How To Identify Various Types of Succulents

In this video and the transcript, Sarah describes some interesting ways to identify various types of succulents.  She visually demonstrates ways to tell the difference between several species of succulents.  Even experts can have trouble identifying some succulents because there are thousands of various succulents when you include cultivars and hybrids.  She gives some general ways to tell the difference between Echeverias, Sempervivums, Aeoniums, Graptopetalums, Graptoverias and Haworthias.

“Hi I’m Sarah and today I’m going to talk about how to tell the difference between Echeveria and Sempervivum also known as Hen and Chicks and Aeoniums and Graptopetalums and Graptoverias.When I first started getting interested in succulents I um I would often find one in a store somewhere that would be clearly marked as a succulent and I would have a lot of difficulty having any idea what kind of plant I actually had and so I did a lot of done a lot of research.  I have a lot of plants now and I’ve learned a lot of rules of thumb for telling the difference between these sort of main kinds of succulents.

I should note for the record I didn’t read these in books anywhere this is just trends that I’ve noticed that seem to work well for me.  So I don’t I wouldn’t say like this is the word of God or anything on succulents but this is generally how I how I usually tell the difference or get based an idea of what kind of plant I’m looking at.

Identify Various Types of Succulents

So uh so in front of me we have a whole lot of different a lot of different plants.  So the most common plant the succulent that I encounter the most is Echeveria and it’s kind of difficult I think for people to tell the difference between these main kinds of plants because they all sort of have a rosette shape.  You can see right here all these they all kind of look like flowers and they’re all very pretty and it’s not uncommon to see to see a Sempervivum or the Hen and Chicks marked as an Echeveria by someone somewhere.

So first I’ll tell you how to tell the difference between those main two.  So right here we have some Echeverias and some Sempervivum.  So one of the ways, they’re all mixed up right now but I’ll separate them.  So over here we’ve got all our Echeverias these ones right here and then we’ve got our Sempervivum one two and three.  These are all different kinds but the main way that I tell the difference here is that Echeverias usually have much thicker leaves. So you can see like right here with this Echeverias Lola um that these leaves are you know pretty thick.  In contrast, we have the Sempervivum Red Reuben and this one that I can’t say the name of but it is a Sempervivum and this guy down here is also a Sempervivum you see there actually the leaves are much thinner.

Now, these two plants are different sizes but even if we if we pick two that are they’re more similar in size you can see that like these leaves here on the left are much thicker than these.  Also, these leaves are pointier on this Sempervivum and so that’s generally how I tell the difference at first glance.  Additionally, there are some other ways you can tell the difference. Sempervivum in my experience often grows out more to fill an area.  In contrast to Echeverias which will grow sort of out from one base plant.

So here’s an Echeverias it’s actually a Ruffled Echeverias and it’s really common with Echeverias too.  If you just like lift them up or look right under the base you can see we have like another little rosette growing out here and I’m also looking at this little rosette going on but they just are growing out of the base. And so when you look at the plant it’s sort of they’re almost hiding underneath it and in contrast with Sempervivum these guys sort of cover more of like a flat area and you can see these although they’re obviously these additional rosettes obviously started from the base they really grow out to the side more instead of kind of coming out of one central point like a bouquet almost.

So that’s not a hard and fast rule you will see Echeverias that grow like this and you’ll probably also see Sempervivum that grow in the way I described for Echeverias but that I have found is often it’s frequently true.

One thing to notice is with these Echeverias is that they really look quite different though. So one of the best ways to tell these apart is just to see a whole lot of them. But here we have Echeverias subsessilis and that’s a Echeverias elegans also called Mexican Snowball.  That’s a Echeverias pulvinata right here which is very famous one for its nice pinkish color which can get much redder under ideal conditions.  And Echeveria Black Prince which is when I just recently received as a gift and I have never seen before.

There are also Echeverias that will try to screw with you a little bit.  In particular Echeveria runyonii I believe is how you pronounce it which is commonly called Topsy Turvy.  And you can see that the leaves are almost inside out which is I’m sure why it’s called Topsy Turvy but it has a really different look to it.  But again the leaves are still much thicker than the leaves of the Sempervivum over here.

Now another thing to keep in mind Sempervivums let me get these out of the way is you’ll often hear about GraptopetalumsGraptopetalums I don’t actually have very many of those so it’s going to be hard to show you but I do have one Graptopetalum amethyustinum.

