Do you need to identify your succulent and work out what type of succulent you have? Have you been given a succulent as a gift or bought one at a market or school fair and you don’t really know what succulent it is?
I’ve purchased numerous succulents at local markets and fairs. I’ve picked succulents I like the look of, and that seem healthy. Prices are often great at small market stalls. However, they are often not labelled at all.
Many succulent plants look very similar to each other and if you have an unlabelled plant, you may need to do some detective work to find out what succulent you now own.
If you are asking, ‘What succulent plant do I have?’ or ‘What succulent is this?’, we’ve got your back, and in this post, we’ll guide you through identifying the most common types of succulents.
Succulents are one of the most common plant species across the globe but identifying types of succulents isn’t easy.
Many succulent varieties from cuttings or bought in-store are labeled as succulent without a specific name.
I took this photo in my local succulent plant store recently. It just says ‘succulent’ and gives no information about the type of succulent plant.
It’s important to know your type of succulent as each plant species has specific needs that can make a difference to your plant maintenance. It can determine whether your succulent is safe for your cats, dogs and other pets, or small children.
In this handy guide, we find out why knowing your type of succulent is important and how to identify your succulent type.
Why Does Succulent Identification Matter?
One of the main reasons why identifying your succulent plant is crucial is because it has a big impact on how you need to care for your succulent.
Succulent identification can be the difference between a healthy plant and a dying plant.
While some succulents might share a similar appearance or name, they still have different characteristics and needs.
For example, some succulent plants are winter hardy, while their look-alike twin could not survive the extreme cold.
In addition, the type of succulent plant can also make a difference to your environment. As an example, some succulents are toxic to children and pets.
And as a proud succulent owner, you need to be aware of these characteristics and possible risks before you bring a succulent into your home or garden.
How To Identify Different Types Of Succulents
As a rule of thumb, every plant that stores water in its roots, stems and leaves is classed as a succulent.
As this is a very broad definition, succulent varieties can look very different from each other.
However, you may also find that some succulent plants look very similar but have different requirements for light, water, nutrients and temperature.
For example, Sempervivum and Echeveria are both called ‘hens and chicks’ and both form large rosettes. However, only the Sempervivum variety survives freezing temperatures, while Echeveria wouldn’t survive temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
The more succulents you look at, the more you can learn about the different succulent types just from their appearance.
Make sure that you take a lot of pictures of your succulents and use the below identification strategies to find out what plant you are looking at.
Here are some common ways to identify succulent plants indoors and outdoors.
Identifying Succulents By Characteristics
The best way to distinguish between the various types of succulents is by looking at their specific characteristics.
Here are some of the key plant characteristics that you can look for when you want to find out what type of succulent your plant is.
Examine your succulent and look at the color of the stems, flowers and leaves.
Look closely at the thickness, size and shape of the leaves. Also, the number of leaves can make a difference between individual succulent species.
Plus, some succulent plants have distinctive bumps or markings on their leaves or tiny teeth or serrations along the leaves’ edges.
Take a closer look at the length of the plant’s stem. Does it even have a stem? The texture and color of a stem can tell you what type of succulent you are looking at.
When your succulent is flowering, examine the shape and color of the flowers. You can also tell the difference between succulents from the petals per bloom and the number of flowers.
Ciliates are tiny hairs on the surface of your succulent, but not every succulent species has these small hairs.
Epicuticular wax is a waxy coating on the outer surfaces of a plant. If your succulent produces epicuticular wax, it usually has a whitish or bluish color.
Check your plant’s surface. Is it smooth, or does it have spines or spikes?
Shape And Size Of The Plant
If your plant is already mature, you can use the overall shape and size of the succulent to distinguish it from other grown succulents.
If you spot a succulent plant in the wild, you can roughly guess its growing conditions, which typically depend on water availability, humidity and temperature.
In fact, the growing temperature and cold hardiness of a succulent is an essential distinction criterion as not all succulent plants can withstand extreme temperatures.
Identifying Succulents With A Phone
Another fantastic way to help identify your succulent is using Google Lens.
All you have to do is take a photo of the succulent you want to identify with your smartphone and use Google Lens to help you search the internet for similar images which may help establish what your succulent is.
