Aeoniums are normally thought to be endemic to the Canary Islands which is true in the main, but at least one Aeonium is also to be found much further east, in Northern Kenya and the Horn of Africa, which is where this particular species is to be found.
It was a plant that my late wife originally obtained from the late Warren Withers some 15+ years ago. I was to give a talk to the Coventry branch and we were invited to tea before the meeting. As normally happened, we were then taken on a tour of Warren’s extensive greenhouse complex, which occupied all of his back garden, during the course of which we were shown all sorts of treasures including a pot full of this plant. Doris, my wife, said how wonderful it looked and Warren, always a very generous man, immediately broke off a stem and gave it to her. At the time it had no name, the only information he had was that it came from Somalia, so she duly took it home and rooted it up which it did very readily and easily. She then grew it into a 5 inch pot, at which size it remained until she died in 2001.
In the course of re–potting the whole collection after her death, a job that took some two years, I put it into a 12 inch pan and it suddenly took off, throwing lots of stems and getting so big that it outgrew the space allocated to it and had to be positioned on the greenhouse floor. However it was still getting full sun and the foliage became a lovely gray/green on the top surface with each leaf bearing a central red midstripe (see illustration). I still did not have a name for it, but featured it in a magazine article and Len Newton, one of its readers, gave me its true name.
I do not find it a difficult plant to grow; it just needs a good sunny position to retain the leaf colour, a good open compost and plenty of water. It flowers in the winter months like most Aeoniums and mine has done so twice, but not prolifically, thank goodness, as the flowering shoots then die back. Flowers are yellow and produced like all Aeoniums as an open cluster.
I have taken it to two National Shows now (2004 and 2008) and each time it has won first prize in its class, but has now become so leggy that I have had to take cuttings and start again. These have taken well, so you may see ‘Son of Aeonium leucobletharum‘ at a future National!