Mad About Berries

Types of Succulent Plants

Boasting remarkable diversity, succulents span over 60 plant families, each comprising numerous species that present a myriad of intriguing shapes, colors, and sizes.

From the rosette-forming Echeveria, trailing strings of Senecio rowleyanus, spiky Agave, to the fascinating 'living stones' Lithops, the world of succulents is an endless source of botanical fascination.

Published: July 24, 2023.

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Succulent Plants Types

Succulents are found in a number of different plant families, each of which includes many different genera.

Here are just a few examples of succulent plants (in alphabetic order):

Aeonium

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Aeonium is a genus of about 35 species of succulent, subtropical plants of the family Crassulaceae.

They are native to the Canary Islands, with a few species found in Madeira, Morocco, and East Africa. The rosette-shaped leaves at the end of the stem are a characteristic feature of plants in the Aeonium genus.

One popular species in this genus is Aeonium arboreum, which is often known as tree aeonium, tree houseleek, or simply aeonium.

Agave

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The Agave genus belongs to the Agavaceae family, and it contains several species known for their rosette form and large, tough leaves. Agave plants are native to the hot and arid regions of Mexico and the southern and western United States. Some species have also naturalized in other parts of the world.

Agaves are notable for their adaptation to their harsh natural environment, which includes storing water in their leaves and having a waxy coating on the leaf surface to reduce water loss. Some species can survive very long periods of drought.

Some popular species in this genus include the century plant (Agave americana) and the blue agave (Agave tequilana), the plant used to produce tequila. The fibers of some species, like Agave sisalana, are used to produce ropes, twines, and rugs.

Aloe

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The Aloe genus belongs to the Asphodelaceae family and includes over 500 species of flowering succulent plants. Many Aloe species are known for their medicinal and cosmetic uses.

The most well-known species is Aloe vera, which is used in many cosmetic, health, and medicinal applications due to its soothing and healing properties. Aloe vera gel, which is derived from the inner part of the leaf, is used in products such as skin lotions, ointments, and beverages.

Aloe plants are native to Africa, particularly South Africa and the surrounding areas, but many species have been widely cultivated around the world, particularly in warmer climates.

How To Differentiate Aloe From Agave?

Differentiating between Agave and Aloe plants can be tricky as they both belong to the Asparagaceae family and share similar characteristics, such as rosette formations and succulent leaves. However, they do have key differences that can help identify them:

  • Leaves: Agave leaves are typically thicker, larger, and stiffer with sharp, pointy ends often referred to as a terminal spine. They also have a waxy coating that gives them a bluish or grayish hue. Aloe leaves are usually softer and more pliable, with a deep green color. Some Aloe species have small white spots on their leaves.
  • Spines: Both plants may have spines, but Agave spines are generally more pronounced, appearing along the leaf margins and at the leaf tips. Some Aloe plants have mild teeth along their leaf margins but lack the terminal spine seen in Agaves.
  • Flowers: Agave plants are monocarpic, meaning they flower once in their lifetime (often after several years to even decades), then die after blooming. The flower stalk of an Agave is typically tall, branched, and impressive. Aloe plants, on the other hand, can bloom annually. Their flowers are tubular and grow on a spike, usually in shades of red, orange, or yellow.
  • Growth Pattern: Agave plants are generally larger and spread by producing offshoots known as pups from the base of the plant. Aloe plants are usually smaller and also produce pups, but they tend to bloom more frequently than agave plants.

There are many varieties and species within each genus, so these are general guidelines, and there can be exceptions.

Cactaceae

Cactaceae is the cactus family, and all cacti are considered succulents. This family has many genera, such as Opuntia, Mammillaria, and Saguaro.

Crassula

The Crassula genus belongs to the Crassulaceae family, which also includes other well-known succulent genera like Sedum, Echeveria, and Kalanchoe.

Crassula includes about 200 accepted species, including shrubs and small trees. The plants in this genus are native to many parts of the globe, but the species are most concentrated in South Africa.