Google Lens is available on Android and Ios devices.
If you are unfamiliar with this feature, this article has guides to Google Lens for a range of devices.
While this technology can be very useful in identifying your plant, it’s worth doing some research on the matching plant to ensure that it’s correct.
Talk To Other Gardeners
Talking to a fellow gardener about your plant may be a bit more time-consuming but equally rewarding.
The gardening community loves sharing their knowledge and ideas, so it’s great to connect to other people through your identification search.
You can join a gardening project in your local area or head online to share your succulent photos on Facebook groups where someone may recognize the plant.
Social media communities are also an excellent way to share gardening tips and tricks.
Types Of Succulents: Identification Chart
Here are some of the most common indoor succulent houseplants and outdoor succulents with their key identification characteristics and pictures.
Also known as tree houseleeks, Aeonium covers around 35 species of subtropical succulents. Many of these plants are popular gardening and horticulture plants. Aeoniums are native to East Africa and the Canary Islands.
Leaves: Aeoniums have spoon-shaped fleshy leaves that can be green, purple, black, or variegated and grow in a rosette formation, with the leaves arranged in a circular pattern around a central stem. Their leaves are thinner and not as plump as some other succulents. They can have tiny teeth along the edges of the leaves.
Stems: The stems of Aeoniums are often quite long, woody and can be branched or unbranched.
Flowers: Aeoniums produce small, star-shaped flowers that grow in clusters on the end of long stalks. Their rosette leaves and coloration are so pretty that the plants themselves look like flowers!
Read our full Aeonium Care Guide.
Agaves are popular plants native to hot, dry regions of South America.
Their attractive structural form makes them firm favorites, usually in outdoor gardens because of their size.
Leaves: Agaves have thick, fleshy leaves that are often arranged in a rosette at the base of the plant. The leaves are usually stiff and pointed and sometimes have sharp spines along the edges.
Stems: Agaves have very short, stout stems and many appear to grow with no stem directly from the ground.
Flowers: Agaves are monocarpic, meaning they flower only once in their lifetime. The flowering stalk can grow up to several meters tall and is usually branched with many small flowers.
Aloes are native to Africa and Madagascar. With over 500 different species of aloe, there are many different shapes and sizes, but in general, they have the following characteristics:
Leaves: Aloe leaves are typically thick and fleshy with spines or serrated edges growing in a circular or rosette pattern around a central stem. The leaves are often green or blue-green in color, but can also be variegated or reddish.
Stems: Aloe plants are stemless or have very short stems.
Flowers: Aloe plants produce tall spikes of tubular flowers that grow from the center of the rosette. The flowers are typically red, orange, yellow, or pink, and bloom in the winter or spring.
Anacampseros covers over a hundred species of small perennial succulents from South Africa, with most species growing no more than a few inches tall.
They are typically small plants and undershrubs that form large ground cover with a dense texture.
Leaves: Thick, fleshy leaves that grow in small, circular rosettes around a central stem. They are typically green, red, or purple, and can be smooth or covered in fine hairs.
Stems: Small, branched stems but stems are so short that plants appear stemless.
Image source: Pinterest
Antimima is native to the arid regions of Namibia and South Africa. This species grows in dense mats and cushions across the ground.
It looks similar to Ruschia, another popular succulent, and Antimima’s were classified as Ruschia until small differences in structure were found. Both are members of the Aizoaceae plant family, which also includes Lithops.
Leaves: Antimima plants typically have tiny, cylindrical leaves that are arranged in opposite pairs along the stems.
Stems: The stems of Antimima plants are usually gray-green, but can also be pink or reddish.
Flowers: Antimima plants produce small, star-shaped flowers in shades of pink, white, or yellow.
Image source: Pinterest
Astridia is also a member of the Aizoaceae plant family, native to Southern Africa. There are more than 15 different subspecies of Astridia. They are named after the wife of the German botanist, Gustav Schwantes, who discovered this species in the early 1900s.
Leaves: Astridia plants have thick, fleshy leaves that form in opposite pairs along the stems.
Stems: Stems are not visible beneath the chunky leaves.
Flowers: The flowers of Astridia plants are daisy-shaped and can be pink, red, orange, white, or yellow.
