What Are Succulents?

what are succulents

Succulents have gained much popularity in recent years. These beautiful plants are among the hottest trends nowadays. They can be seen commonly at homes, cafes or shopping malls. Their natural aesthetic visuals are a treat for the eyes. While most of us have seen them, only a few know what these plants actually are.

Having said that, we are covering everything from their identity to their origin to the most common species in this article. So, keep reading further to know more!

HIGHLIGHTS

Let’s start with the definition, succulents are basically a type of plants that have an outstanding ability to store water in a dry climate and drought-like conditions. This trait is known succulence and hence, they got their name. Due to this reason, they are also known as water storage plants. Because of their water retention abilities, they can thrive in dry and humid climates. The roots of these plants grow near the surface of the soil and thus, absorbs as much water as they can. Thus, they can die if given excess water.

Are Succulents And Cacti Same?

Due to their similar looks, many people confuse the succulents with cacti. The term cacti and succulents are used interchangeably most of the time – which is absolutely wrong!

Both the species of plants are different and thus, it is very important to know about the relationship between both varieties in order to be able to distinguish them.

Talking about succulents, they are the plants that store water in their bodies. There are more than 60 types of species such as aloe, haworthia, sedum, Sempervivum and most importantly cacti that comes under succulents.

On the other hand, cacti are among the species of succulents. They are also water storage plants under the succulent group. Therefore, you can say that all the cacti are a part of the succulent family.

Most of the cacti plants come in different shapes and sizes and they do not have branches and leaves. There is one thing that differedifferentiatesents from cacti and it is the presence of areoles. Basically, areoles are tiny, round and cushiony mounds of flesh that promote the growth of leaves, flowers, spines from the cactus plant. These areoles are only present in cacti and not in all succulents.

Moreover, many people confuse succulents with cacti because they too have spines and thorns but this character of succulent is not enough to put it in the category of cacti. Areoles are the only point to distinguish between both the plant species. Since succulents don’t have areoles, they can never be called cacti.

In an esse, all cacti are succulents but vice-versa is not always true.

Where Are Succulents Found?

On the contrary of a popular belief, not all the succulents grow in hot and arid climates. Some succulent species can also grow under cold climatic conditions like on the mountains, forest and some even near water bodies.

It is true that most of these plants grow in drought-like conditions but they can be grown anywhere provided that they’re not exposed to water in excess.

Because of their origin from extreme climatic conditions, these plants withstand dry spells very well. Also, they are pretty easy to propagate. Once you plant a stem, you will be able to see umpteen of plants in a few months. Even a small fallen leaf sometimes produces a whole new plant.

One more amazing characteristic of these plants is that under different environmental fluctuations, they change colours ranging from grey-green to black and sometimes vibrant red and golden.

Most Common Types

Although there are more than 60 species of succulents, there are few most common species that are quite popular as well as easy to grow.

These are as follows :

1] Acanthocereus

Acanthocereus is the most common species of succulents. They are basically shrubby plants comprising arching stems. These stems are angled between up to five ribs. These may be segmented or not segmented, it depends upon the variety of plants. This variety of succulents bears white flowers and some are even fragrant. They have thorns and are a bit short and firm which makes them perfect for indoors.

Their owners also bear spines and scales but the fruits may or may not contain these characteristics. Generally, the fruits are red und with pulp and black seeds.

They are native to Southern Mexico, Central America, Northern America and some regions of Florida.

Plants Under This Category :

  • Acanthocereus tetragonus Or Fairy Castle Cactus
what are succulents
Acanthocereus Tetragonus

This plant resembles a miniature of columnar cactus and grows with a number of branches. While growing, these branches come along vertically and form a castle-like structure. Hence, it is known as a “fairy castle” plant.

Each stem consists of at least 5 sides and short white spines which grow along the ribs. This variety is perfect for beginners because it doesn’t require much care. These plants produce white or yellow flowers after getting matured after many years.

2] Adromischus

Next, we have Adromischus which is a genus of more than 28 succulent species. It is a native of South Africa. These plants have small clumping leaves. Many species went unrecognized before the revision of this genus took place.

