Flowering Succulents

Succulents are not only popular landscape and container plants with exotic forms leaf shapes, they also often produce amazing, unusual flowers with brilliant colors.

Echinocereus Pulchellus, Hedgehog Cactus, With Razor Sharp Spines and Bright Pink Flowers

Echinocereus Pulchellus, Hedgehog Cactus, With Razor Sharp Spines and Bright Pink Flowers

The goblet shaped flowers atop these echinocereus pulchellus, or hedgehog cactus, remain open 24-7. The beautiful flowers paired with the spiked spines create an eye catching contrast.

Photo by: DK - How to Grow Practically Everything © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Unique Flowers

Taxonomists categorize flowering succulent plants by blossom shape and details. A succulent flower can be star-shaped, bell-like, tubular, or frilly; some point upwards for easy pollinating, others hang down to protect tender parts.

Fleshy-leafed succulent plants, which are native to arid climates but have become popular potted houseplants as well as dependable landscape beauties, are fascinating enough with assorted sizes, unique shapes, and foliage colors; few gardens are complete without succulents. Flowers, however, are intensely beautiful extras.  

Stunning succulent flowers can be found in every color of the rainbow, often in striking combinations on each bloom or between flowers and flower stems, and many are strongly perfumed for attracting pollinators in the dark of night. Some complex shapes can be pollinated only by very specific creatures including hummingbirds, bees, pollinating flies, beetles, and even bats.

Different types can flower any time, from spring and summer to fall and even mid-winter. Flowering cactus plants, renowned for their vivid colors and frilly, almost satiny blossoms, often bloom right after spring rains.

Palette of Flowering Succulents

There is no way to satisfy all succulent collectors with a simple list of great flowering kinds, but here are a few to get started:

Aloes are among the most stunning flowering succulents, with great displays of short stems topped with masses of bell-like red, yellow, or orange flowers. Same with the Kalanchoes grown as popular florist plants, and their weird Bryophyllum cousins which, besides producing entire plantlets growing from leaf tips, are often topped with stems of small tubular flowers.

Euphorbias with outstanding flowers include poinsettia with tiny flowers in the centers of exaggeratedly large red, pink, or white bracts, and crown of thorns, a bush with sometimes leafless upright stems topped with colorful, leaflike pink, red, orange, or pale yellow flower bracts

Carrion cactus (Stapelia and others) have jointed, finger-like leaves and open, leathery, star-shaped flowers that emit an incredibly foul smell, like rancid meat, that attracts flies and beetles. Devil’s backbone (Pedilanthus) is often called red bird cactus or slipper plant for its small, bright red flowers which from the side are shaped like perched birds or ladies’ slippers.

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Jade and other Crassula plants produce clouds of tiny white or pink flowers, while the black rose (Aeonium ‘Zwartcop’) has brilliant yellow flowers that contrast strongly with its rosettes of nearly black leaves. The vine-like wax plant (Hoya) produces clusters of artificial-looking flowers appearing as if made of wax.

Super cold-hardy Yuccas are well-known for spikes of thick white flowers, which depending on the species can bloom in spring, summer, or fall; the flowers are perfectly edible. The small red yucca (Hesperaloe) sprouts multiple spikes of red flowers all summer and can survive for many years after flowering, unlike Agaves which die after producing small flowers atop tree-like spires fifteen or more feet tall.

Flattened-leaf prickly pear cacti (Opuntia) are often topped in spring or summer with masses of stunning, rose-like yellow, red, or orange flowers, followed by edible fruit. And groundcover Sedums and Hardy ice plant (Delospermum) become masses of colorful flowers that all but hide their colorful foliage.

Popular Christmas and Easter cacti (Schlumbergera and Hatiora) have astonishing masses of stem-tip flowers in fall or spring, triggered by day length. Both landscape specimen and sprawling, container-grown night-blooming cereus (Epiphyllum, Hylocereus, and others) have large, frilly, glorious white, yellow, orange, or red flowers that open at night and shrivel the next day, leaving just interesting plants to enjoy the rest of the year. 

Next Up

What is a Succulent Plant

Succulent plants, from tropical to cold hardy, come in astounding variety of sometimes bizarre shapes, colors, and unique features; they have fleshy leaves or stems which help them store water for weeks or months.

Succulent Plants

Succulent plants are those with juicy leaves or stems for holding water through long periods of drought. They come in a vast array of shapes, colors, sizes, unique features, and temperature tolerance, are suitable for growing in dry garden areas or in containers both indoors and out.

How to Plant Succulents

Succulents are easy to grow, but should be planted properly to get the most out of their versatility.

Succulent Gardens

Succulent gardens, both indoors and out, are interesting, low maintenance, and easy, and contain a variety of sometimes-bizarre plants in many shapes, sizes, colors, and features. The most crucial things they need are bright light, and well-drained soils that never stay wet.

Plant Succulents in Pumpkins for a Modern Fall Tablescape

Add fresh color and life to your fall decorations with succulents planted in tiny pumpkins.

Aloe Succulents

Aloe is a large group of succulent plants with rosettes of thick, juicy leaves and bloom spires topped with beautiful clusters of mostly red or yellow hummingbird-attracting flowers. Many popular Aloes tolerate frost or short freezes.

Caring for Succulents

Succulents are pretty low maintenance compared with other garden plants, but do have certain requirements for light, water and fertilizer.

Pruning and Trimming Succulents

Succulent plants often need pruning to remove unruly or overgrown growth, and their dead or dying stems, leaves, and flower stems trimmed.

Types of Succulents

Succulent plants offer an incredible array of types, sizes, shapes, colors, flowers, fruits, garden uses, and temperature tolerances, coming from a wide range between tropical jungles, deserts, mountains, and extremely cold climates.

Growing Succulents Outdoors

Create the right conditions for growing exotic-looking hardy succulents outdoors in an garden, anywhere in the country.

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