peach Pride’. These names tend to be catchier and easier to remember than the scientific names. You will see these types of names a lot when looking at rare Korean succulents.
Occasionally, however, they will adopt the species name of one of the parent plants – commonly the one that bore the actual seed. Hybridizations within a genus are more common because they are easier. Two species in the same genus are more closely related and more likely to hybridize successfully. Naming these is a lot easier too, you just include both species names! Example: Echeveria gibbiflora x shaviana
There are certainly some very vigorous succulent hybrids that are commercially available like from Altman Plants, but all of those rare, expensive hybrids you see are rare and expensive because it’s very difficult to keep them alive and reproduce!
So, if you’re looking to add a little variety to your succulent collection, consider purchasing some hybrid varieties. There are new cultivars appearing on the market nearly every week. I’m always on the lookout for the next great hybrid! I have several in my shop.