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21 Amazing Facts About Succulents

Succulents have taken the world by storm, and it’s easy to see why. These cute, colorful plants are not just eye candy; they’re also incredibly low-maintenance and drought-friendly.

Perfect for folks like me who can’t keep a fern alive to save their lives!

Here’s some cool succulent facts that you might not know

pots of succulents

Succulents are Prehistoric

Succulents have been around for millions of years, making them true survivors of time. These resilient plants first sprung up between 5 to 10 million years ago.

Imagine plants existing during the time of the dinosaurs!

Their ability to store water in their thick leaves, stems, or roots allowed them to thrive in arid environments that other plants would find inhospitable.

Succulents’ prehistoric origins contribute to their tough nature and adaptability. These plants have withstood extreme weather conditions and geological changes over millennia.

Their ancient lineage explains their remarkable ability to survive with minimal care, requiring very little water and maintenance.

Succulents are pest-resistant

Succulents are standout plants in the pest world. Thanks to their tough skin and waxy coating, they repel most common pests.

While it’s possible to find aphids on your succulent, it’s a rarity. These insects are generally deterred by the resilient nature of succulents’ surfaces.

The juicy leaves of succulents are packed with water, which might attract bugs looking for hydration.

However, the thick skin acts as a natural bug deterrent, so infestations are unusual. In my experience, succulents are a breeze to care for partly because you don’t have to worry much about pests.

Succulents

They Have Hydrenchyma Tissue

Hydrenchyma tissue helps succulents store water, making them incredibly drought-tolerant. These specialized cells can swell and contract, allowing the plant to retain moisture during dry spells and release it as needed.

Succulents often sport thick, fleshy leaves or stems because of this water-storing tissue.

For instance, the popular Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi) can thrive outdoors in a shaded spot during summer, thanks to the hydrenchyma.

It’s fascinating how these plants manage survival by this efficient water storage method.

Hydrenchyma tissue isn’t just about water; it also plays a role in nutrient storage.

When you mix sand and gravel into your garden soil, the well-draining environment assists hydrenchyma tissue in operating effectively. This unique adaptation is a big reason succulents can endure harsh conditions.

Overall, it’s the hydrenchyma that allows succulents to remain robust and low-maintenance, making them perfect for various garden designs, from rockeries to terraced landscapes.

Some succulents develop aerial roots

Many succulents develop aerial roots, which are roots that grow from the stem or leaves above the soil.

These roots usually appear in response to humidity, allowing the plant to absorb moisture directly from the air.

I’ve seen my own succulents like Echeveria and Sedum sprout these roots when the air’s especially humid or when they’re in need of extra hydration.

You might also notice aerial roots sprouting in response to stress. When a succulent’s not getting enough water or its soil is too compact, these roots can help by seeking out moisture more efficiently.

Personally, I’ve found that repotting the plant in well-draining soil and ensuring it’s getting the right amount of water can reduce the appearance of these roots.

Aerial roots can also indicate the plant’s need for more support, especially for trailing varieties.

When these roots grow long enough, they anchor the plant to new surfaces, which helps them spread and thrive. Plus, it adds a visually interesting element to your indoor garden.

The size of their leaves has meaning

The size of succulent leaves isn’t just for show; it actually tells you a lot about where the plant grows.

Succulents with small leaves are usually found in higher elevations where they get less water and more intense sunlight. These tiny leaves help the plant conserve water and manage the harsher conditions.

On the other hand, succulents with larger leaves typically grow in lower elevations where they can afford to store more water.

These plants often highlight lush, plump leaves that serve as water reservoirs, helping them get through dry periods.

Understanding this can help you figure out the best spot in your garden for different types of succulents.

Succulents from low elevations might need a bit more shade and less frequent watering. In contrast, the high-elevation types prefer more direct sunlight and can handle longer dry spells.

So, it’s important to match your plant’s natural habitat to your garden conditions to help them thrive.

