What is a Succulent Plant?

I think that succulents make a great conversation starter. When I share my interest in succulents with people I meet, the reaction is usually that: “What is a succulent?”.

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Yes, we are a huge community around here on the internet. But I find it a bit strange that how many people still do not know about the succulents, although they are extremely popular houseplants.

Succulent plants are basically a group of plants that survive hot and arid climates thanks to their water storing body. They come in a vast variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. You probably see them all around these days because they are really effortless to care indoors, plus they give the best pictures!

I can see why it is confusing for many to understand succulents; they contain a big crowd of plants. If so, here are the fundamentals about these plants. Let’s talk on what is a succulent plant actually?

Definition of a Succulent Plant

In a general speaking, succulents are the plants that are adapted to specific kind of climates. They store water inside their leaves. That is why they grow very thick and fleshy leaves. As a native to dry environments, a succulent plant does not like humid or cold weathers.

Priority on the care of a succulent plant grown at homes or offices has to be the water for this reason. They need water just like any other plants. But in fact, they can live through very long periods of time without any irrigation, just with the use of their storage of water and nutrition.

Meaning of the Word “Succulent”

Succulent plants are defined as a category of plant types that have leaves full of juice and fleshy tissues conserving water. The word “succulent” is driven from a Latin phrase: “succus”, which means juice or sap. Maybe you notice that the word is an adjective that gathers this type of plants. But we refer all of these plants as succulents commonly.

The Difference Between a Cactus and a Succulent

I come across a situation very often. Succulents are introduced as a kind of cactus. Which is not entirely false. Anyways, I think it is the right time to get clear with the thing between cacti and succulent plants.

Cacti are drought tolerant plants that store water inside the stem. Therefore, all cacti are under the category of succulent plants by definition. However, not all succulents are cacti.

In order to be considered as a cactus, the succulent plant should have areoles, cushion-like bumps on the stem where spines, hairs, flowers grow.

What do Succulents Look Like?

Succulents are remarkable by means of their striking and exotic appearance. Their unusual shape mostly formed by the spines or maybe rosettes of leaves. They seem fleshy and swollen because of the water stocking features of their body

Besides that, some species are characterized by some other adaptations. The leaves are minimalized in the surface to prevent water loss. They generally form in more compact forms. And sometimes, the waxy or hairy surfaces reduce the air movement causing dehydration around the leaves.

Characteristics of Succulents

There are more than 50 families accommodating a succulent plant. Over 25 plant families contain several types of succulents. For an instance, the family Crassulaceae are mostly succulent plant species.

Among the large variety of genus and families, we find a few common characteristics make us love succulents.

They Survive Tough Conditions

Succulent plants are native to arid sreas like deserts or steppes.

These plants are originally from ecologies where extremely high temperatures and rare rainfalls are seen for the most times. Thanks to the water storages of their leaves and stem, they are hardy for many challenges which other plants show sensitivity.

That is the biggest reason why succulents are very popular to be maintained at homes or offices. They do not die easily every time they are forgotten or neglected…

They are Colorful

Within the numerous species of succulent plants, there has to be more than enough types that every plant addict would say favorite.

You can find succulents in a wide range of green colors from the deep darks to icy pales. Many species develop amazing hues on the leaves with the help of sun exposure. Top of it all, a lot of succulents give flowers in various colors.

They Multiply Easily

Succulents are also conquering our lives because they propagate so easily. There is a big chance of a success when you try to propagate a succulent from the leaves or cuttings.

Even sometimes there is not a need for a secondary intervention. It is quite common that they multiply with little new offsets. Or a fallen leaf give roots in the soil before you notice.

Caring Succulents: Outdoors or Indoors?

Recently, succulents are becoming one of the favorite houseplants and also popular in the gardens. This is mainly by the reason they are easy to grow. Succulent plants do not require a high maintenance, a large budget, complex gardening skills or knowledge.

A few species of succulents are decorating gardens where the climate is convenient, moderate and stable. Besides that, a lot of them make great houseplants. Easy to see why:

  • Succulents are unique and aesthetically pleasing.
  • They require an infrequent care like watering, repotting, pruning.
  • They are contained in the small pots and replaced easily anywhere.
  • These plants are not expensive succulents and they propagate very often.
  • Some succulents have medical and mental benefits.
  • They rarely accommodate pests or diseases.

Since they are becoming more and more common, here are the basics for succulent beginners. For a detailed information on indoor succulent care, check out my previous how-to guide

Temperature and Sunlight

These desert plants will thrive in moderately warm temperatures. While most of them can not withstand freezing temperatures and die; there are also some cold hardy succulents survive cold weather for some time.

Succulent plants love the sun! Therefore, you need to place your plants nearby a sunny window and make sure they get enough direct sunlight everyday. Succulents get pale and dull in the lack of sun. Additionally, they tend to stretch quickly.

Cold weathers and lack of sunshine cause the succulents to pass dormancy, usually during the winter.


Succulent plants need water to live, just like every other living organism. Their water storage that I mentioned many times, will run out eventually. When the soil of the plant is completely dry, that means it reqire a watering.

Best way of watering succulents is to give them a good amount of water one time. After that you should wait a long time between irrigations. The plant is going to make use of the moisture that captured inside the leaves and the stem.

Soil and Drainage

Keep in mind that the roots of a succulent plant hate to sit in a wet soil. Soaking wet soil causes the roots to rot very quickly. For this matter, drainage of the roots is a big deal for them to keep alive.

Never use the regular potting or gardening soils with the succulents. You can find anywhere easily a specially mixed succulent or cacti soil, which contains some amount of grains like perlite and coarse sand together with the potting soil base. I like to mix my own soil at home by myself since this way is cheaper and much more fun.

These succulent soils do not hold the water inside and let it drain fast in order to keep the roots dry and healthy. If you plant succulents in a pot with the drainage holes also using a succulent soil mix, you will have less trouble with overwatering.

What are Succulents Symbolizing?

It is known that some types of succulents are beneficial medically, for the skin and digestion. I have read also about the mental effects of succulents, as many plants and trees are given a spiritual meaning related to natural phenomena from the beginning of history.

Succulents are the plants that are thought to be symbolizing endurance and strength, because of their survival features. They are given the meaning of a timeless love.

In Feng Shui, these plants are believed to accumulate the positive energy of the water inside, and giving the feeling of protection and good luck.

Give Succulents a Chance

Maybe you had no idea before or maybe you just found out about succulents. Even though that is the case, I am sure you are familiar with more than one species of succulent plants while passing in front of a flower shop, scrolling through Instagram, or sitting at a cafe.

Succulent plants grow a huge popularity these days, because of their unusual and aesthetic look combined with the minimal effort of care. If you haven’t met these amazing plants yet, give them a chance. You won’t regret!

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