Image source: Pinterest
Part of the Portulacaceae family, Avonia is a more recent genus as it used to fall under the genus of Anacampseros. They are native to Southern Africa.
Leaves: Avonia plants have tiny, cylindrical leaves arranged in clusters along the stems. They are low-growing and mat-forming, with stems that spread outwards from a central point.
Stems: The stems of Avonia plants are usually gray-green or brown and woody in appearance.
Flowers: Avonia plants bloom with petal flowers in shades of pink, white, or yellow.
Cactus is a generic name for over 1,500 types of succulents that have fleshy stems rather than leaves. The fleshy stems are green, and most have spiky thorns covering the plant.
Flowers: Cacti flowers are typically large and showy, with bright colors and often a sweet fragrance. They usually grow at the top of the stem or on the side of a flattened stem.
Callisia succulents are commonly called roselings thanks to their beautiful appearance. In fact, the Greek translation of this genus’ name means “beauty”. They are native to the Americas. They are low-growing and can form dense mats of foliage or can be used to great effect in a hanging basket where their foliage will trail beautifully.
Leaves: Callisia plants have leaves arranged along the stems in an alternate or opposite pattern. Leaves can be green, purple, or variegated, and are usually slightly fleshy.
Stems: Callisia plants have long, fleshy stems with multiple branches.
Flowers: Callisia plants produce small flowers that are usually green or white in color.
They thrive in low-light, high-humidity environments. Perfect for a bathroom.
Ceropegia is a genus of plants native to tropical and subtropical regions of Australia, South Asia and Africa. Most Ceropegia species are climbers or trailing plants with long, slender stems that can grow several meters long – perfect for a hanging basket.
Many Ceropegia species are known for their unique pollination mechanism, which involves trapping small flies inside the flower until they have picked up enough pollen to fertilize the next flower.
Ceropegia is known under a variety of common names, which usually refer to the plant’s unusual flowers or leaf shape; names such as lantern flower, parasol flower, parachute flower, bushman’s pipe, string of hearts, snake creeper, wine-glass vine, rosary vine, and necklace vine.
Leaves: Ceropegia leaves are usually green or variegated and flat, growing in opposite pairs off a long, thin stem.
Stems: Long thin, fleshy stems, often called ‘strings’.
Flowers: Ceropegia flowers are unique and have a distinctive shape, often resembling a small, inflated balloon or parachute. They come in various colors, including shades of purple, pink, green, and yellow.
Image source: Pinterest
Conophytum is a genus of succulents originating from Namibia and parts of South Africa. They are small succulents, typically growing only a couple of inches tall and wide.
The plant is also known by common names such as button plant, cone plant, conos, waterblasies or knopies due to their cone-shaped or button-like appearance.
Leaves: The leaves of Conophytum plants are fleshy and succulent, often with a translucent appearance. They may be round, oval, or elongated in shape and range in color from green to brown to reddish. Two leaves grow from the center of each plant. The leaves may be fused together or separate.
Stems: Conophytum plants are stemless.
Flowers: Conophytum plants produce small, daisy-like flowers in shades of pink, purple, white, or yellow. The flowers are often fragrant and appear from the center of the plant.
Conophytum are similar to Lithops.
Cotyledon are popular succulent plants that originate from the dry parts of Africa. They are commonly known as “pig’s ears” or “kitten’s ears” due to their thick, fleshy, and often round, bulbous leaves. Bear Paw is another example of a cotyledon.
Leaves: The leaves of Cotyledon plants are thick, fleshy, and often round or oval-shaped. They may be smooth or have a slightly fuzzy or hairy texture. The leaves are typically green or gray-green, but some species have variegated or reddish leaves.
Stems: Cotyledon plants have stout, woody stems that may be branching or unbranched. The stems are typically short, growing only a few inches long.
Flowers: Cotyledon plants bloom with tubular or bell-shaped flowers in shades of pink, red, orange, or yellow. The flowers grow on long, slender stems.
Crassula is a succulent genus covering over 200 varieties of succulents, including the famous Crassula ovata (also known as the Jade Plant).
Leaves: The leaves of Crassula plants are thick, fleshy, and often triangular or oval-shaped. They may be smooth or have a slightly fuzzy or waxy texture. The leaves are typically green, but some species have variegated or reddish leaves. The leaves are often ‘stacked’ on top of each other producing stunning-looking plants.
