- Ice Plants, Carpet Weeds, and Mesembs
- Aloe Family
- Dogbane, Periwinkle, Oleander, Milkweed Family
- Stonecrop, Jade plant, Sedum, and Hen-and-chicks Family
There are so many different types of succulents, and they’re all just as lovely as the next. Succulent plants are great because they don’t require a ton of fussing or care. And they’re easy to propagate. Because there’s a lot to choose from, chances are there’s one out there that suits you just right.
Whether it’s indoor succulents you want to grow or an outdoor succulent garden, there’s at least one succulent appropriate for either or both. If you want white flowers, pinkish flowers, woody stems, or luscious green stems, there’s something out there for you.
Succulents can be ground cover. Some grow easily as shade succulents, and some enjoy the searing sun in a xeriscape garden. Some are best grown indoors. They don’t often require as much water as vegetables and flowers, and they live for a long time. Many of them self-sow, and some are easy to grow from seed. There are plenty of options out there fitting for everyone.
In this piece, we’re going to cover as many succulents as possible and categorize them so you can easily locate one that suits your needs. Then you can plan your garden design, and include multiple types of succulents that will liven any space they’re in.
You might be wondering why we included cacti in our succulent plant piece, but the fact of the matter is cacti species are succulent species. A cactus is a member of the Cactaceae family.
Cacti have many shapes and sizes, with varying flower colors and types. What unites them is their spines. Most prefer full sunlight, and they propagate via stem cuttings, pad segments, or seeds.
These cacti are succulent varieties with a shrub-like growth habit. They should be grown outdoors as they can reach multiple meters tall. The genus name comes from the Greek words for candle or flame (cereus) combined with spine (acantha). That’s because the flowers bloom from the tips of spiny cactus stems. These cacti are native to Texas and Florida, all the way to northern South America.
Also known as “living rocks” – not to be confused with Lithops, which we will cover later in this piece – these cacti are small and compact, reaching only 1.5 meters at the highest. The spines are also dense and compact, in a much more unassuming way than most cacti. While all 6 species have different growth habits, they’re all relatively barrel-like and have yellow flowers that burst at the adjoining section of their 4 to 6 ribs. Sometimes the shoots are covered with tiny hairs, and sometimes they’re bald. The most widely known of these cacti is the sand dollar cactus.
There are over 100 species within the Cephalocereus, or tree cactus genus. They are all tall, and sometimes have a thick trunk and a columnar growth habit. Others have a branching habit. They are all covered in thick white bristles, and flower from the vertical parts of their ribs. They’re native to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. Several are facing habitat loss. Therefore, consider the source if you acquire one. The most popular of the genus is Old Man’s Cactus.
This genus is comprised of 33 species that are native to South America. They are characteristically columnar, ribbed, and elongated. They derive nutrients from the air, and the water and dirt in the surrounding air. They have a shrubby growth pattern, reaching up to 15 meters. Their night-blooming, funnel-like flowers range in color from gradients in white to pink to green. They produce oblong fruits, and large, distinct spines. If you’re interested in growing one yourself, try the Peruvian torch.
Does anyone else think about disco when they see Discocactus? These stout, disc-shaped cacti are native to southern Brazil, eastern Bolivia, and northern Paraguay. This is another plant you should do some research on before buying. It’s nearly extinct in the wild. The spines are sharp and criss-cross one another, and the tops of the flattened cactus discs are covered in bristles. These cacti bloom white flowers at maturity and night. While they’re great for rock gardens, the trade of these cacti is regulated commercially and internationally.
This genus encompasses 6 species of low-growing spiny cacti. It also includes the golden barrel cactus which is a prominent xeriscape plant. Echinocactus cacti produce small flowers and wooly fruits. Their pronounced spines have not stopped overharvesting in the wild, but they are not protected by any laws. Flower colors range from pink to yellow, to peachy cream.
Commonly referred to as button cactus, this genus contains 8 species. Their appearance is striking, but you may not notice them in their native habitats due to their size. Their globe-shaped or cylindrical stems never surpass a couple of inches. They are covered in tiny whitish spines too. Native to Northern Mexico, Arizona, and West Texas, button cacti produce tiny red edible fruits.