And you’ll notice that these leaves are much fatter.  They almost look like jelly beans and so it really has quite a different character to it.  And so, in general, a Graptopetalum is going to have thicker leaves.  Now the reason these have such a jelly bean look is because this plant is pretty young.  Also, it’s had some trauma in its short life.  When dropped Graptopetalum amethyustinum get much bigger.  These leaves they have they get a little bit flatter so when they’re young they have a much more jelly bean look to them but still, even when they’re older they will be substantially thicker leaves than the average Echeveria.

Something else you’re likely to see is a GraptoveriaGraptoverias are a hybrid between Echeveria and Graptopetalum and as you might expect from what I just said that means that they usually have thicker leaves than Echeveria but leaves that are not as thick as the Graptopetalum.

So this is Graptoveria “Debbie” and you can see it has thicker leaves than most of these Echeveria is not exactly though it can often be difficult to tell the difference for me between a Graptoveria and an Echeveria.  Because sometimes they just look pretty similar so that one I’m never as confident if I if I just make a guess between those two.  But  Graptopetalums you can you can usually have a high confidence that you can distinguish that.

Over here I have another Echeveria this is a ruffled Echeveria like this guy.  Although there are different ruffled Echeverias you can see that have this nifty little crinkly quality to the leaves so that’s I think mostly unique to Echeverias.  So that’s also a good indicator that you probably are dealing with an Echeveria.

Finally, one another plant that you want to be able to distinguish sometimes is Aeoniums.  Aeoniums are different from all the plants we just described in one sort of interesting scientific way.  Which is that they are monocarpic.  So Aeoniums will often grow flower stalks right out of the center of these neat rosettes. These rosettes here are not flowers they’re actually leaves and so they will flower if they’re in ideal conditions.  As Aeoniums but monocarpic plants is one that for each rosette once it flowers it dies right after it.  So I have these Aeoniums here.  However, that’s not really how you can distinguish them.  You can’t wait until it flowers and see if it dies.  That’s not a very fast way.

So the way that I can often tell Aeoniums is that when in ideal conditions they will have more of a flatness to the rosette.  So like in this one, in particular, you can see that if you look at it from the side each of this rosette sort of has like one flat plane that all the leaves kind of kind of open to. In contrast like you can see these Echeverias is clearly not there just if you look at them you know from the side they’re a series of things that are leaves that are poking up into the air so with Aeoniums I can usually tell the difference because the sort of the face of the leaf faces up more.

However, these four plants this one this one this one and this one are all the same plant.  These are all Aeoniums Kiwi and you can see they all have quite different appearances based on the conditions they’ve been exposed to.  So with this guy you can tell still the faces of the leaves are pointing upward more than say this guy where it’s more points – the points are pointing upward.  But with but with other Aeoniums it can just sometimes be hard to tell.  So now that you know to look for this if you really want to be able to distinguish Echeverias and Aeoniums.

You can look online Aeonium Sunburst is a very popular one.  Look for other pictures of Aeoniums and see if you can notice the sort of flatness of the of the rosettes.  That’s usually the first indicator to me.  One other way you can often tell the difference is that Aeoniums will get sort of leggy in a way leggy the term people use when they talk about succulents which means they have unattractive long stems as this guy does.  So without your Echeverias you don’t usually get these long stems that kind of come off and have and have bends in them like a tree.  They will they will get leggy they will grow tall.

I don’t have a good example right here but you don’t usually see quite this separation if this were not Echeveria probably all these well it’s intermediate space between the rosettes would probably be filled up with other Echeverias

Anyway I this is this is a good these are some good guidelines to use and you can see like three over here.  I have a plant but I don’t know the name of I just recently got this as a gift and so I can I can come over here and say well it to me it’s clearly not an Aeonium.  All of the all these little leaves are pointing up with their points and so might be an Echeveria.  However, these leaves are pretty thick look at that one compared to this Echeveria …[   ] and you can see it really the leaves are quite thick over here.

So my guess is that this might be a Graptoveria but it might not be though.  Sometimes they’re just quite different and you can see like here’s the Graptoveria that I showed earlier.  Even its leaves are thinner so could be a Graptopetalum but it’s really hard to say because there’s just such a wide variety of all of these plants.  But I can say with confidence that it’s definitely not in an Aeonium and it’s definitely not a Sempervivum.  You can see it doesn’t look it really doesn’t look anything like these three Sempervivums that I’ve got back here.  So they’re also Haworthias which have different characters to them entirely.  They still have sort of a rosette look, unfortunately, I don’t know how to identify a Haworthia with any kind of confidence so I can’t tell you but if anybody knows feel free to leave a comment or send me a message I’d be grateful to learn. So I hope this has been helpful.”

Hopefully, you enjoyed this video.  Actually seeing some of the succulents while they are being identified may help you to remember which one is which.  There are many varieties of succulents but now you can easily identify at least some of them.

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