What You Need to Know About Herbaceous Plants

What Are Herbaceous Plants?

If you read a lot of gardening blogs and books, you may have heard the term herbaceous plant. You may have thought herbaceous was just a fancy way of saying herbs, like the kind you cook with. But herbaceous plants are something different than rosemary and thyme! They’re a group of plants that have soft stems instead of the hard, woody ones that trees and bushes have. Because many herbs like rosemary, thyme, and sage have woody stems, they don’t make the cut and can’t be considered herbaceous! Isn’t that funny? 

But a lot of other plants do fall under this pretty broad classification. Everything from agaves to peonies to potatoes is herbaceous plants because of their soft stems. If you want to learn more about this broad category of plants, then keep reading! 

What Are Herbaceous Plants?
Hand-held succulent planter @suculentascoloridass

What is a Herbaceous Plant? 

Herbaceous plants are vascular plants, which means that they have a vascular system. It’s similar to the one humans have and transports water around the plant. All herbaceous plants also have soft, fleshy stems—not the woody ones that are found on shrubs and trees. Most flowers, vegetables, and houseplants are herbaceous.

Herbaceous plants are divided into three more specific categories based on their life cycles—perennials, biennials, and annuals. Perennials are plants that grow continuously for more than two years, while biennials are plants that live for a total of two years. Annuals plants only live for a single growing season.

We’ll teach you all about herbaceous perennials, biennials, and annuals later in the post. But right now, we’re going to answer the question you’re all probably wondering—are your beloved succulent plants herbaceous? 

What Are Herbaceous Plants?
Assorted succulents growing on a ceramic planter @cactos_suculentas_dicas

Are Succulents Herbaceous Plants? 

Most succulents have soft, fleshy stems, so they fit the definition of herbaceous plants! Even cacti with their tough outer skin are considered herbaceous. With that being said, not every succulent is herbaceous.

The Joshua Tree, for example, is a massive tree from the agave family that can grow to be 40 feet tall. It has a super thick, woody stem just like any other tree. You probably can’t call it an herbaceous plant like other members of the agave family! 

The same could probably be said about jade plants. They’re miniature, treelike succulents that have thick, woody stems. They’re probably not herbaceous because they’re a lot like bonsai trees, but they sure are cute! If you want to learn more about jade plants, you should check out the article we wrote about them

Most succulents can also be classified as herbaceous perennials because they live for many years. We’ll explain what an herbaceous perennial is in more detail below!

What Are Herbaceous Plants?
Assorted succulent plants @curso_de_cactos_online

What are Herbaceous Perennials? 

Herbaceous perennials are non-woody plants that live for more than two years. Most succulents are herbaceous perennials, as are many flowers. Flowers that die during the winter and come back in the spring, such as asters, are also classified as herbaceous perennials.

One thing that many, but not all, herbaceous perennials have in common is that they die back during the winter. Some herbaceous perennials can’t handle the cold. As a result, all of their aboveground growth, including their flowers and leaves, dies during fall when the weather gets cold. Surprisingly, though, their roots can stay healthy and intact underground. Check out how to take care of your succulents during the winter season in “How to Care for Succulents in the Winter“.

During the warmer months of the year, perennials store energy so that their roots can survive during the winter. It’s similar to how squirrels store nuts for the winter and then go into hibernation. Even though the rest of the plant is dead, the roots can go dormant and survive underground because they have a stockpile of nutrients and insulation from the cold. Once the weather warms up, and spring comes back again, these plants can sprout new growth because their roots survived the winter. Isn’t that incredible? 

Not all herbaceous perennials die back during the winter, though. Some are more cold hardy and can survive winter while growing aboveground. Hens and Chicks is an example of a cold-hardy herbaceous plant. There are many more examples, so dying back during the winter isn’t a requirement for a plant to be classified as an herbaceous perennial. 

As we mentioned above, though, not all herbaceous plants are perennials. Some of them are annuals that only survive for one growing season or biennials that survive for two. 

Some succulents prefer certain seasons over others, check out “Summer & Winter Succulents: What’s the Difference?” for more info.

What Are Herbaceous Plants?
Young succulents in a planter @yafraq

What are Herbaceous Biennials and Annuals?

Herbaceous biennials and annuals are kind of like monocarpic succulents. After they grow and produce seeds, they wither and die. It takes annuals just one growing season to reach maturity, flower, and produce seeds that can become brand new plants. It takes biennials a little longer—two growing seasons total. Unlike perennials, biennials and annuals devote most of their energy to flowering rather than surviving during the winter, which is why they have such short lifespans. 

