3 Ways to Identify Your Succulents

When I first started collecting succulents, being able to identify them seemed like a nightmare. You’ve likely found that many places you buy succulents don’t label the specific genera or species of succulent.

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Even a specialty store by my house just labels them as “Succulent Variety” or “Cactus Variety”. It didn’t bother me before, but now it drives me crazy! There is enough variation in lighting and water requirements that it is nice to know what you have.

I’ve received several emails asking for help with identifying succulents, so I thought I’d share what I know!

I've been trying to figure out what succulents I own and this post was super helpful!
Senecio mandraliscae

You’ll always need a good photo to ID your succulent (unless you are asking someone in person). Try to photograph the plant on its own rather than in an arrangement. If it is in an arrangement, try to crop or zoom in so that only the plant in question is visible. However, make sure you can see enough of the plant that people can identify it.

If your plant is in bloom it’s generally even easier for people to ID it. Be sure to capture a separate picture of the flowers or include it in the main photo if you can. You don’t have to have the photo of the bloom, but for specific species it makes things a little easier.

Make sure the succulent is well lit. If you are photographing in a dark area or sometimes indoors, you may get an weird color cast which can make the color of the plant look different. The moral of the story is get the best picture you can of your succulent. The better the picture, the more likely people will be able to identify the plant.

This post helped me figure out what kind of succulents I own!
Echeveria pulvinata

I can generally guess the genus of a plant but it’s not too often that I know the species or cultivar name. So, when I wanted to know what types of succulents I owned, I started searching the internet. While there were lots of options for getting an ID, I found 3 especially helpful resources.

Drought Smart Plants

Another great option for identification is an app put together by my friend Jacki at Drought Smart Plants called Succulent ID. You can look at different genera of succulents or search through photos based on characteristics of your succulent.

She also has an ebook just for identifying Sempervivums which you can get here.

Garden Web Forum

The Garden Web Forum is a very reliable way to get an ID for your succulent. You’ll need to set up an account in order to post in the forum, but it’s free and really easy. Once you have an account you’ll need a photo of your succulent. Upload your photo as part of your post. If you have a guess about the genus or species, say so in your comment. A lot of times that can help get things moving more quickly.

Don’t post more than 3 or 4 succulents for identification in a post. It will make it harder for people to give you the correct answer for a specific photo, plus it’s asking a lot of the forum members. Instead, post a couple pictures once a week or every couple of days.

I’d recommend turning on the option to get updates about your post via email. That way you don’t have to check back on the website to see if someone has left a comment. Generally people on this forum are responsive pretty quickly and sometimes reply in just a few minutes. Be sure to thank the people who’ve helped you!

Facebook Groups

I love posting my photos to Facebook groups to get IDs. I’m usually able to get a response within a few minutes. Plus, it’s fun to be a part of a succulent group! They are more likely to give you feedback or tips than members in a forum. Here are a couple groups you could request to join:

Always be sure to thank the people that have replied with suggestions! Being interactive in these groups is also highly recommended. In general people like to help those who are interacting with them or are involved in that community.

Thanks to this post I know what kinds of succulents I own!
Haworthia retusa

The Succulent Plant Page Gallery

This Gallery of Succulents is the hardest way to identify your succulent, but it is still a helpful resource. You can look through the images and see which matches your plant the best. You’ll then know the genus of the plant, which is a great place to start!

Something to keep in mind… once you’ve been given the name of your plant do a quick search on Google images for that name. See if the majority of the photos there look like your succulent. If they do, awesome! If not, use that name as a starting point. Ask people if they think it’s that plant or if it could be something different. Young plants can be harder to identify than well established plants, so realize you may not get a definite answer. There are a lot of different cultivars and hybrids with succulents these days as well. That can cause some confusion with identification. As long as you have at least the genus right though, you’ll be on your way to being able to better care for your succulents.

