Identifying Types of Succulents – with Pictures

Identifying Types of Succulents – with Pictures

Succulent Identification

You’re exploring different types of succulents and learning their specific needs. But there’s one problem — sometimes plants are just labeled “succulent varieties” at the store, or you get some cuttings from a friend who doesn’t know their name. Identifying succulents can be challenging — so many look so similar! I’ll show you how to distinguish between similar succulents and how to get them identified. I have also compiled a succulent identification chart that links to detailed information about how to care for different types of succulents.

{Please note, some links in this post may be affiliate links to sites that pay me a small commission if you click on the link and make a purchase. This commission is at absolutely no cost to you. I only recommend products and companies that I have worked with and truly love! ~Kat}

Succulent Identification – Why It Matters

identifying distinctions between different types of succulents - donkey tail sedum or euphorbia

When you love succulents, there comes a point when it’s important to know them by name. As I have argued before, proper succulent identification can literally be the difference between life and death! Different types of succulents may share the same common name or a similar appearance with very different characteristics. Sometimes the difference is in their winter hardiness. A mistake in identifying succulents could lead to dead plants, killed by the cold. However, some succulents are toxic to pets and children. Take care to learn how to recognize what succulents you have to ensure the safety of your plants and family.

Recognizing Different Types of Succulents

identifying succulents by distinct characteristics - comparing sempervivum and echeveria

Any plant that stores water in its leaves, stems or roots is classified as a succulent. Many varieties look wildly different from one another. But some types of succulents look very similar. Echeveria and Sempervivum are two genera that are often confused for one another. Both share the same common name hens and chicks. They look similar, with each plant forming a large rosette. They reproduce in a similar fashion, each forming offsets that grow beside the primary rosette. Yet one thrives at temperatures well below zero and the other dies with a single freeze.

Over time, you will become able to recognize more different types of succulents just by sight. Even if you cannot tell a sempervivum from an echeveria now, if you continue to look and seek the distinctions, soon you’ll recognize their differences. Sounds weird, I know. But just as you know your own child, even when they’re in a sea of other kids… Or you know your own cat, separate from all others… Recognizing small distinctions is a talent we all share. We just use this talent for different things. Maybe you can spot the difference between muscle cars of the 1960s. I can tell between a wolf and a coyote. Some people instantly distinguish between a Cabernet of different vintages or identify bird species by their calls. It just takes practice.

You can see one clear distinction between sempervivum and echeveria in the photo above. Do you see the many, tiny hairs all along the leaf margin of the sempervivum? Those are ciliate hairs. They collect dew for the plant in its arid habitat. Sempervivum have these ciliate hairs, but few echeveria do. If your plant has tiny hairs all along the margin — most likely it’s not an echeveria.

Identifying Succulents – Note Characteristics

succulent identification - what's the difference between aeonium and echeveria

How to distinguish between aeonium and echeveria is another common question in succulent identification. ASome aeonium also have ciliate hairs. But another distinction between aeonium and echeveria is their stems. Like sempervivum, echeveria rosettes typically grow close to the soil line. Aeonium, however, grow long, curling, woody stems that branch, with rosettes at each tip.

To distinguish between different types of succulents, look for the details. As we’ve seen, some varieties have ciliate hairs along the leaf margins, others have smooth leaves. Look also for the leaf thickness. In general, echeveria have thicker leaves than sempervivum or aeonium, though not as thick as graptopetalum. Here are some of the plant characteristics to look for when identifying succulents:

*Although learning the succulent’s cold hardiness and how to care for it are important reasons for identifying succulents, you can also use the information in your search for its name. For instance, if you live in the Midwest and have a rosette succulent growing outdoors year-round, you can rule out many lookalikes that die if they freeze.

Succulent Identification Strategies

identifying succulents gasteraloe and haworthia

There are a number of good, succulent identification strategies open to you. In today’s high tech world, consulting other gardeners is still the best way to learn. Take a good photo of the succulent you want to identify. Be sure to capture different characteristics listed above, or include those you know in your description to go with the photo. People who work at the local nursery are happy to look at your photo to help you.

Join My Facebook Group!

Join The Succulent Perch Community on Facebook

Join my Facebook community dedicated to succulents and succulent lovers. It is a private group, but free to join and participate in. Our members include experts and newbies alike, and we would welcome you warmly! Post your photos and ask your questions. We’re all learning, and some responses will be incorrect. But they are nearly always informative! 🙂 When you get a succulent name, Google it, and check out the images returned. Do most look like your plant? If so, investigate further to learn the details that help to determine the exact name. Join us, and become inspired!