Planting annuals in your garden can be a hassle because you have to dig them up each year. But many people still do it because they have gorgeous blooms! Their blooms are generally bigger and prettier than the flowers perennials produce because they devote so much energy to flowering. Annuals also have longer blooming periods than perennials. Their blooming period lasts from spring until just before the first frost of the year. We don’t plant annuals in our garden because we prefer succulents, but they sure do sound like they’re worth the extra maintenance! Learn to water your succulents correctly with our exclusive ebook called “The Correct Way to Water Succulents“. Check it out!

Some common annual flowers you’ve probably heard of are geraniums, snapdragons, and petunias. Many fruits and vegetables are also annuals, including peppers, potatoes, and delicious purslane! 

Biennials require a little less maintenance because they last for two growing seasons. Some common biennials you’ve probably heard of include carrots, pansies, and foxgloves.


What Are Herbaceous Plants?
Succulent plant on hand @suculentas_agora

Well, there you have it! That is absolutely everything we know about herbaceous plants. We hope that this post demystified the term for you so you can understand gardening blogs and books a little bit better. 

Did this article help answer your succulent-care questions? We sure hope so! If not, no worries. Succulent City is devoted to aiding all succulent lovers, and that’s why we created a line of ebook guides! Check out our in-depth tips on “The Best Soil Recommendations for Your Succulent” or even “The Most Common Issues Amongst Succulent Growers”  today! 

Happy Planting! ?

5 Succulents That Are Considered Herbaceous

5 Succulents that are Considered Herbaceous

The words herbaceous succulents can be quite a mouthful for the untrained tongue. Luckily our good friends in the botany world have reduced it to just herb succulents. So, what are they anyway? We know succulents are plants that have thick, fleshy leaves or stems that retain water that can be used by the plant during dry seasons.

They do not have woody stems or tissues. Herbaceous plants are plants that have some sort of aromatic or flavorsome properties. Which can be used in its natural form or processed into medicine, fragrances, spices or garnishes. Herb succulents are therefore succulents with either medicinal or culinary properties.

Medicinal Herbaceous Succulents

Aloe Vera

The Aloe Vera is one of the most popular succulents known the world over for its medicinal abilities to smooth burns, heal cuts and treat skin diseases like acne and eczema. It’s no wonder that the plant is featured in most cosmetic products on the market and found in most grandma’s homes.

The aloe succulent is believed to have originated from Sudan and is widely grown in Africa and India. The plant has however been referenced in traditional medicinal remedies in Egypt, Mexico, Greece, China, and Japan.

This usually stemless succulent plant has thick, dark green, fleshy leaves that grow from the plant’s central system and have serrated leaf margins. The leaves have a liquid sap and gel-like substance under the skin that are incorporated health products because of their benefits.

It appears in some toothpaste because of its high calcium content. Aloe gel has cooling and anti-inflammatory influences, making it a helpful addition to skin creams, ointments, and lotions. Aloe pills filled with the sap are available at many pharmacies because they help reduce constipation. It’s no wonder that this herb succulent is known as the wonder plant.

5 Succulents that are Considered Herbaceous
Aloe Vera @potsnplants


Usually found in traditional Mexican tacos, the Opuntia is a funny looking cactus that has broad, large green leaves with fat finger-like projections at the edges that are the ‘fruit’ of the plant. It is a common feature in Mexican restaurants going under the names Nopales or Prickly Pear.

The leaves of the Opuntia can be eaten raw, boiled, or grilled and have a texture and flavor in close resemblance to green beans. The flowers, stems, and fruits can be found as the main ingredient in Mexican salsas and soups.

What makes the Opuntia a herbaceous succulent is the medicinal properties found in the leaves and fruit. When ingested, the plant is a good source of fiber, carotenoids, and antioxidants. Scientists and medical practitioners have linked the consumption of Opuntia to decreased blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

The anti-inflammatory effects of the Opuntia have been linked with lessening the side effects of a hangover. The next time you are on a bender, how about trying a piece of Opuntia the next morning?

Click here to learn more about the Prickly Pear cactus.

Agave Americana

The Agave Americana is a large, outdoor succulent that was originally found in the desert areas of Mexico and Central America. It goes by a variety of names including Century Plant, Maguey Flowering Aloe, Metl, Spiked Aloe, and American Aloe. 

The plant has large green-grey or grey-blue, pointy tipped leaves and can grow to as tall as 1.75 meters. Although it may look like one, the Agave Americana is not related to the Aloe Vera.

This herbaceous succulent has various medicinal properties and is also a great addition to your pantry. The Aztecs and Mayans knew the anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and wound healing properties of the Agave Americana and they would mix the nectar from the leaves with egg whites to heal cuts, burns, and open wounds. Toothaches were cured with a paste made from the root and leaves of the succulent.

