Cactus and succulents might survive harsh sunlight, dry climates, and heat. However, since they look different, you might notice subtle differences.
If you are wondering, “Are cactus and succulents the same,” the answer is yes and no. It depends on the features since there are many similarities and differences.
However, if you want a short answer, they are not the same plant! Here’s why;
Cactus and Succulents: Where’s the Difference?
Despite both cactus and succulents being heat-loving plants that can tolerate long periods of drought, a succulent is not the same as a cactus.
The easiest way to understand a cactus is to look at the succulent family. Succulents exist within the subcategory of about 60 different types of plants found in the USA.
Be it in the heat of Texas or the frost of Boston; you might find many succulents in people’s homes. One such type of succulent exists within the Cactaceae family, called Cacti.
In short, all succulents are not cacti. However, all cacti are definitely succulents. Cacti are a part of the succulent family, which explains many of its features.
Some differences can better answer the question, “are cactus and succulents the same?”
Succulents vs. Cactus: The Features
Cactus and succulents are popular all across the USA. According to Forbes, they are the best plants to invest in if you live in a humid climate. But how did they become so popular?
Perhaps it was the Hollywood celebrities that first attached popularity and hype to these plants. Since succulents are low maintenance and look beautiful, they are a popular purchase.
Despite cacti being a subcategory of the succulent plant, you can still note subtle differences;
1. The Leaves
Cacti plants do not have such visually appealing and elaborate leaf structures as succulent plants. They are much smaller plants that can add life to a room corner instead of becoming the center of attention.
Succulents have much bigger and bolder foliage. Most of these plants survive by storing water in their leaves. Thus, the leaves are much juicier and bigger.
2. The Structure
You can differentiate between cactus and succulents from their stems. The simplest way to do so is to identify an indentation that runs along the stem. This host the areoles that birth those spines you can spot in most cacti.
Succulents also differ in size by a bigger margin than cacti. They can be as tiny as a cactus and as large as a 50 feet plant.
3. The Rarity
Cacti are a lot more difficult to find as opposed to certain succulents. Most succulents can be sourced all around the world. However, some specific kinds of cacti are only found in the USA.
Now that you know the answer to “Are cactus and succulents the same,” and the succulents vs. cactus debate is done, you might wonder about the kinds of cacti you can keep. The following indoor species are a great investment;
Kinds of Cacti You Can Keep at Home
These cacti are an affordable long-term investment that can add life to even the most remote corners of your home!
1. Fairy Castle Cactus
This cactus is wonderful for fairytale lovers. It can enchant your guests as they enter your home. The cactus looks a lot like a castle built in the sky!
The beautiful Fairy Castle Cactus stems don’t just climb to the top and resemble a castle. They also climb to an astonishing 6 feet in height. All they need is ample sunlight.
2. Golden Barrel Cactus
This is another popular kind of cactus plant that is usually presented in smaller pots. It thrives best in greenhouses with plenty of sunlight and less moisture.
If you live in an area that experiences seasons of drought, the Golden Barrel Cactus is a great investment. It only needs watering every two to three months!
3. Rickrack Cactus
The Rickrack Cactus is as whimsical as its name. It’s long stems and small leaves look cute even from a distance. This plant will thrive in indirect sunlight!
4. Christmas Cactus
The Christmas Cactus has become popular all across the USA. In many states, this cactus is known for its flowers’ bright pink color. These flowers can add a wonderful touch to your home during the Christmas holidays!
This cactus does demand a level of care that isn’t common amongst some cacti. This includes a humid environment, indirect sunlight, and more water.
5. Star Cactus
This cactus will remind you of the sea. This is because it looks much like starfish resting in the sea bed.
You can place this with that Christmas cactus and watch its white flowers clash with the pink ones as the seasons come around.
Succulent Types You Should Know
Succulents are tough and resilient. They are often the easiest kinds of plants to grow. They have also gotten pretty popular over the past couple of years.
The popularity might be due to the wide varieties you can choose from and the convenience for beginners. If you are worried about a plant dying the first time you bring it home, there’s nothing better than a succulent to start your journey.
Wondering about cactus and succulents, and which one should you choose? Here are some types of succulents that are best for your home;
1. Burro’s Tail
Burro’s Tail is one of the best kinds of succulents out there. This succulent is also popularly known as Donkey’s Tail. This one is the best choice if you are looking for a succulent that trails outside the pot.
You can place the Burro’s Tail on a hanging basket or a container placed on an elevated shelf in the corner of the room. This quirky plant is great for adding personality to a room.
The best feature of the plant is the beautiful gray-green leaves that are both delicate and beautiful. If you want to keep this plant for a long time, place it in the brightest light and avoid overwatering.
2. Hens and Chicks
You can invest in many Hens and Chicks succulents and return with a different variety every single time. This is what makes the plant so popular.
Not all Hens and Chicks plants are the same. In fact, two succulents go by this name. You can get the Echeveria Elegans or the Sempervivum tectorum.
