Hey, do you understand the distinction between a cactus and a succulent? Customers at Establish frequently ask us questions like this. Therefore, we decided to take a time to share with you some of the parallels and differences. Knowing a few of them will undoubtedly improve your green thumb!
First of all, while all succulents are not cacti (repeat that ten times fast), all cacti are succulents.
Because they store water, succulents are renowned for being moisture-packed. Succulents may go for a long time without being watered because they store water in their leaves, stems, roots, and arms. Areoles are tiny, circular, cushion-like structures found in cacti where flowers and hair can flourish. On the cactus’ body, areoles typically resemble little, fluffy lumps that resemble cotton. It is where the thorns spread out to sting you! Typically, cacti lack leaves and have thick, hard skin. A succulent is not a cactus if it lacks any of these distinguishing characteristics.
The success of whether a succulent or cactus can thrive depends heavily on planting. It is advised to use a clay pot with a hole in the bottom that is filled with rocks or bits of shattered clay. The pot should be half as wide as the plant’s intended pot height. Use soil specifically formulated for succulents or cacti. You can make your own, but you must combine dirt and sand. Make sure you adhere to some crucial advice from a nursery because this can be tough. When you initially acquire your plant, wait a week before watering. After that, only lightly mist the soil, do not soak it. * Watch this space for our upcoming piece on cacti and succulent watering advice. One quick tip: to avoid getting pricked when planting cacti, wear leather gloves!
Remember that cacti and succulents are water-filled plants when caring for them; therefore, when you look at your plant, it should appear full of water and plump. If it doesn’t and the plant appears puckered, water it, but make sure to drain any standing water that has accumulated at the base of the cactus stalk.
Remember that we are here to assist you if you still need assistance or have questions about what to plant or where to place your new friend. Just ask, and we’ll work with you to design the ideal oasis in the desert.
Are succulents and cacti the same thing?
What distinguishes a succulent from a cactus? The only plant that can survive in a hot south window, where the light shines through the glass intensified, is a cactus. Any plant that stores water in juicy leaves, stems, or roots to resist recurring droughts is considered a succulent. Some people accept non-fleshy desert plants while others exclude plants with flesh, such as epiphytic orchids (yuccas, puyas).
Cactus is merely a type of succulent that can hold moisture and is classified separately from other succulents (cacti is the plural form of cactus in Latin) (Cactaceae). On the other hand, not every succulent is a cactus. In addition to being close relatives of the pointsetta, geranium, lily, grape, amaryllis, crassula, daisy, and milkweed, succulents are members of approximately 40 botanical families that are distributed throughout the world.
The name “cactus” derives from the Greek word “kaktos,” which means “spiny plant.” The ancient Greeks used this word to describe a species that was actually an artichoke variety rather than a cactus. 2000 years later, Linnaeus, who classified plants, gave a family of plants with distinctive characteristics like thick stems that served as water reservoirs, prickly or hairy coverings, and few, if any, leaves the name Cactaceae.
Cacti are simple to spot. They rarely have leaves because they have to work so hard to stay alive. They have stems that have been altered into cylinders, pads, or joints that store water during dry spells. Skin thickness lowers evaporation. For defense against browsing animals, the majority of species have bristles or spines, but some lack them, and others have long hair or a woolly covering. Large and vibrant flowers are the norm. Fruit may be both edible and colorful.
Every cactus has leaves when it is still a seedling. Additionally, some plants briefly produce tiny leaves on their new growth each spring. The majority of cactus progressively lost their leaves as shifting climatic patterns transformed native environments into deserts, evaporating too much limited water into the dry air. They switched to storing the water that was available in their stems. To adapt the size of their evaporation surfaces to changing conditions, many may modify their shape. When moisture is abundant, ribs that resemble an accordion can extend; when there is a drought, they can contract.
The majority of succulents, such as aloes, hawthorias, crassulas, and echeveria, originated in environments with less harsh conditions than cactus, such as those with rainy seasons followed by protracted dry seasons. They all have leaves. Their leaves gradually grew fattened by water-storing tissues and covered in a waxy or horny substance that lessens evaporation from the surface to help them get through the dry spells.
