I have had the pleasure of growing up in one of the richest succulent biomes in the world. Consequently, many of the succulents that are fashionable around the world grow in the wild where I live! Naturally, over the years, I have become fond of these and would like to share with you the chart types of succulents I like and suggest why these will be fun for you to grow.
What Are Succulents?
A succulent can be loosely defined as a plant that has thickened leaves and stems that store water and it is normally an adaptation that allows the plant to survive in dry regions, or regions that have extended dry seasons. Many people think succulents refer to as cacti – cacti are a type of succulent, but there are many other types of succulents as well.
Most succulents employ a method of photosynthesis called CAM photosynthesis.
In normal photosynthesis, plants open their stomata and allow air containing carbon dioxide to enter the leaves. During the day, this carbon dioxide is converted, by way of photosynthesis, into sugars, which can then be used to drive metabolic pathways in the plant. Naturally, having stomatal pores open results in moisture leaving the leaves and this means plants consume a lot of water. This is fine in a wet environment, and in much of the world, this type of photosynthesis is dominant.
In dry regions, or regions that have long patches of dry weather and a rainy season, plants need to find an alternative way of getting around this problem as they cannot afford to have their stomata open as they will lose water. Here CAM photosynthesis is a crafty workaround. The plants store carbon dioxide in an acid intermediate by night, and then move this close to the chloroplasts.
During the day, this allows the release of carbon dioxide close to where it is needed. Hence the plants can photosynthesize during the day, without opening their stomata. This is however not a very efficient method of photosynthesis as it is quite a stop-start setup. But it is better than nothing in a dry area where plants can take their time.
Why are succulents amazing?
Succulent plants have this way of surviving – and thriving – in the most insanely harsh environments. When you see aloes, or crassulas flowering for as far as the eye can see in the middle of winter, in a very dry area, it is just amazing!
When you walk in a succulent ecosystem, you can be walking along and then you decide to look closer at the ground, and suddenly you find that the things you thought were rocks are little succulent plants. And then you look closer and you find they have flowers – when it is 100°F and dry as a bone. These are incredible plants that have a powerful ability to survive.
We can learn from them, and in certain cases, these plants are sacred teachers. They contain chemicals that allow us to understand things in new ways should we consume them.
Succulents can be cultivated indoors, in colder climates, and you can recreate little corners of magic. In horrible winter months, these little corners of magic radiate good energy, and I have found friends in the Northern US, Canada, Northern Europe, and Japan who spend hours in their indoor succulent gardens deriving joy and psychological sustenance from these amazing plants.
Succulents for me are a personal passion, and I am going to share with you a few of my favorite succulents – some of these have grown with me since I was just learning to walk. So these plants are nearly half a century old, and I have gone from being a threat to them to being probably their best chance of long-term survival. Succulent plants can live multiple human generations!
Types Of Succulent Plants – Succulent Identification Chart
1) Portulacaria afra – Elephants Ear
This is not a jade plant! This is a way cooler plant in my opinion. It is an exceptionally beautiful plant, and over a lifetime it can become many yards tall! Indoors, it thrives in potplants, and it is a cooperative plant – you can grow it with others. You can trim off the growth shoots and boil them as a leaf vegetables, or add them to salads. I pickle the leaves in my saurkraut.
The plant is easy to grow from cuttings and will tolerate temperatures from just above freezing to around 110°F! I am part of a group of people looking to rehabilitate large areas of land with this plant.
2) Gasteria species.
These are the best plants to grow if you have a knack for killing pot plants. They are nearly impossible to kill. You can take a leaf and stick it in the soil and it will grow. Or a piece of a leaf. Once as kids, we moved house, and my Mom forgot one plant in a paper bag for half a year. She put it in a shaded place, and it came back to life!
This is a diverse genus. There are some incredibly beautiful species. I enjoy the large tree Euphorbia. The one pictured is about 30 years old and is actually in a pot that is placed in the ground.
Its roots have not left the pot. I believe this one is Euphorbia triangularis. It is a hardy plant, tolerating frosts once it becomes relatively tall. It can also tolerate infernal heat. The flowers produce poisonous honey that is excellent for killing intestinal parasites.
