Best Succulents of 2021
The Shop Succulents Crassula Ovata, with its beautiful purple and deep green floral-shaped leaf pattern, is our pick for a single plant option. The crassula ovata, commonly known as a jade plant, blends seamlessly into any type of home decor, in our opinion. This particular specimen was also very healthy upon arrival at our door, well-packed with padding and not showing any signs of dehydration or stress. When transplanting, we noticed that the plant had a well-established root system in its 3"x3" pot and was ready for a larger home. Jade plants are also fairly low maintenance. While they prefer bright light, humidity, and slightly moist soil, they can tolerate both low light and drought.
We don't have too many criticisms of this plant, but there are a few things to consider when selecting this option. Like most succulent plants, the crassula ovata is sensitive to root rot if overwatered, although not as sensitive as echeverias, as it comes from a more humid climate. The Crassula Ovata is also a relatively slow grower; it can take 10-15 years to reach its full size of about three feet. The Crassula Ovata has not grown much over the testing period but appears to be adjusting well to its new home. Over the course of this time, however, you can multiply your jade plant collection by easily propagating the dropped leaves of this plant. If you are looking for a healthy, easy-to-grow option that could stay with you for years to come, the Crassula Ovata is an excellent choice.
The Plants for Pets Succulent 5-Pack lands top points for its appearance and health upon receipt. We loved the selection included, consisting of five echeverias and one crassula. The crassula has rounder leaves, and the echeverias are a flat-leafed, rose-shaped variety. This pack featured some of the highest quality plants in our testing selection. Each plant arrived with a well-established root system in its 2" x 2" pot and was well packed using cotton-like stuffing and a correctly sized box so the plants would not be jostled or easily damaged during transit. The pack even includes one extra plant in the event that one does not survive the challenging journey of shipping live plants. The plants were adequately watered in their containers. The soil was completely dry when we opened the shipping box, but they did not show any signs of stress in their foliage.
On the downside, like most other plants of this variety, these are susceptible to overwatering. This is a common cause of plant death, and echeveria is even more sensitive to overwatering than some other succulent varieties. Additionally, if you are looking for fast growers, this pack may not be your best choice. These small plants are great for a variety planting in a terrarium or countertop centerpiece but don't expect them to quickly expand and take over a space. Their slow-growing tendencies also make them easy to care for, and as long as you resist overwatering, the Plants for Pets 5-Pack is an attractive variety pack option to brighten up a room.
The largest collection we tested, the Shop Succulents Collection of 12, showed a great variety and good quality for its price point. The collection arrived with various small cacti and other succulents. The plethora of plants included in this pack leaves you with many options for small plantings or combination plantings. The small cacti were the highlight of this pack, showing unique hair patterns perfect for small plantings. Throughout the testing period, the cacti in this pack showed the most promise, establishing well in their new pots and even showing the development of new growth.
With as many options as came in this collection, there was a range of quality. Out of 12 plants, two were wilted and dying, and several other plants showed signs of stress from lack of water when we received them. Additionally, though the plants were cushioned with cotton stuffing, there was still wiggle room in the box, and several of the plants had fallen out of their containers and were bruised from travel. The extent of root development also varied within this collection, as some of the smaller plants appeared as though they were recent cuttings that had not had time to develop a root system in their new 2" pot. Some of these plants did not survive transplanting. These criticisms aside, the sheer number of plants included in this pack, with mostly good quality and unique cacti, make it a good option for the buyer looking to purchase several plants in one go for their home.
The Fat Plants String of Pearls is another high-quality single plant option. We love the look of the little pearls hanging on long tendrils. This vining plant's unique appearance would look great in a hanging basket or windowsill planting. It came well established in a 3" diameter pot, already boasting 3-5" hanging tendrils filled with little pearl-like pods. The packaging was thorough, padded with cotton in an appropriately-sized box, offering ample protection for the delicate vines. This is also the plant we saw the most growth in over the testing period. Just two weeks after repotting, we noted signs of new growth at the ends of several of the tendrils, in line with this variety's reputation as a fast grower.