Plants Under This Category :

  • Adromischus cristatus or Crinkle Leaf Plant
what are succulents
Adromischus Cristatus

It is a type of Adromischus plant which has triangular fleshy leaves covered with tiny hairs. Because the end of leaves forms a crinkle, these are known as crinkle leaf plants. These plants are perfect for indoors and are good for beginners. These little pretty plants can enhance the look of any place they kept in.

3] Agave

Agaves are giant succulents which can withstand harsh temperature, droughts and high heat pretty well. They consist of long vertical leaves that are statuesque and thus add an elemental touch to the landscape of the place they grow in. Due to the height and harsh spines, they are commonly used as security fencing and firebreaks.

Plants Under This Category :

  • Agave Americana or Century Plant
Agave Americana

This is the most common type of Agave plants. These are commonly known as Maguey in Mexico. These plants have beautiful blue-green leaves and saw-like spines. Because they are tall and bushy, they are perfect for open settings.

  • Agave Victoriae-reginae or Queen Victoria
Agave Victoriae-Reginae

These plants are shorter and have black-tipped leaves which curve inside to form a dome-like shape. These are perfect to be grown indoors in pots or containers because it only grows about a foot taller. They live for as long as 30 years and when matured, they produce either purplish or cream coloured flowers.

4] Aloe

Aloe is a very popular household variety of plants. They are commonly grown in most parts of the world. The sap produced in the leaves of these plants is used to treat a number of ski skin-related uses and often used in cosmetic therapies.

These plants contain long, thick and fleshy leaves that are green-grey in colours. They also feature tough and short spines.

Plants Under This Category :

  • Golden Toothed Aloe or Aloe Nobilis
what are succulents
Aloe Nobilis

These are beautiful plants which have rose-tipped leaves and golden coloured spines. They are short and grow only up to 10 inches. They bloom with pretty orange-red flowers if kept in bright light. These aloe plants are full of characters and are perfect of landscaping the lobbies and corridors

  • Tiger Tooth Aloe or Aloe Juvenna

As the name suggests, these aloe plants feature long spikes. However, these spikes are very soft. So, they don’t hurt that much and add beauty to this plant. They grow about 10-12 inches in height and thrive in warm temperatures and full sun. Matured and thriving plants produce offsets for further propagation and the weaker plants turn reddish brown because of extreme dry spells or lack of bright light. Hence, the key to keep a Tiger-tooth aloe healthy is to provide enough bright light. On doing so, you may also be rewarded with beautiful long reddish flowers stalks.

5] Aeonium

 Aeonium is large petalled, fleshy rosettes. They come in green, garnet and yellow colours. Commonly, the leaves of these plants have yellow or cream coloured stripes which adds a lot of texture to the plant. Although there are many hybrids of aeonium, all the varieties have similar rosettes at their tips.

These plants are native to Canary Island and thrive well in mild hot climates. Most of these plants can not stand freezing temperatures and extreme heat. They often require little care.

Plants Under This Category :

  • Greenovia
Greenovia

These incredibly beautiful plants are a native of Canary Island just like the other aeoniums. These plants have gained much popularity because of their aesthetic looks. They have thick and fleshy leaves which are whorled and overlapped. They more closely resemble roses than the other similar succulents. These are summer dormant plants that often shut their petals and take an egg-like shape with leaves flaring at the top. Due to this, they look like delicate rosebuds that are about to open.

Is It Difficult To Grow Succulents Indoors?

Because succulents come from the wildest areas of the world, it seems difficult to grow them indoors. But, this is not at all true!

If you provide them with similar conditions from where they came from, they can thrive easily anywhere. All you need to do is to provide them with enough sunlight and air.

These plants don’t even ask for your attention and you don’t need to pamper them with fertilizers and other additives. Depending upon the climate conditions, they don’t require water. They will grow well even if you don’t water them for several days. Further, in the case of succulents under watering them is better than water in excess. Water them only when they look shrivelled. Also, watering them with distilled water ensures the safety of plants from harmful minerals.

Succulents are so versatile and robust that you can grow them anywhere very easily even if you don’t have a “green thumb”. If you’re someone who’s struggling with failed plants repeatedly, try succulents! You won’t be disappointed and that’s a promise. Who knows you will get a kick start to your planting journey!

