How to Identify a Succulent Plant


Gardeners are constantly searching for a low-maintenance houseplant that thrives on neglect. With succulents, a twice-monthly dose of water and moderate sunshine produces a bright green plant to decorate the interior of the home. Learning how to identify succulent plants begins with a basic understanding of how these plants differ from traditional, high-maintenance plants.

Step 1

Evaluate the succulent during the most active growing season in the summer. Succulents go dormant in the winter and don't produce distinctive flowers then.

Step 2

Take a close look at the succulent plant. Look for distinctive features such as flower color, leaf color, spine, leaf texture and general foliage shape. Succulents occupy more than 60 plant families divided into 300 genera. The massive number of plants requires documentation of characteristics for identification purposes.

Step 3

Examine the leaves, roots and stems of the plant. Succulent plants have thick or fat plant characteristics that differ greatly from a regular plant. Succulents store moisture in fattened stems, roots and leaves to allow gradual use of water reserves in dry desert climates.

Step 4

Check the plants that live nearby to help determine the type of succulent. Four families of succulents exist in the plant world: cactus, orpine, carpet weed and spurge. Each succulent family features plants with similar characteristics that thrive in similar growing conditions. Growers often pair plants in container gardens, hanging baskets, rock gardens and landscapes within a particular succulent family.

Step 5

Take a picture using a digital camera of the distinguishing traits of the plant. The record will help you during research to determine the type of succulent.

Step 6

Search for the plant using an online succulent plant database. Select the setting that provides thumbnail pictures of the different plants sorted by each succulent family.

Step 7

Visit the library to locate an identification book on succulent plants. This type of book provides a visual reference for identifying succulents as well as growing information on different species of succulents. Match the unique characteristics of your succulent to the pictures provides in the plant database or in the reference book.

Things You'll Need

  • Succulent plant listing
  • Camera


  • Colorado State University: Succulents
  • University of Rhode Island: Cacti and Succulents
  • Cactus & Dintorni: Succulents

Who Can Help

  • Succulent Plant List
  • Boyce Thompson Arboretum
Keywords: identifying succulents, succulent plants, identifying succulent plants

About this Author

S.F. Heron is an avid gardener with three years of experience in online writing and a working background in aviation and earth and ocean sciences. She is published on various sites, including Helium, eHow and Xomba. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.