Succulents are lovely plants that grow in many diverse shapes and sizes. They tend to require less care than traditional houseplants, making them ideal for busy lifestyles. Not only do they look great, but they are easy to care for. Succulents come in a variety of types that can grow indoors or outdoors, depending on the species and climate.
Whether you’re a beginner trying to learn about different types of succulents or a seasoned gardener looking to add more varieties, there is something here for everyone! This article will introduce you to the most popular types of succulents and their key features to decide which one best suits your needs.
1. ZZ Plant
The ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia), also known as the “Zanzibar gem” or “Zuzu plant,” is native to eastern and southern Africa. They belong to a distinctive genus in the Araceae family. The ZZ plant is super low maintenance and extremely easy to care for. You only need to place it in partial sunlight and water semi-regularly.
These plants grow between 2 and 4 feet in width and height. Plant lovers grow them for ornamental purposes with their perennial, oval-shaped dark green leaves. If you are struggling to grow plants or are a beginner, these plants are ideal for you as they are notoriously hard to kill.
The ZZ plant produces interesting white, yellow, or bronze spathe-type flowers in the spring. However, if you have cold winters or it gets too dry, the ZZ plant might not flower. So give them heat, humidity, and sunlight, and see them thrive!
2. The Ghost Plant
Also known as the “ghost plant” or “Indian pipe,” the Monotropa uniflora is a herbaceous perennial that you will find growing throughout North America and temperate regions in Asia. These unique plants have a waxy texture and translucent white color with black speckles. Some ghost plants are pale pink and white, while some variants are deep red. They grow 2-4 inches tall, and each stem produces one bell-shaped flower.
Ghost plants make your garden stand out in the best way. This plant is hardy and easy to grow. They typically get used in natural medicine and ornamental purposes. Ghost plants don’t need any sunlight but require water every week, and you’re good to go!
3. Spiny Pincushion Cactus
The spiny pincushion cactus (Mammillaria spinosissima) is part of the Mammillaria family, which consists of 250 species. It’s a colorful little plant native to Mexico and one of the more popular cacti you can find.
The pincushion cactus got named after a pincushion because of its bulbous appearance and small spikes. They can grow up to 11 inches in height and 4 inches in width. It also blooms beautiful funnel-shaped flowers in colors ranging from pale pink to purple with cream-colored radials. Taking care of the pincushion cactus is a dream! They are ideal for beginners who want an easy, quirky plant to grow.
4. Snake Plant
Snake plants (Dracaena trifasciata) are evergreen perennial succulents native to tropical Western Africa. Other common names include “mother-in-law’s tongue” and “viper’s bowstring hemp.” They are fascinating plants that grow vertically with a sword-like appearance, and the dark green stiff leaves have light green cross bands and yellow lining on the edges.
Mature snake plants reach about 6 feet tall and 8 feet in optimal conditions. You may even mistake snake plants for artificial plants thanks to their perfectly straight leaves and smooth texture. In addition, they don’t need sunlight or regular maintenance to survive. Pop them in a pot and use them as an ornamental focal point in your home.
5. Panda Plant
The panda plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa) has many cultivars and is part of the Kalanchoe genus. They are evergreen succulents native to Madagascar and are used not only for ornamental purposes but also for medicinal purposes.
Panda plants are adorable, furry little plants that can grow 1-2 feet tall. The leaves are grey-green with chocolate brown around the edges and have silver hairs on them, similar to a panda bear. It’s not common for them to bloom when growing indoors, but in their native environment, panda plants grow yellow-red bell-shaped flowers.
6. Bunny Ear Cactus
The bunny ear cactus (Opuntia microdasys) is a beautiful succulent that grows two or more ear-shaped pads resembling bunny ears. They are native to Mexico and other desert regions in the United States, like Arizona. Other common names include “polka dot cactus” and “angel wings cactus.”
Bunny ear cacti can grow 2-3 feet tall with a 5-foot spread. In the summer, they bloom adorable white and yellow flowers about 2 inches in width. However, they can irritate the skin of pets and children. Once the blooming time has passed, the flowers become red and purple fruits.