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One of the most popular and well-known species within this genus is Crassula ovata, commonly known as the jade plant, lucky plant, money plant, or money tree. It's a popular houseplant worldwide due to its attractive shape and ease of care.

Other notable species include Crassula arborescens (the silver jade plant) and Crassula capitella (the campfire crassula), both of which are also often grown as ornamental plants.

Echeveria

The Echeveria genus belongs to the Crassulaceae family, which also includes other succulent genera such as Sedum, Crassula, and Kalanchoe.

Echeveria is a large genus with approximately 150 species, and it includes hybrids. The plants in this genus are native to semi-desert areas of Central America, Mexico, and northwestern South America. However, they are cultivated worldwide as ornamental garden plants and houseplants due to their rosette shape and beautiful colors.

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Species in the Echeveria genus are known for their rosette-forming foliage that comes in various colors and sizes, depending on the species and variety. Some well-known Echeveria species include Echeveria elegans (Mexican snowball), Echeveria imbricata (blue rose echeveria), and Echeveria 'Black Prince.'

Euphorbia

Euphorbia is a very large and diverse genus in the family Euphorbiaceae, which includes many plants with succulent characteristics. While not all species in the Euphorbia genus are succulents, there are a significant number of succulent species, particularly in its subgenus Euphorbia.

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These succulent euphorbias often exhibit extreme adaptations to dry environments and may resemble cacti, a phenomenon known as convergent evolution. They have a milky sap that can be irritating to skin and eyes, a characteristic of many Euphorbiaceae.

Some popular succulent Euphorbia species include Euphorbia trigona (African milk tree), Euphorbia lactea (mottled spurge), and Euphorbia obesa (baseball plant).

Gasteria

The Gasteria genus belongs to the Asphodelaceae family, which also includes other succulent genera like Aloe and Haworthia.

Gasteria includes around 22 species, and the plants are native to South Africa. The genus name derives from the Latin word "gaster," meaning "stomach," which refers to the stomach-shaped flowers of these plants.

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Gasteria species are characterized by their thick, hard, succulent "tongue-shaped" leaves. These plants are often grown as houseplants and are popular for their ease of care and their tolerance for shade, making them suitable for growing indoors. Some well-known species include Gasteria bicolor, Gasteria 'Little Warty', and Gasteria armstrongii.

Graptopetalum Hybrids

Graptopetalum is a genus of succulent plants in the Crassulaceae family. They are native to Mexico and the southwestern United States.

Graptopetalum species and their hybrids are popular in cultivation for their easy care and attractive rosette formations. They can propagate easily from leaf cuttings, producing offsets that lead to dense clumps of plants over time.

The most known species of this genus is Graptopetalum paraguayense, commonly known as ghost plant or mother of pearl plant due to its pale coloration.

Hybrids involving Graptopetalum are numerous and are often intergeneric, involving species from other related genera. These hybrids carry the combined traits of their parent plants, often resulting in an array of interesting forms, colors, and sizes. For example, the hybrid genus x Graptoveria contains hybrids of Graptopetalum and Echeveria, whereas x Sedeveria contains hybrids of Sedum and Echeveria.

Please note that the care for these hybrids generally remains similar to that of their parent plants. They prefer well-draining soil, bright light, and minimal water, with a thorough watering only required when the soil is completely dry.

Haworthia

The Haworthia genus belongs to the Asphodelaceae family, which also includes other succulent genera like Aloe and Gasteria.

Haworthia includes about 60 official species, but there are many cultivars and varieties. The plants in this genus are native to southern Africa.

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The species are known for their rosette-shaped form and fleshy, often beautifully marked leaves. Haworthia is well-suited to indoor cultivation because many of the species can tolerate lower light conditions than some other succulents. However, they still need a good amount of light and prefer their soil to dry out between waterings.

Popular species include Haworthia fasciata (zebra haworthia), Haworthia attenuata (zebra cactus), and Haworthia cooperi, which have varieties with translucent windows at the leaf tips.

Kalanchoe

The Kalanchoe genus belongs to the Crassulaceae family, which also includes other well-known succulent genera like Crassula, Echeveria, and Sedum.

