Top 10 Beginners’ Plants

Here are our tips for some to care for plants for those starting out with cacti and succulents.

Cacti and succulents have a reputation for being hard to kill, but some are much easier to look after than others! Here are our recommendations for some great starter plants that shouldn’t be hard to find at a good garden centre or a specialist cactus and succulent nursery.

<i>Adromischus cooperi</i>
stephen boisvert from Chicago, United States, Adromischus cooperi Plover Eggs (4564748183), Crop by BCSS, CC BY 2.0

1. Plover eggs (Adromischus cooperi)

These small plants are great if you don’t have much room. If you give them enough light they can develop burgundy spots on the leaves. This makes the chubby leaves look a lot like speckled eggs, which gives them their common name ‘plover eggs’. The leaves break off quite easily (so try not to bump into it), but if this happens you can lay one down on some soil and it might start growing roots, then eventually a whole new plant!

2. Jade plant (Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’)

Jade plants are one of the most common succulents and are easy to grow from cuttings. Just snip off a branch with a clean pair of secateurs, let the cut dry and pot it up. They will grow slowly and steadily into small “trees”! The ‘Gollum’ jade has unusual tube-shaped leaves which look a lot like Shrek’s ears.

Crassula 'gollum'
<i>Dracaena trifasciata</i>

3. Snake plant (Dracaena trifasciata)

Often called “snake plants”, these wavy-leaved plants don’t need quite as much sunlight as many cacti and succulents.  There are smaller forms available, like ‘Golden Hahnii’, which grows in a little rosette perfect for a windowsill. They are toxic to animals, though, so not the best choice if you have pets.


4. Hedgehog cacti (Echinopsis)

If you grow for impressive flowers then Echinopsis are some of the best cacti to choose. There are many hybrids around which put out an impressive display. The finger-shaped ones (sometimes called Chamaelobivia) are available in many shops and are among the easiest to get to flower.

Gasteria 'little warty'

5. Gasteria ‘Little Warty’

Gasteria have an interesting fan-like shape as they grow, with each leaf shaped like a tongue. ‘Little Warty’ is one of the most commonly available types, with an interesting texture over its leaves. They will clump over time, giving you extras to swap with friends.

<i>Gymnocalycium baldianum</i>

6. Dwarf chin cactus (Gymnocalycium baldianum)

These cacti are quite easy to care for. Their spines grow in a spidery shape and the plants make lovely deep red flowers. They are easy to pollinate so a good choice if you want to try growing your own plants from seed (though you will need two).

<i>Haworthiopsis limifolia</i>

7. Fairy Washboard (Haworthiopsis limifolia)

These plants have attractive ridged leaves and require slightly less light than most cacti and succulents.  Over time, they will clump up to make a very attractive display – or you can take the babies off to give to your friends.

<i>Hoya carnosa</i>

8. Wax flower (Hoya carnosa)

Hoyas are very popular at the moment and widely available. For beginners, you can’t go wrong with a good old Hoya carnosa, which is quite easy to flower. The unusual star-shaped flowers come in clumps (called umbels – like an umbrella) and drip a bit of runny nectar!

<i>Mammillaria elongata</i>

9. Ladyfinger cactus (Mammillaria elongata)

This is a clumping cactus that will make an impressive display of many “fingers” for you fairly quickly if you give it enough room. There are several different spine colours available, from cream to yellow, coppery orange and red.


10. Holiday cacti (Schlumbergera)

Schlumbergera are often available coming up to Christmas time.  As they are epiphytes (grow hanging from trees), they like growing in a tree bark mix, with less direct light, and a bit more water than other cacti.

Of course, you might start your collection with different plants than these! There are so many kinds to choose from, which is why our hobby can be so addictive. For more advice on how to look after your new plant friends, you can visit the cultivation notes section or join the society and speak to some of the many experienced growers at a local meeting.

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