7. Elephant Plant
The elephant plant (Portulacaria afra) is a small-leaved succulent native to Southern Africa. They get their name from being a delicious snack to elephants. The elephant plant is a bush-like succulent with a red stem and branches out into bright green leaves. When tended to correctly, watch your succulent bloom clusters of white and pink flowers. They can grow up to 15 feet in height and requires minimal water with direct sunlight.
If you’re familiar with succulents or a beginner, it can easily confuse them with the jade plant (Crassula ovata). However, elephant plants are smaller than jade plants which is why they often get referred to as dwarf jade plants. So not only is the elephant plant a beautiful succulent, but it is also a great conversation starter.
8. Mother of Thousands
The mother of thousands is known as Kalanchoe daigremontiana. Native to the islands of Madagascar, mother of thousands is a slow-growing succulent best grown outdoors. They are relatively easy to propagate and require direct sunlight, well-draining soil and watered only when the soil has become dry to avoid root rot.
The mother of thousands typically gets used for ornamental purposes. They grow about 3 feet with fleshy 8-inch long and 1-inch wide leaves. The mother of thousands is a beautiful plant that stands out from the crowd with its unique appearance. They grow upright leaves covered in hundreds of plantlets that can also get propagated. The succulent leaves are bright green, standing out from their brown stem. When the season starts to warm, expect tubular pink-grey flowers to bloom.
9. Moon Cactus
If you want to add a bright spark or an aesthetic appeal to the room, the moon cactus could be ideal. The Moon Cactus, or Gymnocalycium mihanovichii, is a globe or sphere-shaped succulent and comes in various colors, including red, yellow, and orange. These succulents are native to South America, such as Argentina and Brazil. They are typically found in dry and hot conditions and grows in the desert.
The moon cactus will produce stunning bright flowers in the late spring and grow to about 2 inches when mature. In addition, they have clusters of little sharp spines on them, as many cacti do. These perennial evergreen plants only require small amounts of water and light, but don’t let them dry out.
10. Tree Houseleek
Tree houseleeks (Aeonium arboretum) are also known as “Irish rose” and are considered a succulent subshrub. They have thick fleshy leaves that grow in a beautiful rosette similar to an open rose. They can grow to about 9 inches in diameter and offer a unique flower-like visual. The leaves are glossy green and often a stunning deep purple.
Tree houseleeks are endemic to the Canary Islands, and you can find them growing throughout the Moroccan coast and the Mediterranean. However, they are a common invasive weed in areas they don’t naturally grow. While most succulents prefer dry heat and sunlight, tree houseleeks will thrive in some humidity and moisture. When taken care of, expect cute yellow flowers in the spring that grow off the stem forming a pyramid shape, contrasting the purple and green hues of the leaves.
11. Zebra Plant
The Zebra plant succulent, known scientifically as Haworthia fasciata, is a perennial succulent plant native to South Africa. From afar, it looks like a small cactus with its small spines running along the edges of each leafy tip. But when closely examined, what sets it apart from other succulents are its distinct white and green striped leaves that give it an exotic appearance.
These cute succulents only grow about 4 inches tall with triangular-shaped leaves. The white stripes or spots are mostly on the back side of the leaves, and the succulent produce delicate and small, white and slender flowers.
12. Burro’s Tail
Burro’s tail (Sedum morganianum) is native to Mexico and is known for its blue-green leaves and the beautiful pink and red flowers they produce in the summer. They need to get placed somewhere they can receive direct sun and in well-draining soil. Ensure they get watered weekly or even bi-weekly to propagate them properly.
Burro’s tail is the perfect way to add a plant to your surroundings without much work. Also known as “donkey’s tail,” it is a succulent species prized for its attractive appearance and hardy nature. This trailing succulent has thick, fleshy blue-green leaves ranging from 1-4 inches long and grows in a rosette pattern. The stems are thin and wiry, growing up to 2 feet long and often cascading over the sides of its pot or hanging basket. When mature, the plant produces small, red, and pink bell-shaped flowers that make this succulent eye-catching.