Contact me! Send me an email, or reach out to The Succulent Eclectic on Facebook and include a photo and description of your succulent. I’ll be happy to help! Identifying specific cultivars in not my strong suit, but I am happy to get you on the right path. Succulent identification often requires a bit of sleuthing. Be sure to check out my succulent identification chart below!

Succulent Identification – There’s an App for That

Picture This succulent identification app

Picture This is an impressive plant identification app for your smartphone. The interface is simple and beautiful. Take a photo of the succulent you want to id. Keep it inside the screen’s viewfinder and snap your shot. In a heartbeat, the app returns the name and another image of the plant you want identified. There is a link to accept the match and one to get more information about lighting, watering and growing conditions. You can use the app to change your photo into a poster, or to share it with the community.

The Picture This app is now (updated August, 2019) $19.99/ year, with a 7-day FREE trial to see if you like it, first. I am impressed with it. I snapped photos of plants that I knew. When each was correctly identified, I tried different types of succulents I didn’t have a name for. I’m satisfied that the app named them correctly — very cool! And it works for many, many kinds of plants — not just succulents.

Succulent Identification Chart

Here’s the Succulent identification chart I promised you. For more information on the genus pictured, hover over it and you’ll see the name. Click the image to go to a detailed post all about growing that type of succulent:

I hope this post will help you with your succulent identification hunt! If you’d like a larger resolution version of the succulent identification chart, just send me an email. And I hope I’ll see you soon in our Facebook forum!

If you have any questions about identifying succulents — or anything else to do with these charming plants! — please leave a comment and I will get right back to you.

You can do this!

P.S. For more great succulent information, please subscribe to The Succulent Eclectic and you’re get my FREE e-course 7 Steps to Succulent Success! Thanks!

succulent identification chart

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This Post Has 42 Comments

  1. Lea

    Hi Kat
    I have been collecting succulents (and cacti) for many years but only recently had time, energy and motivation to really give them the care and attention they deserve. And now I am addicted!
    Your website is brilliant with clear, detailed but concise, useful and interesting information and I am loving reading it!
    I would love a larger version of your ID chart and am definitely interested if you start a Facebook page.
    I am in Adelaide South Australia, basically a Mediterranean climate but sadly getting drier and drier.
    Keep up the excellent work, it’s great!

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Lea,
      Awesome! I will send you the Succulent ID chart right away. And I think we should start on the FB page soon! 🙂

  2. Sheryl Mekemson

    Hi! I enjoy your webpage. I too have more succulents and cacti from the past years: “Oh, I don’t have that one!”…
    Would you send me the ID chart please that is more comprehensive? I would be grateful! I attempt to accurately label each pot with tongue depressors.
    Keep up the good work! I benefit from your info.

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Sheryl,
      I know just what you mean! A new variety – or even one that’s familiar, but beautifully stressed – they are so seductive! 🙂
      I’ll send you the larger succulent identification chart. I’m also planning on going back to some of my species spotlight articles and adding charts there… Senecio and Kalanchoe, in particular, have such very different looks within the same genus.

  3. Michele Jones

    Hi Kat! Its me again! I sent you a long email the other day! But after reading this article & the section on whiteflies, I’m very confused if I really have whiteflies! I haven’t seen “dew”, white flies flying or any on yellow sticky cards. Could it be something else? I sent you a pic a couple months ago! Help!

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Michelle,
      I just double checked the photos you sent. It could be something different, I suppose, but if you took action right away, you wouldn’t see more development… But it sounds like you continue to see the original markings?
      Please take a few more pictures now and send them. Let’s see if we can figure this out!

  4. Yvonne Neely

    Hello Kat,
    Can you send me a larger copy of the Succulent Chart. It is the most comprehensive and beautiful explanation of succulents that I have ever seen!

    I’m on your mailing list and read your information religiously. Thank you for the very useful and informative descriptions.


    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Yvonne,

      Thanks so much for your kind words – you made my day! 🙂

      I have sent you the large resolution Succulent Identification chart I promised you.

      Thanks so much for reading! 🙂

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Tara,
      Thanks for the link to your site! I like your detailed guides to aeonium, crassula and sedum!

