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How To Identify The Type Of Succulent Plant You Want

by Sofia Lara

Growing succulents have become a popular hobby because the plants are easy to care for. Ask the person who sold you the succulent about watering and lighting needs and he’ll probably say:

“Just give them water when the soil has gone dry and make sure they get sunlight every day.”

Yes, if you water the succulent too frequently, the roots could rot. If you don’t give the plant enough sunlight, the succulent’s leaves will stretch out and wither in a process called etiolation.

The word “succulent” describes a category of plants. It is not a botanical name for a particular species of plant. 

Succulents cover a wide range of plant families with their own specific traits and qualities. Some have leaves that form a rosette while other types have thick, plump leaves that allow them to store more water.

Knowing the type of succulent plant you have will allow you to give it the proper care it needs to survive and thrive. 

How To Identify 3 Popular Types Of Succulents

You may have an idea of the type of succulent you want. You could have seen it on social media, a friend’s house, or in the lobby of a hotel. 

You decide to drive down the garden store. The manager tells you to go to the aisle labeled “Succulents”. If you’re lucky, the store might give more information such as “Cactus Succulents”, “South Africa Succulents”, and “Mexico Succulents”. 

“Where is it?”

There are so many succulents to choose from! Many of them look-alike with similar physical characteristics. 

Sure, the manager could lend assistance. But if he’s busy or has limited knowledge of succulents, you might leave the store empty-handed. 

To make your life easier, we’ve hand-picked 3 popular types of succulents that come from the Crassulaceae family – Crassulas, Sedums, and Kalanchoes – and how to identify them from a garden store or nursery. 

We’ve also included valuable tips on how to grow them indoors or outdoors.

Crassulas

The Crassula sub-species are popular because of the Crassula Ovata or Jade Plant. Horticulturists love the Crassula because of its exquisite look. It is identified by symmetrical petals that are unique to one another; also called a five-petaled calyx.

A succulent from the Crassula genus has thick leaves and some varieties have woody stems. It is also a succulent that produces flowers. There are varieties of Crassula succulents that are monocarpic – meaning they die after flowering. 

4 Tips On Growing Crassula Succulents Indoors

  • Crassula succulents are one of the more durable and resilient plants that you can grow. For example, a Crassula Ovata only needs one thorough watering per month. It is also the ideal indoor plant because Crassula Ovata can thrive in filtered sunlight.
  • The best soil to use for crassulas is sandy soil or cactus mix.
  • Place your crassulas in a windowsill that is facing South.
  • In the summer months, crassulas become dormant. During this period, give the succulents a good drenching once-a-month until the cooler months come in and the plants start to come to life.

3 Tips On Growing Crassulas Outdoors

  • Crassulas are best planted outdoors if you live in a region that is categorized as USDA growing zones 9 or 10.
  • During the winter season, bring the crassulas indoors.
  • When the crassulas start to grow, they become top-heavy and may fall over. Insert a stake on the soil to give the plants more support. 

Sedums

There are hundreds of species of Sedum that are available in different sizes, colors, and shapes. Horticulturists grow sedums as houseplants, shrubs, flowering perennials, and ground cover. A Sedum produces flowers that have five petals. It does not get woody stems. 

3 Tips On Growing Sedums Indoors

  • Sedums grow best when planted in cactus soil.
  • A twice-a-month watering schedule works best for sedums.
  • Sedums come in different colors. For indoor plants, choose sedums that have bright green leaves.

3 Tips On Growing Sedums Outdoors

  • Regions that fall under USDA growing zones 5-9 are best for growing sedums outdoors especially as shrubs, flowering plants or ground cover.
  • As outdoor plants, sedums thrive in flower beds. Add ornamental grasses if the sedums are shrubbier or taller.
  • “Pork and Beans” is a variety of Sedum which is highly tolerant of drought. Sedums that are tolerant to drought grow best in partial shade or full sun. Keep in mind that the amount of sunlight it receives will affect the color of the leaves.

Kalanchoes

Kalanchoes originate from South Africa or Madagascar which makes them comfortable in semi-tropical to tropical temperatures. There are around 200 species of kalanchoes that have identified. They are known to grow eye-catching foliage and are used as ornamental plants in houses located in colder regions.

Identifiable characteristics of kalanchoes include having clusters of flowers and the appearance of offshoots on the leaves. A typical Kalanchoe may have fuzzy leaves with pink edges and bright-pink flowers. 

3 Tips On Growing Kalanchoes Indoors

  • Place kalanchoes in an area of the room that receives full to partial sun.
  • Give the Kalanchoe water whenever its soil has completely dried out.
  • Remove fallen leaves from under the Kalanchoe as this attracts mealybugs.

3 Tips On Growing Kalanchoes Outdoors

  • Kalanchoes grow best in the outdoors in rock gardens or gravel gardens if the region is classified as USDA growing zones 10-11.
  • Kalanchoes can survive winter but it is recommended to bring them indoors during the cold seasons.
  • Outdoor kalanchoes need less frequent watering than indoor kalanchoes. 

Smart Ways To Have Your Succulent Identified

The 3 families of succulents that we just discussed – Crassula, Sedum, and Kalanchoe – account for hundreds of types of succulents in the market. By using our tips, it will be easier for you to identify your preferred succulent at the garden store or nursery.

But what if your preferred succulent is not from the Crassula, Sedum or Kalanchoe families? How will you find them?

Here are 4 smart ways to have your succulent identified.

  1. Social Media

Social media attracts like-minded people. Chances are, many in your community are succulent-growers. 

Simply post an image of the succulent and ask your community for help. You might also want to put up a special page for succulent growers and invite your friends to join. 

  1. Special Interest Web Forums

A simple Google search will yield web forums that cater to people who have a special affinity with succulents. Garden Web Forum is a good one to start with. To get started all you have to do is open a user account.

As a first-time member, stay on the sidelines and get a feel of the discussions. Join in once in a while and offer your opinions. After a few exchanges, pick up the pace and be more active. 

In time, you can post 3-4 questions to the group. Ask help in identifying succulents. The response time can be very fast!

  1. Apps

Apps are developed to address a need – including identifying succulents! Here are a few apps that might want to download on your smartphone:

  • PictureThis
  • Pl@ntNet
  • INaturalist
  1. Photo ID

If you come across a succulent that interests you – take a picture with your smartphone. 

When you’re at the garden store, show the manager the picture. Make sure you take pictures from different angles and distances to give the manager an idea of the type of succulent you want. 

Conclusion

Be patient when it comes to identifying your succulent. Finding your preferred succulent may take time but it will be worth it. 

Think of it as a treasure hunt. When you’ve finally found the succulent you want, not only will you adorn your garden or home the way you want it. But by following the tips we’ve given, you will enjoy many fruitful years with the succulent.

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