Succulent Identification – How To Identify Succulent Plants

Last Updated on February 25, 2021 by Kimberly Crawford

Growing succulents is considered as one of the most recent trends in gardening. We could find these types of plants indoors as toppers in office desks, bedroom side-tables and even in bathroom sinks nowadays because of the belief that they absorb carbon dioxide faster than any other plant.

Of course, they are also new staple plants in herbariums and gardens. But what are succulents and is there a correct way for succulent identification?

In this article, we will probe on how succulents are classified and how we could properly identify them with the use of basic indicators. If you are genuinely interested in succulent plants, you are on the right page. 

Related: 15 best online places to buy cheap succulents

What are Succulents?

succulent plants

To begin with, what are succulents? Scientifically speaking, succulents are plants with fleshy and thick parts that could store water for their survival.

This is the reason why, its etymology came from the Latin word sucus which means juice or sap because the stems, roots, leaves and even the flowers of succulents can function to store water.

As a growing trend, succulent plants are considered as ornamental plants whose striking characteristics require owners to enjoy their greens and blooms without going through tedious maintenance processes.

Succulents have hundreds of variants with specific needs, characteristics, and plant structures. Perhaps, the most notable thing to know about succulents is that succulents and cacti are not the same and not all cacti can be considered as succulents. 

Types of Succulents

There are two basic types of succulents: indoor succulents and outdoor succulents. But if they are all considered as succulents, what would be the basic differences?

#1. Indoor Type

indoor succulent

Indoor succulents are a special breed because they require low maintenance, do not need that much sun and water and can generally survive anywhere. They are very adaptable and these are the ones we mostly see in houses and offices.

All they need is a strategic space where the proper balance of air, light and moist could converge. That is why we see indoor succulents in windows. Indoor succulents include panda plant, zebra plant, crown of thorns and even aloe vera. 

See also: 12+ Colorful Succulent Container Garden Ideas For Indoor Garden

#2. Outdoor Type

outdoor succulent

Outdoor succulents have more dynamics to consider than indoor succulents. First, there are outdoor succulents that need more than eight hours of sun a day and we call them the full-sun succulents. These would include echeveria, paddle plant, yucca, blue chalk sticks, alove and agave, among others.

Second, there are also winter hardy succulents which are very striking because the more they thrive during very harsh cold seasons. Some winter hardy succulents even grow at -4 to -2 degrees. Winter hardy succulents include Jovibarba, Caudata, Zion and other variants of agave. 

See also: 57+ Succulent Garden Ideas

How to identify succulents

identifying succulents

Succulent identification matters because of one very important reason: there are more than 500 succulent varieties and although most of them look alike, they have varied characteristics.

Another important reason why succulent identification is significant is that some succulent varieties may have toxic components that may be harmful to kids and your pets. Being unknowledgeable about this may bring bad than good. 

#1. Blooms/Flowers 

According to the Succulent Eclectic, there are specific variables to know for you to identify succulent types. First would be in terms of the flowers it grows, specifically the type of bloom it has, the number, shape, and color of the petals. Those with tube-shaped flowers with bright blooms in spring are good pollinators for bird species like hummingbirds.

Spring pollinators include succulents such as aloe vera, agave, Sinningia and echeveria, among others. At the same time, there are also drought pollinators in seasons when water is generally scarce. Drought succulents are those with compact petals and thorny stems like the euphorbia, sedum, senecio, crassula at the very least.

Drought succulents are important in the honey industry because they are good pollinators for bees. Dull-colored succulents like the Cereus and Sansevieria attract moths while yucca and tequila agave are the favorite succulents of bats. Without the bat pollinating the tequila agave, Friday nights would not be as lit without tequila and margaritas. 

#2. Spikes and Texture

The most raved about in terms of succulent identification is cactus versus all other succulents.

The cactus is a very interesting succulent because unlike the others who store water in their stems, the cactus store water on its flesh. You need to know that the difference of cactus with all other succulents depends on its spikes and general texture.

Almost all cactus variants have spiked with bright-blooming flowers with no leaves. Furthermore, succulents do not have pleated stems, unlike all cactus variants.

Most importantly, cactus are produced through seeds but succulents can be produced through stem cuttings that are why the texture of the spikes of succulents is hard but cactus have smooth spikes. 

#3. Succulent Identification Applications

We have only specifically mentioned four types of succulent identification but it has covered almost all variables to consider including leaves and stems.

If it is not quite satisfying, there are already succulent identification apps which you can install on your phone and use the next time you go for succulent plant shopping.

By taking a good photo of a succulent, you can generate its succulent ID which includes its variant, scientific name, planting and caring guides, type, expected blooms and many more. For example, you can download various succulent IDs from Succulents and Sunshine or Plant Snap


To conclude, there are different ways in the process of succulent identification. You can do it manually which will require you to get up-close and intimate with your succulent plants because you will need to be knowledgeable about the plant structure of succulents.

On the other hand, you can also do succulent identification easily through succulent IDs which will give you a complete table of everything you need to know about the succulent plant you are interested in. But whether you do it manually or not, if you fall in love with succulents, there is no really turning back. So the first thing that you need to go through is to properly identify them.

ways to identify succulents