Do you know the difference between succulents and cacti? Many people often use the terms interchangeably without realizing that these are not really the same. In this blog post, we will explain the difference between cactus vs succulent plants, as well as their characteristics.
What Are Succulents?
Succulents are a type of plant that store water in their leaves, stems, or roots. This water-storage ability allows them to survive in dry climates.
Succulent plants don’t belong to one plant family. Instead, they can be found in 50-60 plant families. Therefore, they come in a wide range of shapes and sizes.
Here are some examples of succulents that are not cacti:
- Jade plant (Crassula ovata)
- Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis)
- Sedum (Sedum spp.)
- Sempervivum (Sempervivum tectorum)
- Echeveria (Echeveria spp.)
- Aeonium (Aeonium spp.)
- Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana)
What Are Cacti?
Cacti are a type of succulent plant that store water in their stem. The stem is thick and fleshy with few or no leaves. Cacti typically have spines instead of leaves.
Cacti all belong to the cactus family (Cactaceae), which is part of the plant order Caryophyllales. The cactus family includes about 127 genera and more than 1750 species.
Here are some examples of cacti:
- Barrel cactus (Ferocactus cylindraceus)
- Saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea)
- Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia spp.)
- Peruvian apple cactus (Cereus peruvianus)
- Snake cactus (Trichocereus pachanoi)
Succulent vs Cactus: The Main Differences
So, what is the difference between succulent and cactus plants? Both are plants that store water in their leaves, stems, or roots. They both have thickened, fleshy parts that help them to retain water. And they both grow in dry, arid environments. But there are some key differences between these two plant groups.
Areoles: The main difference between cacti and other succulents is that cacti have areoles, which are small, bumpy structures that grow on the surface of cacti stems. Areoles can produce flowers, spines, and leaves. Other succulents lack areoles altogether, so this is the main distinctive feature of cacti.
Leaves: While cacti typically don’t have any leaves, succulents have leaves that come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes.
Spines: While most cactus species have spines or needles, there are some that are spineless. The most common spineless cactus is Opuntia microdasys or bunny ear cactus. Also, not all succulents with spines are cacti. For example, the Agave plant has spines, but it’s not a cactus.
Native region: Cacti are native to the Americas, while succulents can be found all over the world.
Cacti and succulents have both gained popularity in recent years for their low-maintenance care requirements. They can be used to spruce up any home or office décor, and they make great additions to indoor gardens.
So, what’s the verdict? Are cacti and succulents one and the same thing? Well, yes and no. Cacti are a type of succulent, but not all succulents are cacti.
Which succulents are not cacti?
There are many types of succulents that are not cacti. Here are some of them:
- Aloe vera
Do succulents have thorns?
Most cacti have needles, but there are also other succulents with spines. For example, Euphorbia plants typically have needles. Aloe vera and Agave have spikes on their leaves as well.
Is aloe vera a cactus or succulent?
Aloe vera is a succulent, but it is not a cactus. Aloe plants store water in their thick, fleshy leaves. They typically have green or gray-green leaves with white spots. Some aloe plants also produce flowers.
Can you plant cactus and succulents together?
Yes, you can plant cacti and other succulents together. These plants thrive in similar conditions and do not require much water. Just be sure to give each plant enough room to grow. Cacti and succulents make a great addition to any garden.
Are cacti succulents?
All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. The main difference between cactus vs succulent plants is that cacti have areoles—small, hairy circles from which spines grow. Areoles also produce flowers on cacti. Other succulent plants do not have these features.