Elegant and Easy Succulents

Looking for some horticultural cheer to get you through the holidays and winter without a lot of fuss? Try succulents!

They look elegant but are oh-so-easy—perfect for beginning houseplant growers. They don’t require much watering, they’re not particularly fussy about light, and you rarely have to worry about pests. There are hundreds of varieties to choose from in a wide array of colors, shapes and sizes. Their unique characteristics make them fun to collect and display, and they offer a lot of return for little maintenance.

Here are six succulents you might want for yourself or as gifts for new gardeners:

Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis)

My very first succulent was an aloe vera plant. It was a rescue plant, discarded at a rummage sale, saved by my aunt, who then gave it to me. It was a wonderful introduction to succulents, and the ease of care immediately impressed me. No weeding. No pests.

While aloe vera can grow to 24 inches tall, in my experience the plants stay much shorter than that. Mine happily reside in small terra cotta containers and they like sunshine, light and warmth, although direct sun isn’t ideal. Provide well-drained soil and water the plant about every three weeks or so for good results. You can easily propagate aloe vera using the offsets (pups).

Outdoors, aloe vera occasionally produces red or yellow blossoms, but it almost never blooms indoors.

Aloe vera plant is an easy succulent

Aloe Vera

Burro’s Tail (Sedum morganianum)

Burro’s tail may be my favorite of all succulents. It’s adorable! Its long branches love to cascade over the edge of the container (sometimes up to 2 feet), which is both beautiful and charming, and it’s a particularly lovely shade of green.

But I must admit that burro’s tail likes to fall apart. When people talk about burro’s tail, they tend to use words like “fragile” and “delicate,” and they are right. You’ll need to handle it gently so it doesn’t lose leaves and branches.

Burro’s tail likes partial sun—morning is best—and infrequent watering. Repot only when absolutely necessary, and you can propagate from seed or cuttings.

Some cultivars have rounded leaves, others are more elongated. It blooms infrequently, but when it does, the flowers are yellow, white or red.

Burros-tail plant is an easy succulent to grow

Sedum morganianum (lamb’s tail, burro’s tail, horses tail) in white pot hanging. Sedum morganianum is popular succulent with trailing stems and fleshy blue-green leaves. Basic houseplant.

Ghost Echeveria (Echeveria lilacina)

I love ghost echeveria for its unusual gray-lilac color. It’s especially pretty when potted in combination with succulents of other colors because the ghost echeveria becomes even more noticeable. When it blossoms (only occasionally), it produces pink or coral flowers.

Ghost echeveria is 6 to 12 inches tall and 7 to 10 inches wide, and it’s a delightful choice to showcase in a small pot. It likes partial to full sun, well-drained soil and occasional watering. You can propagate from leaf or stem cuttings, or from seed.

Trivia tidbit: It’s sometimes known as Mexican hen and chicks.

Jade Plant (Crassula ovata)

Jade plant is often described as a treelike evergreen shrub, and yet it’s a succulent. It reaches 4 to 6 feet in height and is about 3 feet wide. It does well in part shade to full sun. Be cautious with the water and plant in well-drained soil.

Jade plant produces white-pink flowers but rarely blooms indoors. Again, you can propagate with leaf or stem cuttings or seeds.

Also known as money plant, among other names, jade plant is mildly toxic.

Zebra Plant (Haworthiopsis fasciata)

Not to be confused with the other zebra plant (Aphelandra squarrosa), the succulent zebra plant is Haworthiopsis fasciata, and its white-striped leaves are reminiscent of a zebra’s stripes.

If you’re new to succulent keeping, this is the plant for you. It’s adaptable and isn’t fussy about particulars. Unlike some of the more sun-loving succulents, zebra plant is happy with partial sun. It needs minimal water, and it’s easy to propagate via offsets (pups) or leaves.

Zebra plant grows slowly and stays in the 3- to 8-inch range. It blooms only rarely indoors, with white or pink blossoms.

Tiger Jaws (Faucaria tigrina)

Tiger jaws—also known by the equally intimidating name of shark jaws—gets its scary monikers from its leaves, which have serrated edges that look like, yes, teeth. Who wouldn’t want a plant like that?

If you’re a fan of petite plants, tiger jaws is an excellent choice; it is 3 to 6 inches tall and grows slowly but provides a lot of visual interest.

Tigers jaw plant is an easy succulent

Image of a Tiger Jaws plant or faucaria tigrina

Tiger jaws likes a little more water than some succulents, but in winter, allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings. Aim to provide a few hours of sun each day. You can propagate via offsets or seeds.

These six stunning succulents are sure to infuse some garden goodness into the winter months.

This article by Samantha Johnson appeared in the November/December 2020 issue of the Northern Gardener. She is the author of several books, including Garden DIY, (CompanionHouse Books, 2020).

For more information and inspiration for your northern garden,  join the hort!

1 Comment

  1. Donna Atallian on November 24, 2021 at 3:58 pm

    If you have cats the aloe plant and some other’s will cause your pet to vomit it it eats it. Might be helpful to post that information for people getting plants as gifts.

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