Best Succulents of 2020
The Shop Succulents Crassula Ovata, commonly called a Jade plant, is our pick for a single plant option. The plant came with a beautiful purple and deep green floral-shaped leaf pattern. With its looks, this plant blends into almost any home decor in our opinion. This option was also very healthy upon arrival to our door, well packed with padding and not showing any signs of dehydration 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. The Jade plant is also a low-maintenance option. While it prefers bright light and slightly moist soil and humidity, it can tolerate both low light and drought.
It's hard to find criticisms of this plant, but there are a few things to consider when you select this option. Like many 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 fairly slow grower, as 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 option.
The Plants for Pets Succulent 5-Pack lands top points for its appearance and health. We loved the selection included, consisting of five echeveria and one crassula. The echeveria are a flat leafed, rose shaped variety, and the crassula have rounder leaves. This pack had some of the highest quality plants out of 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 and 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.
There were only a few downsides to this selection. The first is that, like most other plants of this variety, they are susceptible to overwatering. A common cause of plant death, echeveria are more sensitive to overwatering than some other varieties. Additionally, if you are looking for a fast-growing variety, this pack may not be your best choice. These small plants are great for a variety planting in a terrarium or countertop centerpiece, but will not 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 a variety of small cacti and other succulent varieties. The extent of the variety 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. Over the course of 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 were showing signs of stress from lack of water. Additionally, the plants were cushioned with cotton stuffing, but there was 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 or multiple plantings at a great value.
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. The unique look of this vining plant would match a hanging basket or windowsill planting very well. The plant 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, the delicate vines were well protected. This is also the plant we saw the most growth in over the testing period. After being re-potted for just two weeks, signs of new growth could be seen at the ends of several of the tendrils, in line with this variety's reputation as a fast grower.
The Fat Plants String of Pearls does have 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, so if you have pets or children that may eat the pearls as they drop from the plant it is not the best option. 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 plants came wrapped in plastic and supported with a piece of bamboo in slightly moist soil. The plants were then surrounded in styrofoam peanuts to minimize the shuffling they would do in transit. The plants measured around 7-8" tall on arrival and had well established root systems. The simple look 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 extremely drought-tolerant plant but can be burned by strong direct light. Like many of the plants in our selection, this plant is extremely sensitive to overwatering, which means that 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 a minimal, simple appearance, the Costa Farms Aloe Vera should meet your needs.
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 color included from sage green to a deep red and purple in the most delicate plant included. These plants could look nice in a collection planting or planted alone. 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, as 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 showing signs of drying out, suggesting that these plants 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, delicate selection for a multi-pack purchase.
The JMBamboo White Christmas Zygocactus measured in at 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 slight wilting after the first watering. The long leaves purportedly produce white multi-tiered flowers in winter, adding a beautiful addition to your home.
In order to keep the Christmas Zygocactus thriving there is a little more maintenance than other plants we tested. This plant is native to coastal Brazil, meaning that it prefers higher humidity and more frequent watering. To encourage a longer flowering season, specific darkness and light requirements should be met. 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.
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 a 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. The plants are still struggling weeks later to get established in their new plantings, but if they will take to their new pots, the Mother of Thousands makes a unique addition to your plant collection.
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.
In order to find you the best succulent 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 greatly 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 the growing pattern of each plant, as well as 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 a variety of palettes, and if they could make an impact while remaining versatile. Plants that displayed 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. We also considered how unique the plant 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 beautiful coloration and versatility. Similarly, the Plants for Pets 5-Pack has great color variety and the small rosette designs of it 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
We created this metric to consider 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 to you in the best condition possible. This includes how well the plants were packaged and evaluating the padding and ventilation of the box. It also took a look at whether they were adequately watered, most importantly for this category if they were overwatered, increasing the chance of root rot. That being said, we also looked for signs of dehydration such as shriveled and wilting 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 Plants for Pets Succulent 5-Pack and the Shop Succulents Crassula Ovata 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. 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 important 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 care needs. However, our research and experience indicate that some are more specific and demanding than others in their repotting and watering needs. 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 has the potential to require a lot of maintenance in the winter season in order 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.
We take into account how resistant these plants were to a variety of growing light 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 your growing experience.
The White Christmas Zygocactus is more specific to soil moisture and humidity 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 Succulent 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 take into account 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 might 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. Opposingly, 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, and the Mother of Thousands struggling to establish itself in a potted environment. While the Shop Succulents 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