The Top Four Succulent Genera

The Top Four Succulent Genera

The Top Four Succulent Genera

The 1970s was a “groovy” bohemian and eclectic decade featuring sexy and diverse fashions including wide-collared shirts and tight bell-bottom jeans. A time capsule back to a ’70s home might find shag carpeting, beanbag chairs, candles and faux fur furniture–all trends that have found their way back to our post-millennial residences today. Retailers also look to the past to reinvigorate the future.


A major trend in retail greenery favors succulents, also known as fat plants, which are water-retaining plants that thrive in arid climates. The stars of the succulent plant family are cacti (cactaceau) better known as cactus which achieved widespread popularity in the 1970s. While all cacti are succulents, not all succulents are cacti. Succulent plants are found in more than 60 plant families which have evolved their water-storage tissues in their enlarged leaves, roots or stems as an adjustment to arid environments.

Iconic national and international retail brands such as Restoration Hardware, Crate & Barrel and 7 For All Mankind are finding style inspiration with succulent plants. Founded by Michael Glasser, Peter Koral, and Jerome Dahan in 2000 with headquarters in Los Angeles, California, 7 For All Mankind represents the luxurious and carefree California lifestyle.

“We love using succulent plants in our stores because they are very much a part of the Southern California culture which represents our brand well since our company began there,” says Sophia Nguyen, creative visual service manager for 7 For All Mankind, a denim and couture brand that is currently sold at its own retail stores, online, and in luxury department stores and high end specialty boutiques in over 80 countries throughout the world.

Restoration Hardware, founded nearly 30 years ago when they opened their first store in Eureka, California, is today one of the leading purveyors of premium home furnishings with more than 100 retail and outlet store locations in the United States and Canada, as well as a rapidly growing direct-to-consumer business that includes stand-alone catalogs and e-commerce sites.

“We chose succulents for their ‘look’ as it is simple and does not compete with a decorative container,” says David W. Block, visual merchandising manager for Restoration Hardware. “Succulent color variations compliment our stores and they are durable and able to withstand the extreme variations of an interior environment better than most plants.”

By making the most of scarce available moisture, succulents survive in habitats that are too dry for most other plants. While cactus are visually striking, their sharp thorns can prove a liability to patrons and employees in retail settings which is why the non-prickly succulent varieties are riding front and center at high end luxury retailers nationwide. Responsible for designing and implementing national consumer interiors with an emphasis in the retail sector of the business including plantscapes, scenting, art and holiday décor, I relay the top four leading succulent trends seen in major retailers across the United States and Canada this season:

1) Aeonium–The aeonium genus features about 35 species of small to medium-sized subtropical succulents that are available in a wide range of plant and leaf sizes. Mostly native to the Canary Islands, Morocco and Africa, the species all grow well in containers and feature rosette leaves on a basal stem.

2) Crassula–Native to South Africa and Madagascar, the crassula variety of succulents, which includes the popular Jade Plant, vary greatly in size, shape and color with some varieties only an inch high at maturity while others become large shrubs.

3) Dudleya–Named after the Stanford University botany professor, William Dudley, the dudleya genus includes about 40 species of succulent perennials from Mexico and the Southwest. With fleshy leaves and rosettes, the dudleya are found in gray to green hues which blend into the scenery when not in bloom.

4) Echeveria–Named after the 18th century Mexican botanical artist, Atanasio Echeverría y Godoy, the echeveria is a genus of succulents that are native to Mexico and South America. They hundreds of varieties of echeveria range in size from small and hard-leafed to large, wavy-leafed varieties that grow to 24 inches across.

Succulents come in many compelling varieties and offer a cornucopia of colors, shapes, styles and textures. Over watering is foe rather than friend to a succulent. With too much watering, the lower base of the succulent will turn brown or even shrink. Adding gravel, sand and stones to the succulent container allows for drainage and also provides for some styling variations. Avoid spider mites and mealybugs by treating the succulents with horticultural oils that work to suffocate the bugs while keeping the plants healthy and vibrant.