It should be noted that the Fat Plants String of Pearls has fairly specific light requirements. As this plant is native to arid regions of Africa, it requires several hours of bright direct sunlight per day, along with several more hours of indirect light, so you must have a bright south or west-facing location to keep it happy. This plant is also extremely susceptible to root rot, so if you are prone to drowning your plants, you may want to select a more water-loving option. Another aspect to note is that this plant is poisonous if ingested, an important factor to consider if you have pets or children that may eat the pearls as they drop from the plant. Overall, if you are looking for a unique, fast-growing vining plant, this healthy Fat Plants String of Pearls might just be your pick.
The Costa Farms Aloe Vera two-pack is an excellent option if you'd like a plant that arrives tall and well-established. These aloe plants came wrapped in plastic and supported with a piece of bamboo in slightly moist soil. To minimize any shuffling in transit, Costa Farms utilized styrofoam peanuts in their shipping box. The aloe measured around 7-8" tall on arrival and had well-established root systems. The simple aesthetic of these plants would match many rooms, but in our opinion, they look especially good with simple and modern design.
While this is a relatively low-maintenance option, aloe vera can be sensitive to its location in the house. It is an incredibly drought-tolerant plant but can be burned by intense direct light. Like many plants in our selection, this plant is extremely sensitive to overwatering, which means that frequent watering should be resisted, and a pot with good drainage is imperative. Another critique of this Costa Farms selection is that it had slight damage on the edges of the leaves upon arrival. This did not affect the integral health of the plant but will take some time to recover after transplanting. If you like plants that thrive with neglect, arrive ready to go, and appreciate a minimal, simple appearance, the Costa Farms Aloe Vera should meet your needs.
The Shop Succulents Live Air 8-Pack impresses us with its variety, quality, and appearance. The air plants with their long tendrils and varying sizes have a desert modern, almost futuristic feel, not to mention the soft green tones lend themselves to easily match many decor styles. Where air plants really stand out, though, is how low maintenance they are. They thrive just hanging in the air, no soil or watering is required. All they need is a weekly hour-long soak and occasional fertilizing if you want to encourage growth. The 8-pack we received included one plant that began to grow a flower immediately, which was an exciting turn of events. This also means the plant may be nearing the end of its life cycle, where it will spawn by producing pups. Many air plant variety packs we researched had several plants, but very little true variety of air plants. We like that this pack includes several different varieties.
There are a few drawbacks to this option, although not many. It is possible to overwater these varieties, but as long as you allow them adequate time to fully dry after soaking this can be avoided. Additionally, like all air plants, these varieties can be very slow-growing, so if you are looking for a big, vining statement piece, these are not the best option. Alternatively, if you have limited space, this might be a plus. Overall, the Shop Succulents Live Air 8-Pack is a beautiful, low-maintenance, and forgiving option for the beginner plant owner or those with limited time and space.
The The Valley Garden Succulent 5-Pack is a unique selection of 2" potted plants. These plants were all smaller and more delicate varieties with small, thin leaves. This collection has a nice variety of colors, from sage green to deep red and purple in the most delicate plant. These could look nice planted alone or in a collection planting. Their unique and leafy look might add a bit more flair to your decor than traditional varieties.
The unique and lacey appearance of many of these plants also appears to be their downfall. The level of protection in packaging was not sufficient to ensure that the thin plants did not get shuffled around — one plant had fallen out of its container completely. While the plants all had developed full root systems in their 2" pots, the thinnest plants were beginning to show signs of drying out, suggesting that they may be slightly less drought-resistant than some other options. This being said, these plants appear to be adjusting well to transplanting. The Valley Garden 5-Pack makes a great unique and delicate selection for a multi-pack purchase.
The JMBamboo White Christmas Zygocactus measured 6" tall by 10" long upon arrival and was well established in its 4" grow pot. The long tendril-like leaves were well-protected in packaging filled with styrofoam peanuts, and its soil was just slightly damp. The transplanted zygocactus established itself well in a new pot and quickly recovered from slight wilting after the first watering. We received this plant about a month before its flowering season, and when it burst into bloom with its white multi-tiered flowers, it became even more beautiful.
