Succulents are slow-growing and seem to live forever. Of course, that can’t possibly be true even though you’ve had that dull little cactus in your windowsill for as long as you can remember. They just live so long that we feel they’ve always been there.
What are the actual lifespans of popular succulents?
What Are Succulents?
Before we start looking at popular succulent houseplants, you should be clear on what type of plants we are talking about.
It is a very large group of plants, usually originating from desert climates. They can be slow-growing and long-lived as well. You can recognize a succulent by its thick fleshy leaves or body, and its need for plenty of sun.
People sometimes think that all succulents are cacti, or vice versa. The truth is that cactus plants are part of the larger succulent group, but many succulents are not cacti, as you’ll see from our list below.
Since there is so much variation between one succulent and another, it can be difficult to discuss how long they live as a group. Instead, let’s take a closer look at the most popular houseplant succulents and see how long they live.
Just remember that these life span figures are rough estimates and averages. For every plant that is expected to live about 10 years, someone will have a specimen that managed to last for 20, or die after only 4.
Overall, the best way to keep your succulents living a long life is to take good care of them.
The Lifespan of Common Succulents
Let’s start off with everyone’s favorite kitchen plant, the aloe vera. Of course, you don’t have to literally keep it in the kitchen, any spot with lots of full sun will do. It won’t do well with soggy roots, so pot in well-draining soil and let it dry out between waterings. When you do water, give it a good soaking.
A healthy aloe vera plant can get up to 2 feet high (and wide), and can live between 10 and 20 years.
A jade plant is considered to be good luck and will bring prosperity to your home, so you want it to last as long as possible. Most people will recognize a jade plant, though some call it a money plant, due to its fat tear-drop shaped leaves.
For care, a jade plant is ideal for the novice because it isn’t overly picky about its conditions as long as it’s getting enough light. Let the soil dry out between watering, just like with aloe vera.
When it comes to growth, a jade plant can reach several feet in height, developing a thick woody trunk like a small tree. It can be prone to bending towards the light, and when the stems get tough, it will stay that way. Turn your container every few days to prevent this.
For lifespan, a jade plant can easily live for 20 years or more.
When it comes to lifespan, not many houseplants can beat out a barrel cactus. In fact, it can become an inheritance for your children as it can often outlive its owner.
Living at least 50 years, they can also keep going for up to a century. They don’t continue to grow through all that time, but a cute little cactus can reach 3 or more feet in size by the time is hits maturity.
They’re not the most exciting plants, looking like a round pin cushion most of the time. You might get a showy yellow or orange flower once a year, if you are treating your cactus right. It’s a nice reward for your care.
And it’s not like it needs a lot of tending. Give your cactus a very sunny location with warm temperatures, and a long drink only once the soil is dry. It’s common to only do this once a month with barrel cacti.
By any standards, these can be some of the dullest plants you can grow due to how slowly they do anything and how small they stay. And yet, they are intriguing for that very same reason.
Most of the time they simply look like a pebble that has a split in the middle. They are the ultimate in low-maintenance plants, doing just fine with dry sandy soil and all-day full sunlight, even if they get quite hot in all that light.
Water when the soil dries right out, and actually stop watering through the winter when the plant becomes dormant. In the spring, a new pair of thick leaves will push up from the center of your plant and the old leaves will die off. With a little fertilizer, you may also get a flower once a year too.
How long with this strange plant survive? A typical lithops can live for 40 to 50 years.
In the world of succulents, the Christmas cactus can be one of the showiest, with a lot of flowers compared to the single bloom you usually see with these plants.
Some people call them Easter cacti, and they can have red, pink or white blossoms that will brighten up your home for the 30 or more years of its lifespan.
Unlike most other succulents, it prefers tropical conditions rather than desert, so you should plan on watering a bit more often than you might think. Never let the soil dry out completely, and keep it just moist. Soggy roots will kill a Christmas cactus.
You can keep these plants in less sun than “normal” cacti, so even a spot with indirect light can be fine as long as it stays warm during the day.
Hen and Chicks
(Echeveria sp. or Sempervivum sp.)
There are several groups of succulents known as “hen and chicks,” and they all look kind of like the top of an artichoke. The name comes from the way it grows with one large plant in the middle, and several smaller ones clustered about the base.
And because it does constantly reproduce new “chicks” frequently, in some ways the plant can last forever as it renews itself year after year. That’s why we’ve added it to our list even though the actual main plant itself will only live for 3 to 4 years.
Another desert plant, you can take care of either Echeveria or Sempervivum plants in the same way. They need lots of sun, though you shouldn’t allow them to overheat.
Keep them potted in sandy, well-draining soil and only water when they are dry. They will put out sprouts quite often so start off in a large pot, or expect to split up your plants as they start to get crowded in their container.
The main plant can grow to the size of a small dinner plate and tends to stay fairly low in height. Once the baby plants are about an inch across, you can consider repotting them.
Trying to extend the lifespan of your favorite succulent is only one option to keep your plants going. As mentioned above, many of these species will also reproduce readily and you can just propagate a new plant (or more) instead.
Like hen and chicks, aloe vera will also sprout little “pups” or baby plants at their bases, and you just need to carefully snip one off, and pot it in its own container to have a new plant once it takes root.
Jade plants produce rootlets at the bases of its fleshy leaves, so you just have to gently snap off a leaf and you can reproduce a new plant.
Even if your original plant does live as long as you’d like, you can keep going by taking care of its descendants instead.
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.