Plant and Garden

What Are Monocarpic & Polycarpic Succulents

‘Mono’ means once and ‘caprice’ means fruit. Therefore, once the single flower has come and gone, fruit or seeds are set and the parent plant can die.

Monocarpic means that the plant flowers once and then dies. While this may seem like a bummer, it is a natural strategy the plant uses to produce offspring.

Not all succulents are monocarpic. There are also many other species in different families of plants that are monocarpic..


Monocarpic perennial plants can be succulents but are mostly herbs and shrubs.

The term monocarpic was first used by Alphonse de Candolle. Other terms with the same meaning are hapaxanth and semelparous.

Fortunately, these types of plants don’t have to rely upon its seed. Because they often produce offsets or pups vegetatively.

All monocarpic plants spend more than a year in a vegetative stage before flowering once then dying.

The length of the vegetative period can be highly variable between plant species, from strictly biennial to long-lived monocarpic perennials.

The population dynamics of this group of plants strongly depend on the environmental cues that determine when to flower. Subsequently leading to the death of reproductive individuals.

Monocarpic plants can live a number of years before they flower. Furthermore, flowering does not by itself result in the death of the plants but the production of fruits and seeds causes changes within the plants which lead to death.

These changes are induced by chemicals that act as hormones, redirecting the resources of the plants from the roots and leaves to the production of fruits and or the seeds.

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The century plant found in the genusAgave and some Yucca can take 8 to 20 years or in the case of some bamboos even over 100 years to bloom and then die.

Hawaiian Silverswords and others in the genus Wilkesia may take 10–50 years before producing the flower.

Sempervivum is a monocarpic succulent. When a Sempervivum rosette blooms, it dies soon after the flowers fade.

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This is true for all Sempervivum, not just certain varieties within the species.

In fact, Sempervivum is commonly called “hens and chicks” to describe the growth pattern of a large rosette forming numerous smaller rosettes around it.

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TThe Sempervivum “hen” typically grows for 3-4 years before it blooms.

In that time, it creates many, sometimes many dozens of “chicks”, or smaller rosettes that surround the primary rosette. When the “hen” blooms, it does die.

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When ready, each of them will come into bloom, and it too will die, after first producing many, many chicks of its own. Click to read Succulent Blooms… The Why, When, And Where.

Agave is the succulent most popularly understood to be monocarpic.

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Yucca Seeds

Most people know that agave takesmany years before they form their planetesimals blooms and then they die.

Agave Americana, known as the century plant, grows 40, 50 or even up to 100 years before it blooms and then dies.

What most people don’t realize is that only some, not all, agave varieties are monocarpic.

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Aeonium Cuttings

Aeonium and Yucca plants branch beautifully throughout their lifespans, with each mature plant forming something like a tree.

Each branch ends in a characteristic rosette of foliage.


However, the rosettes and growth points below the bloomed out branch continues to thrive, forming new branches and rosettes.

Each branch ends in a characteristic rosette of foliage.

After years of maturing, some branches bloom.


These blooms form a dazzling display for months at a time. When the looms are spent, that branch of a monocarpic aeonium or yucca plant will not grow or bloom again.

However, the rosettes and growth points below the bloomed out branch continues to thrive, forming new branches and rosettes.

In the case of monocarpic Aeonium and Yucca, it is not the entire plant that dies after blooming, just the individual branch.

 The other types of plants are polycarpic. These are plants that flower and sets seed many times during its lifetime.

Monocarpic Polycarpic Succulents

Monocarpic
Succulents
How Many
Varieties?
Polycarpic
Succulents
How Many
Varieties?
AeoniumMostAloeAll
AgaveMostAnacampserosAll
AichrysonAllCotyledonAll
ArgyroxiphiumSomeDasylirionAll
CrassulaVery FewDracaenaAll
FurcraeaAllEcheveriaAll
JovibarbaAllEuphorbiaAll
KalanchoeFewFaucariaAll
ManfredaSomeFenestrariaAll
OrostachysAllGasteriaAll
PeperomiaMostGraptopetalumAll
SempervivumAllHaworthiaAll
SinocrassulaAllHoyaAll
YuccaFewLithopsAll
PachyphytumAll
PortulacariaAll
RhipsalisAll
RosulariaAll
SansevieriaAll
SedumAll
SenecioAll

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