4) Draecenia (formerly Sansevieria) species
There are many, that look like snake plants. These are hardy plants, and I think many of the indigenous South African species are more beautiful and hardy than the more common West African species that everybody knows.
5) The Jade Plant – Crassula ovata
This plant is globally highly popular. It is nearly impossible to kill, and easy to propagate. Break off a stem and stick it in the ground and within a few months, it will root and grow. These can grow for decades to centuries. I have seen plants in the wild with trunks that are a few feet thick that stand many yards tall. This website is full of articles on how to grow and care for Jade Plants – a simple plant that brings beauty into any household.
6) Aloiampelos ciliaris, formerly Aloe ciliaris
This an awesome little aloe that you can plant and allow to ramble around in larger potted plants! I have grown this with Jade plants. It flowers a lot with these beautiful red flowers that make good cut flowers as well.
7) Aloidendron barberae
This is in my opinion the king of aloes. This tree aloe can be grown indoors for a decade or so in a normal house if you start it from a small cutting or seed. It will eventually get too big to keep in a single-story building.
If I had to choose between an indoor large palm tree or this aloe, I would choose the tree aloe. It is just an amazing, beautiful, and tough plant. The one pictured is about 40 years old and was planted by my Dad.
8) Aloe ferox
Of all the aloes, this one probably makes the greatest statement in the middle of winter. I have grown these in pots – they eventually get a bit large, but for 5-8 years they make a good – if not slightly angry pot plant. Do not walk into this aloe.
It bites. They need some direct sunlight and will flower mid-winter, producing bright red flowers as shown above. The flowers are very attractive to birds. You can put slices of the leaves in your chicken’s water, and for some reason, this makes the birds healthy.
9) The Golden barrel cactus or Echinocactus grusonii
When I was a toddler I thought plants were friendly things until I met this plant. They grow frightfully slowly, but their round shape and beautiful thorns are a sight to behold. I love these cacti and wish I had a few more – 40 years ago!!
10) The San Pedro cactus, or Echinopsis pachanoi
This cactus is beautiful. It can also teach those who need to learn things. It is rich in a chemical called mescaline, which, as new research is beginning to show, is a healing compound able to help people overcome psychological traumas when consumed in a guided fashion.
11) Peyote or Lophophora williamsii
This cactus is also a sacred healer. It grows in dense clumps and the small button-like cacti can be harvested and made into a tea. A few of these cacti consumed will open portals to different dimensions where wisdom can be obtained by those who seek it. A powerful plant indeed.
Conclusion On Chart Types Of Succulents
Choosing succulents to include in your life is a matter of personal choice. The ones I have shown here are generally bold and make a statement – in your house, garden or mind. These are powerful plants that change your landscape, your future, and your life. Enjoy them and respect them.
Want more information on the best succulents? We can help! Check out the other articles we have on our site!
How do I know which succulent I have?
There are many apps, such as Picture This that can identify common succulent types. If this does not help, you can often e-mail a picture to a herbarium and the good folks there can help.
How many types of succulent plants are there?
Depending on who you listen to there are 10,000 or more species of succulents. In the 45 years, I have walked this planet, I have seen these plants subdivided into more and more genera and sub-species. There are many undiscovered plants as well.
What is the most common succulent?
This will depend on where you look. Cacti, Aloes, Crassula, and Portulacaria probably have the largest numbers of individual plants in the world. But this would really be a difficult number to put an exact finger on. Opuntia cacti are invasive in many countries and are also probably contenders for this throne.
Branko is the world‘s most enthusiastic gardener! He is always on the hunt for the perfect flower, bush or tree to add to his ever–growing garden. He is known for his love of all things green, and his passion for nurturing the plants he grows is unmatched. He loves to get his hands dirty and can often be found humbly tending to his garden at all hours of the day. Branko is the go–to guy when it comes to gardening advice – he is always happy to share his knowledge and wisdom with anyone who will listen. He also loves to play pranks on unsuspecting visitors, so beware if you enter his garden!