  5. Ingrid

    Hi Kat,
    My elderly neighbor knows my succulent obsession and presented me a lovely one for my birthday. However, none of the stickers on the pot gave me a name. Can you please help me so I can take care of it properly?
    How can I attach a pic for you to see it?

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Ingrid,
      I will be happy to help you with this! I’ll send you an email to the address you’ve listed. Or you can email me at Kat [at] The Succulent Eclectic [dot] com
      I’ll send you an email now! 🙂

  6. CeCe Carson

    Your site has given me so much valuable info!
    May I have a copy of the chart!
    Much thanks —— cece

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi CeCe,
      SO glad you’re finding the site helpful! I’ll email you a large format of the succulent ID chart.

  7. Linda

    Hi Kat
    I have what I believe to be a succulent due to its
    fleshy leaves. It’s leaves are large and pointy.
    I’ve had this plant for years, it was a gift.
    Can I send a photo?

  8. Melissa

    I was wondering if you could tell me the name of this cactus. So if you could email me when you have time I’d greatly appreciate it.
    Thank you so much.

  9. Linda Manning

    Please send me the Succulents Identification chart. I find it very hard to find and buy any books on succulents. I can buy books on cacti but none available on succulants. Any suggestions?

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Linda,
      I’ll be happy to send you the identification list!
      For a book to give you an excellent grounding in the basics and beyond, as well as discussion of 100 specific varieties, I would recommend Succulents Simplified by Debra Lee Baldwin.
      Please let me know if you have any other questions!

  10. ᗰIᗩ

    ᕼEY,I’ᗰ ᗪᗩᑌGᕼTEᖇ TO ᗩ ᔕᑌᑕᑕᑌᒪEᑎT ᒪOᐯEᖇ! ᗰY ᗰOTᕼEᖇ ᕼᗩᔕ OᐯEᖇ OᑎE TᕼOᑌᔕᗩᑎᗪ ᑕᗩᑕTI ᔕᑌᑕᑕᑌᒪEᑎTᔕ ᗩᑎᗪ ᖴᒪOᗯEᖇᔕ. Iᐯ ᕼᗩᗪ ᗩ ᔕᑌᑕᑕᑌᒪEᑎT ᗩ ᐯEᖇY ᔕᑭEᑕIᗩᒪ OᑎE ᖴOᖇ OᐯEᖇ TᕼᖇEE YEᗩᖇᔕ ᗩᑎᗪ I’ᗰ ᗩᖴᖇᗩIᗪ ITᔕ GETTIᑎG ᔕIᑕK ᗩᑎᗪ ᗪYIᑎG TᕼE ᒪEᗩᐯEᔕ ᗩᖇE ᐯEᖇY ᗪIᖇTY ᗩᑎᗪ TᕼEᖇE ᗩᖇE ᗷᒪᗩᑕK ᔕᑭOTᔕ Oᑎ IT Iᐯ TᖇIEᗪ ᔕᑕᖇᗩᑭIᑎG TᕼEᗰ Oᖴᖴ. ᑭᒪᘔ ᕼEᒪᑭ ᗰE ᔕᗩᐯE TᕼIᔕ ᑭᒪᗩᑎT!

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Mia,
      I am happy to help! 🙂
      Is the soil of the plant wet, even after a few days of watering? If so, this is likely the cause of the black spots you see. They won’t come off, but the plant can outgrow these scars.
      If you think the soil is too wet, follow these directions for saving an over-watered succulent.
      Don’t try to scrape off dirt from the leaves, instead, use a soft bristle brush like an old paintbrush to clean the leaves without damaging them.
      If the soil does not seem to be too wet, please let me know. We should then investigate whether your succulent has insects.
      Please keep me posted!

  11. Madeline Rodriguez

    Hola Kat:

    Bajé la aplicación que recomienda para identificar plantas y la app no pudo identificarlas, la verdad que ya no se donde buscar sus nombre.

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Madeline,
      I’m sorry the app was unable to identify your plants for you! Tell you what – please join me in The Succulent Perch Community. Post your photos, and we’ll get someone to help you to identify them for you!

  12. Bev "Cat" Goodell

    Heylo, I could use some help identifying a plant I think is a cactus or succulent… The leaves are start flat wide & long then change to thin long that branch out

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Cat,
      Can you send me a photoi? I’ll be happy to try to identify it for you. This is not my strength, but I’ll do my best! 🙂 Send it to me at kat [at] thesucculenteclectic [dot] com
      Or, consider joining my new Facebook forum – The Succulent Perch Community – we can all work on identifying it for you together!