13. String of Pearls
If you are looking for a real showstopper, look no further! The string of pearls, or the Curio rowleyanus, is a great way to end up with a quirky, beautiful plant hanging over the sides of a basket. They are native to Southern Africa and grow better in low to moderate-humidity areas.
These succulents thrive in a circular pattern and produce daisy-like white flowers when they bloom in the summer. In short, these succulents look like a string of pearls but an eco-friendly version you can admire in your home. The string of pearls grows 1-2 feet tall and 1-2 feet long.
Sedum is a large genus containing more than 400 species, most of which are hardy succulents with thick leaves. This genus of flowering plants is great for adding variety to your garden without adhering to considerable maintenance restraints. Also referred to as stonecrop, sedums are hardy plants and can withstand drought.
There are two variations of Sedum, including creeping and upright Sedum.
Low-growing sedums are typically shorter and spread outwards, forming a dense mat of foliage that only grows a few inches tall, making them perfect for rock gardens or as ground cover. In addition, they tend to have small, star-shaped flowers that bloom in the summer months.
Upright sedums grow taller than low-growing sedums, reaching heights of up to two feet. They have larger flowers that bloom in the late summer and fall months — great for pollinator gardens. Upright sedums are best suited for containers or as a backdrop in a garden bed.
The colors of Sedum range from light green to blue-grey; some even have a red-bronze color, and flowers bloom in white, pink, yellow, and bronze hues!
15. Prickly Pear Cactus
Prickly pear cacti produce delicious fruit and stems that many Mexican cultures use as medicine. Despite the lack of scientific proof, many believe that Opuntia ficus-indica has the following benefits:
- Lowering cholesterol
- Lowering blood sugar levels
- Help an enlarged prostate
Consuming too many prickly pears can cause some minor side effects, such as nausea, heartburn, and diarrhea.
It’s easy to identify prickly pear cactus thanks to its large central trunk and blue-green oblong pads covered in tiny spines. They grow up to 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide. The fruit color and shape will vary according to variety and can be red, yellow, green, or purple.
Echeveria is a succulent native to Central America, as well as areas of South America and Mexico. They are a genus of the Crassulaceae family and typically get used as ornamental or garden plants. For Echeveria to thrive, it needs to be in a position to receive full or direct sunlight, has well-draining soil, and get watered appropriately. Echeveria is known for its lovely rosette-shaped leaves that come in hues of blue-grey and grey-green, although it is common to find them in colors of green or purple.
These plants are an easy way to give your outdoor haven a bit of diversity. When mature, Echeveria grow 2 feet tall and 1 foot wide. Echeveria is a large genus with many species, and you can find them across Central and South America.
17. Butterfly Agave
Butterfly agave (Agave potatorum) is a Mexico native and gets found in hot and dry conditions. As a result, they develop beautiful symmetrical rosettes of blue-silver leaves with red spines on their edges. In addition, butterfly agave can grow light green and yellow flowers. These unique succulents grow around 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide.
The butterfly agave is a perennial plant that will keep its leaves all year round. They are drought resistant and grow where other plants normally die in these hot, arid environments. Their thick stems and large fleshy leaves will allow them to thrive in extreme conditions with limited resources. Another unique feature of Agave potatorum is its ability to produce a large flower stalk. This stalk can reach up to 20 feet and grow yellow flowers.
Summary Of The 17 Types Of Succulents
|The Ghost Plant
|Spiny Pincushion Cactus
|Bunny Ear Cactus
|Mother Of Thousands
|String of Pearls
|Prickly Pear Cactus
The photo featured at the top of this post is © asharkyu/Shutterstock.com
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What is the most common type of succulent growth form?
Rosettes are the most common type of succulent growth form. They look like roses which is where it gets its name.
Do succulents need full sun?
Most species of succulents require around 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight. However, some species prefer shade, such as Aloe and Haworthia.
What is the best succulent for a beginner?
Aloe, burro’s tail, Zebra succulent plants, and jade plants are great succulents for beginners. They are easy to care for and don’t require much maintenance.
What kills succulents?
Overwatering is the most common cause of succulents dying. They cause the root and leaves to rot.
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