How Can I Grow And Take Care Of My Succulents?

How To Propagate A Succulent

Planting succulents is not rocket science. Anyone with no planting experience can also propagate them with ease. These plants are mainly propagated through leaf-cutting or using offshoots. In case you have access to a succulent, you can grow on your own.

Planting Succulents Indoors

The best way to grow a succulent indoor is to propagate using leaf-cutting. Here is how you can do that :

  • Cut a leaf of an existing succulent from the bottom of the flowering part. Make sure the leaf comes out clean and has all the parts.
  • Now, leave the leaf to dry for a few days. Because these leaves are fleshy, it will take a fair amount of time to dry completely. On drying, it will look slightly discoloured and hard which hints that it is the right time to propagate.
  • Fill a pot (with a drainage hole, you can also drill holes in your pots on your own.) with well-drained soil. You can also purchase a ready-made succulent soil mix.
  • Insert the leaf carefully in the pot and leave it for a couple of weeks.
  • Water it only once a week and avoid watering frequently otherwise it will rot.
  • After several weeks, when the roots are visible, remove the leaf very carefully. Don’t panic on seeing the leaf completely calloused as it is normal. Make sure you don’t damage the roots in this process.
  • The plant will take these roots and you will get a new plant as well.
Propagating With Offshoots

Propagating with offshoots is even easier. All you need to do is to cut the offshoot from the base of the plant and put it in a separate pot to grow a new plant.

For this process, check if your succulent has grown an offshoot at the base. If so, then leave the offshoot for several weeks to develop roots. Once roots are visible, cut it or simply twist it carefully without damaging the roots. Now, you can follow the above steps for planting it.

Caring succulents is extremely easy as you don’t have to care at all..!! Amazing right?

You only need to keep in mind a few things and your plants will stay healthy and beautiful forever. Due to their water-retaining properties, they will live without water for many days. This makes them most sought after indoor plants. We are presenting here a few key tips that will help you to keep your plants healthy.

 Caring Tips For Indoor Succulents

1] Use A Pot With Drainage Hole

Succulents will rot in excess of water. If overwatered they are likely to fall prey to various diseases and eventually die. Potting in a container with a drainage hole helps in drying them faster and of course draining the extra water. These drainage pots are easily available in the market and you can even make it on your own

2] Use Only Well – Draining Soil

Soil is the most important factor for the growth of plants. Succulents require well-draining soil to thrive. So, select a soil that doesn’t lock water and has good drainage ability. We recommend using sandy, sandy loam soils for planting succulents. You can either get a soil mix from the nearby nursery( or even online) or mix it on your own.

Check out our other articles for soil preparation tips for succulents.

3] Keep Your Succulents In Bright Light

Since these plants came from the hottest corners of the planet, they require plenty of sun to nourish themselves. So, provide them with enough sunlight at least 6-7 hours a day.

4] Don’t Water In Excess

This is a common mistake which a majority of people make. Please don’t overwater your succulents!

Don’t water them on a regular basis, unlike other plants you’re free to miss watering them. Provide them with a generous amount of water only once a week. A good idea is to check the soil if it is dried or not before supplying them water.

5] Maintain The Right Temperature

In summer, succulents prefer about 70 – 80 of temperature. On the other hand, they like 50 – 60 degrees in winter.

Caring Tips For Outdoor Succulents

Succulents can add an exotic edge in your garden. They are very eye-catching and look ornamental. While planting them outdoors, selecting the right spot and the accompanying plants should be kept in mind. They prefer lots of sunlight, good quality draining soil and less water. However, you don’t have to stress much as they will not bother you much than the indoor succulents.

Here are a few tips :

1] Select A Sunny Spot

First and Foremost, plant your succulents at a place that receives plenty of sunlight for at least half a day.

2] Choose The Right Soil

Test your garden soil for its drainage ability. If it’s not that great then, backfill the drench/hole with gravel and sand mix to improve the drainage. Another good idea is to plant them at slopes and let gravity do the rest.

3] Water Only When Required

Similar to the other succulents, don’t over water them. Water only when required. At times, supply water at the base while keeping the plant body dry. Also, check the soil and water only when it becomes dry.

