While it’s true that most succulents you’ll encounter are small, this isn’t the case with all of them. Some can be quite tall.
Here are the common succulents that are tall:
- Saguaro cactus
- Snake plant
- African milk tree
- Ponytail Palm
- Jumping cholla
- Desert rose
- Crown of thorns
Of course, these are just a few examples. There are more than a dozen succulents out there and you’re bound to find several other tall ones.
Meanwhile, here’s some deep dive into each one of the above plants.
Deep Diving Into Tall Succulents
We’ll look at the origin, some general description, a few facts about growing the individual plants, and, of course, their sizes.
Saguaro Cactus (Carnegiea gigantean)
Saguaros are probably the biggest succulents we have around, growing to heights of up to 40 feet. But you might never get to see a saguaro you start growing now attain that monumental height. With a lifespan of close to 150 years, they have a remarkably slow growth rate.
For perspective, it can take the plant up to 50 years to reach a 3-foot height! And according to Britannica, a typical saguaro will grow by just an inch in its first 10 years.
Like most cacti, the saguaro is also known for its spines that can be a bit of a bother if you aren’t careful. The spines grow to lengths of up to 3 inches and have been said to be as strong as steel needles. So you have to really watch out when handling this big guy.
The plant is native to Arizona and California in the US and Sonora in Mexico.
Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)
Also known as mother-in-law’s tongue, the snake plant has a wide variation in height – from 6 inches all the way to 8 feet. An outdoor setting significantly boosts the rate of growth and hence the chances of reaching bigger heights.
Snake plants come in different types so their appearance can vary considerably. But the most common one is green strappy foliage with a yellow hue on the edges.
Unlike majority succulents, the snake plant can thrive both in low-light conditions and under the bright sun. So if you wanted only a single succulent, this is definitely a good option to consider.
On top of being an outstanding ornamental, the snake plant has been subject to a ton of beliefs throughout human history across different cultures.
In Nigeria, for instance, it’s been used in rituals and is usually linked to some deities. In China, the plant was considered special and anyone who grew it was bound to have the virtues of beauty, strength, art, long life, intelligence, health, and prosperity.
And in 1989, the snake plant was part of a NASA experiment that gave birth to the popular myth that succulents can clean air.
African Milk Tree (Euphorbia trigona)
The African milk tree also goes by other names like friendship cactus, candelabra cactus, cathedral cactus, and good luck plant/cactus. Nope, it’s not a cactus. It just looks like one hence the numerous “cactus” references.
The succulent is native to Central Africa and locals usually grow it as a hedge because of its rapid growth. Under optimal conditions, the African milk tree can gain as much as two feet per year and grows to a height of 6-8 feet at maturity (optimal in this case means being outdoors for a start).
As an indoor succulent, it tends to grow at a slower rate and doesn’t become as tall.
One of the most defining traits of the African milk tree is its ability to produce a white milky sap (get the “milk” connection now?). The sap is both poisonous and irritant on contact so it’s always a good idea to be extra careful when you decide to grow the plant.
Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)
The ponytail palm or elephant’s foot was once spread out through a larger part of eastern Mexico but that range is now confined to just Veracruz. The range probably moved into people’s gardens, windowsills, and desks since the plant is quite popular among gardening enthusiasts.
Despite the “palm” in its common name, the ponytail palm isn’t actually a palm. And it’s not even closely related to the palm tree. The name was probably influenced by the succulent’s single-stem growth just like a palm tree’s. The “ponytail” part, on the other hand, is a reference to the plant’s leaves which are long, curvy, and – most of the time – emanate from the tip of the stem.
Notable about this succulent also is the caudex, a swollen part of the stem just above the soil level. This is where the plant stores its water.
Mature ponytail palms can grow as high as 30 feet – that’s if they’re grown outdoors. Indoors, they stop growing at the 6-8-foot mark.
And just the mighty saguaro, these heights also take time so you’ll need a bit of patience.
It’s best grown indoors in places where the winter temperatures are too extreme (basically below 23 degrees Fahrenheit). The plant won’t react very well to temperatures that low.
Jumping Cholla (Cylindropuntia fulgida)
Succulents are known to be some of the hardiest plants around. But the jumping cholla takes it to the next level.
It grows in the harshest parts of the desert where you wouldn’t usually expect plant life. This is one of the reasons why the plant’s population is thriving since it grows without competition and human interference.
Growing to a height of 13 feet, the jumping cholla’s trunk is made up of numerous spiny stems that can be quite a nightmare if you’re not careful. The stems easily detach and stick on anything passing close to the plant – including your skin! Trust me – you do not want that.
The spines have tiny barbs that grab onto flesh making removal excruciating.
On the bright side, though, this makes it easy to propagate a jumping cholla if you’re growing one at home as the detaching stems end up as new plants.
Jumping chollas are drought-hardy but winter can be a bit of a nightmare to them. So you might want to keep them in pots and bring them inside when the cold months come knocking.
But regardless of indoor or outdoor nurturing, be sure to keep this plant in a sunny spot.
Desert Rose (Adenium obesum)
Desert rose’s thick succulent stem ranges from just three all the way to nine feet under optimal growth conditions. It’s another gem native to the Middle East and parts of Africa – Sudan, Mauritania, Senegal, and the southern regions of the continent.
As the name suggests, the plant is known for its pink blooms that come out in summer. So it can be a great option if you’re looking to liven up your indoors with some color. The flowers usually wither off as the plant gears up to go into dormancy in winter.
That being said, you have to be a bit careful when handling it. While it’s certainly a cutie, the desert rose is poisonous. In the African parts that the plant grows, its sap was used to poison arrows for hunting exploits.
If you touch the plant, just make sure to thoroughly wash your hands afterwards. You might also want to keep it out of reach of both kids and pets. Symptoms of poisoning in people include excessive drooling, vomiting, seizures, and nausea among others. These usually kick in 12-36 hours after ingesting the sap.
Like most succulents, the desert rose needs lots of light to thrive. And if you live in exceptionally cold areas, consider growing your desert rose entirely as an indoor plant.
Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii)
This is another jewel that you have to really be careful with at your home.
For one, the entire branches are covered with sharp block thorns which let’s say won’t be so forgiving on bare skin. But most importantly, the plant’s leaves and stems exude a sticky sap that’s both irritating and poisonous.
On the flip side, though, that toxicity has been put to good use around the world. Extracts from the crown of thorns are used as an environmentally-friendly way of snail control recommended even by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The plant itself can easily attain a 6-foot height depending on the surrounding growth conditions. Just like the other tall succulents we’ve looked at, raising the crown of thorns outdoors is the surest way of seeing its full height.
Indoor ones will typically stop growing at 2 feet.
Whatever the height, the plant is quite the bloomer throwing out red, white, or pink flowers throughout the year.
Most of the succulents you’ll see out there are tiny; one of the reasons these plants are so beloved. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a few big fellas. The above seven are actually a good starting point.
But remember, most of them are slow-growing, so you’ll need some patience. The saguaro cactus, for instance, can grow by a mere inch in its first 10 years.
Also, keep in mind that the succulents will only grow to a fraction of their full heights under indoor conditions.
Hello! I’m Oscar, a freelance writer from Kenya. Among other topics, I also love writing about houseplants – succulents to be specific. I prefer them because they’re so much easier to care compared to other plants and they also offer so much variety in terms of shape, size, and color.