Succulents are having a major moment right now as one of the hottest trends in gardening and landscaping. Unlike thirsty perennials and annuals, succulents are easy-care plants that require little maintenance once established. Their striking shapes and textures can transform even the simplest garden into a showstopper.
Succulents come in a mind-blowing array of colors, forms, and sizes. There are groundcover types that creep along with tiny leaves just an inch high. Dramatic columnar cacti can shoot up 10 feet tall or higher. And rosette-forming succulents showcase intricate geometric designs. The variety is endless!
These plants store water in their fleshy leaves, stems, or roots. This makes them extremely drought tolerant and ideal for today’s water-wise gardens. Mature, established succulents often only need watering every 2-3 weeks during the hottest months. Many are very cold hardy down to freezing temperatures.
If you love low-maintenance plants, living sculpture, and want to add year-round structure to your garden, succulents are for you. This guide will highlight 20 spectacular varieties anyone can grow successfully. You’ll learn ideal conditions, creative display ideas, propagation techniques, and how to avoid common problems. Get ready to be inspired to create your own living art with beautiful succulents.
Best Succulents for Beginners
When just getting started with succulents, it’s best to begin with varieties that are easy to care for and more forgiving of beginner mistakes. Here are 5 top choices:
With teardrop-shaped leaves dangling from trailing stems like a donkey’s tail, this succulent is perfect for hanging baskets. It enjoys bright light and infrequent watering. The leaves fall off easily so handle gently.
Hen and Chicks
Hen and chicks form rosettes of chubby leaves that produce clumps of plantlets or “chicks” around the original “hen” plant. Hardy in zones 3-9, they thrive with neglect and reseed readily.
A compact bushy plant with oval jade-green leaves, the jade plant adapts well to indoor and outdoor growing. Let the soil dry out completely between waterings. Mature plants produce tiny pink or white star-shaped flowers.
Aloe vera is grown for its nutritious gel. The spiky leaves turn orange in strong sun. Allow the soil to dry between waterings and protect from frost. Pups sprout from the base to expand your collection.
Named for its paddle-shaped fleshy leaves, this succulent is less forgiving of overwatering than some. Provide very well-draining soil and a sunny location. Prune off old leaves at the base to keep it compact.
Ideal Growing Conditions Succulents Need
Succulents thrive when given the right growing conditions. While they are low-maintenance compared to other plants, there are a few key things to provide to keep them happy and healthy.
Succulents need a very fast-draining soil mix. Aim for a sandy, gritty soil that drains quickly. You can buy cactus/succulent soil mixes, or make your own by mixing equal parts potting soil, coarse sand, perlite or pumice. Make sure the soil drains rapidly and doesn’t hold moisture.
Most succulents require full sun, which means at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Some varieties need partial shade if you live in a very hot climate. Morning sun is ideal, with afternoon shade. Grow them in the sunniest part of your garden.
Let the soil dry out completely between waterings. Succulents store water in their leaves and stems, so overwatering is harmful. Wait until the soil is totally dry before watering again. In winter, reduce watering even more.
Succulents are ideal for warm, arid climates like USDA zones 8-11. Some are cold-hardy and can survive zones 3-7 if overwintered indoors. Make sure the area has good drainage and air circulation. Move potted succulents inside before first frost.
By providing the proper soil, sun, water and climate, you can grow gorgeous succulents successfully both indoors and out. Adjust conditions as needed for your environment and specific varieties.
Creative Ways to Showcase Succulents
Succulents are so versatile and come in an array of shapes, sizes, and colors. This allows you to really get creative with how you display these charming plants. Here are some inspiring ideas:
Many low-growing succulents make excellent groundcovers in lieu of grass or mulch. Try using them in rock gardens, as edging along walkways and patios, in courtyard spaces, or cascading down a retaining wall. Some great options include various sedums, delosperma, and purple ice plants. Mass a few varieties together for visual interest.
Display succulents solo or combined in decorative pots and pans for your patio, windowsill or indoor shelves. Choose everything from vintage teacups, galvanized buckets, hanging baskets, rustic crates and colorful glazed planters. Keep them in their nursery grow pots or plant directly into container gardens. Go modern or funky- have fun with this!
Succulents blend seamlessly with grasses, bushes, flowering annuals and other plants in ornamental beds. Try combining upright varieties like yucca or cacti with soft mounds of echeveria and trailing succulents along the edges. Or mass low-growing succulents underneath roses, lilac bushes, lavender and more. They add foolproof greenery and texture when combined with other plants.
Propagating succulents is an easy and satisfying way to multiply your favorites. Many succulents readily root from leaf or stem cuttings. Just sever a leaf or stem and allow the cut end to dry and callous over for a few days. Then insert into moist potting mix. Roots will form where the leaf joins the stem.
Some succulents, like the Hen and Chicks plant, produce offsets or “chicks” around the base that can simply be pulled off and replanted. Cuttings and offsets may take a few weeks to root but will establish quickly. Just water sparingly until new growth appears.
Some of the easiest succulents to propagate include:
- Burro’s Tail: Take stem cuttings in spring or summer. The dropped leaves will also produce baby plants.
- Jade Plant: Leaf and stem cuttings root readily in potting mix. Mature plants may produce small offsets as well.
- Echeveria: Leaf cuttings are very successful. Let the cut end callous over then insert into soil.
- Sedum: Take cuttings from the tips of the stems in spring or summer. The leaves root quickly.
- Kalanchoe: Cuttings from fleshy leaves or stems root in just a few weeks.
Propagating succulents allows you to clone your favorites at no cost. It’s a simple way to fill your garden with beautiful textures and colors.
Gorgeous Succulent Varieties to Try
Echeverias are some of the most popular succulents due to their stunning rosette shapes and lush colors. There are over 150 species and hundreds of hybrids to collect. Most form a tight rosette shape and may produce trailing offsets or pups around the base. They prefer full sun to light shade and well-draining soil. Water when the soil is completely dry.
Some popular echeveria varieties:
- Echeveria agavoides – With arching green leaves tipped in red, this is one of the hardiest varieties. It spreads to form nice groundcover.
- Echeveria ‘Perle von Nürnberg’ – This beauty has purple and pink pastel tones on the ruffled rosette leaves. Prefers partial shade.
- Echeveria ‘Black Prince’ – Near black purple leaves make this a dramatic choice. Needs full sun to maintain its dark coloring.
- Echeveria ‘Subsessilis’ – Unique tight spiraling blue-green leaves. Goes dormant in summer heat.
Sedums encompass over 400 species of succulents perfect for rock gardens, green roofs, and containers. They form carpets of colorful rosettes or trailing stems. Most sedums tolerate drought and need full sun to partial shade.
Great sedum varieties:
- Sedum spurium ‘Tricolor’ – Has green leaves edged in pink and white. Grows just 3″ tall.
- Sedum reflexum ‘Blue Spruce’ – Blue needle-like foliage on trailing stems. Loves heat.
- Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ – Large dusty green leaves blush pink and red in fall. Grows 2 ft. tall.
- Sedum morganianum – Dubbed “donkey’s tail”, this cascades up to 3 ft. with blue-green leaves.
Known as hen and chicks, sempervivums form mats of symmetrical rosettes that produce many offsets. They thrive outdoors in full sun and well-drained soil. Over 150 varieties exist, most hardy to zones 3-8.
Fun sempervivum varieties:
- Sempervivum arachnoideum – Cobwebbed leaves give this a cool texture. Offsets heavily.
- Sempervivum ‘Oddity’ – Lime green spiral leaves make a unique statement.
- Sempervivum ‘Ruby Heart’ – Deep red leaves tipped in green. Tolerates some shade.
- Sempervivum ‘Pacific Devil’s Food’ – Near black leaves emerge from maroon centers. Striking color.
Avoiding Common Succulent Problems
Growing succulents can be easy, but these plants are still susceptible to a few issues. Being aware of potential problems and how to prevent them will help ensure your succulents stay happy and healthy.
Rot due to overwatering is one of the most common culprits when succulents fail to thrive. Succulents hold water in their leaves and stems, so they require less frequent watering than other plants. Allow the soil to completely dry out between waterings. Provide fast-draining soil and drainage holes in the bottom of pots. Be sure to adjust watering in winter when plants are dormant. Signs of rot include yellow, transparent or mushy leaves. Remove any affected parts immediately and hold off watering for a while until the plant recovers.
Dealing with Pests
Succulents can fall victim to common pests like mealybugs, scale and mites. These sap-sucking insects excrete honeydew that leads to fungal growth. Check regularly for signs of insects on leaves and stems. Remove any affected parts immediately. Insecticidal soap, neem oil or horticultural oils can help control outbreaks. Quarantine new plants and isolate infested ones to prevent spreading.
Preventing Other Issues
Choose suitable varieties for your climate to avoid problems like sunscald. Introduce sun-loving plants slowly to stronger light to acclimate them. Ensure pots and soil dry thoroughly to avoid fungal and bacterial diseases. Remove damaged leaves and sterilize tools to prevent infections from spreading. Providing good air circulation will also help. With proper care, your succulents will reward you for years to come.
Overwintering Tender Succulent Varieties
Many succulents are only hardy to zone 8 or 9, meaning they can’t withstand freezing temperatures. If you live in an area with cold winters (zones 3-7), you’ll need to protect your more tender succulent varieties by overwintering them indoors. Here are some tips:
- Identify the less hardy succulents in your collection. Tender varieties include Burro’s Tail, String of Pearls, many Echeveria, and succulent rosette forms. Check plant tags or research to confirm.
- Before your first fall frost, prepare an indoor space for overwintering. A sunny windowsill, greenhouse, or grow lights work well. Prioritize south or west-facing windows.
- Prune leggy growth in early fall so plants are more compact for moving indoors. Stop fertilizing 6-8 weeks before overwintering.
- Allow plants to dry out slightly between mid-September waterings. This signals dormancy.
- Gently remove from soil, inspecting roots and removing dead portions. Repot in fresh cactus/succulent soil.
- Move indoor by the time night temperatures drop below 45°F. Maintain temps above 50°F.
- Water sparingly, about every 3-4 weeks. Reduce fertilizing. Turn plants periodically to discourage stretching toward light.
- In spring after the last frost, gradually reacclimate to outdoor conditions. Hardened off plants can return outdoors. Resume normal care.
With proper overwintering care, your tender succulents will thrive for years to come! Let me know if you would like me to expand on any part of this section.
Sample Succulent Garden Plans
Sunny Succulent Garden
This garden plan takes advantage of a south-facing sunny spot to highlight drought-tolerant succulents intermingled with grasses. The centerpiece is a large Agave americana specimen, surrounded by Echeverias, Sedums, Sempervivums, and mixed ornamental grasses. These plants provide year-round texture and color. Pathways winding through the garden allow you to get up close to admire the details of the rosettes and appreciate the diversity of shapes. This garden thrives with little supplemental watering once established.
Succulents in Containers
If space is limited, you can create a gorgeous succulent garden in containers. Choose a variety of colors, shapes, and textures to create visual interest. Sedums, Echeverias, and Sempervivums are ideal choices as they remain compact. Plant in free-draining cactus mix and decorate the pots with gravel or stones. situate your containers in a sunny, well-drained spot. To keep your succulents looking their best, avoid overwatering and remove any dead leaves or spent flowers promptly. A container succulent garden is perfect for a balcony, patio, or doorstep.
Succulent Living Wall
Vertical gardens filled with succulents are an innovative way to green up a bare wall or fence. Sedums, Hen and Chicks, and lower-growing Echeverias work beautifully, creating a living wall of colorful rosettes, textures, and shapes. Plant offsets in a vertical frame or series of stacked pots using free-draining soil. Situate your living wall in bright, direct light. Once the roots establish, succulent vertical gardens need little water beyond what nature provides in the form of rain. The end result is a low-maintenance, inspirational display.
Succulents are an ideal addition to any home garden. They offer vibrant colors, unique shapes, and an abundance of incredible variety. Best of all, they require little maintenance and add interest through the seasons.
In this guide, we covered the top beginner succulents that are easy to grow and thrive in sunny, well-drained conditions. You learned how to incorporate these beautiful plants on a windowsill, in containers, and as beautiful groundcovers. The tips for propagating, avoiding problems, and overwintering will help your collection thrive for years to come.
With the inspiration from the sample garden plans and descriptions of 20 popular succulents, you can envision a gorgeous succulent showcase. Start small with a few potted varieties to appreciate the sculptural shades of echeverias and sedums. Before you know it, you’ll be propagating new plants to fill flagstone paths, accent your flower beds, and decorate your patio.
Whatever your space and climate, there’s a hardy succulent that will flourish with a little sunlight and minimal care. Let these delightful plants bring beauty and texture to your garden.