4] Protect Your Succulents From Winters

Majority of these plants can’t stand winter frost. So, if you live in an area with a cold climate or during winters, transfer your plants into containers and bring them indoors in order to protect them.

Pruning and Trimming Tips For Succulents

Pruning and trimming the succulents is important to discard dead parts like stems, leaves and flowers and also to improve the growth. Pruning at regular intervals also promotes growth.

These plants come in different shapes, sizes and colours. Some are quite huge and can stretch out taking all the space in the container or the ground. Their growth gets unruly and hence, needs to be pruned. It keeps them in shape and enhances their looks. Also, most of the succulents seal off the dead parts, it is a good practice to quickly discard the dead and diseased leaves, flowers and stem.

  • In order to trim them cleanly, use good quality tools like clippers, pruning saw with sharp teeth or a sharp knife. If you’re discarding the diseased part then don’t swab or spray your blades in alcohol as it can spread the infection in the rest of the plants.
  • While pruning spiky or sappy succulents always wear gloves. Be careful when you prune the members of Euphorbia family like pencil cactus as their sap can cause an irritating and itching sensation in your skin.
  • Multi branched succulents such as Echeveria, Crassula, Aeonium, Yucca, Graptopetalum, and some other plants require occasional pruning. New growth in these plants starts right from the end where you cut them. Therefore, cut them where you want new growth to initiate.
  • You can use the cut-off parts to propagate new plants. Just allow them to dry for a couple of weeks and plant them in well-draining soil.
  • For trimming the outdoor succulents, the best time is to do this in early spring. This is the time when most of the plants begin their fresh growth.
  • For evergreen or year-round species, trim them whenever the temperatures are high.
  • Prune flowering succulents in winter while they go dormancy.
  • Most of the parts of Agave plants usually die after blooming by leaving behind offsets and suckers at their bottom. Discard the dead flower stalks and dries leave in order to make room for new growth.

What Are Some Best Flowering Succulents?

Although succulents look beautiful without flowers, some blooming succulents act as a cherry on the cake!

In order to provide you with a better knowledge of succulents that produce colourful and beautiful flowers, we have prepared a list of some best flowering succulents for you.

The succulents are often classified on the basis of flowers they produce. Typically, most succulents produce star or bell-shaped, frilly flowers. These flowers can be found in different colours and patterns. Some even come in mixed colours which look extremely stunning. Some of these flowers are very fragrant and attract pollinators such as hummingbirds, bees, beetles and flies in the dark.

Different species of these plants bloom in different seasons from pleasant springs to hot summers and even mid-winters. Below is the list of flowering succulents.

1] Aloes And Kalanchoes

When it comes to the flowering succulents, aloe plants tops the list. They bear bell-shaped stunning flowers with shorter stalks. These flowers are generally red, orange and yellow in colours.

Similar to the aloes, Kalanchoes are popular flower-bearing succulents. They commonly produce small tubular blossoms from the leaf tips.

2] Euphorbias

Euphorbias like poinsettia blooms with small flowers at the centre of big white, red and pink bract and thorns. Sometimes, stems without any leaves can also get topped with colourful and vibrant orange, pink, red, yellow flowers.

3] Carrion Cactus

Plants under this category mainly Stapelia and others have finger-shaped leaves and bear star-shaped flowers. These flowers may look good but produce a pungent rancid meat-like smell that attracts beetles and flies.

4] Devil’s backbone (Pedilanthus)

Pedilanthus is commonly known as slipper- plant or bird cactus. It gives out tiny but vibrant red blossoms shaped like ladies’ slippers.

5] Crassula And Jade

These plants produce a crown of pink and white flowers.

6] Aeonium Zwartcop

This plant is popularly known as black rose and it gives out beautiful yellow flowers which contrast its colour very strongly.

7] Hoya

Hoya or wax plant gives out a cloud of flowers that looks like artificial wax flowers.

8] Yucca

Yuccas are proud blooming succulents. They are famous for their white velvety flowers. They generally bloom in spring, fall or summer depending upon their varieties. The best part is, these flowers are edible!

Red yuccas or Hesperaloe produce

spikes of bright red flowers during summer and last longer even after blooming which is contrary to the agave variety that dies after flowering.