Succulents in tiny pots

Some Succulents Have Farina On Their Leaves

Many succulents have a waxy or dust-like coating on their leaves called farina. This natural sunscreen, known scientifically as epicuticular wax, helps protect the plants from excessive sun exposure.

It acts as a barrier, preventing the leaves from burning if they get too much light.

Farina doesn’t just offer sun protection; it also helps retain moisture in the leaves. This coating is particularly beneficial for succulents grown in hot, sunny environments.

By reflecting some of the sunlight, farina reduces the amount of heat absorbed by the leaves, helping the plants stay cool.

Not all succulents have farina. If you see this waxy film, don’t try to wipe it off.

Removing farina can make the plant more vulnerable to sunburn and dehydration.

Plus, it can be difficult to restore once it’s been removed. So, if your succulent has a chalky appearance, it’s doing its job protecting itself.

Cacti make up more than 2,000 species of succulents

Cacti boast an impressive count of over 2,000 species within the succulent family.

These fascinating plants are renowned for their ability to thrive in some of the harshest climates on Earth.

You can grow succulents from succulent clippings

When I first discovered you could grow succulents from clippings, it was like finding a hidden treasure.

It’s honestly one of the easiest ways to propagate these little desert gems.

Growing succulents from clippings is not only fun, but it’s also an efficient way to expand your collection.

Some Have An Epiphytic Lifestyle

Some succulents thrive as epiphytes, which means they grow on other plants instead of in soil.

These types often cling to trees, taking moisture and nutrients from the air. Examples include certain species of Rhipsalis and Epiphyllum.

Epiphytic succulents usually have specialized roots known as aerial roots. These roots anchor the plant to a host and absorb water and nutrients from rain, air, and debris that accumulates around them.

To support an epiphytic lifestyle, these succulents have evolved to thrive in environments where nutrients are limited.

Watering epiphytic succulents can be tricky. Since they absorb moisture from the air, misting them occasionally can be beneficial.

succulent 2

Some succulents are geophytes

Geophytes are succulents that grow from underground storage organs like bulbs or tubers.

These structures help them survive tough conditions by storing water and nutrients.

Not all succulent lovers realize that some of their favorite plants fall into this category.

Succulents Like Water

  1. Watering Methods: Surprisingly, succulents do like water, but they need it in the right way. The soak and dry method works best. You should water your succulents thoroughly and then let the soil dry out completely before watering again. Avoid giving them small amounts of water frequently as it can lead to root rot.
  2. Indicators of Thirst: Keep an eye on your plants. If a succulent’s leaves are becoming wrinkly or shriveled, it’s probably thirsty. Conversely, if the leaves appear soft and mushy, you’ve been overwatering.
  3. Indoor vs. Outdoor: Indoor succulents typically need to be watered about once a week. For outdoor succulents, their watering needs depend on the climate. In some regions, outdoor succulents might not need extra watering at all.
  4. Proper Soil Drainage: Good drainage is key when it comes to watering succulents. Use sandy or coarse soil to ensure water doesn’t stay in the pot, which can cause root rot. Aim for soil composition with 50 to 80 percent coarse sand or gravel if planting outside.
  5. Use of Pots with Drainage Holes: Make sure you’re using pots with drainage holes. This enables excess water to escape, preventing your succulents from sitting in water which can damage their roots.
  6. Seasonal Adjustments: Adjust watering frequency based on the season. In the growth periods (spring and summer), succulents need more water. During dormancy (fall and winter), reduce the frequency as they won’t use up as much water.
  7. Geophytic Succulents: For those with underground storage organs like bulbs or tubers, less frequent watering is essential. These types, such as Amaryllis and Haemanthus, can store water underground and might only need occasional watering.

Some experience color changes as a stress response

Many succulents change colors when exposed to bright light. For instance, Echeveria and Sedum often turn red, pink, or purple.

Placing them in a sunny window or using artificial lighting can trigger these vibrant hues. Keep lights 6-12 inches above the plants for best results.

Extreme temperatures can also cause color shifts. Cooler nights or sudden cold snaps can make succulents like Aloe and Crassula develop deeper shades.

