Succulents are a popular group of indoor houseplants due to their easy care requirements and interesting shapes. Some of the strangest plants are in the succulent family, and they can be quite a conversation piece.
They come across as being almost artificial due to how slowly they grow. Find out more, including just how fast these slow-poke plants can grow.
What are Succulents?
Before we can start talking about how fast succulents grow, you need to understand exactly what type of plants you find in this group. Generally, succulents are dry-climate plants that have very fleshy leaves, spears or rounded bodies.
As I mentioned in this article about succulents vs. cacti, people often mistakenly consider succulents and cacti to be the same thing.
Succulents are a much larger group of plants that does include the spiky cactus family, but also includes things like the jade plants and aloe vera, which are definitely not cacti.
How Fast Do Succulents Grow?
Since this is a pretty big group of different plant species, they don’t all grow at precisely the same rate. To be technical, all succulents grow fairly slowly when compared to other plants.
You also have to take the season into account. Most succulents will have a dormant period in the winter months when growth slows down quite a bit. In fact, it often seems like they stop completely until the longer days and warmer temperatures perk them back up again.
Whether you want a fast-growing plant to keep things more interesting, or a slow-growing one (let me show you how to keep them small) because there is less change to deal with, there is a variety out there to suit.
First, let’s take a look at a list of fast growing succulents. These would be plants that you can usually see some growth over the course of a month or less. There will be significant size increase in 4 months.
- Irish rose (Aeonium arboreum)
- Hen and chicks (Echeveria sp.)
- Jelly bean plant (Sedum rubrotinctum)
- Jade plant (Crassula sp.)
- Haworthia (Haworthia sp.)
- String of buttons (Crassula perforata)
- Lavender scallops (Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi)
- Aloe vera (Aloe vera)
- Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera sp.)
And for those who prefer even more sedate houseplants, there are the slow growing succulents that often give the impression that they are not growing at all.
- Living stones (Lithops sp.)
- Air plants (Tillandsia sp.)
- Crinkle leaf plant (Adromischus cristatus)
- Barrel cactus (Ferocactus sp.)
Now these are just both ends of the spectrum. There is a large variety of succulents that fit in the middle and that grow very well as houseplants.
Other varieties of Sedum and Kalanchoe besides what we’ve already mentioned are great, as are Euphorbia species.
How Big Do Succulents Get?
This is a bit of a tough question to answer since we’re talking about such a large group of plants. Some will stay small enough to stay perched on a window sill, and some will get to be several feet high. In the extreme, you can find saguaro cactus that reach 40 feet or more.
Not all issues with size are about height though. Many succulents reproduce by sprouting little buds, that would normally break or fall off when out in the wild. They put down roots and a new plant begins.
In a house plant, they tend to stay clustered at the base of your succulent, adding to its girth or width as it grows. You can keep this under control be cutting away the new buds, and either potting them on their own for new plants or just disposing of them if you don’t have the space.
As I cover in my indoor succulent care guide, if you want your succulent plant to grow well, you need to provide it with the best care you can. That means understanding how these plants grow and what they need. Though considered easy to care for, that doesn’t mean they don’t have some specific needs.
The biggest requirement that these plants have is lots of bright sunlight. If you don’t have a window that will supply at least 6 full hours of direct light, you won’t have a lot of success with succulents unless you add an electric lamp or two.
With too little light, succulent plants will start to stretch out and get taller as well as thinner. It’s a key sign that they need more sun (see why in my article about what happens to plants without sunlight).
Because succulents like dry conditions, people tend to neglect their watering chores. Just because they like dry soil, doesn’t mean they don’t need water. All that water they hold in their fleshy leaves has to come from somewhere.
When the soil has completely dried out, give them a thorough soak. Leave the plant alone for a few days, then give it another heavy watering. The soil should be very well-draining so the roots aren’t sitting in water.
Now you can leave it until the next watering. On average, it can be a week or more between watering, or even as little as once a month during the dormant stage of winter.
Using unglazed ceramic or terra cotta pots is best for succulents because they allow water to evaporate out of the soil a little quicker. That helps to create the dry environment they need, and protect against water-logged roots.
While they do work very well as houseplants, most succulents will grow faster if they are kept outdoors due to their need for so much sunlight. But since most require very warm and dry conditions (usually zone 9 or above), not everyone has the right local climate.
One little trick to remember is that the succulents that are green will do best inside. Any varieties that come in orange, purple or red really should be kept outside to thrive well.
As with most slow-growing plants, succulents have a tendency to live for a very long time (see my post that explains what you can expect). While you’re not committing to the same level of responsibility as getting a new puppy, you should know that some cactus species can easily survive for decades, if not to over a 100 years.
Sometimes their appearance changes so slowly, you can’t even tell anything is going on. How can you tell when your succulent has finally reached its final size?
Well, most species of succulent will keep on growing for most of its life, which is why some of the long-lived ones can get so huge. Chances are, if its still living then it is still growing.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.