What are the easiest succulents to take care of? Do you find it hard to keep your succulents and cacti alive? Do you kill your succulents however much attention you pay them? If you do not have a green thumb and plants tend to die on you, you’ll want to know which succulents are hard to kill.
In this article, we’ll tell you our favorite succulents that are easy to care for, do not take up a lot of time and are hard to kill. They are also perfect for beginners who are not sure how to take care of succulents.
Our favorite easy-to-care-for succulents and our favorite succulents for beginners are:
- Jade Plant – Crassula Ovata
- Echeveria – multiple varieties
- Panda Plant – Kalanchoe Tomentosa
- Aloe Vera – Aloe Barbadenesis Miller
- Moon Cactus – Gymnocalycium Mihanovichii
- Sempervivum – multiple varieties
- Snake Plant – Sansevieria
- Burro’s Tail – Sedum Burrito
- Christmas Cactus – Schlumbergera Bridgesii
- Zebra Plant – Haworthia Attenuata
Why Do My Succulents Keep Dying?
It can be difficult to keep your plants alive if nobody has ever told you what to do. It may feel as though all you have to do is leave them in a pot near a window and water them occasionally. In reality, it’s not much different from that, but with a little bit of knowledge, you’ll know when to water your plants, the best spot to place them and the right soil and pots to use. Once you know and follow that, then it is as simple as leaving them and watering them once in a while.
The top 6 killers of succulents and cactus are:
- using soil that is too compact and rich and which doesn’t drain quickly
- too much direct sunlight (if it’s a succulent that doesn’t like full sun)
- not enough light
- frosts and freezing temperatures
- pests and fungal diseases
The biggest killer of succulents, by far, is overwatering.
You may be killing your succulents with kindness by watering them too often and worrying they are not getting enough water and nutrients.
Succulents have evolved to survive in some tough conditions, such as dry, rocky, nutrient-poor soils in hot, sandy deserts, rocky cliff faces and shallow soils.
If you want your succulents to stay alive and thrive, your best bet is to provide the conditions they would experience in their native environment.
What Are The Best Conditions For Succulents And Cactus?
There are over 60 succulent species and many varieties within each species. In all, there are thousands of different succulents and cacti varieties and, naturally, their needs vary, but in general, most succulents and cacti prefer the following conditions:
- plenty of bright, indirect sunlight – most succulent species need 4 – 6 hours of bright, indirect sunlight every day
- warm temperatures – a normal room temperature range of 65 – 78 degrees Fahrenheit (18 – 26 degrees Celsius) is ideal for many succulents. Most succulents are not cold-hardy and do not survive frosts and freezing temperatures well (though there are some exceptions that are cold-hardy)
- dry conditions – most succulents and cacti are from dry, arid regions of the world with low to medium rainfalls
- well-draining soil – most succulents and cacti come from areas with sandy, rocky soils where rainwater disappears quickly. As a result, succulents are excellent at storing water in their stems and leaves. Too much water, or water that hangs around for too long can result in waterlogged roots and root rot.
- low to mid humidity – most succulents and cacti are used to dry desert air and conditions of low to medium humidity. They are not equipped to handle high moisture levels on their leaves and around the soil. It can lead to rot and fungal diseases.
Root rot is one of the biggest killers of succulents and cacti and is often hard to spot until it is well advanced. You can read more about root rot in our in-depth guide.
How Do I Keep My Succulents and Cactus Alive?
These are our top seven tips for keeping your succulents alive and thriving. Four of them are things you only need to do once. If you get those right from the beginning, the only ongoing action you need to take is to water your succulent correctly and to watch for temperature extremes.
Without further ado, here are our top seven tips for thriving succulents:
1. Good watering technique
Only water when the soil is dry. Always water deeply and thoroughly and then allow excess water to drain off. Wait until the soil is dry before watering again.
Use room temperature water. Cold water can shock and stress your succulents.
The time it takes for the soil to dry out will depend on the season, the climate and temperature, pot and soil, but in general, think along the lines of 7 – 14 days between waterings in spring and summer and less in winter.
2. Location with bright, indirect sunlight
Most succulents prefer plenty of bright light. Some can stand full sun but most prefer some shade or indirect light. Most need least 4 – 6 hours of bright light every day.
3. Good air circulation
Gentle airflow allows any water or moisture around the leaves and surface of the soil to evaporate quickly.
Keep your succulents in an area of good airflow, but avoid putting them in a direct draft by an open window or directly underneath an air conditioning unit.
Don’t crowd your plants too closely together.
4. Water in the morning
Water your succulents in the morning so any water that has got onto leaves or the soil’s surface has time to evaporate before the cooler nighttime.
5. Plant in loose, well-draining soil
Succulents need good aeration and dry soil around their roots; dense, compact soil will hinder this and may result in root rot.
6. Choose a pot with drainage holes
It makes it so much easier to water your succulents correctly if they are in a pot with drainage holes.