The former will give you a subtle look with flat leaves that look like flowers. They also produce blooms in the shape of bells in spring.
The latter produces the same kinds of leaves, but they are more pointed in shape. Moreover, the flowers look a lot like stars.
If you are looking for a Hens and Chicks succulent, make sure you see the plant in person, as all Hens and Chicks Plants do not look alike!
3. Jade Plant
The Jade Plant is a lot easier to manage, which is why it is loved throughout the USA. The plant’s leaves look like they have been scorched in the sun. This is what adds to its beauty.
The plant’s best feature, besides the reddish leaves, is the different varieties. You can get a lot of different shapes and sizes if you start looking.
Try not to overwater the Jade Plant, as it can easily begin to droop. An easy way to water it is to check the soil and only add water if it is dry.
4. Panda Plant
The Panda Plant looks just as cute as it sounds. It has grey-green leaves with hair and dark spots like a panda.
These plants can get quite tall. If you take care of this succulent, it can grow up to two feet. However, you need to remember not to overwater the plant!
5. Zebra Haworthia
You might wonder why so many succulents are named after animals. We can only attribute this to their unique shapes and patterns!
Cactus and succulents might be similar when you begin to care for them. But succulents look a lot more colorful!
The same can be said for the Zebra Haworthia. Its stripes and spikes may seem threatening from afar. However, it is much easier to grow than most other plants.
All it needs is some indirect sunlight, warmth, and water. However, try not to overwater the plant, as it doesn’t need much moisture.
How to Care for Cactus and Succulents?
It’s easy to care for cactus and succulents. But there are a few rules you must keep in mind!
The best thing you can do for your cactus and succulents is to ensure they get enough light but not too much direct sunlight.
You must understand the unique requirements of your succulents to ensure you are providing your plant with what it needs. Some plants can withstand direct sunlight, while others might burn.
Moreover, if you are bringing home a new plant, try not to leave it in direct sunlight regardless of its requirements. Newer plants might easily scorch in the sun!
It is also essential to consider the location of your cactus and succulents. You shouldn’t leave a succulent in the same spot every day. Try to rotate it frequently.
By rotating your plants, you can ensure that all sides get equal sunlight. Moreover, since most succulents lean into the sunlight, rotation helps them grow straight.
If you are worried about overwatering your succulents, that is a valid concern. Fortunately, there are some easy steps you can take to avoid this issue;
Summer is Not Equal to Winter
Remember that watering in the summer should not be the same as in the winter. Similarly, succulents might need more attention in spring when they need the most water for blooming.
In winter, succulents might go into hibernation to preserve their energy. Watering excessively will lead to flooding, which can kill your plant!
Succulents use moisture directly from the soil. They don’t need their leaves to be spritzed with water. When watering a succulent, you only need to water the soil.
The easiest way to ensure your succulent has been watered is to soak the soil until the water has drained out from the drainage holes.
While we are on that topic, your plant needs to have a drainage hole. Drainage holes can prevent overwatering as excess oil can simply separate from the soil and be drained!
You must take care of your succulent from the minute you bring it home. Cactus and succulents are extremely sensitive to overwatering and dust.
The more you work on keeping those plants clean, the less the leaves will suffer. Since most of the beauty of the plants is in the leaves, you might not want to subject them to disease.
Try to frequently brush or wipe off the dust on the leaves. If the potting soil isn’t working for the succulents, choose better quality cactus soil or make your own by mixing soil with sand or pumice.
Moreover, pests can pose a serious issue. If your succulent has been infested, try to nip it in the bud while you can. Avoiding overwatering is the best solution. The same goes for overfertilizing!
However, if you have a wet succulent at hand, try to drain the pot first!
It is easy to get rid of insect eggs with 70% isopropyl alcohol. Simply isolate the infected plant and spray the liquid on the infected parts.
5. The Extra Mile
If you want to go the extra mile, try fertilizing succulents before spring. But, you must do it cautiously.
Succulents don’t need as much fertilizer as other plants. They might only need an occasional feed. However, avoid this in the winter as the plant might not take in the fertilizer properly!
In the succulents vs. cactus debate, only one doesn’t have to come out on top. Both have unique qualities that make them a worthy investment for the indoors and outdoors.
Ensure you pick a plant that suits your living conditions. The better space, sunlight, and water you provide to your succulent, the more it will grow.
Cactus and succulents are a beautiful addition to the home. If you are a beginner, they make the best choice!
You may also like:
- Are Christmas Cactus Bad for Allergies?
- 8 Ways to Get Rid of Cactus Bugs and Bring Your Succulent Back to Life
- How to Get Cactus to Bloom?
Hi! I’m Sophia, and I love plants – especially an expert in growing house plants. I stay in Chicago, United States of America, and through my blog and social media platforms, provide tips and tricks on how to grow healthy, vibrant plants indoors. Check out more here.