Commonly called chin cacti, these South American species number about 70 total. They are also small, not reaching more than 5 inches tall. Their easy-to-bloom flowers come in a color range from white to red and require bright direct light with high heat. Therefore this is one of those genera that is full of outdoor succulents. Moon cactus is the most popular of the genus, due to its red skin and bright pinkish flowers.
This is one of the most populated genera of cacti, comprised of over 200 species native to varying parts of southern North America, Central America, and South America. The genus is named for the distinctive split areole. They have a globular shape and conical, cylindrical, pyramidal, or round tubercles. They bloom white to pink to purple, flowers that are funnel-shaped, and produce berry-like fruit. One of the most popular and widespread species is the Pincushion cactus.
These cacti are native to Mexico and Guatemala. They grow tall, up to 16 feet in height. They prefer dry environments, and flower in the summer. They also produce edible purple berries. The bilberry cactus is the most well-known of the genus, as it roots quickly from cuttings and its berries are sold for food in Mexico.
These cacti are well known to those who consume cacti as a food source. Here in Texas, prickly pear cacti pads and fruits are used culinarily. So are they in their native ranges Western and South Central United States, the Rocky Mountains, and the southern Great Plains. They’re characterized by small spines on fruit and pads and large dense trunk-forming growth. Succulent plants in this genus need a lot of room to grow. But they’re great in sandy or rocky soils. They have showy flowers that bloom in summer and produce delicious fruits. They’re easy to propagate and enjoy full sun all year long. The most popular of the genus is prickly pear, but the most striking is Bunny Ears Cactus.
These cacti are native to the Andes. All 10 species have wooly hairs with protruding spines. Some species are known as the old man of the mountain.
This genus is full of upland cacti endemic to Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, and Uruguay. With 50 members, they have globular and columnar growth habits with varying modes in between. While they can live in the mountains, they’re not cold-hardy succulent plants. Outside their native range, they should be grown as indoor succulents. Most have yellow blooms, and some have pink flowers. The ball cactus is the most popular species in the genus.
These weird cacti are found in parts of Africa, Asia, and in Central America, the Caribbean, and the northern regions of South America. They typically grow in tropical rainforests, making them excellent indoor container dwellers. The stems are cylindrically furrowed, angular, and flattened. Most don’t have spines. Flowers are either yellow or red and produce varied berries. Mistletoe Cactus is one of the most common succulents of the genus.
You’re probably well aware of Christmas and Thanksgiving cactus. Did you know there’s an Easter Cactus too? These are all members of the Schlumbergera genus, and their common name refers to their approximate bloom time. All 9 species are native to Brazil but are commonly grown indoors. The succulent flowers on these plants are to die for, with varying pinks and reds. You can grow them in hanging baskets or on a patio. They’re easy to propagate and care for as well. Especially Christmas cactus.
We’re covering just a couple of types of succulents in the asparagus family. These have sharp pointy leaves and green leaves. You’ll find them either in full sun or in shade.
Agave and Yucca
These are some of the best drought-resistant plants out there, with a striking appearance when planted among rocks and sandy desert flora. Both yucca and agave are of the perennial succulent category and are hard to mistake. Agave succulents have strong fleshy leaves that can hurt if you run into them. Agave species number 270 at least. Agave Americana is a popularly grown plant. Whale’s tongue agave is (Agave ovatifolia) is a prized plant among desert gardeners as well, with broad, bright green leaves that are rimmed with dark blue.
Yucca is another one of those desert types of succulents you’ll find growing alongside agave. Both are flowering succulents with thick leaves that are easy to care for. They do need full direct sunlight and well-draining soil. Plant succulents like agave and yucca outdoors, so each succulent grows nice and big. Blue Beaked Yucca is a striking plant that grows dark green leaves and blooms large compound white blooms in summer. Spanish Bayonet is another popular yucca type.