The drainage hole allows you to soak the pot from the bottom in a container of water, it allows excess water to drain from the pot, and if roots are starting to poke out the drainage holes, it lets you know that your succulent has outgrown this pot and needs moving to a bigger one.
Consider double-potting your succulent if the decorative pot you want to use doesn’t have drainage holes. Plant your succulent in a pot that does have drainage holes, and then hide that pot inside your decorative one.
7. Protect from temperature extremes
Most succulents prefer a normal room temperature range of 65 – 78 degrees Fahrenheit (18 – 26 degrees Celsius). They may go dormant in extreme heat, and many are not adapted to survive frosty temperatures, which freeze the water in the leaves and stems.
As you can see, if you get the pot, soil and location right at the start, the only ongoing maintenance is to water your succulent!
Which Are The Best Easy-Care Succulents?
When you are busy, your succulents are often last on the to-do list. They don’t complain loudly. We understand; we also want plants that look great but don’t need hours of maintenance.
So, which succulents are the easiest to keep? Which succulents will cope best when you get called away from home for work or go away on holiday? Which are the most forgiving of neglect?
These are our favorite succulents for time-poor plant parents and regular plant-killers!
1. Jade Plant – Crassula Ovata
The Jade Plant, Crassula Ovata, is a very forgiving plant. With its woody branches and stems and shiny green leaves, jade plants can look like miniature trees. The leaves are firm and oval in shape. It does not have any spikes or spines.
They can flower in winter with clusters of small, white blooms on short stalks above the leaves.
I can attest to how easy jade plants are to care for and how tolerant they are of neglect. I have one on my desk, which is not the brightest, lightest area, and I get so busy during the day that I often forget to water it for weeks on end. Obviously, with that sort of lack of care and attention, it’s not thriving, but it’s still alive, still has bright, firm green leaves, and it still looks beautiful on my desk!
Be careful, however, if you have pets and young humans; the Jade plant is known to be toxic if nibbled on and eaten.
2. Echeveria – Multiple Varieties
Echeveria is a succulent family with over 150 rosette-shaped varieties – more if you include hybrids. Also known as Hens and Chicks for their ability to grow offsets or chicks (miniature baby plants) from the mother plant, the Hen. The chicks can be separated from the mother plant and grown separately as a new plant.
The color and size of the rosettes and leaves vary over the species, but in general, echeverias have thick, spoon-shaped leaves with pointy ends and smooth edges. Bell-shaped flowers bloom from stems that emerge from between leaves. Sometimes, the leaves are thin, sometimes thick, sometimes furry, and sometimes smooth.
Echeveria are considered pet-safe plants.
3. Panda Plant – Kalanchoe Tomentosa
Kalanchoe tomentosa, or panda plant, is easy to care for and can tolerate low light far better than most succulents. It can even handle some humidity and is a popular plant for bathrooms.
The Panda Plant has thick, fuzzy leaves covered in soft hairs that give the plant a velvety texture. The leaves are an elongated oval-shape and pale silvery-green in color with brown or rust-colored markings on the edges. It does not have any spines or spikes.
Unfortunately, this is another succulent that is poisonous to cats and dogs if ingested. It’s best to keep your Panda Plant away from pets and children.
4. Aloe Vera – Aloe Barbadenesis Miller
Aloe vera is a low-maintenance plant that can tolerate a range of light conditions from full sun or bright, indirect sun to lower light, although they prefer brighter light levels.
The leaves are green, thick and fleshy with soft, serrated edges and white flecks on the surface. They grow in a circular or rosette pattern from the center of the plant. There is no visible stem.
The flowers are typically red, orange, yellow, or pink and bloom in the winter or spring, emerging on tall stems with clusters of tubular flowers.
Aloe Vera (scientific name Aloe barbadensis miller) is one of the most well-known succulents in the world, partly because of its medicinal benefits for humans. However, it is not safe to have around pets. Aloe Vera can be extremely toxic to dogs and cats.
Aloe Vera is also resistant to many pests and diseases, making it a great choice for those who don’t have much time for succulent care or don’t know how to recognise common succulent pests.
5. Moon Cactus – Gymnocalycium Mihanovichii
Moon Cactus is actually two different plants joined together as a grafted cactus. This succulent gets its name from its moon-shaped top part, which can be in various colors, including bright red, orange, or yellow. Although the moon cactus is actually two separate plant varieties, it is generally known by the name of the top ball plant only, Gymnocalycium mihanovichii. The lower plant can be a number of cactus varieties but is often a variety of Hylocereus cactus.
This is a sun-loving succulent. It is considered pet safe, but it does have small spines and can be delicate if knocked, so we’d still recommend keeping it out of reach of your pets and curious children.
6. Sempervivum – Multiple Varieties
Sempervivum is another rosette plant. 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 and hundreds of hybrids and cultivars.