The nectar was also prepared and ingested to heal stomach inflammation, treat ulcers, tuberculosis, syphilis, and menstrual problems. The anti-bacterial properties in the nectar have been proven to internally control the growth of decay bacteria in the stomach and intestines. Scientists use Agave Americana as a source for echogenic which is currently used in the production of various steroidal drugs.

There are a variety of recipes that include the flower stalk and base leaves of the Agave Americana being roasted or cooked with meats and vegetables. Oh, and the next time someone orders a shot of Tequila, just know that one of its base ingredients is the nectar from the Agave Americana!

Take a look at our tips for caring for Agave Ovatifolia with the post “What Is A Whale’s Tongue? Agave Ovatifolia“. Find out why they call this succulent the Whale’s Tongue!

5 Succulents that are Considered Herbaceous
Agave Americana @kebint

Culinary Herbaceous Succulents

Plectranthus Amboinicus 

Also known as the Cuban Oregano, Spanish Thyme, Indian Borage, and Mexican Mint, the Plectranthus amboinicus offers culinary as well as medicinal benefits. Originally from India, this succulent has naturally thick, fleshy leaves that are green-grey in color, covered in fine hairs and have saw-toothed edges. They tend to spread as they grow, making them a perfect addition to a hanging basket.

Compared to other oregano plants, the Plectranthus amboinicus has a stronger and more robust flavor, and chefs recommend using it in small quantities. The leaves are usually crushed and dried up and used as a seasoning for soups and stews. The dried crushed leaves are also the main ingredient in Caribbean jerk recipes and can be used to stuff poultry before baking in the oven. Fish curries and mutton dishes come alive with a sprinkle of Plectranthus amboinicus but note that the leaves are criticized in salads because of their rough, hairy texture.

Traditionally, the Plectranthus amboinicus succulent was used to treat throat and respiratory infections, flatulence, constipation and as an aid to stimulate lactation. This succulent is known to have expectorant and laxative effects to help aid in digestion, relieve coughs, and relax spasms. Certain communities in Venezuela believe that the Plectranthus amboinicus can be taken to expel kidney stones.

The leaves contain an oil that can be extracted and used for cooking. The oil is said to have various health benefits including a good amount of thymol and carvacrol to build the immune system. It is also a great source of Omega 3, calcium, iron, and manganese that are all important for bone strength. Studies at the Georgetown Medical Centre in 2001 showed that taking healthy amounts of Plectranthus amboinicus can prevent and cure toenail fungus.

Enjoying learning about succulents that are considered herbaceous? If so, you’ll really enjoy our ebook about “The Most Common Issues Amongst Succulent Growers“. With this ebook, you’ll find yourself more detailed answers that’ll help your succulent grow even better! With thousands of succulent lovers enjoying our ebooks, you don’t want to miss out on what works the best to grow your succulents. 


5 Succulents that are Considered Herbaceous
Plectranthus Amboinicus @hamont.houseplants

Talinum Paniculatum

Also known as the Jewels of Opar. The Talinum paniculatum is a creeping succulent with long, orange or brown roots and bright, glossy green leaves. These succulents produce pink, cloud-like flowers that resemble cotton candy hanging over the succulent, thus giving it the popular names of Pink Baby’s Breath and Fame Flower.

Jewels of Opar were found originally in most parts of the Western Hemisphere, specifically Southern United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean islands. The tiny green leaves have become a staple in sandwiches and salads across Latin America. While the tiny black seeds produced has been noticed as a good supplement of Omega 3 oils.

Chefs and nutritionists do give caution on the number of leaves one can have as they contain oxalic acid which if taken in large quantities, could cause nausea, vomiting, and shortness of breath.

Talinum paniculatum has been around the medical world as being effective in treating liver and kidney problems. Especially treating bad-smelling urine and gastrointestinal disorders. The leaves have a soothing effect on skin inflammations, burns, cuts, and bruises. The roots of the Jewels of Opar have been linked to the treatment of arthritis, scurvy, and pneumonia. Traditional healers also believed in the power of the roots as a reproductive tonic, enhancing vitality, reducing impotence, and as a natural aphrodisiac.

Make sure you also go check out “Where Do Most Succulents Come From?” for a look at where most succulents originate from.

5 Succulents that are Considered Herbaceous
Jewels of Opar @mmk.lizbeth

There you have it, 5 succulents that are considered herbaceous. There are many more succulents that have healing powers and gastronomic roles, but not all are good for the human body.

Like all good things. Everything must be done in moderation, and experimenting with herbaceous succulents should also be taken in stride. Please be sure to check that the succulent is indeed safe for human consumption before proceeding.

Having said that, do you know of any succulents you might have had a fun time munching? Let us know in the comments below which ones we missed.

Happy Planting! ?