Succulents and cacti are most often used interchangeably. You need to understand their relation to help you identify them properly. Succulents are plants that can retain water on their leaves, roots, and stems. Succulents are made up of approximately 60 different plant varieties that include sedum, aloe, sempervivum, haworthia, and apparently cacti. Cacti are chubby plants that can preserve water, that is why they are part of this family. Because of this, we can say that all cacti are considered succulents.
Simply put, cacti are a sub-category of succulents. They come in different sizes and shapes. They can either be short and round or tall and thin. Cacti do not usually have any leaves and branches.
In order for succulents to be considered as cacti, they must have areoles. Areoles are the round fleshy part of the cacti where flowers, spines, leaves, and other elements grow. Areoles can only be found on cacti, and not on all succulents.
Some succulents are often wrongly identified as cacti due to their spikes. However, these characteristics do not instinctively qualify them as cacti. Hence, we can say that the areoles are the major distinguishing factor between the two. If the succulent does not have areoles, then it cannot be classified as a cactus.
You might think that this is quite simple, yet there are still grey areas when it comes to differentiating succulents from cacti. Technically, cacti can be considered as succulents, but a few botanists and horticulturists argue that the two of them are entirely different. Some botanists classify cacti as succulents, while a few horticulturists omit cacti from the succulent group. But generally, it is safe to say that all cacti are succulents, nevertheless, not all succulents are cacti.
Although there are some differences between succulents and cacti, yet they are very much connected. Succulents refer to a group of species that belong to numerous botanical families while cacti refer to a specific botanical family. Additionally, all cacti are succulents, however, not all succulents are cacti.
Which Is More Popular?
Cacti, especially the larger ones, are mostly seen in western movies making them popular. Regardless if you are not a gardening expert, you can easily identify a cactus. On the other hand, succulents are becoming more popular nowadays, especially for those who are looking for low-maintenance houseplants. They are also a perfect choice for newbie growers.
What Are the Differences Between Succulents and Cacti?
Despite being closely related, succulents and cacti also have some significant variances. First of all, cactus plants typically have fewer or no leaves at all.
Among the different types of succulents, cacti are highly recognized for their rounded grooves along its stems. These are known as areoles. Along with these adapted buds, some spikes will emerge. Cacti are popularly known for their spiky edges.
There are different varieties of non-cactus succulents and most of them are native plants in various regions all over the world. On the contrary, almost all types of cacti can be found everywhere. When it comes to cacti, people can easily identify them through their areoles, hence, when they see non-cactus succulents, they will immediately know the difference.
Succulents have chubby leaves for storing water. They can survive even in the most challenging climates. They are known as succulent because of their juicy look. Succulents come in different sizes, from the smallest Lithops to the biggest saguaro.
Most types of succulents are not edible, however, there are some which can be eaten. You can drink the juice from an aloe vera plant or use the leaves of purslane as an ingredient for your salad.
What Are Some Examples of Cacti?
When we talk about cacti and succulents, we usually relate them to warm locations such as the deserts. However, there are some types that are cold hardy. For instance, the “hens and chicks” succulent can thrive in hardiness zones 3 to 11. With regards to the cacti varieties, the prickly pear (Opuntia humifusa) has the ability to survive in different types of climates within zones 4 to 10.
Prickly pear forms into bunches and can reach a height of up to 14 inches and 28 inches wide. As it grows older, it becomes more prone to its growth routine. They can bloom yellow flowers that reach up to 3 inches. They will start to bear flowers during the summer or late spring.
The flat portion of the plant is known as nopalitos or “pads.” This vegetative part looks like a cluster of prickly beaver tails jammed together. That is why the Opuntia basilaris species is best known as the “beavertail cactus.”
Other cacti species include Ball cactus (Parodia), Crown cactus (Rebutia), etc.
What Are Some Examples of Succulents That Are Not Considered as Cacti?
There are some succulents that do not belong to the cacti family. These are Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis), Agave (Agave americana), Angelina stonecrop (Sedum rupestre Angelina), Hens and chicks (Sempervivum tectorum), Autumn Joy stonecrop (Sedum Autumn Joy), Flaming Katy (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana), Purple ice plant (Delosperma cooperi), Chocolate Drop stonecrop (Sedum Chocolate Drop), and Moss rose (Portulaca grandiflora).
What Are the Uses of Succulents and Cacti?
Succulents and cacti are beautiful, tough, and sundry. That is why they can be useful in a lot of ways. They can look great when used for your terrarium. They can freshen the surroundings when used as houseplants. Xeriscape plants are perfect for dry areas. Some varieties of short succulents including Angelina stonecrop can look nice when placed between garden stepping-stones.
Whether you are growing a cactus or a succulent, the most important thing to remember is that they are water-filled plants. Hence, they should look chunky since they are filled with water. If they don’t look as such, then you have to water them. But first, you have to eliminate any existing water that may have developed at the bottom of your plant.
Lastly, if you have any questions about succulents or you need some advice on what type of succulent to plant or where to put them, just ask us. The aim of Eden Succulents is to help you care and grow your succulents. We can help you create a perfect sanctuary for your plants.