When you do know what type of succulent you have, I highly recommend looking the plant up on Dave’s Garden. This has been my go to resource when I want to know about a specific plant. It will tell you things such as the growing zone, minimum growing temperature, how large it grows, and other helpful details. I have spent hours on this site researching succulents and it has proved to be a very valuable resource.

I hope that gives you a good start to identify and learn more about the specific succulents you own. As always, feel free to ask me if you have any questions!

59 Responses to 3 Ways to Identify Your Succulents

  1. Good morning! Once again, very helpful information you have provided to us! I see the questions re: the first and second plants pictured in this post, but I find the 3rd one the most interesting. Can you tell us what that one is?


  2. Do you have an email address where I can send a photo of a cactus/succulent for identification?

    Thank you

    • I’m not actually able to identify succulents for you, I’m really not good at it. Use one of the resources recommended above and you should be able to get the answer you need. The Facebook groups usually have the fastest response time.

  3. Hi thank you for all the information. My beautiful red spoon like leaves succulent is slowly losing all its leaves. I am very unhappy, have no idea what to do

  4. Cassidy, I wanted to thank you for all the fantastic info you have provided us! I’m new to succulents, but have fallen in love with them! Trying to absorb all the info and put it to work can be challenging! I am wanting to make some succulent terrariums, and wondered if there are specific succulents that do better in that type of environment? Can small sea shells be used as the topping, instead of pebbles?
    One more question, I took a leave from a succulent and laid it on top of loose soil, and was successful in getting the pink roots, as well as tiny pups to grow. I have searched so many articles on what to do next. Do you cut the pups and roots off the leaf and plant it, or do you just continue to leave the entire leaf with pups, to grow on top of the soil?

    • Thank you! Terrariums are a bit tricky. You can see some of my tips for planting one here. You’ll either want to use a succulent with really thick leaves like a Graptoveria ‘California Sunset’ or Gasteraloe ‘Little Warty’ and rarely water, or use something like Crassula lycopoides and Portulacaria afra that have thin leaves and can tolerate being watered more frequently. I’d avoid Echeveria’s as they can rot really easily in a terrarium.

      You can definitely use sea shells as a top dressing. Just make sure you rinse them to remove any salt.

      For leaf propagating you’ll want to leave the baby attached to the mother plant until the leaf dies. You can see my specific instructions here.

  5. Well that was easy. The plant I was trying to identify was the plant in the first image. Thanks for listing the name of it with the picture!

  6. My grand daughter made up a bowl of succulents for me for Mother’s Day but it has little tiny flying bugs . How di I get rid of the m? Don’t want to infest my other plants .

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Wondering who I am?

Let me introduce myself... My name is Cassidy Tuttle and I’m a professional photographer turned succulent addict. These are my two sweet children and wonderful husband in the photo with me!

My adventure with succulents started with three small plants on the window sill of my basement apartment. Within a year I had propagated them and purchased more, totaling over 100 plants!

It’s been a fun adventure since then as I’ve drowned, burned, frozen, and starved my collection of succulents. This site is where I teach you how to avoid all those mistakes I made or help you recover from them.

While I’ve killed plenty of succulents in the last few years, I’ve also kept hundreds alive and thriving, and I know you can do the same!

Did I mention I wrote the book on succulents?

It’s true! I’m the author of Idiot’s Guides: Succulents which is designed to help those of us who love succulents (but are limited to growing on our window sills and porches) keep our succulents looking great.

You can purchase my book through my Amazon affiliate link here or pick it up at your local Barnes and Noble.

If printed books aren’t your thing, I’ve also written several ebooks about succulents on various topics including indoor growing, watering and propagating. You can check those out on this page.

My goal is to help you not just keep your succulents alive, but help them thrive no matter where you live.

Whew! That’s a lot of stuff!

I’m impressed you’ve made it this far down. You should probably be rewarded for that…

How about some bite sized succulent tips delivered daily to your inbox?

I’m sure you’ll love my 30 Days of Quick Succulent Tips email series. Each day I’ll send you a 2-3 sentence tip about growing succulents along with a photo and link to learn more.

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