Cacti versus succulents

Cacti and succulents have become incredibly popular over time. This is largely due to the fact that they are low-maintenance and perfect for growing indoors. What some people might not realise is that the two have much in common and they both survive without much water. Find out more about cacti versus succulents by understanding the many things these plants have in common.

What are succulents?

The first thing you need to do in order to understand cacti versus succulents is to understand what succulents are. Succulents are not a distinct family on their own. They are found in about 60 families of plants. The Cactaceae family is one of these family. This means that all cacti are succulents. Not all succulents are cacti though. Succulents are all defined as water-storing plants. The word succulent comes from the Latin word ‘sucus’ which means sap or juice. Today, the word means juicy. These plants thrive in areas with very little and infrequent rainfall. They rely on mist and dew as a source of water. They are also known for their unique shapes and colours which is another reason why they are so popular in homes around the world.

Plant structure

Succulents have thick, fleshy leaves. These leaves hold water and nutrients so that the plant can easily survive a drought. Their roots are usually shallow because of the limited rainfall in the area. When it does rain, it usually only means that the upper layers of soil will become moist. Shallow roots give the plant its best chance of absorbing maximum water. A number of succulents have ribs which can expand to hold more water or contract to reduce sun exposure.

Cacti have a waxy, spiny or fuzzy exterior which creates a micro-habitat. This reduces air movement around the plant and helps the plant to stay hydrated and cool. Spines are also a great defence mechanism.

Succulent plant care

By understanding cacti versus succulents, it will also make it that much easier for you to take proper care of your houseplants. If you want to keep your succulent or cactus happy, you need to remember that the most common causes of death is overwatering and infections. In general, these plants should be left alone as much as possible.

Before watering, you should always check the potting mix is completely dry. For the most part, you only need to water approximately once a week. If you notice that the leaves start to feel soggy, you are most likely overwatering.

For the most part, these plants love bright light but this does not mean that they need too much direct sunlight. If you keep them indoors, you should place them near a window where they can get plenty of light. If the leaves start to stretch or if they become pale, this could mean that they are not getting enough sunlight.

If you are trying to decide whether to buy a cactus or succulent for your home or office, these details of cacti versus succulents will help you understand your plant that much better. By understanding its needs, you will keep your plant happy and enjoy their beauty for many years.