To keep the Christmas Zygocactus thriving, a little more maintenance is required than other plants we tested. This plant is native to coastal Brazil, so it prefers more frequent watering and higher humidity. Specific darkness and light requirements should be met to encourage a longer flowering season. To flower, this plant requires extended periods of darkness and would appreciate the occasional misting. With a little additional care, the JMBamboo White Christmas Zygocactus is an excellent option if you're looking for a plant that's already established and will light up any space.
Another air plant option is the Air Plant Ionantha 5-Pack. Like all air plants, the maintenance for this selection is minimal, which we love. They require just a single weekly soaking and drying to stay happy, along with good natural or strong artificial light. They do not require any repotting or fertilizing. These plants were nicely packaged, with adequate tissue paper cushioning.
This selection of air plants is not quite a stand-out option for a few reasons. The first is that the matching appearance of these air plants is relatively lackluster. There is not much variety in this selection, as they are all the same size and shape and vary only slightly in color. Additionally, the plants came with one plant that got a little squashed during transit, although it appears to be recovering well. Overall, the Air Plant Ionantha 5-Pack is a good choice for starting in air plants, unless you want more variety in your air plant selection.
The Mother of Thousand Kalanchoe daigremontiana Mexican Hat Plant was a disappointing option among our test group. The established version of this plant has beautiful neutral green leaves with a unique lacey edge. The little platelets that line the edge of the leaves will drop off and create more plantings, which is an interesting and unique feature.
The quality of this particular plant left something to be desired upon arrival. The plant was shipped with bare roots, as advertised, but this made the plant very susceptible to stress over its journey. There were two cuttings included; one that was 1" tall and one that was ½" tall. The plants were both showing signs of stress as the leaves were soft and wilted. Months later, however, these plants are showing signs of survival. They are taking to new plantings and beginning to create pups. If they will take to their new pots, the Mother of Thousands makes a unique addition to your plant collection, but we don't think many will appreciate the amount of time needed to nurse this option back to health.
Why You Should Trust Us
Jackie Kearney, our lead green-thumbed tester, works long days both as a landscaper for a ranch and on a vegetable farm in Telluride, CO. Spending so many hours growing and caring for plants makes her care deeply about creating a thriving life for them. After spending years caring for plants in every way imaginable, she knows the reward of keeping plants in your own home. She spent weeks surrounded by and growing attached to these succulents.
To find you the best plant options for your home, our editorial team and lead tester spent hours researching many of the best options on the market. We looked at individual plants, as well as collections of up to a dozen plants, and compared them side by side in our homes. We developed care plans for each selection and nestled them into new pots best suited for their needs. We took care to consider how each option fit into the decor and how its quality changed from arrival to the point of this review. With our homes covered in these plant varieties for several weeks, we can assure you we thoroughly evaluated and tested each selection.
Analysis and Test Results
Adding plants to your home can be an easy and gratifying way to improve your living environment, and selecting the right variety can significantly improve your chances of success. These succulents were scored on their aesthetics, quality, maintenance, hardiness, and growth.
The aesthetics metric considered the overall impact each plant would have on your home space. As any plant will do this in some way, this involved assessing the different ways a plant improved the quality of the space, as well as its footprint. We considered each plant's growth pattern and its coloration; does it grow into a soft, neutral shape, or does it have a striking, statement-making look? We also thought about how its colors would fit into various palettes and if they could make an impact while remaining versatile. Plants displaying more muted tones and a softer growth pattern were considered more universally aesthetically pleasing. We also took into account how unique the look of each option was, how unique the plant itself is, and how versatile its look is. Finally, we wanted to think about how large of a footprint each plant made in the room, and how that, combined with its look, affected its ability to meet your home decor needs.
The Crassula Ovata scores top points in this category for its versatility and beautiful coloration. Similarly, the Plants for Pets 5-Pack has great color variety, and its small rosette designs could be planted in a large variety of single and multiple plantings. Options such as the Fat Plants String of Pearls have a unique growth pattern that we loved for adding an interesting twist to your space. We loved the look of this plant in hanging macrame planters as well as simple windowsill pots.