Sempervivum are generally cold-hardy succulents that can survive winter frosts.
Sempervivum have oval-shaped leaves with pointy tips and tiny teeth on the edges. The leaves are fleshy, with a waxy coating and can be covered in fine hairs. Colors range from green to red and even purple.
It can be difficult to tell Sempervivum succulents apart from Echeveria varieties. The main differences are that sempervivum leaves tend to be less plump than Echeveria and often have a more elongated shape. Sempervivum have tiny teeth on the edges of the leaves; Echeveria have smooth leaf edges.
Sempervivum is a flat, ground-cover plant that spreads out rather than up. It is a monocarpic species that will flower once from a long stem at the center of the plant before dying. However, the multiple chicks will live on.
Sempervivum are on the safe list for pets and children and are not considered toxic or poisonous for pets.
7. Snake Plant – Sansevieria
Sansevieria is a species of more than 50 types of succulent plants, known by several names, including snake plant, mother-in-law’s tongue, devil’s tongue and snake tongue.
They have long, stiff, fibrous leaves that point upwards and are usually green in color with some types having yellow edges. Pictured above is the Variegated Snake plant, Sansevieria trifasciata laurentii, a common snake plant variety for homes and gardens.
They can tolerate neglect and even thrive in lower light levels, although they prefer good light. They are not fond of direct, intense sun, which can burn their leaves.
However, if you have a cat or a dog, this succulent is not a good choice for you – ingesting the leaves can cause stomach and digestive system distress in pets.
8. Burro’s Tail – Sedum Burrito
Sedum Burrito is known as Burro’s Tail or Donkey’s Tail. Its blue-green thick, fleshy leaves store water, allowing it to survive long periods of drought in its native Mexico. It is easy to care for and requires little water or maintenance.
It prefers bright, indirect sunlight but can tolerate full sun too.
While it doesn’t grow very tall above its pot, it can grow up to 2 feet (60 cm) wide and trail beautifully with stems that can be up to 4 feet (1.2 m) long and is perfect for a hanging basket.
It is often mistaken for Sedum Morganianum, or Lamb’s Tail. Sedum Burrito, Burro’s Tail, has closely packed, bead-shaped leaves, while Lamb’s Tail, Sedum Morganianum, has longer, crescent-shaped leaves. However, their care is similar, so don’t worry too much about whether it’s a Donkey, Burrito or Lamb’s tail!
Sedum are typically considered to be pet-safe succulents.
9. Christmas Cactus – Schlumbergera Bridgesii
Not only is Christmas Cactus easy to care for, but it also rewards you annually with a beautiful display of bright pink flowers.
It has flat, but fleshy, green segmented stems that can grow upwards at first and then hang downwards to produce a beautiful display. The flowers bloom from the end of the stems.
Christmas cactus commonly flower in winter, around Christmas time in the northern hemisphere. If you live in the southern hemisphere, you are more likely to find them flowering in May – July.
Too much light causes stems to take on a reddish coloration; however, very low light levels will prevent flowering.
Other, similar varieties of Holiday Cactus bloom with orange or red flowers. They are usually named after the time they bloom (in the Northern Hemisphere), such as the Thanksgiving Cactus (Schlumbergera Truncata) and the Easter Cactus (Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri).
Christmas cactus is not poisonous to cats or dogs and is considered a non-toxic plant.
10. Zebra Haworthia
The Zebra plant, Haworthia Attenuata, has long, dark green leaves with white bumps on the outer side that form stripes. The inner side of the leaves are bumpy too, but usually just spots and dots.
It’s generally a small plant with a dense rosette of thin, triangular-shaped leaves that are thick, tough and fleshy, ending with a point.
They are not sharp, however, and don’t have any teeth or spikes or spines.
Your Zebra plant will grow well in low light conditions and bright, indirect sunlight but needs to be shaded from direct sun.
If you are a pet owner, there’s good news as this tough, sturdy little plant is not considered toxic to pets.
If you are not sure if your succulent is an Aloe, which is toxic to pets, or a Haworthia, which is safe for pets, feel along the edges of the leaves. Aloe vera has soft teeth, while a Zebra Haworthia does not. The Zebra plant may feel bumpy on the edges, but not like little teeth.
Many succulents are relatively easy to care for compared to some other houseplants. They don’t need watering often and can thrive despite neglect from time-poor plant parents. Choosing the right succulent can add beauty and life to your home without racking up hours on the to-do list.
If you can get the basics of where you position your succulent with the best light, soil and a well-draining pot right, much of the battle is won. Then, you only need to curb your desire to water your plant too often, and you should have a healthy succulent that co-exists happily in your home.
The key to not overwatering your succulents is to check that the soil is dry before watering again. That time frame may vary during the year, and you are likely to need to water more often during spring and summer and less frequently in winter, but whatever the season, the key question is, ‘Is the soil dry?‘.
We hope you like our favorite easy-care succulents and try a few in your home!