Unlocking the Secrets of Monocarpic Succulents: The Ultimate Guide to Growing and Caring for These Unique Plants

What are Monocarpic Succulents?

Definition of Monocarpic Succulents:

Monocarpic succulents are a type of plant that only flower and reproduce once in their lifetime, before dying. The word “monocarpic” comes from the Greek words “mono” meaning “one” and “karpos” meaning “fruit” or “seed”, referring to the fact that these plants only produce fruit or seed once. 

What is the difference between Monocarpic and Polycarpic Succulents?  

Monocarpic succulents only flower and reproduce once in their lifetime, while polycarpic succulents will flower and reproduce multiple times throughout their lifetime.

What are some common types of monocarpic succulents?

Agave: Agave is a type of monocarpic succulent that is native to the deserts of North America. They have thick, pointed leaves and a large flower stalk that emerges from the center of the plant.

Sempervivum: Sempervivum, also known as “hen and chicks”, is a type of monocarpic succulent that forms small rosettes of leaves. They are hardy and easy to propagate.

Aeonium: Aeonium is a type of monocarpic succulent that is native to the Canary Islands. They have large rosettes of leaves and produce large, showy flowers on tall stalks.

What does a death bloom look like?

When a monocarpic succulent is throwing out a death bloom, it will stretch taller and the lower leaves can start to look shabby because all of the energy is going into making flowers. A death bloom comes from the very center (apex) of succulents like sempervivum, agave, and some Kalanchoe. If you see a bloom stalk (inflorescence) coming from somewhere else, like in between layers on an Echeveria, it is a normal bloom and will not die after blooming.

Why do monocarpic succulents die after flowering?

A death bloom occurs when a monocarpic succulent reaches the end of its life cycle and produces a final, large flower stalk before dying. This is a natural process for monocarpic succulents and is caused by a combination of genetics and environmental factors. 

What are the genetic and environmental factors that contribute to a succulent death bloom?

Genetic factors include the plant’s natural life cycle and the genes that control its growth and reproduction. Monocarpic succulents are naturally designed to grow for a certain period of time and then produce a final large flower before dying. This is encoded in their genetic makeup and is an innate characteristic of the species.

Environmental factors include the availability of resources such as water, light, and nutrients. A succulent that receives adequate resources throughout its life will be more likely to produce a large and healthy death bloom. Additionally, environmental stressors such as drought or pest infestation can cause a plant to direct more of its energy towards reproduction, leading to a larger death bloom.

Another environmental factor that can contribute to death bloom is the amount of sunlight the succulent receives. Succulents that receive enough sunlight will have the energy and resources to create a large death bloom.

How do Monocarpic Succulents reproduce?

Monocarpic succulents reproduce by producing seeds from the flowers that grow on their final flower stalk. These seeds can be collected and planted to grow new plants.

How can you tell when a Monocarpic Succulent is about to flower?

Signs that a monocarpic succulent is about to flower include the growth of a large flower stalk, a change in the color of the leaves, and a decrease in the rate of growth.

What should you do after a Monocarpic Succulent flowers?

After a monocarpic succulent has flowered and produced seeds, it will die. The offsets or pups can be removed and planted to grow new plants. The parent plant can be removed and disposed of.

Why are the succulent blooms of death so big and bright?

The death blooms on monocarpic succulents are so big because they are a plant’s final act before it dies. The plant puts all of its energy into producing a large and impressive flower as a means of reproducing and ensuring the continuation of its species. The larger the flower, the more likely it is to attract pollinators and increase the chances of successful seed production. Additionally, the large size of the death bloom may also serve as a way to signal to other plants in the area that the area is now available for colonization by new plants.

There are a few steps you can take to try to save a monocarpic succulent that is starting to die:

  1. Remove any dying or dead parts of the plant: If you notice that any parts of the plant are dying or already dead, it’s important to remove them. This will help to prevent the spread of any potential diseases or pests to the rest of the plant.

  2. Check the plant’s care requirements: Make sure that the plant is getting the right amount of sunlight, water, and nutrients. Overwatering or underwatering can cause a monocarpic succulent to die prematurely.

  3. Repot the plant: If the plant is pot-bound (meaning that its roots are crowded in the pot), consider repotting it in a larger container with fresh soil. This will give the plant more room to grow and may help it to continue thriving.

  4. Propagate the plant: If the plant is beyond saving, you may be able to propagate it by taking cuttings or planting offsets (baby plants). This will allow you to continue growing the plant and preserve its genetic material.

It’s worth noting that despite your best efforts, it may not be possible to save a monocarpic succulent that is in the process of dying. Monocarpic plants go through their entire life cycle and then die after producing flowers and fruit just once, and there may not be much you can do to change this. However, by following the steps above, you may be able to extend the plant’s lifespan and keep it thriving for as long as possible.

Succulent Death Bloom- Yep? or Nope?

Hover over each picture to see if it is a death bloom or not. 

 On rare occasion, echeveria will throw out a terminal inflorescence (flower stalk) from the very very center of the plant. When this happens, the echeveria will die after flowering. In my experience, the echeveria varieties that have given me terminal blooms are Echeveria ‘Afterglow’ and E. ‘Blue Sky.’

It’s worth noting that not all succulents are monocarpic. Some species, such as aloe vera and various types of jade plants, are able to flower and fruit multiple times throughout their lifespan.

Try Cutting the Bloom Off to Save Your Monocarpic Succulent

Sometimes, you can keep a monocarpic succulent alive by cutting off the bloom right after it is done flowering. If you cut it too soon, the plant could still try to flower because it is still getting the chemical signal to flower. Worth a shot, right?

Below, you’ll find some succulent identification help with common succulents you might find in your local garden center or nursery. Different succulents have different care requirements, so being able to identify them is crucial to helping them thrive 

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