Succulents are now a common sight in many homes across the world. But they have their own homes in the wild with specific conditions.
You can find succulents naturally growing in basically every part of the world except Antarctica. More specifically, you’ll find these plants thriving in mostly some of the harshest habitats around the world that are inhabitable for other plant species. These include dryer (not driest) parts across the major continents.
Yes, the popular notion that succulents grow in the driest habitats is just not true. Let’s look at why that doesn’t make sense and a few other interesting facts about where succulents grow.
Why Succulents Don’t Grow in the Driest Environments
Succulents grow in largely dry areas, not the driest ones like some of the world’s popular deserts. This is due to the fact such extremely dry areas aren’t quite ideal for most plant life in general.
You won’t find any succulents naturally growing in a place like Australia, the world’s driest inhabited continent. Besides having the highest percentage of a dry climate, the country also has a considerably high evaporation rate which, again, isn’t very favorable for most plant growth.
Even the African continent where lots of succulents originate doesn’t have these succulents in the driest parts like say, the Sahara Desert – the largest hot desert in the world.
It all comes down to the nature of most succulents – they’re small. That means they could very easily get covered by blowing sand on dry and bare lands. That isn’t exactly ideal for survival.
That being said, succulents still thrive in environments most plants can’t survive. For instance, some species of cacti can comfortably survive without water for as long as two years.
Water isn’t the only luxury these plants can do without, though. Take a look at these common succulent habitats to learn about some of the harsh conditions succulents can put up with.
Common Succulent Habitats
In nature, the bulk of succulents inhabit semi-deserts, coasts and dry lakes, and rocky and mountainous regions. Others like Tillandsia grow on other plants as epiphytes. You’ll find these in primeval forests in tropical and subtropical areas.
This is where most succulents call home since despite being dry, semi-deserts occasionally receive rainfall.
With this little rainwater, the succulents can quickly put out new growth and sometimes even bloom. And once the water is spent up following a prolonged dry spell, the plants put much of the growing on hold as they wait for the next bout of a downpour.
Some common semi-desert dwellers include most cacti species, aloe vera, agave, and euphorbia just to mention a few.
Coasts and Dry Lakes
Coasts and dry lakes aren’t as dry compared to semi-deserts. But the high rate of evaporation in these environments means succulents need to constantly adjust to survive.
But the evaporation introduces different variables – dissolved minerals – which succulents in these habitats have well-adapted to. For most plants though, the minerals are a bit too harsh so they’ll probably die almost immediately.
Some coastal succulents include Blochman’s dudleya, coastal agave, some fishhook cactus species, and members of the Corpuscularia genus.
Succulents also grow in the mountains where, on top of little rain, the temperatures get uncomfortably low. Besides that, the succulents also have to deal with other harsh elements like extreme sunlight, storms, and storms.
Sedum and Sempervivum are the main examples of succulents that brave out the harsh realities of mountainous habitats.
Where Most Succulents Grow
Now that we know succulents naturally grow in semi-deserts, coasts and dry lakes, and mountainous regions, we can get a bit more specific. As mentioned, succulents can pretty much be found across all continents except Antarctica.
But two countries – Mexico and South Africa – are known for being the natural habitats of most succulent species.
Both of these have, on average, the ideal climate for succulents – mostly dry with extreme temperature ranges. These conditions aren’t the norm for the whole of these countries, though. It’s just some parts, which have in turn become succulent paradises.
South Africa, in particular, has the famed Succulent Karoo that is home to dozens of beloved succulents. About one-third of all the succulent species grow in this region that stretches between Namibia and South Africa.
From the Wild to Window Sills – Why Succulents Are So Popular
There’s no denying that succulents are now some of the most popular houseplants. Ask any gardening enthusiasts and chances are that they’ve heard about these cuties.
Let’s find out why that’s the case.
The number one fascination with succulents is their resilient nature. They don’t need as much attention compared to other types of houseplants, especially on the watering side.
They’re also not so prone to pest and disease attacks and can do just well without fertilization.
That makes it quite easy to care for them – even if you’re a beginner.
While some succulents can grow to monumental sizes (think the saguaro cactus), most remain small for a larger part. And even those that grow very big take years to attain the sizes.
This is pretty convenient for people living in rented apartments with limited space for bigger plants. Additionally, it also reinforces succulents’ need for minimal attention since there isn’t any training or moving required.
There are close to 10,000 known succulent species. That’s enough plants to choose from for any houseplants enthusiast out there. But that’s hardly the best part.
Succulents offer so much more in terms of colors, sizes, and shapes that you can easily throw together a breathtaking display by grabbing just a few species. And not just that.
Some can change into beautiful and intriguing colors depending on seasons, light intensity, and temperature.
Easy to Propagate
Yep. Growing your succulent collection is so easy as long as you have a single plant. Remember, succulent reproduction isn’t limited to seeds only – leaves and stems are just as ideal (and easier) for starting new plants.
Besides that, some plants produce their tiny babies (offshoots) at the base. All you have to do is cut them off and place them in a new pot.
This kind of makes sense if you consider the fact that succulents are easy to propagate. Stores don’t incur much cost in getting new plants – it’s just a matter of plucking a part or two from the existing succulents.
And even for the new plants, they don’t need a crazy amount of dedication from the seller. They’re low maintenance, remember.
More than just ornamental plants
Some succulents have other uses other than just looking pretty. They also help to purify the air in your home (just like most houseplants). Also, some have medicinal value (aloe vera, agave and prickly pear) while others are edible (saguaro cactus, stonecrop, and sea beans).
That’s basically what you need to know about where succulents grow. Almost every continent – except Antarctica – is home to some succulent species.
And while they might not grow in the driest parts as it’s widely believed, succulents still brave conditions that most plants wouldn’t survive in. They’re hardy fellas.
That’s part of the reason why they’ve exploded in popularity. Almost everyone with a little bit of interest in houseplants has a succulent in their collection – or has heard about them.
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.