13 Types of Succulents That Make Great Houseplants
Bring life to your home with these 13 superb succulents.
Succulents encompass a broad subsection of plant life, and generally encompass plants with thick, fleshy tissues or leaves that store water. They have adapted to survive in arid climates and are typically drought resistant, perfect characteristics for beginner home gardeners who might not stick to a consistent watering schedule.
With so many succulents out there, however, it can be difficult to establish which ones will thrive in your home. Read on for 13 of the most popular succulents that make great houseplants to find the one that’s perfect for you.
1. Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis Miller)
Aloe vera is one of the best-known types of succulents due to its long history of use in folk medicine. The gel found in aloe vera’s plump, serrated leaves is a popular ingredient in moisturizers, shaving creams, and other cosmetics because of its soothing qualities and purported ability to heal minor wounds and burns.
Caring for an aloe plant is easy, as long as you’re not prone to overwatering your houseplants. Because it is native to arid climates, aloe is quite drought resistant, so it will survive even if you neglect it for a while. In fact, it only needs to be watered twice a month in the summer and once a month or less in the winter when it’s dormant.
Best For: Harvesting soothing gel to treat minor burns and sunburns.
2. Snake Plant (Dracaena trifasciata)
Did you know that snake plants are actually succulents? Because of their long upright leaves, they definitely look different from many of the other popular succulents out there, but their care requirements are quite similar. Their leaves are meant to hold water, making them drought resistant, and the biggest mistake you can make with a snake plant is watering it too frequently.
If your snake plant’s leaves start to turn yellow or become limp, it’s a sign you’re watering it too much. Succulents generally thrive in direct or indirect sunlight, and snake plants are no different, but one of their primary advantages is that they also can survive in shady areas that receive little natural light. This makes them perfect for offices or the corners of your home where other plants often go to die.
Best For: Low-light corners of your home.
3. African Milk Tree (Euphorbia trigona)
It’s a misconception that succulents can’t have traditional leaves, and the African milk tree is one example that disproves it. The plant grows quickly and propagates easily outdoors in its native climate in Central Africa, but it also can make an excellent houseplant. In fact, it can grow as high as 4 feet tall indoors, setting it apart from many other low-growing succulents.
In appearance, the African milk tree looks more like a cactus than anything else, but its small sprouting leaves set it apart. In the U.S., it can survive outside in the warm climates of Zones 9b through 11, where it will produce pretty white flowers in the summer.
Best For: Xeriscaping outdoors in warm climates or as a unique, decorative houseplant in colder areas.
4. Jade Plant (Crassula ovata)
Jade plants are popular as ornamentals because their thick, dark green leaves make them look like tiny trees. They’re considered to be good luck in many cultures and are often passed down through families because they live so long. Indoors, they can grow to up to 3 feet high after several years.
While many plants prefer indirect sunlight, jade plants need at least 4 hours of direct sun every day, meaning they’ll do best on a bright windowsill or in another area that gets plenty of sun. Try a south-facing window for the ideal light conditions. Be careful when watering your jade plant, because they’re prone to root rot. It’s best to only water them when the soil is dry to the touch.
Best For: Placing in sunny south-facing windows.
5. Burro’s Tail (Sedum morganianum)
Sedum morganianum, also known as burro’s tail or donkey tail, is a gorgeous succulent that’s popular as a hanging plant because of its striking tendrils. It’s native to the south of Mexico
At nurseries, burro’s tail is typically sold as a small plant, and it takes lots of TLC to help it grow to maturity. It needs access to bright, direct light, and must be planted in well-draining soil to prevent root rot.
The tiny succulents lining the plant’s tendrils are incredibly delicate and can fall off if anything comes into contact with them. Because of this, it’s best to keep them on a high shelf or in a hanging basket in a safe location. This fragility also means you should handle the plant as infrequently as possible.
Best For: Experienced succulent owners who are up for a challenge.
6. Panda Plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa)
The Panda plant, scientifically named Kalanchoe tomentosa, has a distinctive look with fuzzy, red- or brown-rimmed leaves. It’s also nicknamed the pussy ears plant because its triangular leaves look like a cat’s ears. Panda plants are quite small, with a maximum height of 1.5 feet, and are native to Madagascar, where they flower when grown outdoors.
These plants require a lot of sunlight and do best in warm environments between 60 and 75 degrees. Despite their feline appearance, however, panda plants are actually toxic if consumed by household pets like cats and dogs. Like most succulents, panda plants don’t need to be repotted often; every 2 years should suffice.
