What is a Succulent?

By Ashley Watters, Abshier House

Succulents are plants that store water. Derived from the Latin word sucus, which means juice or sap, these plants are often considered to be drought-resistant. This diverse group of plants is popular for the home gardener and generally don’t require a large amount of maintenance. Because of their low-maintenance nature, succulents are popular as houseplants in all areas of the United States.

Succulents are plants that store water and are low maintenance.
Source: pexels.com

Succulents are usually characterized by thick, rubbery, or “fleshy” parts. However, there are many options and these plants come in an array of shapes, sizes, textures, and colors. Succulents are often noted for their exotic or unusual appearance.

Characteristics of succulents

Succulents are typically adorned with thick leaves, stems, or roots. The thicker parts of the plant are used to store water. These plants are common in geographic locations that experience high temperatures with little rainfall. They can store water to survive long periods with little or no moisture. Native to areas like deserts or steppes, these plants will usually appear swollen when preserving water.

Native to arid areas, succulents cannot survive in freezing temperatures. While some may last through a brief spell, these plants will thrive in warmer temperatures. They are often characterized by spiky, needle-shaped or rosette-shaped leaves.

Succulents are also unusual because they propagate easily. On occasion, a new plant will even grow from a piece of fallen leaf.

As water hoarders, these plants will actually die if left in too much water.

Common succulents

The variety of succulents is a true testament to the diversity of the plant world. From exotic to commonplace, these plants can be basic or robust. Cacti are one of the most recognizable succulents. However, botanists often refer to cacti as a separate variety.

Better Homes and Gardens recommends these ten succulents for in-home gardeners:

  • Burro’s Tail
  • Aloe plants
  • Crown of Thorns
  • Hens-and-Chicks
  • Jade Plant
  • Panda Plant
  • Pincushion Cactus
  • Ponytail Palm
  • Snake Plant

Other common succulent plants include:

  • Agave
  • Cotyledon
  • Crassula
  • Dudlya
  • Echeveria
  • Euphorbia lacteal
  • Graptopetalum
  • Haworthia
  • Huernia
  • Kalanchoe
  • Sedum
  • Sempervivum
  • Senecio
  • Tree-like Euphorbia

This list barely scratches the surface. Check succulent-plant.com for a more comprehensive list.

Why succulents are easy to grow

In recent years, succulents have grown in popularity as houseplants and in gardens. These plants are ideal for gardeners who don’t have an immense knowledge of sophisticated gardening practices. Here are some reasons these unusual plants are easy to care for:

  • As part of their exotic nature, these plants are striking and aesthetically pleasing.
  • Succulents require little watering or pruning.
  • They are easy to transport from their native areas because of their low-maintenance nature.
  • Easy to contain, these plants can be placed in small pots and placed almost anywhere.
  • Most pests are not attracted to succulents.
  • Succulents can be planted alone or among other plants.
  • Many types of succulents are inexpensive.
  • Some, like aloe, even have alternative or medicinal uses.

Succulents make great house plants or an addition to your garden and do not require a large amount of care. Check out our tips for growing and caring for succulents.

Succulents are easy to grow and are popular as houseplants and in gardens.
Photo credit: Kelly Dobbs Henthorne