There are about 70 different species of snake plant out there. And we have a ton of content on multiple cultivars. What you need to know about them is they have dark green fleshy leaves that enjoy the partial shade. Their leaf edges are often yellow, but some are dark green just like their leaves. Unlike agave, these plants don’t grow in a rosette formation but bunched together. They are commonly grown in potting soil. You’ve likely seen snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) growing in an office somewhere. But there are plenty of weird ones, like the Kenya Hyacinth, named for its spindly lavender flowers. There’s also bowstring’s hemp, which produces lovely white and green variegated leaves.
Ice Plants, Carpet Weeds, and Mesembs
If you’re remotely familiar with succulents, you know about the ice plant. These are small succulent plants within the same family as carpet weeds, mesembs – or mimicry plants. Let’s run down this list of fascinating succulent identification.
This genus is specific to the ice plant and carpet weeds. All of the members of this genus are native to South Africa. Usually referred to as ice plants, they are only one of a wide number of species that are called that. A plush plant with thick, crystal-like leaves, Delosperma species comprise a lot of the most well-known ice plant varieties.
This interesting genus is comprised of 33 species that share a resemblance to animal mouths and a rosette growing habit. They start small, with thick serrated leaves, and as they mature become bushy. If they are exposed to bright light the green leaves turn reddish in color. Their blooms are yellow. The most popular of the species is Tiger Jaws.
The only species in this genus are babies’ toes or window plant. This plant is green and clustered with rounded tips that are translucent. The tips are responsible for transferring light to the plant tissue below. Subspecies bloom white or yellow flowers.
Often known as pebble plants or flowering stones, lithops are perhaps the most interesting 35 species of the Aizoaceae family. They are low-growing, with leaves buried slightly below the soil. During drought, they’ll shrink below the soil surface in an act of self-preservation. The tops of the leaves look like a cross between a brain and a pair of lungs. They range from light green to red, and sometimes purple. The markings on the tops of the leaves protect the plant in a kind of camouflage. To produce fruit, growers should buy two plants for cross-pollination. Flowers are yellow or white. Stone plants are a lovely addition to a window, so consider them when you’re choosing which to grow.
This plant, not that different from Lithops, is comprised of 2 or 4 opposite plump leaves that are grey-green. The stems are often mostly underground. Their blooms are yellow and reproduce asexually and with cross-pollination. The mimicry plant and the splitrock are the most popular ornamental plants grown in this particular succulent variety.
This family probably doesn’t need much introduction, as most people are familiar with Aloe Vera. There are 40 genera within the family, most of which are native to South Africa. We will deal with just a few of the most notable here.
An aloe plant is perhaps one of the most important plants for gardeners. Not only does the gel of an aloe vera plant heal sunburned skin, but it also acts as a rooting medium for propagating plants by cuttings. There are over 560 species within the genera, and all have thick fleshy leaves with serrated edges and tubular flowers that bloom infrequently. They have a rosette growth habit and produce pups, or new aloe plants, from under the soil. They may be bright green, mottled, or sometimes turn red in bright light. Some aloe has a tree-like growing habit. Aloe aristata or the torch plant has pronounced blades and a more compact rosette. Torch plants and short-leaved aloe plants are great for growers who enjoy aloe but need to save space. Because they are easy to propagate, aloe plants could be sourced from friends.
These aloe plants are tongue-like in their growth habits. They are small and compact, with a rosette formation and small bell or stomach-shaped pale pink flowers. Among issues in succulent identification, Gasteria plants are easy to classify, due to their unique look. One particularly interesting species is Dune Gasteria.
While succulent identification of Haworthia might be difficult, it’s easy if you can remember that they – see, the zebra plant – are compact forms of the Aloe family, not reaching heights of more than 1 foot. Some have translucent leaves, and others have opaque foliage. They either clump or grow singly. They have white blooms, which have green striations. The zebra plant (Haworthia attenuata) is the most popular of all the Haworthia plants.
Dogbane, Periwinkle, Oleander, Milkweed Family
Plants in this family are sold widely in grocery stores and nurseries alike. All members have star-shaped flowers and long stems that contain waxy succulent leaves. You’ll likely recognize at least a few of these as you go down the list.
