Succulents are any plants which are adapted to store water.
This means that they can live in dry areas, where there is not much rainfall, or it only rains at long intervals.
They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes from the tiniest plants to giant trees.
panda plantSome succulents store water in their leaves. More
They can be very large. More
Or very small. More
Some succulents store water in their stems or roots.
They are known as stem succulents. More
Or caudiciform succulents. More
Follow the links above to find out more about these different types of succulent.
The plant on the left is commonly known as the panda plant, and is usually easy to grow.
Many succulents have small, but very beautiful and interesting flowers. We have some pictures of them in Succulent flowers.
Most succulents can be grown in the same way as cacti but others need special treatment. See Lithops.
Many succulent plants store water in their leaves. These are a few examples of what they look like.
This is an Adromischus, which grows in South Africa.
The leaves are growing in a clump. In the hot South African sunshine they will develop these mottled patterns, which makes them look so attractive. In the UK they often remain much greener.
This is a Gasteria. Note how the leaves are arranged in a flat tiered pattern.
There are many interesting types of gasteria with different leaf patterns. They come mainly from South Africa.
Many leaf succulents grow in a rosette shape.
This is a Haworthia. There are many different types of Haworthia some of which look very different to this.
Like many other succulents they come from South Africa but, unlike a lot of succulents, they stay fairly small. Some of them could be grown on a sunny windowsill.
And this is an Echeveria.
Notice that this particular plant has hairy leaves. This is another way to help save water. The hairs on the leaves trap dew, which runs down the leaves towards the roots.
All Echeverias come from America and many of them grow in Mexico.
Some types of Echeveria can be grown outside in summer in the UK, and are often seen in formal planted arrangements in parks and other public gardens.
Some leaf succulents can be very large. More
And others are very small. More
Stem succulents don’t have leaves. Cacti are stem succulents, but they are not the only ones.
This is a stapeliad. You can see the green stems behind the flower.
The stapeliads are a large family of plants. They grow in dry areas all over Africa.
Take a look at the flower. Many stapeliads have amazing flowers, but they all have five points, like a star.
Stapeliads are famous for the scent of their flowers. What’s the nicest flower scent you know? Well it’s nothing like a stapeliad! Many of the flowers smell of rotting meat. Horrible to us, but very tasty to flies which are attracted to the flowers and pollinate them.
Some stapeliad flowers can be hairy. Take a look at the pictures below.
The hairs are soft and silky to touch.
Succulents with caudices (caudices is the plural of caudex) might have swollen roots or stems.
This is called Dioscorea elephantipes. It used to be called Testudinaria elephantipes because the caudex looks like the shell of the the Testudo tortoise. Do you think it looks a little like an elephant’s foot as well?
Caudiciform succulents come in many strange shapes and some of them can grow quite large.
They have normal leaves and shoots during their growing period, but these will disappear when they are resting. There are other plants which do this as well. What are they?
Many succulent flowers are much smaller than cactus flowers – but when you look at them closely they are both interesting and beautiful.
The pictures above were taken using a close-up camera lens to show detail which would not usually be seen.
Lithops, or stone plants belong to a large group of plants known as Mesembs.
The plant on the left is a Lithops, which always have yellow or white flowers. Other Mesembs might have yellow, white, orange or magenta flowers. The plant on the right is a Conophytum, sometimes known as dumplings. They also make new bodies every year. You can see the new bodies bursting out of the skins of the old ones in this picture.