Succulents for Beginners (To Get You Started)

by Dorothy Reinhold on May 25, 2019

Print This Post Print This Post Succulents are all the rage, and once you try your hand at them, you'll be hooked. Get started in Southern California with these easy varieties.

Succulents, always a staple in arid Southern California gardens, seem to have become a trend throughout the whole country now. Their simple, spare, architectural forms are so appealing both outside in the garden and inside as a tabletop statement piece.

While we have an easier time than some regions growing them in our warm, generally dry climate, everyone is joining in to try their hand at them.

If you like the look of succulents but don’t know where to begin, pull up a chair and take a look at my list of succulents for beginners.

As a Southern California succulent collector and hobbyist, I have been growing and propagating them for decades. I warn you though…once you try them, you’ll be hooked. As addictions go, this is one you can brag about.

Here are a few succulent suggestions to get you started:

1. For quick gratification and propagation

Hen and chicksTry Sempervivum tectorum, aka “Hen and Chicks” or “Houseleeks.” These plants form rosettes; the mother (hen) spreads by forming little rosette plantlets (chicks) alongside. Snap these off and replant for a continuous supply. They come in different varieties, including Bernstein (copper leaves with some gold), Big Blue (bluish-green), Black (green leaves with purple tips), Damask (reddish), and Terracotta Baby (orangey red). Plants will also show different colors depending on soil and growing conditions.

2. For a painterly look

Kalanchoe tomentosaKalanchoe tomentosa, aka “Panda Plant,” “Pussy Ears” or “Chocolate Soldier.” The leaves are gray green, covered in a velveteen fur and tipped with brown, giving this an elegant, artistic appearance.

3. Impressive

FlapjacksKalanchoe luciae, aka “Flapjacks” or “Paddle Plant.” This plant looks like stacks of big flat pancakes standing on their side; it will make you smile. The big leaves are gray green and can get a reddish edge during cooler months if they have bright light (like we have most often in Southern California). This is a looker.

4. Seasonal blooms

Christmas CactusSchlumbergera truncata or Schlumbergera bridgesii, aka “Christmas Cactus,” “Thanksgiving Cactus” or “Holiday Cactus.” The nicknames come from the seasons it typically blooms in, between November and January. Depending on the variety, the tubular flowers can be pink, red or white, and they’re prolific, so it’s quite a rewarding show. Snap off a Y-shaped segment to propagate more. They hail from Brazilian rainforests, so unlike most succulents, they prefer a humid climate, and may need a bit more water than your other succulents.

5. Great name and unusual looks

Baby ToesFenestraria rhopalophylla (or aurantiaca), aka “Baby Toes.” This is a great container plant. It grows in clumps, and has translucent flat-topped leaves that resemble, uh, baby toes. You will kill it with too much water. The blooms are cute, often white or yellow dainty daisy-like flowers.

6. For a hanging pot

Donkey's TailSedum morganianum, aka “Donkey’s Tail” or “Burro’s Tail.” So pretty as a hanging plant, this one has many long, hanging stems with short little fat leaves. The leaves are dense and will fall off if you jostle the pot, so once you plant it, put it in a location and let it be.

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Succulents for Beginners on

What’s YOUR favorite succulent? Let me know in the comments.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Donna June 23, 2019 at 3:47 pm

I’m a succulent fan – because they don’t die on me and tolerate my inconsistency well. I have a 2 stalk aeonium that had a stalk bloom a few years back. Somehow I got it to keep going after that and it’s doing amazing.
I also have hens and chicks and this year one hen grew tall, about 6” high, which I’ve never had happen in the many years I’ve had them.
Thank for your fun site!


Dorothy Reinhold June 24, 2019 at 7:07 am

It is so rewarding when we do well with our plants, right?
Your hen sounds amazing — tall and robust! Many chicks will follow. Have fun in the dirt!


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