Succulents are popular plants because of their low maintenance and water requirements. These plants seem to grow themselves without much attention from gardeners. They come in a huge variety of shapes, colors, and sizes and can be grown indoors or outside.
Succulents are plants with thick fleshy leaves containing large amounts of sap to help the plant withstand dry periods of minimal rainfall. Succulents originally developed in dry arid regions with low rainfall, but they exist in many areas of the world now.
Succulents have shallow root systems as they are not adapted to obtaining water from the soil. Their thick leaves feel rubbery. Succulents may be flowering or non-flowering, and many are chosen for their unique shapes and appearance. Many grow in attractive rosettes that look like flowers.
Succulents do well in rock features as this imitates their natural environment. Good drainage is essential for succulents as they cannot cope with saturated soil or clay. They can be successfully grown in containers indoors and outdoors as long as there is good drainage. Containers should have holes in the bottom to drain excess water.
Succulents do best in warmer climates and die easily in frost or icy winters. Their sap-filled leaves freeze, and the plant cannot carry out life functions and dies. Succulents are popular with gardeners as they are easy to propagate from cuttings.
Related: Are Succulents Poisonous?
1. Cactus (Cactaceae)
Cacti are a family of plants known as Cactaceae. There are one hundred and twenty-seven genera in this plant family. Cacti look like succulents as they have thick fleshy stems that contain sap. They do not have regular leaves as their leaves are modified into spines. The stems are responsible for carrying out photosynthesis.
Scientists argue whether cacti should be classified as succulents as they have the same mechanism for storing water. Some biologists call them stem succulents. Like succulents, cacti developed in dry, arid environments with low rainfall and limited groundwater. They are found in deserts worldwide.
They grow best in warm or hot climates in full or partial sunlight. Good water drainage is essential to prevent cacti from rotting. Like succulents, they have a shallow root structure and can survive long periods of drought.
Cacti may produce flowers like succulents, but some only flower after rain or at infrequent intervals depending on the climatic conditions. Cacti can grow from half an inch to sixty-three feet tall. Some may grow as round balls, and others may grow in tall columns. Many cacti have ridged stems to help reduce water loss.
Related: 7 Plants That Look Like Pencil Cactus
2. Spurge (Euphorbia)
Euphorbias come from the family Euphorbiaceae and are sometimes known as Splurge. There are about two thousand Euphorbias ranging in size from small ground covers to large trees. One of the most commonly known Euphorbias is a Pointsettia which is popular at Christmas.
Euphorbias resemble succulents in that they contain a milky sap. Euphorbias in Africa and Madagascar have fleshy leaves and stems, increasing the similarity to succulents. All parts of a Euphorbia plant contain the milky sap, which is irritating and toxic.
Some Euphorbias have sharp thorns, which are structurally different from cacti spines but leads to confusion between the two plant groups. Euphorbia plants produce multiple tiny flowers which vary in color and shape according to the species. Euphorbias are found on most continents of the world.
Euphorbias prefer sunny sites, although some will do well in partial shade. They can have green or red, yellow, purple, or orange foliage, which usually intensifies in color in full sunlight. Euphorbias grow in a wide variety of soils, and each species has different water requirements.
Euphorbias are popular because they are low-maintenance plants that are drought and heat tolerant. They require minimal maintenance and bloom for long periods.
3. Snake Plant (Sansevieria)
Sansevierias are known by many common names, such as mother-in-law’s tongue, snake plant, devil’s tongue, African spear plant, and bowstring hemp. They are indigenous to southern and western Africa and Madagascar and fall under the plant family Asparagaceae.
Sansevierias have thick fleshy leaves reminiscent of succulents. The leaves are sword-shaped, ending in a clear point. Some species have cylindrical leaves. The leaves can grow up to thirty inches long in ideal conditions. The foliage may be varying shades of green and may also be variegated with horizontal or vertical stripes making the leaves look like snake skin.
Sansevieria are well known for their excellent air-purifying abilities. They photosynthesize at night and release oxygen into the air. Sansevieria is a versatile plant that can live in full sunlight and indirect, low light. They are ideal indoor potplants or can be grown outdoors in gardens where they are good neighbors for succulents and cacti.
Sansevieria require minimal water and do well with very little care. Sansevieria need well-drained soil and can survive long periods of drought. Experts advise watering the sansevieria once every three to four weeks and even less in winter. They are more likely to die from overwatering.
Related: 9 Plants That Look Like Snake Plants (Sansevieria)
4. Wax Plants (Hoya)
Hoya plants are often known as Wax plants as their leaves feel waxy when rubbed. They are also known as Porcelain flowers and Wax vines. Hoyas are part of the Apocynaceae or dogbane plant family. They grow naturally in many tropical and subtropical countries in Asia and Australia.
Although Hoyas differ from succulents as they grow as vines, their thick waxy leaves resemble succulent ones. In some biological classifications, they may be called succulents. The simple leaves may be smooth and shiny, hairy, or have short hairs making them look like velvet. The leaf veins are prominent in some Hoya species and invisible in others.
Hoyas are evergreen climbers that may grow on the ground, as epiphytes in the trees, or scramble over rocky areas. They can grow up to sixty feet if they have good support from strong trees. Like succulents, hoyas produce masses of brightly colored flowers.
The flowers are usually star-shaped, and the petals have a waxy texture. The flowers vary from one-eighth of an inch to almost four inches in length. The blossoms grow in umbels or circular clusters. Flowers are red, cream, white, yellow, and orange. Blue and purple-hued flowers do not occur in hoyas.
Hoyas are excellent plants for removing toxins in the air and are popular indoor plants. They grow well in warm, humid gardens.
5. Ice Plants (Aizoaceae)
Ice plants are known as Delosperma and Lampranthus and belong to the family Aizoaceae. They are herbaceous perennials which may be ground covers or bushy shrubs. They are generally evergreen, like succulents, making them valuable plants to any gardener. They are sometimes known as carpet weeds or vygies and are indigenous to southern Africa.
Ice plants have succulent-like foliage, which may be narrow cylindrical leaves or broader flat simple leaves. They developed in dry arid regions and are well-equipped to cope with hot, dry weather as they store moisture in their leaves. Some ice plants are more succulent-like than others.
Ice plants are beloved and renowned for their cheerful bright flowers that may be red, yellow, blue, purple, pink, red, or white. They spread through division and seeds and create wonderful carpets of flowers in a garden. Ice plants are best when planted en masse to take maximum advantage of the colorful flowers.
Ice plants thrive in full sun. They sometimes grow in dappled shade but produce fewer flowers in these conditions. Good soil drainage is an essential feature. They will grow in sandy, rocky, and nutrient-poor soil. They flourish in the dry, poor soil of the inhospitable Karoo in South Africa, demonstrating how hardy they are.