9] Prickly Pear Cacti

Flattened leaf cacti like Opuntia get topped with gorgeous orange, red or yellow colour flowers that resemble roses. They also give out perfectly edible fruit. Further, Delospermum also produces bright flowers.

10] Christmas And Easter Cacti

These plants are quite popular among other flowering succulents. Varieties like Schlumbergera and Hatiora give out marvellous stem-tip flowers during fall and spring. These are quite ornamental plants that add beauty to the place they grow in. A

Further, varieties like Hylocereus, Epiphyllum and others produce interesting crowns of huge, white, yellow, red blossoms that look mesmerizing with frills.

What Are Some Beginner-friendly Ones?

There is a wrong assumption about succulents that they are very complex to grow. But that’s not entirely true. While there are some varieties that require some experience, there are some fuss-free succulents which can be easily grown by beginners or novice gardeners.

If you’re someone with no gardening experience, this list will help you to choose the best variety that can thrive under any condition.

Additionally, all these varieties can be grown easily from offshoots and stem-cutting methods and require no additional care and maintenance. You can easily find them in your local nursery or even on online stores and gardening centres.

1] Agave Plants

Agave plants like agave Americana, agave parviflora, century, Agave Victoriae-reginae are some common plants that can be grown in indoor pots provided bright lighting.

2] Aloe plants

These are perfect short household plants that grow in clusters and feature spikes. Some varieties of aloe plants also bear orange and pink blooms that enhance its looks even better.

There are multiple varieties of aloe plants depending on different shapes, sizes and other properties. Most of them are beginner-friendly.

3] Adromischus Cristatus or Key Lime Pie

These are adorable plants that anyone can grow. They are also called Baby toes plants as they look like fleshy little feet.

4] Crassula Ovata /Jade

The reason for its huge popularity is its destructive nature. This plant grows like anything and is very tough to kill. Plant it once and you can go freely without worrying about it, it will still thrive. What is even better? They bear pink and white flowers in winters.

5] Echeveria

Many varieties of echeverias like Echeveria glauca and Echeveria elegans and other hybrid varieties look lovely in grey-blue colours and grow slowly but easily.

6] Tiger Jaws, Cat Jaws

These are from the Faucaria tigrina species. Both of these succulents are very similar to each other and look visually appealing with their teeth-like grins.

Faucaria tigrina, Tigers Jaws – find more succulent plants here

7] Haworthia

Don’t mistake these plants with aloe as they are completely different. These are forgiving spiky plants which can forgive two of the most common sins: poor lights and excessive watering. These plants like partial light and can live in slightly moist soil.

8] Kalanchoe blossfeldiana

These are most ignored succulents. They often went unrecognized but are excellent for beginners. They are usually hybridized to produce a wide range of colours like red, pink, orange, white.

9] Bowstring Hemp or Snake Plant

They are among the Sansevieria species. These succulents are famous with many names like Mother In-law’s Tongue, Snake plant or Bowstring Hemp. They generally bear white coloured blossoms.

10] Sedum

These plants are quite fascinating and stunning. Varieties like Burros tail, Coppertone, Sedum Morganianum are perfect houseplants that give purplish-pink flowers.

Common Diseases And Pest Problems

Although succulents are tough plants that can grow in extreme conditions, sometimes get attacked by various infections. Hence, it is necessary to have proper knowledge of various pests and diseases that might kill your beautiful plants. This way you will be able to prevent your plants from dying. To help you with this, we are providing a list of common succulent diseases and also their treatment.

1] Agave Snout Weevil

It is a fatal and serious disease prevalent to agave plants. It is important to prevent it otherwise it will destroy your plant.

Symptoms: If you see any dark patches or wilts at the leaves, it is likely that your plant is attacked by snout weevil. It is a black beetle which has a similar size to your thumbnail. It attaches himself to the leaf and lays eggs. It eats the core of the plant and destroys it.

Treatment: In order to prevent your agaves, fill the ground under the plants with good quality insecticides in spring and fall.

2] Aloe Mite

It is a serious infection that spreads very fast. It affects mainly the colouration of the plant.

