Have you ever wondered what the powdery white film coating your succulents is? It’s actually something called epicuticular wax or “farina,” a hydrophobic (water-repelling) coating formed from microscopic crystals that covers the outer surface of a plant. Although this farina is found on all sorts of plants, flowers, and even on fruits such as grapes, olives, nectarines and plums, it is common and most notably found on succulents, especially on Echeveria species. This farina serves a multitude of purposes and today we’d like to dive into its causes and functions.
Aside from giving your succulents that soft pastel appearance that is highly sought after by succulent collectors globally, farina produced by succulents also serves as a protective shield. It protects your succulents from extreme weather, sunburn, pathogens, and helps to repel water and even pests. Note that although farina is hydrophobic and helps to repel water and moisture, you should always avoid getting water on the leaves when watering your succulents.
Many new succulent collectors often and understandably mistake farina for mildew, disease, or dust. Although it is not necessarily harmful to your succulent if you accidentally remove the farina, it may take your plant time before it can reproduce its protective layer.
If you ordered succulents online, it is inevitable that farina will accidentally rub off when being handled for packaging as well as during shipping. As you can see above with this Echeveria Blue Bird, the slightest touch is all it takes to remove farina. If your succulent arrives looking a little blotchy, it’s likely that some farina just rubbed off in transit causing this appearance and there is no real cause for concern over the health of your plant. Just allow the plant some time to acclimate and in the coming weeks, you will notice that the plant is regenerating its protective coat. Signs for concern will more likely be yellowing or mushy and translucent leaves. In this case, it is recommended that you reach out to the merchant as soon as possible for assistance.
Below are a few examples of popular succulent species that produce attractive farina:
Left - right, top - bottom: Echeveria Lila Cina, Aloe Vera,Echeveria Estrella, Echeveria Perle Von Nurnberg, Ferocactus (Devil's Tongue Cactus), and Graptopetalum Paraguayense (Ghost Plant).
Some ways you can avoid accidentally removing or damaging farina:
- Avoid over-handling your succulents.
- Try your best to grab hold of your succulents by their pots.
- Avoid frequent repotting - only repot when necessary.
- Avoid getting water on your succulent’s leaves. Bottom watering is recommended.
- Avoid spraying any insecticides or horticultural oils directly on your succulent’s leaves.
Farina is not only extremely beautiful, but it is also beneficial to the health and overall protection of your succulents. The more we know about how our succulents grow and how they naturally protect themselves, the better we will know how to handle and care for them.
Happy growing! 💚