From Canada, through Central America, the West Indies, and south to the chilly regions of Chile and Patagonia, the cactus (Cactaceae) family can be found (southern end of South America). The largest collection may be in Mexico, but there are also a large number in the western deserts of the United States and at higher elevations in the Cordilleras of Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina.
The majority of succulents are native to milder, semi-desert regions of the planet (Mexico, South Africa). Some (such as sedums and sempervivums) are native to cooler regions where they thrive on sunny, rocky ledges and slopes. Although there are many succulents around the world, not all succulents are desert plants. They can be found on mountains, in jungles, and next to bodies of water. Succulents can be found in semi-arid parts of North and South America, Asia, and Africa, but many also live in rain forests. Succulents can be found in the mountains where they can survive inclement weather, strong winds, and poor soil. Aeonium is a succulent native to Africa, the Canary and Madeira Islands; Agave is a succulent native to the Americas; Aloe is a succulent native to Africa, the Mediterranean, and Atlantic islands; Cotyledon is a succulent native to semi-arid regions of Africa; Crassula is a succulent native to mostly Africa; Dudleya is a succulent native to coastal California and Mexico; Faucaria is a succulent native to South Africa; Sempervivum: North Africa, Asia Minor, and Central and Southern Europe.
What kind of succulent is not a cactus?
Succulents and cacti are frequently used interchangeably, but this is erroneous from a scientific standpoint. Knowing how the two are related will make it easier to identify the two and make a proper distinction between them.
Plants known as succulents have water in their stems, roots, and leaves. The category of succulents has roughly 60 different plant families, including cacti, aloe, haworthia, sedum, and sempervivum. This group includes fleshy plants that hold water, such as cacti. Succulents therefore include all cacti.
Simply said, cacti are a family, or subcategory, of the succulents, a class of plants. They might be short and spherical or tall and slender, and they frequently lack leaves and branches. A succulent plant needs to have areoles in order to be categorized as a cactus. Areoles are tiny, spherical, fleshy cushions from which the cactus produces spines, hair, leaves, flowers, and other things. Only cacti, not all succulents, have areoles.
Due of their thorns or spines, some succulents are sometimes mistaken for cacti; however, this does not mean that all succulents with similar features are cacti. The two can be separated primarily by their areoles. The succulent cannot be a cactus if it lacks areoles.
It appears to be rather simple, right? Well, there is a tiny bit of ambiguity when separating succulents from cacti. Cacti are classified as succulents in science, but some botanists and horticulturists place them in distinct categories. Cacti are classified as succulents by botanists, but some horticulturists do not include them in this category. In principle, all cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. We just wanted to be sure we covered all the bases.
Is aloe vera a succulent or a cactus?
An easy-to-care-for, eye-catching succulent that grows well indoors is the aloe vera plant. Aloe vera plants are helpful as well because the juice from their leaves can be administered topically to treat the discomfort associated with burns and scrapes. How to cultivate and take care of aloe vera plants at home is provided here.
About Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is a species of succulent plant in the Aloe genus. The plant has thick, fleshy, greenish leaves that fan out from the stem at the center and is stemless or has extremely short stems. The leaf’s margin is toothed and serrated.
Be aware that you will require an area that delivers bright, indirect sunlight before you purchase an aloe (or artificial sunlight). If your aloe is located in an area that receives a lot of direct sunlight, you may need to water it more frequently because the plant might become overly dried up and develop yellow mushy leaves.
ALOE VERA LEAF GEL SHOULD NOT BE EATEN BY PEOPLE OR PETS. WARNING: Aloe vera leaf gel can be applied topically. It may even be harmful in higher doses and can result in unpleasant symptoms like nausea or indigestion.