Each hoya plant in this genus is native to varying parts of Asia. They are usually arranged on creeper vines, with hairy, smooth, or felted leaves. The flowers look characteristically like milkweed flowers and are mostly white to pink. Some have yellow, orange, and almost black flowers. All flowers of hoya plants grow in tight round clusters. Sweetheart Hoya (Hoya kerrii) is everyone’s favorite, though many retailers try to sell just one heart-shaped petal. Growers beware! Unless there is more than just one petal present, the plant will not grow.
Members of this genus have an abnormally large trunk with thick stems for their size. The trunks are designed to help Pachypodium plants survive droughts, concealing water and nutrients within. All of the plants in this genus could be easily mistaken for cacti due to their spines, which are plentiful. They also emit a clear sap. One popular member of this species is Madagascar Palm.
These low-growing succulents are easy to identify due to their fleshy flowers that are star-shaped. They are of varying colors and emit a pungent odor and a look that resembles rotting flesh, which is why they are commonly referred to as carrion flowers. 43 species of carrion flower exist in the world, mostly native to varying parts of Africa. They’re excellent container plants, as they don’t require much care after planting. For those who want to grow species that don’t smell like rotting flesh, look to the bright yellowish-green flowers of Stapelia flavopurpurea.
Most species of Ceropegia have thin stems that are vining or trailing. Their roots are tuberous and their leaves are opposite. Sometimes they are thick and fleshy. The tubular flowers are often fused at the tip and inflated. These interesting plants rely on pollination by trapped flies that move about as they make their escape. String of hearts and string of pearls are the most prominent species grown for their appearance.
Stonecrop, Jade plant, Sedum, and Hen-and-chicks Family
What is common among all members of the family Crassulaceae is they are all dicotyledon. There are variations in growing habits ranging from shrubby to tree-like, with some preferring aquatic conditions. There are over 1400 species in the family under 35 genera.
Species in this genus have thick stems. Each is a plush plant with fat leaves that are arranged in rosette formation. They may have orange blossoms or white ones that protrude from a central tube. One of the most striking plants in his genus is the Adromischus cristatus or Crinkle Leaf Plant.
This is one of the most common succulents on the market today. You’ll find Cotyledon leaves in opposite formation, around sometimes woody stems. The flowers are sometimes pendulous and sometimes tuberous and shaped like a downturned bell. The flowers produce small brown seeds after they bloom and fade. Pig’s ear succulent is the most popular member of the genus, with bunches of pink blooms that dazzle the eye.
With 200 species in this striking genus, it’s no wonder a lot of people spring for them. Some of these plants are frost tolerant, and many are common among succulent growers and sellers. String of buttons is one popular species, with soft, triangular leaves bunching together around a central stem in a pyramidic fashion. The jade plant (Crassula ovata) is a tree-like succulent that has many different varieties, all of which are interesting in their growth patterns and leaf colors. Another striking member of this family is Mother of Thousands which grows somewhat like aloe, with small plants along the leaf’s edge. Necklace vine and Hens and Chicks are two other stunning members of this genus.
Kalanchoe succulents are common in nurseries and grocery stores. They have small 4-petaled flowers that cluster and sit atop stems. The flower colors range from white to yellow to pink and orange. Their leaves are waxy and glossy green. Fantastic Flaming Katy has lovely yellow blooms that pop among other plants in a garden. The panda plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa) has lovely soft, fuzzy greenish leaves with purple tips. The paddle plant (Kalanchoe luciae) is a very common and easy to propagate succulent in this genus. Florist kalanchoe (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana) is possibly the most recognizable of the genus.
Echeveria succulents are sometimes evergreen and other times deciduous. All 150 species are native to North America, Central America, and South America. These compact rosettes are jam-packed full of brightly colored leaves, which produce offspring much like aloe does. Many are host plants for butterflies. Wax agave is one species that is classified as an echeveria, and not an agave, despite its name. Echeveria ‘Lola’ is a common member of the genus. Black Prince is a stunning deep purple member of the species as well.
These rosette-forming perennial succulent plants are native to Mexico and Arizona. The genus contains 19 members. Their leaves are silvery-grey to waxy pink, and their flowers are either white or pink, sitting atop a long thin stem. The most common of these is the Mother of Pearl plant.