Kalanchoe includes about 125 species, and these plants are native to arid areas in Africa, Asia, and Madagascar. Some species have become naturalized in other parts of the world, including the Americas and Europe.

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Kalanchoe species are known for their interesting leaf forms and the bright, long-lasting flowers that many of the species produce. They are popular houseplants because they are generally easy to care for and can tolerate indoor conditions well.

Some of the well-known species in this genus include Kalanchoe blossfeldiana (florist kalanchoe), Kalanchoe daigremontiana (mother of thousands), and Kalanchoe pinnata (air plant). Many Kalanchoe species are also known for their ability to produce plantlets along their leaves, a characteristic known as vivipary.

Mammillaria

Mammillaria is a genus of succulent plants, and it is one of the largest genera in the Cactaceae, or cactus, family. The Mammillaria genus includes over 200 species that are native to Mexico, the southwestern United States, the Caribbean, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, and Venezuela.

Mammillaria species are characterized by their globular or cylindrical shapes, with tubercles (mamillae) from which the plant's flowers and spines emerge. Some species produce rings of small, brightly colored flowers, making them popular for cultivation.

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Some well-known species include Mammillaria hahniana (the old lady cactus), Mammillaria elongata (the gold lace cactus or ladyfinger cactus), and Mammillaria spinosissima (the spiny pincushion cactus).

These cacti generally need strong light, well-drained soil, and minimal water, with a period of drought in the winter. They also need protection from frost, making them suitable for indoor cultivation in many climates.

Opuntia

Opuntia is a genus of succulent plants, and it's part of the Cactaceae, or cactus, family. This genus is often referred to as prickly pear cacti.

Opuntia includes about 200 species that are found throughout the Americas, with a range extending from Canada to Argentina. Some species have been introduced to other parts of the world and have naturalized in Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Opuntia species are known for their unique pad-like structures, known as cladodes or nopales, which are actually modified stems. These pads, along with the fruit (often called a prickly pear), are edible and used in many types of dishes, especially in Mexican cuisine.

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Flowers, usually yellow, orange or pink, are also a feature of this genus and lead to the development of the "pear" fruit.

Some well-known species include Opuntia ficus-indica (the Indian fig opuntia), Opuntia microdasys (the bunny ears cactus), and Opuntia basilaris (the beavertail cactus).

Opuntia species generally need strong light, well-drained soil, and minimal water. They are also quite tolerant of cold compared to many other cacti, making them suitable for outdoor cultivation in a wider range of climates.

Saguaro

The Saguaro, scientific name Carnegiea gigantea, is indeed a succulent plant and belongs to the Cactaceae, or cactus family.

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However, it's important to note that Saguaro is not a genus itself but a specific species within the genus Carnegiea.

The Saguaro is an iconic symbol of the American Southwest and is native to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, the Mexican state of Sonora, and the Whipple Mountains and Imperial County areas of California. The Saguaro cactus grows very slowly but can reach impressive heights of up to 40-60 feet (12-18 meters) over its lifespan of 150-200 years.

Saguaros are known for their tall, columnar growth habit and the large "arms" that older plants often develop. They also produce white flowers that bloom during the night in late spring, which then form red, edible fruits.

Sedum

The Sedum genus belongs to the Crassulaceae family, which also includes other well-known succulent genera like Crassula, Echeveria, and Kalanchoe.

Sedum is a large genus with around 400 species distributed across the Northern Hemisphere, extending into Africa and South America. These plants are commonly known as stonecrops because many species are found in mountainous regions where they grow in rocky, stony soils.

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Sedum species come in a variety of sizes and shapes, from creeping groundcovers to taller, upright forms. They are known for their fleshy, often brightly colored leaves and star-shaped flowers. They are popular in gardens and landscapes for their hardiness and drought tolerance.

Some well-known species include Sedum spurium (dragon's blood sedum), Sedum telephium (orpine), and Sedum morganianum (burro's tail). Some Sedums are also common in green roofing systems due to their ability to thrive in poor soil and their resistance to drought and cold.