- Selecting the appropriate kind of container is crucial. It is advised to choose a pot made of terra-cotta or another porous material since it will allow the soil to completely dry between waterings and be weighty enough to prevent the plant from toppling over. You may also use a plastic or glazed pot, but they’ll hold more moisture.
- Make sure you select a container with at least one drainage hole on the bottom when making your selection. This is crucial because the hole will let extra water drain away. Aloe vera plants are resilient, but poor draining can lead to rot and wilting, which is by far the most prevalent reason for this plant’s demise.
- Choose a container that is around the same width as it is deep. Choose a container that is deep enough to allow you to bury the full stem of your aloe plant if it has one.
- Use a well-draining potting mix, such as those designed for cactus and succulents, for aloe vera plants because they are succulents. Never use soil for gardening. Perlite, lava rock, bits of bark, or all three, should be used in an excellent mixture.
- There is no requirement for a layer of gravel, clay balls, or any other “drainage material in the bottom of the pot. Only space that the roots could have used is being taken up by this. A hole for drainage is sufficient drainage!
- Dust the plant’s stem with a rooting hormone powder before planting your aloe to help it produce new roots. Rooting hormone can be purchased online or at a nearby garden center or hardware store.
How to Plant (or Repot) an Aloe Vera Plant
It’s time to repot your aloe plant if it has become lanky, has become too big, or just needs an improvement. This is how:
- Get your pot ready. Place a tiny piece of screen over the drainage hole after fully drying the new pot and giving it a fast rinse (or a good scrub, if it’s a pot you’ve used before). This will prevent soil from falling out the bottom and will allow water to flow correctly. Although these will degrade over time, a piece of newspaper or paper towel folded twice can also be used in a pinch.
- Get your plant ready. Remove the aloe vera plant from its existing container and, taking care to avoid damaging the roots, brush away any extra dirt from the roots.
- If your plant has puppies, get rid of them right away. (For information on how to take out and pot pups, see the “Care” section of this page.)
- Trimming the stem can be done if your plant has an extremely long, spindly stem that won’t fit in the pot. Be aware that the plant could die if you do this. Trim the stem by cutting off a portion while keeping as much of it attached to the plant as you can. Take the naked plant next, and set it somewhere warm with indirect light. After a few days, the wound will develop a callus. Continue now with the repotting instructions listed below.
- Establish your plant. Place your plant in the soil after filling the pot with potting soil that drains properly approximately a third of the way. Remember to leave at least 3/4 of an inch of space between the top of the soil and the rim of the pot when you fill in the soil around the plant. The lower leaves of the aloe plant should lay barely above the earth, too. After planting, stop watering.
- Neglect your plant (temporarily). Don’t water your aloe for at least a week after putting it in its new pot. This will lessen the possibility of rot and give the plant more time to grow new roots. Keep the plant in a warm location with bright but indirect light until it appears to be rooted and content.
How to Care for an Aloe Vera Plant
- Lighting: Use artificial light or direct, bright sunlight. The best window is one facing west or south. Low-light aloe plants can get lanky.
- Aloe vera thrives at temperatures between 55 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (13 and 27C). Most flats and residences have comfortable temperatures. You can bring your plant outside without issue from May to September, but if the nights are chilly, bring it back inside.
- Fertilizing: Use a balanced houseplant formula blended at half strength only in the spring and summer, and fertilize infrequently (no more than once a month).
- Repotting: When the roots become bound, repotted using the guidelines in “Planting, above.
Watering Aloe Vera
The hardest part of maintaining good aloe vera is watering, but it’s really not that complicated. Although the aloe is a succulent plant used to dry conditions, its thick leaves nevertheless require enough water.
- Aloe vera plants need deep, but intermittent, watering. To put it another way, the soil should feel damp after watering, but you should let it partially dry out before you water it again. The roots of the plant may rot if the soil is kept excessively moist.
- Allow the top third of the potting soil to dry out between waterings to make sure you aren’t overwatering your plant. For instance, if your plant is housed in 6 inches of potting soil, wait until the top 2 inches are completely dry before giving it another drink. (Check the soil’s dryness with your finger.)