A drop in temperature mimics their natural habitat, inducing stress that brings out rich colors.

Stressed succulents from irregular watering may show more vivid colors. Underwatering leads to more intense shades in varieties like Graptopetalum.

Poor soil quality can stress succulents, leading to color changes. Over time, depleted nutrients make succulents like Sempervivum and Agave display unique hues.

When propagating succulents, the stress from cutting and rooting can cause color shifts. After cutting a healthy parent plant, new growth can show different tones.

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Not all succulents are the same

Succulents hail from various parts of the world, including temperate areas of South Africa. While they thrive in semi-arid conditions, they don’t actually live in extreme deserts like the Sahara.

This means different succulents have adaptations suited to their native climates, so it’s key to understand their origin for proper care.

All succulents store water, but the method differs. Cacti, for instance, store water in their stems, while plants like jade use their leaves.

This impacts their care needs. Cacti are more tolerant of dry spells, but leafy succulents may need water more frequently.

Succulent soil needs can vary. Generally, they prefer sandy, well-draining soil. Coarse sand is better for potting because it prevents root rot.

Some succulents might thrive in a mixture with 50% coarse sand or gravel, while others might need a more specific blend. Knowing your plant’s needs ensures healthier growth.

Not all succulents love direct sunlight. While many sun-loving succulents need bright light to maintain their shape and color, some prefer indirect light.

Overexposure to harsh sunlight can cause sunburn, especially in delicate species. To determine the best spot for your plant, consider its natural habitat and light tolerance.

Some succulents can withstand cold better than others. For instance, sempervivums and certain agaves are more frost-tolerant compared to more tropical species like aloe vera.

Epiphytic succulents, which grow on other plants, differ in humidity needs. They absorb moisture from the air using specialized roots, so they thrive in more humid conditions.

In contrast, ground-dwelling succulents usually prefer drier air. Tailoring humidity levels to match their native environment is essential for optimal health.

Some succulents go through estivation

Estivation is a survival tactic. It’s when succulents slow their growth during hot and dry periods.

This conserves energy and water.

Succulents can grow in the snow

Not all succulents thrive in freezing temperatures, but there’s a hearty group that can. Sempervivum, Sedums, and some cacti species can withstand harsh winter conditions down to Zone 4, where they may face several inches of snow.

These tough succulents sometimes change colors throughout the year, displaying their most vibrant hues when temperatures drop to freezing or below.

Many Sempervivum varieties, known as “hens and chicks,” can handle the cold well. They form tight rosettes that protect them from frost and can turn fascinating colors like deep red during winter months.

Another example is the Sedum, which includes varieties like “Autumn Joy” and “Dragon’s Blood.” These resilient plants often shift to rich reds and purples as the weather gets colder, making your winter garden look stunning.

Some cold-hardy cacti like the Opuntia, also known as the prickly pear, can survive frosty conditions. Varieties such as the “Peach Opuntia” not only handle the cold but also produce beautiful, colorful flowers when the weather warms up.

Some succulents are halophytes

Certain succulents, like Salicornia and Suaeda, are halophytes, which means they thrive in salty environments.

They’ve adapted to withstand high salinity levels, making them unique among their plant peers. This adaptation is especially fascinating because most plants struggle to survive in such conditions.

Many halophytic succulents have specialized cells that compartmentalize salt, preventing it from interfering with essential cellular functions.

For instance, Salicornia secretes salt through specialized glands, while Suaeda stores it in vacuoles. This salt management allows them to live in coastal areas and salt marshes where few other plants can.

Succulents have flowers

Orchids can be considered a type of succulent due to their ability to store water in their leaves and roots. When in bloom, orchids showcase a breathtaking variety of colors and shapes.

Many cacti species produce stunning flowers. Their blooms can range from bright red to deep purple, often appearing during the summer months.

Euphorbias, another group of flowering succulents, include species like the Poinsettia, which displays bright red leaves resembling flowers around the holiday season.

Other euphorbias have less dramatic, but equally interesting blooms that add diversity to a collection.

