How to Identify Succulent Plants


According to the Cactus and Succulent Society of America, there are more than 1,600 species of succulents. Succulents belong to a genus of plants known as Euphorbia. While all of the plants in the genus are succulents by assignment, very few have a similar appearance. If you are in doubt about whether your plant is a succulent, take a closer look for some common characteristics.

Step 1

Study the leaves of the plant. If the leaves are thick and ridged, then the plant is a succulent. Succulent leaves are specialized for their desert environment in that they store water more efficiently than regular plants in their leaf tissue.

Step 2

Look for thorns or spines on the plant. Succulent plants use spines and thorns as a defense mechanism against animal nesting and feeding.

Step 3

Check the winter temperatures in the area of the plant. Succulents are desert plants, requiring temperatures above 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 4

Check the soil. If the soil is sand or clay, then it is most likely a succulent, as succulents thrive in desert sand.

Step 5

Water the plant every day for a week. If the plant's leaves appear swollen at the end of the week, then it is a succulent, and the leaves are storing as much water as possible. After this step, avoid watering the plant again for at least a month.


  • Arizona Sonora Desert Museum: Definition of a Succulent
  • Cactus and Succulent Society of America: Identification and classification of Euphorbias
Keywords: identifying succulents, succulent identification, succulent characteristics

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Steven White is a privately contracted software engineer, web developer, and tech support representative. He has 3 years of experience providing technical support for AT&T broadband customers. He is currently a Master's of Software Engineering student and enjoys sharing his knowledge and expertise with others.