- Typically, you should water your aloe plant every two to three weeks in the spring and summer and even less frequently in the fall and winter. One general guideline for watering in the fall and winter is to roughly double the intervals between waterings (as compared to your summer watering schedule). In other words, water every four weeks in the winter instead of every two weeks in the summer.
- When watering, some extra water could leak out the pot’s bottom. So that the soil may absorb as much of the water as possible, let the pot stand in it. After waiting 10 to 15 minutes, discard any leftover water.
Removing & Replanting Aloe Vera Offsets (Pups)
Offsets, also known as plantlets, pups, or “babies,” are frequently produced by mature aloe vera plants and can be removed to create a completely new plant (a clone of the mother plant, technically).
- Utilizing pruning shears, scissors, or a sharp knife, locate the locations where the offsets are linked to the mother plant and remove them. Leave the offset with at least an inch of stem.
- For several days, let the offsets remain free of soil; this will allow the offset to develop a callus over the cut, helping to prevent it from rotting. During this time, keep the offsets in a warm area with indirect light.
- Put the offsets in a typical succulent potting mix once they have developed calluses. The soil need to drain well.
- Place the freshly potted puppies in a bright area. Keep the soil on the dry side and wait at least a week before watering.
How to Get Your Aloe Vera to Flower
A tall flower spike termed an inflorescence, which is occasionally produced by mature aloe vera plants, gives rise to dozens of tubular yellow or red blooms. The already beautiful aloe is surely given a new degree of intrigue by this!
Aloes cultivated as houseplants unfortunately rarely blossom because they need virtually perfect growing circumstances to do so: lots of sunshine, enough water, and the correct temperature range. Aloe blooms are typically only found on plants cultivated outdoors year-round in warm climates due to these needs (mostly lighting).
To increase the likelihood that your aloe will flower:
- Give it as much light as you can, particularly in the spring and summer. Aloes can be kept outdoors in the summertime when the temperature is over 70F and the sun is shining (21C). Bring the aloe indoors if the temperature is expected to drop below 60F (16C) at night.
- Note: Give your aloe time to acclimate to the harsh light before moving it from indoors to full sun. Otherwise, it could get sunburned. Prior to relocating it to a more sunny position, let it remain in partial shade for about a week.
- Ensure that the plant receives the proper amount of water—enough to prevent it from drying out completely, but not too much to drown it! Make sure the plant isn’t getting constantly sopped by summer rains if it’s being maintained outside.
- Provide your aloe with a suitable period of dormancy in the fall and winter. Aloe often flower in the late winter or early spring; therefore, allowing them a period of rest with less regular watering and milder temperatures may encourage them to flower.
- If it continues to fail to flower, don’t be shocked. Despite our best attempts, most aloes simply can’t thrive indoors, so don’t be surprised if yours simply won’t blossom!
Aloe that stand out as appealing include:
- or Partridge-Breasted Aloe, the Tiger (Aloe variegata) Short, smooth leaves with irregular white stripes make up this tiny aloe.
- A little plant with delicately sawtoothed, white-spotted leaves is called a lace aloe (Aloe aristata).
- Aloe Vera (Aloe glauca)
- a bigger kind of aloe that has silver-blue leaves.
Aloe Vera Gel
Remove a mature leaf from the aloe vera plant and cut it lengthwise to benefit from the plant’s calming effects. Lay the opened leaf, gel-side down, on top of the burn, or squeeze the gel from the leaf and apply it to the wound. Find out more about the therapeutic benefits of aloe vera.
- Aloe vera serves as both a beautiful decoration for a kitchen shelf and a self-regenerating first aid kit. Learn more about how aloe vera can improve your health naturally.
- Aloe can also be used for cold sores, but its most well-known use is to soothe sunburned skin.
Scale and mealybugs, two common indoor plant pests, are most likely to attack aloe vera plants.
Typical ailments include:
- Root decay
- Hard rot
- bacterial stem rot
- Leaf decay