Dudleya stolonifera (Laguna Beach liveforever)

Last updated on August 15th, 2022 at 03:41 pm

Laguna Beach liveforever, or Dudleya stolonifera, is a plant that grows in the sand of Southern California beaches and in wetter areas inland. It’s commonly called the liveforever because it resembles flowering plants like the forget-me-not and periwinkle, with its small blue flowers on long stems.

When you’re strolling along the shores of Laguna Beach, you might come across one of the most unique-looking plants there, the Dudleya stolonifera (or Laguna Beach liveforever, as it’s also known).

One look at this plant, and you can tell that it’s unlike any other in California. It has tubular leaves with white spots on them, giving it an ornamental appearance that makes it perfect for home gardeners who want to add something special to their landscape design.

Dudleya stolonifera plants are low-maintenance succulents that are ideal for beginning gardeners, as they’re fairly easy to care for and will flourish with little attention.

Origin and distribution

Dudleya stolonifera plants are native to southern California, and there are three species endemic to only one small area. The Dudleyas from Laguna Beach have been given their own subspecies, Laguna Beach dudleyas. One of these is commonly called grass-leaved dudleya because its leaves are thin and grassy.

The flowers, which appear in spring, grow on long upright stems that arch gracefully over adjacent plants, a bit like grapevines does on trellises. The most popular variety of Laguna Beach dudleyas has blue-green leaves with white edges and pinkish-purple flowers.

In addition to being planted as ornamental plants for gardens, Laguna Beach dudleyas are also used for erosion control along coastal bluffs and highway banks.

Dudleya stolonifera propagation

Dudleya stolonifera

Dudleya stolonifera propagates by division or seed. Stems will root in water. Cuttings can be rooted in a mixture of sand and peat, in pots kept moist but not wet. Give plants good drainage; do not leave them standing in water after watering.

Seeds germinate quickly if kept evenly moist, and at a temperature of 72°F/23°C, though warmer temperatures are required for good seedling growth. They may take several weeks to emerge from the soil.

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Dudleya stolonifera likes full sun and well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter.

They also like regular moisture during their growing season, which is spring through fall in most areas. The plants go dormant during winter months when they lose their leaves and go into a period of dormancy until new growth begins again in springtime.

These succulents need little care once established, they’re quite a drought tolerant, but must have well-drained soil to prevent rot.

Dudleya stolonifera care information

Dudleya stolonifera

This succulent is easy to care for, but it can only be grown outdoors in full sun. The plants are sensitive to moisture and will wilt if they do not receive adequate sunlight or water.

Dudleya stolonifera is not tolerant of salty conditions, so avoid adding salt to your soil or using salt-based fertilizers on these plants. Keep them away from drying winds as well. These hardy desert dwellers are drought tolerant once established, but they need consistent moisture to germinate and establish roots when young.

Light requirement

Dudleya stolonifera are found in full sun or very bright light, although they can also take some shade. Most of them will rot if grown in consistently wet soil, so make sure that air can circulate freely around their roots.

When planting outdoors, choose a spot with excellent drainage and never let water stand on its leaves for long periods of time.

Soil/potting mix

Dudleya stolonifera needs well-draining soil with a ratio of 1 part sand, 1 part peat moss, and 1 part coarse perlite. This mixture needs to be kept on the dry side as well. If it’s too wet, they can’t store water properly and will eventually die.

In addition to draining well, cactus soil should also have a low pH level. Add ground lime if your potting mix turns out too acidic for safe growth.

Adding organic matter such as compost or aged manure is beneficial because it adds nutrients while also helping maintain moisture levels. Some types of cacti may prefer a more alkaline environment, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

Watering

Water Dudleya stolonifera infrequently but thoroughly. Most need a thorough watering about once a week; check frequently, as you don’t want them to dry out and die. Keep in mind that if your pots dry out quickly, so will your dudleyas. That said, don’t water them too much!

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If excess water accumulates at the bottom of their pots, simply use a siphon or baster to remove it, dudleyas do not like soggy soil.

Fertilizer

Fertilizing will help keep Dudleyas healthy and attractive. Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer, such as 20-20-20. Work it into top layer of soil after watering. Be careful not to overfeed.

If you use too much fertilizer, your plant will grow lots of leaves and have weak roots that won’t be able to support the excess foliage. To prevent overfeeding, apply fertilizer at half strength each time you fertilize.

For example, if you normally fertilize with 1/2 cup of 20-20-20 per gallon of water, apply 1/4 cup instead.

After a few weeks, check to see how your plants are doing. If they look good, continue using 1/4 cup of fertilizer every two weeks; if they look pale or sickly, go back to using only 1/2 cup for another couple of weeks before trying again with less fertilizer. Over time you should find just how little food your plant needs in order to thrive.

