5 Main Differences Between Cacti And Succulents – 2024 Guide

Speaking of cacti and succulents, we already know these are plants that originate from the desert area. Their most delightful species can be found in the places such as Central and South America, Canada – or in inaccessible tropical rainforests. Even though they are in a similar botanic group – the differentiation among succulents and cacti can also be seen. In any case, for certain individuals that distinction isn’t so obvious. Therefore, we will draw your attention to the 5 fundamental contrasts between these plants.

Succulents And Cacti Look Alike – But They Are Not The Same

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If you simply take a look at the Internet and things related to interior design – you will quite often come across incredibly popular cacti or succulents. They are equally unavoidable in floral shops and stores that sell home decoration items – and judging by the popularity, sales of such plants are very much in full swing. They are not hard to grow, and you’ll take care of them very easily. They can even survive in the homes of those who do not have much talent for horticulture. However, they might seem like simple plants – but cacti and succulents hide a handful of secrets that make them even more magical. Even though some people who don’t know enough about herbal science think these plants come from a similar plant family – there are some differences you should know about.

Cactuses And Succulents: The Basic Difference

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When researching succulents and cacti, we can see that are almost regularly mentioned together because they are pretty similar. The truth is, they have a place with a similar variety – yet cacti are the better-known plant group of succulents. However, according to Succulent Market, there are some huge contrasts between them, which we need to bring up. Talking about essential contrasts, we can say that all cacti are succulents – however, not all succulents are cacti. Why? Here are a few contrasts among cactuses and succulents. Regardless of whether you are a beginner in the cultivation of these plants you need to know this.

Principle Distinction Between Cacti And Succulents

1.    Areolas

Succulents are a wider group of plants, so cactus actually has a place within the group of succulents due to its juicy parts of the plant. In any case, when it comes to certain things – cactuses are not quite the same as their “family members”. Both plant families store the liquid in their tissue. The vast majority of them additionally have a thick layer of wax that shields them from dehydration and burns, so they can survive in dry conditions. In any case, there is one entirely perceptible distinction: Only cactuses have areolas. These are the delicate “pads” from which the spines, that is, thorns come out.

2.    Leaves

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Even though many people often blend them in the same category, another critical contrast among cactuses and succulents is the leaves. To be specific, cactuses are prickly plants that don’t have many leaves or even none at all. Succulent plants are known for their juicy leaves loaded with fluids. Plants like aloe, which have a place with a group of succulents – are known for such leaves in which they store water. This is because they should be quite resistant to endure the all environmental difficulties to which they are uncovered in their common territory. In contrast to them, cacti usually don’t have any leaves – however, don’t be amazed by their blooming. Overall, cactuses principally stand out for their areolas from which the thorns and prickles arise.

3.    Not each of these plants loves the heat

Cacti and succulents originate from a hot, dry environment and love bright and dry places. For them, dry air is not a problem, but they don’t like too much moisture. As far as sunlight is concerned, there are big differences between cacti and succulents. Although most succulents like a place next to a sunny window facing south – many cacti will not tolerate the burning midday sun.

We can say that there is a simple rule according to which you will find the perfect place for your cactus. The brighter the green part of the plant, the better it will withstand the heat and sun. On the other hand, the dark green ones feel especially comfortable next to the windows facing east or west. But there are exceptions here as well – so it’s important to follow the instructions on the label when buying a new cactus or succulent.

4.    Watering

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If cacti and succulents have something in common, it is water storage. Therefore, these houseplants should be watered very infrequently. However, the need for water always depends on the room temperature and the stage of development of the plant. One thing is for sure, you can”kill” cacti more easily by excessive watering. Both cacti and succulents usually die due to the stagnation of water in the pot. The roots begin to rot, which means they can no longer absorb water. It is important to always drain excess water from the pot immediately. It is recommended to water with rainwater or filtered water.

5.    Fertilization

Although cacti and succulents are extremely frugal, they will eventually deplete the nutrient stores in the substrate. Nutrient deficiencies are a particularly insidious problem with slow-growing plants, such as cacti. Their growth is somewhat slower than with succulents – so we very often make mistakes when fertilizing potted soil. Sure, most beginners think it’s good for the plant, but it’s not quite so. Therefore, it is sometimes too late to help when problems become apparent.

Thornless Cacti That Are Often Mixed With Succulents

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Some of the most famous thornless cactus species are the Christmas cactus and Orchid cactus. In addition to being characterized by a lack of thorns, these species belong to the flowering cacti. Precisely because of the lack of thorns, many unjustifiably consider them ordinary succulents – when in fact, they are cacti. These plants are ideal for beginners because of their ease of care. The flowers that these cacti form are usually in shades of red, purple, orange, yellow, and white. They bloom lavishly, thus completing the atmosphere of your home. The most important thing to know is that these types of cacti need more water than ordinary ones.

The Bottom Line

We hope we have been able to at least partially help you see some of the differences between cacti and succulents. Although very similar, each of these plants has its own character. One thing they have in common though: They look beautiful in any interior.