Many people get confused about what succulents actually are and what makes them different from other houseplants.
Today, we are going to help define succulent in a way that, hopefully, helps you know if you are looking at one.
I looked up about 10 different sites to find a good definition of succulent. Most said something along the lines of “their leaves hold water”. Here are a few of the “highlights”.
As you can see from the first one, I had to blackout a word.
I found this interesting because the left is the American definition and the right is the British, there is a lot more detail listed under the British definition.
The below was by far the best definition I found but I still don’t believe it is giving the full “picture” of what a succulent is. The reason being, not all succulents have waxy leaves, and while it is true about the stomata (openings on the leaves), you can’t see them with the naked eye.
So, You Have A Better Definition?
Well, maybe not a definition, the above are all true but I do have a way to help you identify if you are looking at a succulent or a “regular” houseplant.
All cacti are succulents so if you see something with prickly spines or needles, it is indeed a succulent.
Other succulents can be a bit more tricky but if any of these traits are visible, you are probably looking at a succulent:
- Thick or fleshy leaves
- Waxy leaves
- “Furry” leaves
- Rosette shape from thick leaves, not thin petals like on a rose
I do think the main difference that you can see is the leaf thickness. Most houseplants have very thin leaves, the leaves on succulents are thicker (fleshy, sturdier, more substantial – whatever word works for you best).
Does It Matter If I Get It Wrong?
Yes, very much so.
Succulents are very hardy plants. They all grow in tough conditions whether it is in the desert, on the side of a cliff, or even in the jungle. They have all adapted to very difficult conditions. Because most succulents are native to the desert, their watering needs and temperature ranges are different from most houseplants. They are easy to care for and slow-growing but there are a few differences in their care (some can be neglected more than others). Also, because succulents are from various parts of the world, knowing where your succulent comes from helps you take care of it as nature would.
See this post on how to care for succulents.
I’m Still Not Sure If It Is A Succulent
I get it, if you are new to succulents or plants in general, it can be hard.
First, most stores (online and in-person) will say if a plant is a succulent. They may not list the specific succulent name but at least that it is a succulent.
Third, I just did a post on plant identification apps, you can view that here. They can be super helpful.
Let’s Wrap It Up
Let me give you “my” definition of succulent here: A plant you can’t resist!
Just kidding, well, kidding about that being the “real” definition anyway.
Here is a definition:
A type of plant that stores water in the leaves which makes the leaves look thick or fleshy. They also can store water in the stems and roots, they are hardy, slow-growing, and available in different colors, shapes, and sizes. All cacti are succulents.
Did I do better at defining “succulent”, hmm, I don’t know, it is hard, but hopefully, I gave you some tools to help you identify them.
Here are additional ones from Amazon to look at.
As always, I appreciate your comments, questions, and observations!