  13. Linda Kommer

    I love succulents. I have a couple I purchased from HEB last summer. They are in tiny pots and are “growing out of them”. But they are not dying. I bought several more the other day. They are so cute. Again, no name tags. But I suppose they should be repotted. None of the pictures I looked at above are like the ones I bought. I would LOVE to know what they are. I like this site. It is very easy to understand. I would like to be a part of this if I may!

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Linda,
      As long as you read or subscribe, you are certainly a part of this site! I thank you!
      But to get you the best help for identifying your plants, I recommend you join my new Facebook group. We have succulent-lovers from around the world who will chime in to help you find the correct name for your plants!
      We would love to have you join us – and it’s completely free! 🙂

  14. bobbi mitchell

    I have just come across your site and I love it. So much information. Can I ask how I can get a copy of your i.d chart please? I have subscribed. Thank you

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Bobbi,
      Thanks for subscribing!
      I will send out the Succulent ID chart for you right away.
      Thanks for reading!

  15. Karen

    I don’t see my plant on your chart. It has large round leaves that look like they each spiral slightly and it looks like the tips have little tiny echiveria which fall off and replant new pups in the soil around it. I’m wondering what the name is and how best to care for it (i.e. – indoor or outdoor, big or small pot, …) I don’t know how to post a photo here to show you.

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Karen,
      From your description, it sounds like a Kalanchoe Mother of Thousands or Mother of Millions.
      But to be sure, I would need to see a photo. Can you send me one by email? Kat [at] The Succulent Eclectic [dot] com
      Thanks so much!

  16. Jack Leputu

    Hi Kat
    I just started up a nursery and would like to grow succulents.I am learning about how to propagate succulents and I think if you can send me some ideas like pictures with names I will appreciate.

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Jack,
      Wow! How exciting!
      I’d love to provide any information / feedback / suggestions to assist you!
      Please contact me directly at Kat@TheSucculentEclectic [dot] com

  17. Susan Clime

    i am new to succulents. very confused….they are so hard to tell which is which. id appreciate it if you would send me the large id chart. ? i guess while im stuck at home im going to check out your informative websites. thank you.

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Susan,
      It can be SO hard! There are thousands of varieties on the market, and many varieties within a single genus can look so different!
      I will send you the large version of the succulent ID chart. But why not also join my new Facebook group for succulent lovers? You are welcome to post photos of your succulents and we’ll all help you to identify them! 🙂
      Happy gardening!

  18. Jojo Policar

    Hi Kat,

    This is so enjoyable knowing and understanding the names of succulents we all love to cultivate, collect and grow. Thank you.

    Yes, I would love to have a high resolution of the photo succulent collection identifier please.

    Appreciate everything. Love it.

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Jojo,
      Perfect! I’ll send it right out for you! 🙂

  19. Tina Pachniak

    Hi Kat- I am so happy to have found your website! I have had succulents for quite some time, but didn’t really know what I was doing. Lately, I’ve been getting more into them, and now I am looking for a little bit of advice. I got a new succulent, that had flowers on it when I got it. I also just got a grow light, because all of my succulents are stretching, even though they are in a west facing window that gets lots of light (Apparently, the coating on windows now doesn’t let in enough of the light plants need?) Anyway, I have a few pictures that I would love to get your comments on- would I be able to send them to you somehow? I am not a big facebook user, so don’t think I want to join the group there. Thanks so much for all the good information!

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Tina,
      I would be happy to help you with your succulents!
      Yes, modern windows cut out a lot of UV-rays, which is why your carpeting and upholstery doesn’t fade and rot away in a year’s time. But that leaves some succulents with insufficient light. The grow light should really help!
      Please do send me an email with your photos. I’ll be happy o take a look. Email me at Kat [at] TheSucculentEclectic [dot] com
      I’ll take a look and do my best! 🙂

  20. Yvette Joseph

    Hi kat,
    I am Yvette all the way from Trinidad, West Indies. I am a newbie. I fell real hard for these little guys called succulents. May I have a copy of your Succulent Id Chart. I purchased a couple of them but I confess my ignorance where these beauties are concerned. Can you help me?

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Yvette,
      Absolutely! I’ll send you the large scale Succulent ID chart.
      You might also enjoy joining my new Facebook group for succulent-lovers! You can post photos of your plants and we’ll all help you to identify them, care for them and troubleshoot any issues!
      Thanks so much for reading!

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