Cresting, also known as fasciation, is a mutated growth form that occurs in various plant species, including succulents. The crested mutation results in a contorted, undulating, and fan-like growth pattern that is distinct from the plant’s original form. Crested succulents are relatively rare and are popular among collectors and plant enthusiasts.
Cresting occurs when the main growing tip (apical meristem) of a plant is disturbed or injured. Instead of a single growing point, the apical meristem becomes elongated. This leads to flattened stems, fan-like clusters, twists, and folds. A crested succulent will not grow in the typical cylindrical or rosette forms of uncrested species. The growth pattern of crested succulents is unique and unpredictable.
Definition of cresting: a plant becomes crested when the apical meristem develops laterally rather than from a single growing point.
Causes of Cresting
There are some known potential causes of cresting, although they are not fully understood.
- Environmental stress: Extreme temperatures, nutritional imbalance, or drought can trigger or exacerbate cresting.
- Physical damage: Animals, wind, hailstorms, lightning, frost, insects.
Note: Attempting to induce cresting is not recommended as it can harm the plant and lead to health issues.
Types of Crested Succulent
All types of succulents have the potential to become crested. Some species are more predisposed to developing the mutation whilst others are simply more popular among breeders and enthusiasts. Two crested succulents of the same species will be distinct from one another.
- Aeonium ‘Sunburst’ f. cristata: Flattened stems; contorted/fan-like rosettes; smaller leaves.
- Crassula ovata f. cristata: Twisted, flattened stems; wavy, cylindrical leaves with flattened or twisted tips.
- Echeveria gibbiflora f. cristata: Contorted/fan-like rosettes; smaller/rounder leaves; dense, clumping growth; leaves may be wavy.
- Sedum reflexum f. cristata: Elongated, flattened stems; dense clusters of leaves; distorted growth pattern.
- Sempervivum centennial f. cristata: Fan-like rosettes; leaves curl inward.
- Senecio vitalis f. cristata: Fan-like, flat, contorted stem; dense, twisted leaves.
Note: Crested succulents for sale may be listed with cristata added to the end of the botanical name or simply named crested i.e. Senecio vitalis f. cristata or Crested Senecio vitalis.
Types of Crested Cactus
In cacti, cresting commonly presents as folds, ripples, and twists. Propagated crested cacti are often grafted onto a non-crested cactus of the same species to provide stability.
- Carnegiea gigantea f. cristata
- Echinopsis chamaecereus f. cristata
- Echinocactus grusonii f. cristata
- Mamillaria elongata f. cristata
- Opunita subulata f. cristata
Crested succulents are more sensitive than uncrested species. They are susceptible to root rot caused by overwatering and root burn caused by over-fertilizing. Ensure the soil dries completely between waterings, choose a pot with good drainage, and dilute fertilizers to quarter strength.
The cresting mutation is not always stable. Crested succulents can revert to normal growth in a process called defasciation. Certain practices will help to maintain the stability of a crested succulent though results are not guaranteed.
- Optimal growing conditions: Provide a stable environment. Avoid stressors such as extreme temperatures or overwatering. For propagated plants, provide the same growing conditions as the parent plant.
- Prune normal growth: Regularly inspect for signs of reversion and prune reverted stems and leaves.
Note: Reversion is a natural process—it is possible to maintain a balance between both crested and normal growth.
Propagating Crested Succulents
Genetic mutations, such as cresting, are generally not inherited when grown from seed. Plants propagated by offsets or cuttings (stem and leaf) are more likely to develop the crested mutation, but it is not guaranteed. Several factors influence whether a propagated plant will exhibit cresting.
- Environment: Grow cuttings in stable conditions similar to those of the parent plant.
- Genetic stability: Observe the parent plant over a year to monitor the consistency of cresting. Cuttings taken from parent plants with a consistent cresting pattern are more likely to inherit the mutation.
- Propagation method: Stem cuttings and offsets are more likely to exhibit cresting than leaf cuttings.
Crested vs Montrose
Crested and montrose are two distinct growth patterns. In crested succulents, the apical meristem becomes elongated and contorted, leading to distorted growth typically at the top of the plant. Montrose succulents develop multiple growing points, causing irregular growth all over the plant.