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Soft Versus Hard Succulents

Soft versus Hard Succulents

There are so many types of succulents available it can be hard to know which ones you should grow.

The succulents are divided into two major categories: soft succulents and hard succulents. Now, the definitions of those two things vary.

SOFT SUCCULENTS

First, let’s talk about soft succulents. Soft succulents are those that can’t tolerate extended periods of frost. So these are succulents that would grow in a zone 8 9 10 11 if you are in the United States. They can handle a night or two of temperatures below freezing but, if they are left in freezing temperatures for an extended period of time, they will start to experience some damage.

On the other hand, hard succulents are those that can handle through four seasons climate. They can handle extended periods of temperature well below freezing. These are succulents that would grow well in zones 4 5 6 & 7.

Soft succulents – this category of succulents is extremely diverse. You have just about every imaginable shape, color and sizes range from tiny all the way up to the giant aloe trees and agaves and massive bushes.

First, about Echeverias. These rosette succulents comes in all sorts of pastel colors so you’ve got reds, blues and purples and they are extremely popular. Another popular category of soft succulents are Crassulas. So these start anything from your common jade plant, all the way to something a little more exotic like Red Pagoda. A lot of jade plants will do really well indoors and they often will grow into rather large bushes. But, you can also keep them small and tiny.

Speaking of houseplants, one of the most ideal succulents for growing indoors is Haworthia. Harworthia comes in a variety of green shapes and different textures but all of these will tolerate low light really well so they are great for an indoor window sill or putting in the center piece of your table.

Another popular soft succulent is Senecio or the most common being the string of pearls. Blue chopsticks also make a really great ground cover in a more temperate environment. Another diverse option for a soft succulent are Kalanchoe. They have really diverse foliage and a lot of them are incredibly prolific.

Aeoniums are another type of rosette succulent. One thing that you want to know about Aeoniums when ordering them online. Their leaves are especially fragile. So you may notice they’ll get a little bit of bruising as they are shipped. It’s completely normal and your plant is still healthy but it will change the appearance slightly.  There are also a few varieties of Sedums that are soft including a really popular Sedum “Pork and Beans” and then also Sedum Burrito. This is by no means an exhaustive list of varieties of soft succulents available.

Soft succulents come in so many different colors and shapes that if you live in a warm climate again a zone 9 or above, you have a lot of diverse options to use in your succulent garden. Aren’t soft succulent gorgeous?  There are so many different varieties and textures.

Hard Succulents

Hard succulents can tolerate temperatures well below freezing. These succulents are all pretty low-maintenance. A lot of them will change colors throughout the year. The Sempervivums for example, get really good color in Spring and a lot of times in the Fall. They stay pretty low to the ground so more of a ground cover type of succulent. They also work really well in vertical planters and container gardens, rock gardens and even as a lawn replacement.

Hard succulents can add color and visual interest to any garden year-round no matter where you live. There are a few million varieties. Sempervivums come in a variety of shapes and colors and for the most part, you’ll find them in like reds and greens and purples. You also get some more subtle tones of oranges and yellows.

They also come in different sizes so you have some Sempervivum Pixie which is pretty small. You can have larger varieties as well and some will even grow up to a couple inches in diameter.  Sempervivums are mono carpet meaning when they bloom, the mother plant dies but they will also put off a lot of chicks before they bloom. Usually the Sempervivums that put off a lot of chicks will bloom more frequently whereas those that don’t put off as many chicks won’t bloom often. Sempervivums need quite a bit of sunlight in order to maintain their shape and color.

As a general rule you want them to get direct sunlight in the morning and they can have direct sunlight in the afternoons as well. In Spring and Summer, as temperatures get warmer into the 90s and hundreds, you’ll definitely want to make sure that they’re shaded in the afternoons.

Sempervivum heuffelii. These are similar to the Sempervivums except that instead of propagating by putting off chicks on a stolen,  you actually have to cut the chicks off of the mother plant. When they’re fully grown, they form really nice mounds of rosettes. Another great thing about Heuffelii is that they maintain their color a lot better throughout the year. You still have a lot of colorful varieties. Heuffelii have a lot stronger leaves than other Sempervivums. They also have an edge that almost seems to glow when they’re backlit which makes them look really pretty and they stand out from the dirt a lot more than other Sempervivums.

Sedum or Stonecrops are another type of hard succulent and they can tolerate a lot more sunlight in the Summers. But they can also get down to temperatures well below zero in the winter and still survive. These are a lot of variety of textures and colors and they are a really good ground cover. They will fill in between other plants and they spread really easily.

You can propagate Sedum by dividing them or just taking cuttings and planting those in the ground. A lot of sedums will also bloom in Summer and Fall and a lot of them will get really bright colorful blooms. In the Winter, some of them will go so dormant that they almost look like they disappear and they’ll lose all their foliage but on the other hand a lot of them will also maintain their foliage so you have a nice color all through the Winter with sedums.  You do get varieties that vary in height but there are low growing Sedums that make for a really good ground cover.

Another hard succulent that is closely related to Sedums is Rosularia. There are not as many varieties but they form these really tiny rosettes. So they’re perfect for using as a ground cover. Rosularia also works really well in containers or miniature gardens and even in living walls.

For a completely different shape and texture for hard succulents, Opuntias are really great option. These paddle cactus are hardy well below zero. They also have these incredible colorful blooms in a variety of colors so this Grand Mesa Peach has a really delicate petal. There are available in yellows, pinks and purples just about any color you can imagine. Opuntia is propagated from simply removing a paddle and they root really easily. Once they are fully established and well rooted, they can withstand just about anything. During the Winter, they do kind of go limp and look a little sad but they perk right back up in Spring.

It was awesome to have these colorful plants that looked great even in the Winter if you live somewhere with snow or a four-season climate.

Tara Joy
A plant lover who loves nature and likes to share gardening tips.

One thought on “Soft Versus Hard Succulents

  1. Thank you so much Tara! For taking the time to share your wide knowledge and experience with the world of succulents with us. I am eager to learn more!

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