Echeveria

A display of some rosette forming succulents in a variety of foliage colors.

Easy to find succulents

Succulents are plants that have adapted their leaves or stems to store water. Although there are succulents that have evolved in hot, cold, wet and dry climates, all come from places where the soil drains quickly and there are times when the root systems would be unable to supply the necessary water without the water storage adaptation. Some of these plants can handle extreme, hot sun. Cold tolerance varies widely. All of them have interesting, decorative foliage and some sport remarkably showy, bright-colored blooms. Use these plants for their decorative growth habits that range from tiny to huge, colorful and textural, smooth to coarse, soft to sharp and sculptural or simply bizarre. Here are some easy to find succulents you can use.

Agave: tough, rosette-growing (they grow in a rose-like circular pattern of leaves) group of plants with more than 300 named varieties. These are best known for their sharp, pointed, wickedly serrated or sharp toothed leaves. Some are less spiny than others. There are small growing ground-huggers and tall varieties that tower up to 30’ when in bloom. Some blooms look like trees themselves.

Aloe: a large family of thick leafed plants that can grow low to the ground or form trunks giving them a sparse, sculptural look. Most bloom with showy heads of clustered red, yellow or orange flowers. The most well known are the aloes used in cosmetics and for healing; the Aloe vera.

Crassula: a genus that boasts just under 200 species and often come in bizarre and brightly colored forms. Flowers can be showy but leaves can be so colorful or unusual that they attract as much or even more attention than the flowers.

Dasylirion, Yucca, and Cordyline: slow growing tree like plants that look more like ornamental grasses when young, before forming trunks. These are tough growing plants that have smooth or toothed foliage growing from a central point. Slow growing, they can make big, showy, specimen plants.

Echeveria: smaller rosette-forming succulents with remarkable coloring and leaf shapes that can be rippled, fluted, scalloped or even fuzzy. Most send up colorful spikes of blooms in spring or summer.

Euphorbia: a huge group of plants with over 8000 variable looking species. Some look like cactus plants, some look like pencils, others have thorned stems and flat leaves. All have a milky white sap that can be a skin or eye irritant. The most famous member of the euphorbia family is the well-known poinsettia.

Sanseveria: elongated, stiff leaved plants that can grow as a short rosette or with longer, sword-shaped leaves, often patterned and variegated. The Mother-in-law’s Tongue is a commonly grown houseplant.

Sedum: a huge group of plants. Most are small and perfect sizes for the dish or container garden. A number of them are ideal for using as handsome ground covers with textural leaves and sparkling blooms.

Sempervivum: small plants that tend to form clusters of rounded plants that send out baby offsets that earn the plant its common name: Hen and chicks (or chickens).

These are just a handful of the many cactus and succulent plants available, some large, some small.

They are easy to find at garden centers all over the country.