succulents desert plant image

Are Succulent Desert Plants?

Succulents have been all in the rage recently. They are not very expensive, easy to take care of and instantly helps in brightening  the appearence of your house with its vibrant colours. So,

Are succulent desert plants? Succulents are fleshy plants found commonly in the desert & semi-desert areas. They have developed certain adaptations that empowers them to survive in such extreme conditions. As a result, they are very different in looks and have simple yet unique needs in comparison with tropical plants.

What are Succulents and Where do Succulents naturally grow?

Succulents are plants that have got a thickened structure and can store water for a long time. They naturally grow in drought-prone areas, mainly in the desert areas that go through serious water shortages.

These basic adaptations along with many other ones have equipped them to grow in places of higher temperatures and low rainfall. So they are mainly found in the arid & semi arid regions of the world.

how do cactus store water

How do Succulents Grow in the Desert?

Succulents over the span of evolution have developed multiple adaptations that help them to survive in the extreme conditions of the desert. Some of these include:

  • Storing water in the leaves, stem, and roots. These parts have become extremely fleshy and thickened to facilitate this process of water storage.
  • They undergo CAM Photosynthesis pathway unlike other plants for better usage of water
  • The leaves are often times modified into a smaller structure or into spines for water retention
  • Severe strong coating outside the fleshy stems: The outer layer is waxy and not easy to penetrate. It provides protection against heat and prevents loss of water.
  • Well developed strong roots: They have a variety of roots at various positions of the soil, few very close to the topsoil, and others spread out deep into the soil. In this way, they can absorb every last bit of water available to them.
  • Other adaptations of absorbing water from deep fogs, reduction in the number of stomata to prevent water loss are also prominent.

All these adaptations make it possible for succulents to survive in the desert.

So, Are Succulents xerophytes?

Green Plants that modify themselves to suit the drought-prone climate of the desert are termed as xerophytes. So succulents are indeed xerophytes as they have modified their plant parts over the course of evolution to suit the dry environment. The well-developed root system, waxy outer coating, fleshy stems & leaves, the opening of stomata at night time, all these are significant modifications that show that succulent are true xerophytes.

However, not all xerophytes are succulents as many other plants have adapted to dry climates in different ways which are not common in succulents.

Read: Do cactus do well & live in bathrooms?

Do Succulent only grows in deserts?

Naturally, succulents are only found to be growing in areas of acute water shortage, fast-draining soil, dry environment and mediocre to high temperatures. Over hundreds of years, succulents have adapted themselves to survive in those extreme conditions.

  • These conditions are predominantly found in desert areas along with many other tropical and subtropical rainforests located all over South America, Africa, and many other places.
  • So no, succulents don’t only grow in deserts they can grow anywhere where their needs are met.

Fortunately, their demands can easily be fulfilled and hence they also have been grown indoors as well as garden plants for thousands of years. As long as you mimic the kind of soil and care they normally receive in their habitats, they will be good to go.

zebra cactus haworthia how long can go without watering

How to grow Succulents Indoors or in the Garden?

Succulents can survive with minimal care however their fundamental need is drainage friendly soil. They can never survive in plain old potting soil.

  • Soil Needs: Succulent grow wonderfully in cactus mic soil which you can buy online or from the nearest store. Alternatively, you can easily create your own succulent friendly potting mix by mixing equal amounts of potting soil with sand, pumice, volcanic rocks, and pebbles. Succulents hate soil that retains moisture for a long time. Adding all these inorganic contents will help in faster drainage of water. Read more about the succulent soil requirements here.
  • Best Pots for succulents: Try choosing pots made of terra cotta instead of plastic ones as the former one absorbs water quickly from the soil and supports better airflow. Always make sure to have drainage holes at the bottom of the pot as that will further enhance better drainage.
  • Watering Requirements: Succulents are habituated to grow in places where rainfall is scarce. But when it rains, it pours. So water succulents only when the soil of the pot gets really dry. You don’t need to water them daily in fact overwatering can lead to root rot which can end up killing the plant. But make sure when you water, drench them, and don’t stop until water flows out of the drainage holes.
  • Sunlight Needs: Place them in a position that gets filtered bright light throughout the day. Most succulents prefer indirect sun than a direct one. So keep them in a shade or near a window.
  • Fertilization: Fertilize once a year before the start of the growing season. Use a well-balanced fertilizer and dilute it several times in the water. From time to time you can also consider adding other beneficial nutrients to the soil.

Also Read:

This is all you need to grow succulents in your home. If you wanna know every ins & outs of caring for succulents indoors, then read: Can Succulents Live & Grow inside?:Indoor Succulent Care

Which Plants are considered Succulents?

Plants that grow in drought-prone areas and have adaptive features that help them to store water in their stems, leaves, roots, and in a reduction in water loss are generally considered as succulents.

Some prominent succulents you can grow indoors are:

  • Burrow”s tail
  • Crassula ovata
  • Aloe vera
  • Snake pant
  • Echeveria elegans
  • Haworthiopsis fasciata

Read: 5 Gorgeous Succulents that looks like Corals


What does succulent mean?

Succulent is an English word which is based upon the Latin word “sucus” which means juice or sap. The name perfectly suits the plants as they have waxy & fleshy leaves, stems, and roots that help in storing excess water for future use (source).

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