Symptoms: It is a microscopic mite that causes bumpy and tumour like growth on the aloes, especially on the leaves, flower spikes and the stem-leaf joint. It kills the plant due to cancerous growth.

Treatment: If your plant is affected severely, discard it completely. It can harm other plants or if kept for long. However, at the starting stage, cut out the infected portion and throw it away. Also, don’t forget to swab your tools with alcohol and bleach after using them otherwise it will infect other plants. Further, don’t use cuttings of the infected plants for propagation.

3] Ant Infestation

It is another serious disease but is easier to recover with.

Symptoms: Ants make a nest under the aloe plants like Haworthias and Gasterias in late fall and hot summers. They consume the plant’s core and fill the centre with dirt by pushing it.

Treatment: Remove all the infected leaves until you see a clean core. Wash the roots if you can and replant it in new soil away from ants. You can also place the pots at a height where ants can access them.

Use ant powder like Diatomaceous earth. It is powerful in killing the insects by attacking their exoskeletons and dehydrating them.

4] Aphids And Thrips

Although these don’t cause serious infections but result in distorted growth.

Symptom: plump insects attach themselves on the new delicate leaves, stems and flowers and suck the juices. Usually, ants keep these bugs on plants and later feed on them.

Treatment: These bugs can be easily treated without any special insecticide. Just pressurized water spray will be able to remove these insects from the leaves. You can also throw some friendly insects like ladybugs to get rid of these bugs. Meanwhile, use a good Isopropyl alcohol spray on the remaining alphid. If possible, replant the succulent in fresh soil free from ants.

5] Black Spots

Although this is not a serious disease, it messes with the beauty of plants and makes it look unhealthy and dull. Also, there is no treatment for it. So, it is better to prevent such conditions.

Black spots are generally caused by fungus. Aloe plants like Haworthias and Gasterias are most likely to suffer these conditions. This infection is generally caused by moist air. So, keep your plant dry and away from moisture. Keep the plants in a location which receives full light.

Also, discard the infected leaves to prevent the infection from spreading.

6] Blotchy Leaves

Blotchy leaves are very common in succulents. Rosette succulents like graptoverias, aloes, echeverias and graptopetalums are commonly affected by this condition. This generally happens due to lack of light. So, provide your plants with plenty of sunlight to keep them fresh and to prevent any kind of discolouration.

7] Cochineal Scales

Cochineal scales make the plant look ugly and unruly. It can seriously affect the plant if left uncontrolled. These form points of white fluff on cacti leaves. They are red coloured dots and can colour your hands if mashed.

Treatment – In order to remove these bugs, blast the succulent with a hose. You can also scrub off the bugs using a mild soap solution with a soft brush. During winters, try spraying neem oil and release ladybugs.

Discard the plant completely in case it is infected badly. Also, this disease gets worse with humidity and lack of air, so prevent these conditions as far as possible.

8] Color Change

Reversion to green is completely normal but doesn’t look good on succulents. It is a sign that your plant is unhealthy. The common plants that undergo this condition are Jade and aloes. They turn red and orange when they are unhealthy. Most probably when given more sun, poor soil, and excess of water. Many people doubt themselves that these plants look better in nurseries and look not-so-good when they bring them home. The reason is, they are provided with familiar conditions at nursery.

So, when you bring a succulent for your home, give it enough sun. If your plants are getting red frequently, increase their sun-bath time.

9] Crackled Patches

This is a serious disease and can grow into mycoplasma infection. This bacteria attacks the roots and leaves of plants, mainly in the nursery soil. The reason is simple, the nursery soil contains horse manure which breeds the bacteria. Once your plant gets affected by this deadly disease, there is no way to treat it. The best idea is to throw it in the trash.

10] Abrasion

Lastly, your succulents can suffer abrasions. It is very common but unsightly. Your plant can recover on its own if provided with better conditions. Mostly, Aeoniums are prone to abrasion. The leaves of the plant tend to get brown marks due to mishandling. So, don’t touch the leaves excessively and hold the plant from stems softly.

Summary

There you have it all. We assume you get to know about everything regarding succulents. These are beautiful and easy to grow plants that can make your place look lively and vibrant. So, give these amazing plants a shot and you will never be disappointed!

Happy Gardening!

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