Stems: Crassula plants have woody or semi-woody stems that may be branching or unbranched. The stems are typically short, growing only a few inches long.
Flowers: Crassula plants produce small, star-shaped flowers in shades of pink, white, or red.
Echeveria plants are commonly known as Hens and Chicks because of their ability to produce offsets – chicks (baby plants) around the base of the parent (hen) plant.
Leaves: Plump, spoon-shaped leaves with a pointy end and smooth edges that grow in an architectural circular rosette around a central stem. The leaves may be smooth or have a slightly fuzzy or waxy texture. They are usually green but there are variegated species or some with reddish leaves or edges.
Stems: Echeveria have short, strong stems that are not usually visible under the leaf rosette and as such, many echeverias look as though they are stemless.
Flowers; Echeveria have bell-shaped flowers that bloom from stems that emerge between leaves.
Echinopsis look similar to cacti but they are their own succulent genus. Native to the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa, these plants are commonly known as “sea urchin cacti” or “hedgehog cacti” due to their spherical or cylindrical shape and dense covering of spines.
Shape: Echinopsis plants are typically spherical or cylindrical in shape, although some species may have a more elongated or columnar shape. The plants may be solitary or grow in clusters.
Flowers: Echidnopsis plants produce large, showy flowers in shades of pink, red, orange, yellow, or white. The flowers may be funnel-shaped, trumpet-shaped, or star-shaped, depending on the species.
The Euphorbia succulent genus contains over 2,000 varieties. The majority of Euphorbia species come from Madagascar and Africa.
Euphorbia vary greatly in appearance; some look like cacti with thick, spiny stems, while others look succulent-like with thick fleshy leaves.
Leaves: The leaves of Euphorbia plants vary in shape and size. In some species, the leaves are reduced to small scales or spines, while in others they are large and fleshy.
Stems: The stems of Euphorbia plants are varied from thick, spiny, branched and woody to smooth, succulent-like stems.
Flowers: Euphorbia plants produce some spectacular flowers. Euphorbia Mili (Crown of Thorns), pictured above and below, is just one example.
Gasteria succulents are very similar in appearance to aloes but there are some key differences in leaf structure. They are known by the common name of ox tongue (and sometimes cow tongue or lawyer’s tongue) because of their long, rough textured leaves. Check out our article on Gasteria Little Warty.
Leaves: Gasteria have long, tongue-shaped leaves covered in small dots and bumps, giving them a rough, uneven texture. They are usually green with white markings.
Stems: Gasteria are stemless.
Flowers: It’s the flowers that distinguish Gasteria from their cousins in the Aloe and Haworthia families. The flowers are shaped like a stomach. “Gasteria” comes from the Latin word “gaster,” meaning “stomach”. The flowers are pink, orange, red, green or cream.
Leaves: Some Haworthia have chubby leaves that are densely packed in a rosette-looking formation – the leaves can be almost translucent in appearance. While others have long, spear-shaped leaves with white markings similar to aloes. However, unlike an aloe, the edges of the leaves are not serrated. Haworthia leaves are usually triangular in shape with a pointed end.
Stems: Haworthia are generally considered stemless and do not typically have a visible above-ground stem.
Flowers: Haworthia’s are slow growing and difficult to get to produce flowers. When they do, they bloom with small white flowers on the end of an extremely long stalk that grows from the stem of the plant.
Kalanchoe plants are native to Madagascar and Africa. They are popular for their bright, colorful, long-lasting flowers. Mother of Millions and Mother of Thousands are both kalanchoes.
Leaves: They have large, thick, fleshy leaves with a waxy coating. In some species, the leaves are covered in tiny hairs that give them a velvety texture. The edges of the leaves may be smooth, serrated, or have small teeth. Some species have leaves with scalloped edges.
Stems: In most Kalanchoe plants, the stems are usually short, fleshy, and often branching.
Flowers: Kalanchoe have very showy flowers that bloom in shades of pink, red, orange, yellow, and white. The flowers of kalanchoe plants are long-lasting and can bloom for several weeks at a time.