State of Arrival and Shipping
This metric assesses the state that the plants arrived in and how well the packaging protected the plant, as well as everything the seller did to ensure that the plant arrived in the best condition possible. We evaluated how well the plants were packaged, along with the padding and ventilation of the box. We also took a look at whether the plants were adequately watered, or most importantly for this category, checking to see if they were overwatered, increasing the chance of root rot. We also looked for signs of dehydration, such as wilting and shriveled leaves. Finally, we took into account how established their root systems were in their shipping pots and if they showed any signs of damage once they arrived.
The Crassula Ovata and Plants for Pets 5-Pack had the highest quality upon arrival. They arrived unscathed and well packaged, with healthy root systems ready to be transplanted. Their soil was dry, but the plants did not show any signs of dehydration stress. The Shop Succulents Air Plant 8-Pack also was neatly packed with a lot of tissue paper padding. Admittedly, air plants are easier to ship because they don't need to be potted in soil for transport. On the other hand, the Mother of Thousands was barely alive upon arrival and only had newspaper wrapped around its root system for any sort of protective packaging.
When considering which plant best suits your lifestyle, it's essential to consider the care needed to keep it thriving. As they all are within the succulent family, many of the options considered here have similar watering and light needs. However, our research and experience indicate that some are more specific and demanding than others in their care. Over the test period, we took note of how frequently we watered these plants per week and established a fertilizing and repotting schedule based on recommended care.
For example, the JMBamboo White Christmas Zygocactus can require a lot of maintenance in the winter season to encourage blooms. The flowering aspect also requires more pruning and maintenance. Fast-growing options like the String of Pearls also require more maintenance as repotting to larger pots is more frequent. Plants like the Aloe Vera thrive when they are mostly ignored, giving them high scores in this category.
For a truly low-maintenance plant, our testers favor air plants. These plants don't require re-potting, and there isn't a real worry of overwatering them and creating root rot. Want to move them to a new home in your house? Just pick them up and move them from one place to another. These plants just like to soak in water for about an hour once a week. Remove them from the water, shake them lightly to remove excess water, and put them back into their display holders or planters. You can spritz them with water in between soaks, but that usually isn't necessary. When it comes to forgiving plants, we recommend any of the air plants we tested, with a nod to the Shop Succulents Live Air 8 Pack for the greater variety of specimen it provides.
We take into account how resistant these plants were to a variety of growing conditions or watering abuse. To determine this metric, we looked at the various light conditions, soil moisture, humidity, and temperature ranges each plant could survive in. Similar to maintenance, hardiness helps to find the plants best suited for your home, and best suited to the level of care and attention you wish to give a plant.
The White Christmas Zygocactus is more specific to humidity and soil moisture than the Aloe Vera or the String of Pearls. Both of these options, however, are sensitive to overwatering. The more delicate options of the The Valley Garden 5-Pack or the Mother of Thousands Mexican Hat Plant appear susceptible to over or under-watering, determining them to be less hardy.
Finally, we did want to consider how the plants fared after they were in our care. Clearly, there is more variability here than the other metrics, as these were tested in a dry and sunny environment, and results will change from home to home. For this reason, this metric has the lowest weighting in our evaluation process. The two main factors to this metric are how the plants adjusted to being transplanted and whether they show any signs of growth during the testing period.
The Fat Plants String of Pearls is the clear winner here as it quickly adjusted to being repotted and even showed fresh growth, living up to its reputation as a quick grower. Conversely, the Shop Succulents Collection of 12 and the Mexican Hat Plant did not do well in this category. We saw some of the plants in the collection of 12 fail to take root. We also saw little change in the notoriously slow-growing air plants but were lucky to see the growth of one new flower beginning in the Shop Succulents Live Air 8 Pack. While the Crassula Ovata arrived very healthy and transplanted well, it's a slow-growing plant that proved to be exactly that in our test period.
Through thorough research and hands-on, independent testing, we were able to assess a range of options to help identify the perfect new plant for your home. With a combination of personal and professional experience, we developed an extensive testing rubric that focused on key elements of plant success. We feel confident that we are familiar with the benefits and disadvantages of each option. We hope our evaluations help you make an informed decision, so you can begin or add to your succulent collection with the best option for you and your living space.
— Jackie Kearney