Sempervivum

Sempervivum is a genus of succulent plants in the Crassulaceae family. Sempervivum, commonly known as houseleeks or hens and chicks, includes about 40 species and numerous cultivars. These plants are native to the mountains of southern Europe, north Africa, and across central Asia.

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Sempervivum species are characterized by their rosette form, with leaves arranged in a circular pattern. These rosettes have a mother-daughter relationship. The "mother" (the central rosette) produces "daughters" (offsets), which stay attached to the mother plant by a stolon until they are large enough to survive on their own.

Sempervivum plants are popular in gardens for their ability to tolerate cold temperatures, poor soils, and drought. They are often used in rock gardens, on green roofs, and in other challenging growing locations. Their name, Sempervivum, comes from the Latin words "semper" (always) and "vivus" (living), referring to the plant's hardiness and longevity.

Some popular species include Sempervivum tectorum (common houseleek) and Sempervivum arachnoideum (cobweb houseleek).

Senecio

Senecio is a large genus of plants within the Asteraceae family. This genus includes several succulent species, which are popular in cultivation due to their interesting forms and relatively easy care.

The Senecio genus includes over 1,000 species distributed worldwide, making it one of the largest genera of flowering plants. These plants range from annual and perennial herbs to shrubs, vines, and even trees.

Some of the succulent species within this genus include:

  • Senecio rowleyanus, commonly known as string-of-pearls or string-of-beads, due to its trailing stems of round, bead-like leaves.

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  • Senecio radicans, known as string-of-bananas or fishhook senecio, has trailing stems with leaves shaped like miniature bananas.
  • Senecio serpens or blue chalksticks, a groundcover succulent with finger-like blue-green leaves.
  • Senecio mandraliscae, also known as blue chalksticks, is similar to S. serpens but has longer, more slender leaves.
  • Senecio peregrinus, or dolphin necklace, has leaves that remarkably resemble jumping dolphins.

In general, these succulent species prefer a sunny location (though they appreciate some afternoon shade in the hottest climates), well-draining soil, and watering only when the soil is dry. They are often grown in hanging baskets or other containers where their trailing stems can hang down.

Note that these are just a few examples - many other succulent plants are out there.

How to Take Care Of Succulents

Taking care of succulents requires consideration of several factors, including light, water, soil, temperature, and feeding. While specific care guidelines can vary depending on the species, here are some general tips for succulent care:

  • Light: Most succulents prefer bright, indirect light. While they are known for their sun-loving nature, intense direct sunlight can cause sunburn in some types. Indoor succulents should be placed near a window that gets plenty of light.
  • Water: Succulents have adapted to survive in arid conditions, which means they don't need a lot of water. Overwatering is a common mistake that can lead to root rot, which is often fatal for the plant. As a general rule, you should let the soil dry out completely between watering. When you do water, give the plant a good soak, ensuring the water drains away completely.
  • Soil: Use a well-draining soil to prevent water from sitting around the roots. Many garden centers sell soil specifically made for succulents and cacti. You can also make your own by mixing regular potting soil with a coarse material like perlite or coarse sand to increase drainage.
  • Temperature: Most succulents prefer a relatively mild temperature, ideally between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 26 degrees Celsius). While many can tolerate lower and higher temperatures, they may not thrive. Most types of succulents do not tolerate frost well.
  • Feeding: Succulents don't need a lot of extra feeding, but they can benefit from a small amount of plant food during their active growth period in spring and summer. Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer and follow the package instructions. Avoid feeding during the winter when many succulents are in a dormant period.
  • Pot and Potting: Always use pots with drainage holes to prevent water from sitting in the bottom of the pot. Most succulents prefer a snug fit in their pots, so there's no need to size up unless the plant has outgrown its current pot.
  • Propagation: Many succulents propagate easily from cuttings or leaf segments. This means you can often grow new plants from parts of the mother plant.

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Succulents are incredibly diverse. It's important to understand the specific needs of your plant, as some might have unique requirements or preferences.

Always try to mimic the natural environment of the specific species as closely as possible for the best results.



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