There are two types of people in this world: those who have that “green thumb” and can manage to make even typical garden weeds look like intricate floral arrangements and those whose homes are basically plant cemeteries.
I’m definitely of the latter persuasion, which I learned when I somehow managed to completely botch my first foray into succulent parenthood (it turns out that, while succulents are just about the easiest, most low-maintenance plants there are, they still do need some water and sunlight).
To be fair, I wasn’t really aware that there are many, many different types of succulents (something I probably could’ve found out with a simple Google search, but I digress) — including those that are perfect for people still working on turning that thumb green.
The best succulents for beginners have a few things in common.
For one, they require very little vigilance. Maybe you’re looking to bring a little life into your house without also having to worry too much about actually keeping it alive with a precise watering schedule. Secondly, they can survive in just about any climate. And, of course, they look gorgeous, bringing a modern feel to your space without needing any kind of special arrangement expertise.
So if you’re wondering where to begin, here are a few ideas to lead you in the right direction.
1. Golden Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)
Affectionately (and hilariously) known as the “mother-in-law’s cushion,” the Golden Barrel Cactus is one of the best succulents for beginners because it’s very drought-tolerant and doesn’t require much attention to do its thing. According to House Plants Expert, this cactus thrives indoors as long as it has enough sunshine. In the warmer months you’ll need to water it when its soil starts drying out, but in the winter you’ll find you barely have to water it at all.
They grow fast, so you will have to repot it when it’s young. In fact, Tom Jesch from Altman Plants explained in a YouTube video that they can get up to 400 pounds in the wild. Assuming you don’t have that much room for a succulent, you don’t have to worry all that much about a giant cactus taking over your home. The growth rate slows down as it ages, and takes about 10 years to reach a full 10 inches across, so you’d have to have it for a while before it got that big.
2. Aloe Vera
Not only is Aloe Vera the perfect succulent for people prone to getting sunburn, it’s also a pretty easy plant to take care of. They thrive indoors and don’t need much sunlight — according to the Farmer’s Almanac, indirect sunlight or even artificial light will do. Best of all, you only have to remember to water it about every three weeks. As Nell from Joy Us Garden wrote, “easy does it” when it comes to watering an aloe plant.
3. Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta)
You can grow the versatile Sago Palm indoors or outdoors, and it can even survive in temperatures below zero. While young plants require a little more attention (they’ll need watering once a week or so, according to the San Francisco Chronicle), as they mature you’ll only need to water it when the soil dries out. The Sago Palms are also incredibly resistant when it comes to pests, which means you don’t have to worry about it falling victim to any mites hanging around your house.
4. Zebra Haworthia (Haworthia fasciata)
This gorgeous “zebra plant” looks a lot like Aloe Vera, but you’ll be able to tell it apart from the healing plant thanks to its white stripes. Like Aloe, Haworthia succulents don’t need direct sunlight or much water, making them a great addition to the home of someone missing that green thumb. These particular succulents also tell you when they need watering — well, sort of. According to Vegged Out, a Haworthia’s leaves are a good indicator of whether or not they need a drink, taking a lot of the guesswork out of caring for your plant.
According to Certified Urban Agriculturalist Bonnie L. Grant, Echeveria succulents were basically made for people without much succulent know-how. “The Echeveria succulent plant is just such a specimen, thriving on brief periods of neglect and low water and nutrients,” she wrote for Gardening Know How. “Echeveria care is practically foolproof and grows well in either containers or toasty garden beds.” Sold.
6. Panda Plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa)
Panda Plants have a cool name and even cooler leaves, which have a velvet look to them and are soft to the touch. While they need a good amount of (indirect) sunlight, they’re pretty forgiving when it comes to watering. According to House Plants Expert, they typically store water in those fuzzy leaves of theirs which lets you get away with forgetting a watering cycle every once in a while.
7. Living Stones (Lithops)
Living Stones might not be the prettiest succulents on the list, but hey — they’re easy to care for, and that’s what’s important, right? While you may not want these as standalone plants, they’re cute little additions to terrariums that look like you made a lot of effort when really, they’re good at taking care of themselves.
Btw, if you’re having trouble taking care of your succulents, it could be the way you water them. Check out our fully in depth article about When You Should Water Your Succulents.