The thick-leaved species of the Pachyphytum genus love high altitudes in Mexico. They have rosette forms and branching shoots that emerge from dusty, round, bluish-green leaves. The flower’s inflorescence hangs over the plant and is white, pink, or reddish. They produce fruit and seeds. Moonstones is the most popular of the genus.
Aeonium succulents have leaves arranged around a central stem in a densely formed rosette. The flowers have 6 to 12 petal sections and bloom only once. Most are from the Canary Islands, but some are from North Africa. Some members of the genus are carnivorous. Aeonium haworthii ‘Kiwi’ is a lovely hybrid species in this genus.
Over half the species of Orostachys are native to China. They are characterized by ovate leaves that are alternate and often have purple dots on them in a rosette formation. In their second year of growth a rosette flower forms on a central stem, blooming white, greenish, pink, or reddish flowers. Each bloom produces a small seed. Chinese Dunce Cap is one common member of this genus.
Sempervivum succulents are dense mat and rosette-forming plants that are native to the Middle East. They are evergreen, with light to darker green leaves that are often tipped with purple. The most famous of these plants is the hen and chicks plant. While flower stalks vary, all forms of this genus bloom six to eight-petalled flowers that range in color from pale green to pink.
These succulents are hybrids of Sedum and Echeveria plants. They produce densely formed leafy rosettes that look a lot like flowers. The thick, padded leaf color ranges from silver blue to blue-green. Some have colored leaf tips. Flowers emerge between leaves on the side of the rosette and range in color from yellow to pink. Sedeveria x ‘Hummelii’ is potentially one of the most popular of this hybrid genus, with densely packed elongated ghostly green leaves that have pinkish tips.
Sedum succulents are great plants that come in many different colors. They can act as creeping ground cover or shrubs for the lower portion of a landscape. They are annual, biennial, or perennial. Some are autumn bloomers while others prefer to bloom in spring and summer. Flower colors have a wide range, and so do flower types. It’s no wonder this is the case with over 450 species assigned to the family. Burro’s tail or Sedum morganianum is an all-time favorite of this genus. Russian Stonecrop and Jelly Beans are other favorites.
These succulents are hybrids of Sedum and Graptopetalum. They share the characteristics of sedum in their long stems, and that of Graptopetalum in their waxy pinkish leaves. These densely arranged rosettes are very similar to the Echeveria succulent. Graptosedum ‘California Sunset’ is a beloved form of this genus.
All members of Euphorbia secrete latex in their roots. That’s why it’s recommended that growers wear gloves when they up pot or transplant them. They are all spurges with varying root systems too. Some have large tuberous roots, and all have varying growth habits. Some are cactus-like, some have a shrubby growth pattern. Coral Cactus is perhaps the best known of the genus. Pencil Cactus is another favorite.
Members of this genus are from Southern Africa, Ethiopia, and Latin America. While there was an Australian species included here, it has seen been reallocated to another genus. All members are perennial, with alternate leaves arranged around a central stem. All flowers in this genus have five petals and ripen into a capsule that contains seeds. The flowers are all some form of pink as well. One of the popular species in the genus is the Anacampseros telephiastrum.
This genus contains about 90 species of succulents that are perennial herbs and shrubs. They are characterized by long slender leaves that are arranged alternately and sparsely on trailing stems. Stems range in color, and flowers do too. One of the most interesting of this genus is Ruby Necklace.
All members of this genus are in the pepper family. They have large waxy leaves, trailing or stout stems, and large brown or yellow conical flowers. They are native to tropical regions of North America. Growing less than 1 foot in height, they’re often chosen for shady tropical gardens where they can exist in a rainforest-like environment. Leaves are heart-shaped or lance-shaped, and multiple colors are associated with each species. A common and fun peperomia to grow is Baby Rubber Plant.
Members of the Elephant Bush genus include the Elephant bush, Dwarf jade plant, and Cocoon plant. All of these succulents look have woody stems and varying tree-like forms. Some are very small, while others can grow as large as a small tree. The leaves are small and round and grow densely along branches.
The Green Thumbs Behind This Article: