Types of Succulents

Because of their incredible diversity, succulent plant identification can be daunting; just the foliage of colorful succulents can range from white to red, burgundy, purple, green, yellow, silver, orange, and many stripes and variegations.

Different types of succulent plants come from arid deserts, seaside cliffs and even limbs of steamy jungle trees. While cacti are succulents, not all succulents are cacti. With some exceptions, most large succulent plants are not able to survive hard freezes, but quite a few small and miniature succulents tolerate down into the teens; some hardy succulents, including London Pride saxifrage (Saxifraga × urbium), can survive outside even below zero.

Succulent types can range from individuals to spreading colonies, and from tall to tiny, plump to wispy, and with or without spiny thorns. Within each type there are often succulent varieties with amazing differences in leaf shape or color.

Edible succulents include the young paddle-like leaves and sweet, plum-like fruits of prickly pear (Opuntia, a Southwest and Mexican succulent plant); spineless fruits of barrel cactus, yucca, and night-blooming cereus. Leaves of sedum succulents are used in salads for their sour or peppery taste. The thick, clear sap inside Aloe vera leaves can be mixed with water for a slightly bitter drink.

Easy-to-Grow Succulents

While local succulent plant names are descriptive, any practical succulent plant guide will include the following Latin genera, all fairly common succulents which are easy to grow and easy to find for sale locally or online. This succulent plants list does not include the countless distinct, unique species of each. General temperature hardiness is included.

Easy-to-Grow Garden Quality Cactus and Succulent Genera

The following Latin-name genera are of plants that are very easy to grow and often available at garden centers or very easy to find for sale online. Most have several important, distinct, unique species with wildly differing characteristics. General temperature hardiness is included. 

Aeonium (name means “immortal” – tree houseleek, desert pinwheel; frost sensitive)

Agave (century plant, many others, some small, some large; frost sensitive to -10F)

Aloe (burn plant, many others; frost sensitive to 20F)

Crassula (jade plant, stacked forms; frost sensitive)

Echeveria (Mexican hen and chicks, 20F)

Euphorbia (crown of thorns, poinsettia, pencil cactus, candelabra, baseball obesa; frost sensitive)

Graptopetalum (ghost plant, hen and chicks, 15F or lower)

Haworthia (zebra plant; frost sensitive)

Kalanchoe (desert cabbage, cabbage plant, florist kalanchoe; frost sensitive)

Opuntia (prickly pear; 20F or lower)

Portulacaria (Elephant plant, dwarf jade; frost sensitive)

Sansevieria (mother in law tongue, snake plant; frost sensitive)

Sedum (stonecrop, -20F, keep small ones out of full sun in hot climates)

Sempervivum (house leeks, hen and chicks; -10F)

Schlumbergera (Christmas cactus) and Hatiora (Easter cactus; frost sensitive) 

Senecio (string of pearls; frost sensitive, and blue senecio; 20F)

Yucca (Spanish bayonet; 20F, threadleaf; -20)