Temperature

Laguna Beach Liveforever thrives in a variety of temperatures, but generally prefers daytime temperatures between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It will tolerate nighttime lows down to 45 degrees, but only if acclimated.

The plant thrives in sunny areas, including those with partial shade. You can transplant Laguna beach liveforever during periods of warmer weather, but it is best to delay winter transplanting until after all danger of frost has passed.

Humidity

Look for a location with adequate humidity. You’ll know that your plant is getting enough water if it has an even, dark green color and little to no brown spots. If you notice that there are dried leaf tips or margins, chances are your plant is not getting enough water.

On average, let it get 1-2 inches of rain a week; you may have to water more during its first year of life in order to establish its root system.

The ideal humidity range for Dudleya stolonifera is between 50-80%. If your plant’s leaves are starting to curl, chances are it’s getting too much water.

To reduce humidity, you can place a fan near your plant and/or mist it with a spray bottle. If you notice that there are white or yellow spots on your plant’s leaves, it may be getting too little water.

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Pruning

When you see that a Dudleya’s rosette is about to flower, it’s best to cut off some of its older leaves to make way for new growth. Cut them back by half and remove any yellowing ones. This will direct energy toward making flowers instead of leaves, which are prone to drying out if not pruned regularly.

To help keep your plant looking tidy, pinch off old blooms before they start to wither. If you find yourself cutting away more than one-third of a leaf at once, consider repotting your plant into fresh soil.

The added nutrients can help spur new growth and prevent over-pruning in future seasons.

When to repot

Repot your Dudleya stoloniferas in early spring to late summer, but keep in mind that if you’re growing them as a houseplant, they are cold-sensitive and will do best when moved outdoors during warm weather.

Generally speaking, Dudleya stolonifera also appreciates slightly more sunlight than other succulents and require good drainage. If you notice that leaves have started to turn yellow or brown, it may be time for repotting.

In general, repotting should be done every two years or so with the most succulents; however, it’s important to research specific care instructions for each plant before repotting.

Dormancy/Winter rest

If a plant is receiving too much light in winter or is over-watered, it may enter a state of hibernation known as winter rest. Dudleya stolonifera is not particularly fussy about their winter dormancy requirements.

However, because they are slow-growing, they do not bounce back quickly from neglect and need to be pampered a bit more than other succulents when coming out of their winters’ sleep.

The best way to ensure that your dudleyas will come out of their winter slumber happy and healthy is to mimic what nature does naturally: provide some shade during the summer months, followed by the full sun during the fall/winter months.

In southern California, most dudleyas experience two distinct seasons: hot summer days with cool nights; followed by milder fall/winter temperatures with little variation between day and night temperatures.

Dudleya stolonifera flower & fragrance

Dudleya stolonifera

Dudleya stolonifera produces unique flowers that are pollinated by a variety of insects, including bumblebees and hummingbirds. Their beautiful flowers are usually pink to red in color with yellow centers.

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The flowers have a sweet fragrance similar to jasmine, magnolia or gardenia. When mature, Dudleyas produce fleshy fruits that split into three ridges containing dark brown seeds which readily fall out when ripe. On rare occasions, plants may flower twice within one year.

Growth rate

Dudleya stolonifera are not typically considered fast-growing succulents, although many species will grow quite quickly if given good conditions. Most take at least two years to reach maturity and flower for the first time.

Plants in habitats with less-favorable growing conditions can take even longer to mature, but may not survive for long once they do. The oldest plants I have seen are about 12 years old and only a few inches tall.

Toxicity

Toxic to animals; deer and cattle avoid it. The plant contains saponins that are toxic if ingested, causing gastrointestinal irritation and photosensitization of skin when exposed to sunlight.

Ingestion can cause burning of mouth, lips, tongue, excessive thirst, dehydration, difficulty breathing and death if enough is consumed. Ingestion of as little as 20% of body weight in leaves may be fatal to adults in 24 hours.

The toxicity also causes dermatitis or hyperpigmentation on contact with human skin.

USDA hardiness zones

Dudleya stolonifera thrives best in USDA hardiness zones 8 through 11. In these areas, they can be planted outside year-round. In colder climates, they are typically grown as houseplants and are brought outside during warm weather months.

If you want to grow them indoors all year long, place them near a south-facing window where they will receive at least six hours of sunlight each day.

Pests and diseases

Dudleya stolonifera are extremely prone to spider mites and aphids, so be on guard. It’s also a good idea to quarantine any new dudleyas you buy and make sure they’re not bringing anything home with them. Likewise, it’s wise to keep an eye out for fungal infections like grey mold, which can quickly take hold in stagnant water.

Conclusion

Dudleya stolonifera are well worth getting to know. If you want an easy, long-lasting succulent that can withstand neglect, grow in full sun, and need little water, consider a Dudleya.

They are one of my favorites! I hope you enjoyed learning about them as much as I have over these past few years. Happy planting!