What are Succulent Plants?

May 9th 2012

What are Succulent Plants?

Way too often I have people tell me about a great plant that they remember from years ago. They wish they knew what it was so they could buy another. Once they begin to describe the plant, it quickly becomes apparent that they are talking about a succulent.

There is such an enormous diversity among succulent plants. This is why they aren't always instantly recognized or remembered as succulents, but it is also one of the great draws for these plants. Succulents haven't always been particularly popular. However, in the past few years they've become more high profile due to their low maintenance requirements, unusual plant forms, wide variety, and stunning colors.

Simply put, succulents are plants that store water in their leaves and stems so that they can tolerate dry conditions. Most have thick leaves and stems that act like water storage tanks. Many demonstrate additional methods of reducing water loss through transpiration like waxy leaves or a covering of hair. Succulent plants are often unrelated taxonomically and are native all over the world. However, their adaptation to dry climates gives many a similar appearance.

There are over 50 plant families that are considered succulents. They are found most often in semi-deserts. These are dry areas that receive slightly more rain than true deserts. They can typically be grouped into three areas: high alpine mountains (where hardy succulents are native), temperate coastal regions, and the dry tropics. I say "most often" and "typically" because there are exceptions. Some varieties of succulents actually grow in wet, tropical areas as well. The best known succulents are cactus plants. Cacti store water in their stems.

Sempervivum make an amazing groundcover

All succulent plants like consistent watering during their growing season. They then use their water stores during the dry season. Since succulents do well in poor soil and areas where other plants will struggle, they can be a winning addition to any garden.

Sedums and sempervivums are a couple wonderful varieties of succulents. Both varieties form colorful, attractive groundcovers that can easily withstand freezing winter temperatures and also summer neglect. With succulent plants available in all shapes, sizes and colors, they are sure to be a perfect fit in your yard. Check out your local nursery or shop Young's for great varieties of succulents.

Purple Echeveria