Succulents are known for their thick, fleshy leaves. After all, the word “succulent” comes from the Latin “succulentus,” which translates to “juicy.” Most of these plants originated in arid conditions, where they needed to hold onto as much moisture as possible, and now can be found along coastlines, high alpine ridges, deserts, and even tucked into tall tree branches in rainforests.
Cacti belong to this family, as does aloe vera and the jewel-green jade plant. While different types of succulents vary in size, growing style, and temperature requirements, they all have evolved to maximize water retention. As such, the quickest way to kill one is by overwatering.
Why are succulents so popular?
Succulents’ surge in popularity — among boomers and millennials alike — is due in part to economic realities. As housing prices continue to climb, more people find themselves renting or moving frequently, and investing in expensive décor doesn’t make sense when you don’t see yourself in your home or apartment for several years.
Succulents, in contrast, are cost effective, easy to propagate, and some of the hardiest house plants around. They offer an easy way to brighten up your home, and most will continue to thrive even when put through a cross-country move.
Another part of succulents’ appeal is their ease of maintenance. They do well indoors because of consistent air temperatures and a predictable watering schedule. In fact, succulents thrive when left alone, and many are almost as easy to care for as an artificial plant.
In addition, because many of these plants are relatively compact, you can scale your succulent arrangement to fit the size of your space. Display them in tiny pots on the kitchen counter, or even the refrigerator, or invest in a multi-plant plant stand for the back patio.
17 types of succulents to grow at home
Convinced that succulents are the type of house plants for you? If you are, let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular types of succulents.
1. Hens and chicks (Sempervivum tectorum)
Popular for a reason, hens and chicks is cold hardy, fast-growing, and drought and heat-resistant. The plant produces clusters of tiny “chicks” around the mother plant that are easy to propagate. Depending on the variety, hens and chicks can stay small or quickly overtake a space. They do best in well-drained soil and thrive in containers.
2. Panda plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa)
This fuzzy grey-green succulent is a Madagascar native known for the brown spots on its leaf tips. Give it medium-bright light and let the soil dry out between watering, and it should thrive. Panda plants tend to be slow growers, meaning you can keep them in the same pot long term.
3. Donkey tail (Sedum morganianum)
A showstopper that’s known for fleshy leaves that grow on round tendrils, which cascade over their container, this succulent tends to be more fragile and is better for experienced growers. Give it lots of light and well-drained soil, and protect it from anything that could bump it and knock off its delicate leaves.
4. Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii)
Despite its name, the Christmas cactus is perfect indoor décor all year long. It lacks the spikes of its namesake and instead grows flat, glossy leaves that drape over the container. Water it more frequently than most cacti and keep it near a bright window. With some gentle care, you’ll get abundant pink blooms throughout the winter.
5. Flaming Katy (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana)
Like the Christmas cactus, Flaming Katies produce bright pink flowers in winter. The blooming season tends to be short lived, but deadheading the plants should maximize flower production. Be gentle around the leaves, as they tend to be brittle.
6. Pincushion cactus (Mammillaria spinosissima)
Native to Mexico and Central America, the pincushion cactus is among the most popular cacti for beginners. Most will stay as small as their pot but can reach over a foot tall in the right conditions. These spikey plants produce delicate pink flowers that turn into an edible berry.
7. Snake plant (Dracaena trifasciata)
Snake plants are known for their tall, vertical green leaves with yellow variation on the edges. They thrive off minimal attention and are a perfect starter succulent. Place them in a spot with low to medium indirect light and refrain from overwatering, and your plant can attain a height of up to 5 feet tall.
8. Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis miller)
As beautiful as it is functional, aloe vera is a squat succulent with thick, fleshy leaves. Cut one of them off, and you can use the sap inside as a soothing salve for burns and rashes. Like many types of succulents, aloe vera is hard to kill so long as you avoid overwatering.
9. String of pearls (Senecio rowleyanus)
Small, fat leaves encircle dangling stems on the string of pearls, making this succulent’s name obvious. Less obvious is the fact that it’s actually in the daisy family. Though delicate, the plant is easy to propagate and ideal for hanging baskets placed in bright, indirect light.
10. Aeonium (Aeonium arboretum)
A popular choice in succulent planters, aeoniums grow waxy leaves in a rosebud pattern. These plants branch out quickly by forming offsets from single flowerheads. Dozens of varieties are available, ensuring that bringing a few into your living space will add visual interest. Most are cold hardy and can thrive in the ground or containers.
11. Fairy washboard (Haworthiopsis limifolia)
Known for its spikey green leaves and distinct white lines, the fairy washboard grows slowly and requires minimal maintenance, making it ideal for a windowsill or small table. Ensure it has bright light and well-drained soil, and this 4-inch stunner should thrive.
12. Jade plant (Crassula ovata)
Commonly called the money tree or lucky plant, jade succulents have thick, fleshy leaves that range from dark green to red at the tips. Some get top heavy, so consider pruning or keeping them in a heavy pot. Most are resilient enough to handle a little neglect, making them ideal for beginners.
13. Zebra haworthia (Haworthiopsis attenuata)
The bright white stripes on this jewel-green succulent make it striking in any composition. Staying around 5 inches tall, the zebra haworthia thrives in terrariums. Otherwise, keep it in a space with bright light, and let the soil dry out between waterings.
14. Echeveria (Echeveria elegans)
From dusky pink to palest blue, the echeveria comes in an array of show-stopping colors. Each leaf grows in a tight rosette, making it ideal for wide containers. Consider keeping your echeveria indoors as these plants are not frost tolerant and are sensitive to temperature changes.
15. Sedum (Sedum)
This low-growing evergreen perennial is actually a family of 600 species. It’s an excellent ground cover in USDA zones 3 and lower. Sedum can also be grown in containers as a trailing plant. Keep it in a bright space, and wait for the soil to dry out between waterings. One plant can quickly propagate into many, making sedum an excellent value.
16. Bunny ear cactus (Opuntia microdasys)
As cute as a cartoon character, the bunny ear cactus will often grow two matching pads that resemble ears. In nature, it can reach up to 2 feet high. However, lower-light conditions indoors will restrict its size to a more manageable level.
17. Ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)
Despite their name, ponytail palms belong in the succulent family. They grow slowly but can top 4 feet indoors (and well over 15 feet outside!). The plants produce tufts of leaves on top of thick, woody trunks with a swollen base where they store water. That’s the reason for its other common name — elephant’s foot. Due to its forgiving nature, this mini tree is an excellent indoor choice for beginners.