A question I get asked frequently is, what are succulents? While succulents are increasing in popularity, many people are still unaware of these amazing plants. Hopefully this will give you a better understanding of what succulents are. Succulents are a group of plants that store water in their leaves. The leaves tend to be thick and fleshy, but some genus and species have thicker leaves than others. Succulents tend to thrive in dry climates and don't like a lot of humidity. As with any other plant, proper watering will ensure the best growth and flowering. While they do need water to survive, they can endure extended periods of drought, relying on the stored water and nutrients in their leaves. If their roots are sitting in water for too long they will start to rot and die.
Most succulents prefer warm temperatures and are not able to withstand freezing. Due to the water stored in their leaves, freezing will often result in the plant dying or getting mushy leaves. Some species of sedums and sempervivums are able to withstand temperatures below freezing, although they are still better off in warmer temperatures. Extremes in temperature as well as lack of water or sunlight can often result in a color change for succulents. Succulents tend to “blush” or turn a different color when given a shock, such as more sunlight than they are used to. Generally when succulents are lacking in sunlight they will be dull or green. When fully blushing they range in color from pinks, oranges, and purples to almost black and red.
One of the amazing qualities of succulents is their ability to propagate easily. While some species propagate more easily than others, many can grow new plants from a leaf that has fallen off the plant. Some put of new pups as they get larger. Find out more about propagating succulents!
While cactus are by definition succulents, they are often referred to separately from other succulents. Succulents include a wide variety of genus and species and therefore come in a variety of colors, shapes, and textures. A more comprehensive list of plants that fall into the succulent category can be found on Wikipedia.
Typically, when most people think of succulents, they think of beautiful Echeverias, Sempervivums, or even Senecio Rowleyanus ‘String of Pearls'. But those beautiful pokey cacti are succulents, too.