10 of the Easiest Succulents for Beginners to Grow as Houseplants
Succulents have become super popular over the last few years, and for good reason. There are hundreds of unique varieties and just about anyone can grow them, beginners included. Their special water-storing tissues allow them to survive in environments that are too dry for most other plants, so they'll hang in there even if you forget to water them for a while. Succulents also thrive in dry air and warm temperatures, which most homes already have, so you don't have to change a thing to grow one in your living room. If you're a new plant parent, here are a few of the best indoor succulents to buy as you start your collection. They adapt well to life on the inside and are easy to find at garden centers and nurseries.
1. Burro's Tail
Burro's tail or donkey's tail (Sedum morganianum) is a trailing succulent that looks best in a hanging basket or container sitting on a ledge, shelf, or plant stand so it can drape over. Each stem can reach up to three feet long and is packed with gray-green leaves about the size and shape of a plump grain of rice. The leaves have a pale sheen on them that wipes off when you touch them so it will show your fingerprints. Also, the leaves are fragile, falling off easily so it's best to avoid handling this plant as much as possible. Native to Mexico, burro's tail prefers bright light for best performance. You can let the soil dry out between waterings, especially in winter when it isn't growing as actively.
2. Christmas Cactus
Unlike other cacti, the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi) doesn't have sharp spines. Its flat, fleshy, segmented stems can reach a couple feet in length, often draping over in a way that earned it the nickname, crab claw cactus. It also prefers a bit more moisture than its spiky kin, so water whenever the top inch of soil in its container is dry. But if you forget to water for a while, it will bounce back easily from a little drying out. Keep it in bright light near a window, and this plant will likely reward you by blooming in winter. And if it blooms a little earlier than you expect and the stem segments are spiky instead of scalloped, you might actually have a Thanksgiving cactus (they're closely related to Christmas cacti), but the care instructions are similar for both.
Two succulent plants share the common name of hens-and-chicks. They're closely related but look a little different. Both produce "chicks"—small, identical plants that are slightly offset from the mother (the hen). Echeveria elegans such as Mexican Snow Ball ($13, Etsy) forms flat, flowerlike rosettes with rounded edges and grows arching, bell-shape blooms every year. Sempervivum tectorum such as this hens-and-chicks collection ($21, Walmart) also forms rosettes, but each leaf tends to be flatter and more pointed. It has tiny, star-shape flowers. Both of these succulents come in all sorts of varieties that offer interesting shapes and colors, so they are especially fun to collect.
Echeveria and Sempervivum have similar needs when they're grown as houseplants. Both should be allowed to dry slightly between waterings because constant moisture often causes their stems and roots to rot. They'll do best in bright light near a window. You can easily propagate these succulents by removing the chicks and placing them in their own container, but make sure to use a sandy potting mix labeled for cacti and succulents so your plants will have the drainage they need.
4. Jade Plant
The jade plant (Crassula ovata) is an old-fashioned favorite for a reason: It's a cinch to grow! This long-lived South African native grows stocky, branched stems with thick, glossy green leaves sometimes tinged with red around the edges when grown in full sun. Some varieties have different-looking leaves, such as the variety 'Gollum' with leaves that resemble green monster fingers. Over time, jade plants can get several feet tall, but when grown as a houseplant, they usually stay about a foot tall. They can get a bit top-heavy, so it's a good idea to plant them in a heavier container like terra-cotta. The key to keeping a jade plant happy is to let the soil dry completely between waterings. Some gardeners only water jade when the leaves start to pucker or lose their shine, but these are signs that the plant is already stressed; if you wait that long, it might start to drop leaves.
5. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera grows as a cluster of long, slender leaves on a short stem. Over time, it produces more clusters of leaves called offsets that can form a colony large enough to fill the whole container. It's easy to divide them and move to other pots when things get too crowded. And while aloe vera might be most well-known for its healing sap used for centuries to treat wounds and sunburn, it does have sharp "teeth" along its leaf edges that can cut an unsuspecting passerby, so handle with care. Aloe vera is a forgiving, easy-to-grow houseplant that's tough to kill. Like other succulents, it prefers being kept on the drier side rather than having constantly damp soil. And while it does best in bright light, if you were to suddenly move it into a hot, sunny window, its leaves can get burned.
6. Panda Plant
There are dozens of kinds of Kalanchoe plants, but the panda plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa) is quite distinctive. A native of Madagascar, panda plants have fuzzy, gray-green leaves covered with soft, silvery hairs and tipped with brown or rust-color spots. They can reach about two feet tall as a houseplant, but they grow very slowly. Give it bright light by a window, and let the soil dry between waterings. When you water the plant, make sure not to get any on the leaves or they may rot.
7. Ponytail Palm
Ponytail palms (Beaucarnea recurvata) aren't really palm trees, but they do look a bit like them thanks to their long, woody-looking trunk and tuft of leathery leaves at the top. They grow slowly but can reach tree-like proportions of 12-20 feet, though indoors they top out around four feet. Although ponytail palm doesn't look much like a succulent, the swollen, bulbous base of the trunk (called a caudex) stores water and gives the plant its other common name: Elephant foot. Whatever you call it, it's very adaptable to life as a houseplant, but does best with bright light, warmer temperatures, and low humidity. It's the perfect houseplant for a neglectful gardener because it doesn't need much water, especially in winter when it isn't actively growing.
8. Snake Plant
This classic succulent houseplant seems nearly indestructible. Snake plants (Sansevieria trifasciata) can survive weeks without light and water without losing their good looks. Their thick, stiff, pointed leaves grow straight up, reaching about three feet long, and often have patterned markings reminiscent of a snake. Over time, it will multiply into a thick clump that fills the whole pot, but it's easy to divide and repot as needed. While snake plants tolerate low light they look best in medium to bright light. They also appreciate a little water whenever the soil feels dry.
9. African Milk Tree
While African milk tree (Euphorbia trigona) is capable of towering to nine feet tall, it isn't actually a tree. As a houseplant, this succulent reaches up to three feet tall, producing upright, triangular, branched stems lined with short but sharp thorns. The tips of the green stems also have small leaves with a reddish tinge. African milk tree is related to the poinsettia, so it produces a milky, sticky sap that can irritate your skin if you don't wash it off. Plenty of light and evenly moist soil is the key to keeping it healthy.
10. Zebra Haworthia
Zebra haworthia’s (Haworthia fasciata) striking stripes and spiky foliage might make it look like a rare and exotic plant, but it's often available at garden centers and is very easy-going when it comes to growing it. Set this succulent near a window where it’ll get a few hours of bright, indirect light every day, and let the soil dry out completely between waterings. Zebra haworthia is also a good choice for terrariums or growing alongside other succulents because it will stay small, maxing out at about five inches tall.