Holiday cacti, such as the Christmas Cactus and Easter Cactus, are known for their seasonal blooms. The Christmas Cactus blooms in December, while the Easter Cactus typically flowers in spring.

It’s important to note that not all succulents flower regularly. Many only bloom under specific conditions, and some might not flower every year.

How succulents got their name

The name “succulent” comes from the Latin word “sucus,” meaning juice or sap. It refers to the plants’ unique ability to store water in their thick, fleshy tissues.

This adaptation allows them to survive in arid climates, making them true masters of water conservation.

Succulents Have Interesting Symbolism

Love and Endurance

Succulents symbolize love and endurance, making them popular gifts. Their ability to thrive in harsh conditions represents enduring love and loyalty. Giving a succulent can signify a relationship’s resilience and strength.

Wealth and Prosperity

Many succulents, like jade plants, are believed to attract wealth and prosperity. This symbolism originates from Feng Shui, where jade plants are thought to bring financial success and good fortune. Placing them near entryways is said to invite positive energy into your home.

Tranquility and Peace

These plants also symbolize tranquility and peace. Their calming presence can create a serene atmosphere in any space, helping reduce stress and anxiety. Succulents’ slow growth and minimal care needs further enhance their soothing effect on the environment.

Life and Growth

Succulents are often associated with life and growth due to their regenerative properties. They can regenerate from small clippings, symbolizing rebirth and new beginnings. This makes them perfect for celebrating new milestones or fresh starts.

Tenacity and Persistence

Their ability to store water and survive in arid conditions embodies tenacity and persistence. Succulents remind us to stay strong and adaptable in challenging times, making them powerful symbols of resilience.

Healing and Protection

Some cultures consider succulents as symbols of healing and protection. Aloe Vera, well-known for its medicinal properties, represents health and safety. Growing these plants in your home can symbolize a protective and nurturing environment.

Creativity and Uniqueness

The wide variety of shapes and colors found in succulents makes them symbols of creativity and uniqueness. Their diverse forms inspire artistic expression and innovation. Succulents encourage us to embrace our individuality and think outside the box.

Succulent roots are diverse

Succulent roots vary widely, adapting to different environments to ensure survival. Some succulents have shallow roots that spread out widely just beneath the soil surface.

This type allows them to rapidly absorb water from light rains or morning dew, which is common in their native habitats.

Other succulents have deep taproots that penetrate the ground to access moisture stored deeper within the soil.

These taproots are particularly common in arid environments where water is scarce, enabling the plant to withstand prolonged dry periods.

Certain species develop fibrous roots that create a dense network in the top layers of soil. This adaptation helps them stabilize in rocky or loose substrates, ensuring they stay firmly grounded even in windy conditions.

Some succulents, like epiphytic species, have aerial roots. These roots hang in the air, absorbing moisture and nutrients directly from the atmosphere. They’re often seen in humid environments where plants grow on trees rather than in the soil.

  • Shallow Roots: Common in Echeveria and Sedum species. They excel in quickly utilizing available moisture.
  • Deep Taproots: Typical of cacti such as Pachycereus and Trichocereus. They reach deep for lasting hydration.
  • Fibrous Roots: Found in Sempervivum and Agave. They stabilize plants in loose soil.
  • Aerial Roots: Epiphytic succulents like Rhipsalis and Schlumbergera. They absorb nutrients from the air.

Succulents use Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM)

Succulents are masters at conserving water due to their unique ability to use Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM). This specialized photosynthetic process allows them to open their stomata at night to reduce water loss.

Instead of opening during the day like most plants, their stomata remain closed in daylight, thus minimizing evaporation.

During nighttime, succulents take in CO2 and convert it into a type of acid stored in their cells. When daylight arrives, they close their stomata and use the stored acid to photosynthesize.

This adaptation is key for succulents living in arid environments where conserving water is essential for survival.

Most succulents, like those in the Crassulaceae family, employ this CAM process. It explains why these plants can thrive in places with intense sunlight and minimal rainfall.