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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!