Best For: Pet-free households because they’re toxic to cats and dogs.
7. Flaming Katy (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana)
Kalanchoe blossfeldiana, better known as flaming Katy, is a succulent that will produce colorful flowers even when grown indoors. One of the plant’s most unique features is that it blooms in the winter, which earns it the nickname of Christmas kalanchoe.
Appreciate the flowering season while you can, because it only lasts a few weeks. To encourage more blooms, deadhead the ones that have died off. This is a delicate plant that must be handled with care because its leaves are brittle and prone to snapping. After 2 to 5 years, expect your flaming Katy to reach heights of about 1.5 feet.
Best For: Bright cold-weather blooms.
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8. Pincushion Cactus (Mammillaria)
The pincushion cactus is native to Mexico as well as parts of Central America and the southern United States. This genus has more than 200 subspecies, making it the most common in the Cactaceae family. While some of the popular varieties are round, they can also have conical or cylindrical shapes.
While they usually remain quite small, pincushion cacti can ultimately grow to over a foot in height. The succulents produce flowers in a rainbow of colors, which eventually develop into fruit that looks like a red berry. It’s easy to care for, making it great for cactus and succulent novices.
Best For: Beginners who want an easy-care cactus that produces colorful flowers.
9. Zebra Plant (Aphelandra squarrosa)
Aphelandra squarrosa, or zebra plant, produces bright yellow flowers at the end of its growing season in the fall and has striped green leaves year-round. Indoors, these are slow-growing succulents, reaching a maximum height of 2 feet after 3 years or so. While they are pretty, they’re also quite finicky.
Zebra plants need bright light, but it must be filtered to prevent the leaves from burning. Too little light, however, and the plant won’t bloom. Unlike most other succulents, zebra plants require moist soil, so they should be watered frequently, but can’t be overwatered, which causes them to wilt. They also thrive in a humid environment, with humidity of 60 to 70 percent.
Best For: Experienced gardeners who are willing to put up with the zebra plant’s temperamental nature.
10. String of Pearls (Curio rowleyanus)
Curio rowleyanus, better known as string of pearls, is a succulent that’s actually part of the daisy family. It’s gratifying for home gardeners because it grows so quickly and is easy to propagate. It has quite particular light requirements, preferring bright light in the morning and shade in the afternoon. In nature, this succulent prevents exposure to direct sunlight by growing under other plants.
Choosing the right pot size for string of pearls is a key consideration; the plant doesn’t like to rest on damp soil.
Best For: A quirky cascading houseplant.
11. Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)
The ponytail palm, or Beaucarnea recurvata, gets its name because its long, curled leaves look like strands of hair. Despite its name and appearance, it’s actually not a palm at all, but rather a member of the agave family. Its thick trunk makes it look like a miniature tree, creating a unique appearance.
One of the ponytail palm’s most appealing qualities is that it’s extremely forgiving, and will bounce back even if it’s neglected, making it perfect for beginner home gardeners or black thumbs. Its primary requirement is bright light in the summer, so it’s best to bring it outdoors if you can. Bring it back inside before winter, however, where it can tolerate extremely low-light conditions.
Best For: Brown thumbs looking for a succulent that’s sure to survive.
12. Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgessii)
The Christmas cactus is so named because it blooms in the winter with vibrant flowers. Interestingly, it’s also related to the Thanksgiving cactus (S. truncata) and confused with the Easter cactus (Hatiora gaertneri), similar looking plants named for the time of year they typically bloom.
Christmas cactus is popular for gifting around the holiday season, and you can easily propagate it by cutting a piece from the tip of a stem. It’s easy to care for without any complex maintenance requirements but will produce more flowers if exposed to bright light in the daytime but at least 12 hours of darkness at night. With the right conditions, it might even produce flowers throughout the year.
Best For: Gifting as a holiday present.
RELATED: How To: Propagate Succulents
13. Bunny Ear Cactus (Opuntia microdasys)
Opuntia microdasys, better known as bunny ear cactus, often grows with two matching, ear-shaped pads, which is where it gets its nickname. It grows naturally in Mexico, where it can reach up to 2 feet high. Due to its native habitat, this succulent needs a lot of direct sunlight—about 14 hours a day—which can be tricky in many indoor spaces.
Keep your bunny ears happy and thriving by supplementing natural light with white fluorescent light. As with all cacti, it’s important to exercise caution when handling or repotting it because of the spiky bristles that cover its pads.
Best For: Cactus lovers with access to plenty of direct sunlight.