Types of Kalanchoe – Image Source: Pinterest
Image source: Pinterest
Rhombophyllum is one of the succulent genera with the fewest plant species. Native to South Africa, these lovely plants have distinctive leaf shapes and bright, yellow flowers.
Leaves: Rhombophyllum plants have fleshy, green leaves with a diamond-shaped or triangular cross-section, hence the name “rhombus”, which means a diamond-shaped figure. The leaves are arranged in pairs along the stem. They have a smooth surface and are covered in tiny hairs, which give them a velvety texture. The leaves change color depending on the amount of sunlight they receive. In low light conditions, the leaves are green, but when exposed to bright sunlight, they turn a reddish-brown color. The leaves can have unusual shapes, such as Rhombophyllum Dolabriforme pictured above, which is commonly known as the Elkhorn Plant because of the shape of the leaves.
Flowers: Rhombophyllum plants bloom with yellow, daisy-like flowers that can be tinged with red on the underside of the petals.
Sansevieria is a stunning plant that’s often known as Mother-in-law’s tongue or Snake Plant. There are around 50 different varieties. The species is native to South Asia, and Africa.
Sansevieria plants are known for their upright, sword-shaped leaves.
Leaves: Sansevieria plants have long, upright leaves that are typically sword-shaped or cylindrical. The leaves may be variegated with light and dark green or yellow stripes. The leaves are thick and leathery, with a smooth or slightly rough texture.
Stems: Sansevieria plants do not typically have visible stems.
Flowers: Sansevieria plants produce a long, slender stalk that grows up from the center of the plant and produces clusters of small, tubular-shaped flowers which may be white, cream, or greenish-yellow in color.
Sedum succulents cover a wide variety of plants in different shapes and colors. Sedum is one of the most difficult succulent types to identify because it has many varieties and morphological differences. Many sedums are stunning and make wonderful additions to your home or outdoor garden.
Leaves: Sedum plants have fleshy, thick leaves often arranged in a circular rosette pattern, flat-rose structure or stacked on top of each other. The leaves may be smooth or slightly hairy, and can range in color from green to red, pink, purple, or blue. The leaves of Sedum plants may be round, oval, lance-shaped, or spatulate, depending on the species.
Stems: Sedums generally have fleshy stems.
Flowers: The flowers of Sedum plants are typically small and star-shaped, with petals that are often pink, white, yellow, or red in color. The grow in clusters at the end of short, sturdy stems.
Sempervivum, is another rosette plant with beautiful leaf arrangements that look like flowers. Sempervivum varieties are known commonly as hens and chicks houseleek plants because of the chicks – or young offsets – that grow around the mother, or hen, plant. There are over 40 varieties of Sempervivum. Originating from the mountains of Southern and Central Europe, they are generally a tough, Alpine succulent that can withstand cold temperatures.
Leaves: Sempervivum have oval-shaped leaves with pointy tips and tiny teeth on the edges. The leaves are thick and fleshy, with a waxy coating and can be covered in fine hairs. Leaves are arranged in a rosette pattern with colors ranging from green to red and even purple.
Stems: Sempervivum do not usually have a visible stem with the base of the rosette at ground level.
Flowers: They produce star-shaped flowers on a long stem that grows from the center of plant.
Leaves: Senecio leaves range from green, variegated to whitish and even blue and purple. The shapes can be round, bead-liked, banana-shaped, hook shaped or long and fleshy.
Stems: Senecio have a variety of stem types reflecting the diversity of the species. In some, like String of Pearls, (Senecio Rowleyanus) they are thin and string-like. In others, like Chalksticks (Senecio Mandrailisce), they are thicker and fleshier. While others have woody stems.
Flowers: Flowers are daisy-like and yellow or red-orange.
With so many different succulent species across the world, it can be challenging to identify the right type. And let’s face it, many of the species have similar characteristics. Luckily, there are some key differences that help differentiate the succulent types most commonly available in garden centers and online stores. You can also use identification tools, such as Google Lens, to help you out. And, if you are really stuck, you can post to a social group or take your plant to your local garden center.
You will, no doubt, agree, that there are some absolutely beautiful succulents, and we’re sure that by scrolling through, you’ll have seen some stunners that you’d love to add to your collection.