7 Drought Tolerant Succulents for Beginners to Grow

Succulents are beautiful, low maintenance plants. Discover what makes these drought tolerant succulents the hottest thing in horticulture.

Succulent PlantSONALI KUMAR/GETTY IMAGES

For both style and substance, drought tolerant succulents are tops on today’s horticultural hit parade. Their striking appearance and incredible variety appeal to every aesthetic. From cactus spines to undulating crests, succulents offer endless diversity in shape and form. Plant flowers, and you could spend months waiting for them to burst into beautiful bloom. Plant a succulent, and the beauty is already there.

From front yards to rooftops, wedding bouquets to living jewelry, succulents have become superstars both in and out of the garden. Here are some of our favorites that live up to their drought tolerant, beautiful reputation.

Check out the top 10 flashy flowering succulents to grow.

7 Drought Tolerant Succulents for Beginners

A good rule for the new succulent gardener is—if it’s easy to find, it’s easy to grow. However, the more popular succulents become, the more varieties are widely available for sale. So if you are looking for proven performers that will give you success, look no further than these drought tolerant succulents.

Hens and Chicks

Hardy in cold climates, these rough-and-ready rosettes are among the few succulents that embrace frost conditions, surviving down to a chilly Zone 3. The rich violet plum of Purple Mojo is an instant favorite!

Grow a flock of hens and chicks plants.

Echeverias

Succulent Plant EcheveriaBEYHANYAZAR/GETTY IMAGES

Its leaves splay open like lotus petals, giving you a gorgeous flower all year round. Morning Light, in a gorgeous, hazy-blue hue, is an easy-to-grow cultivar for beginners.

Aeoniums

Super easy-grow plants with leaves that form big beautiful flower-like heads. Try the dark, rich cultivar Zwartkop.

Agave

Many agaves are large, expensive and aggressive. Overcome these obstacles by cultivating a compact variety of these spiky mounds in a container. The jade and cream variegated victoriae-reginae White Rhino agave is a stunner.

Sanseverias

A snake plant sitting on a white table.serezniy/Getty Images
Snake plant

Likely you’ve heard of the snake plant, famous for being a hard-to-kill houseplant. This most common variety sends thick, variegated leaf blades a foot into the air. For a spin, try the swirling cultivar, Twist.

Crassulas

Jade plants, or Crassula ovata, are the most commonly sold of this pudgy plant group. If you prefer the look of little trees, try the fiery Crassula capitella ‘Campfire.’

Discover succulents that will attract pollinators.

Sedums

seed bearing plants, easy perennials, autumn joy sedumJustus de Cuveland/Getty Images
Autumn joy sedum

From ground covers to plants reaching 18 inches tall, this genus offers a wide selection, with many cultivars able to tolerate the cold. Elizabeth, for example, is hardy from Zones 3 to 8, and its long-blooming red flowers give way to red foliage in fall.

Check out the top 10 stonecrop sedum varieties to grow.

Succulent Watering Needs

Drought Tolerant Succulentsshopsucculents.com
Succulents are great in mini terrariums.

Because they’re born in harsh environments, you’d be hard-pressed to find hardier water wise plants. Succulents’ leaves and stems are built to store water from infrequent bursts of rainfall that quickly trickle through dry soil. On top of that, their leaves have a thick, often waxy surface with the ability to close its pores rather than lose water through respiration. Together, these adaptations minimize water loss drastically.

For you, that means your drought tolerant succulents can go without a drink while you’re on vacation, and it won’t faze them one bit. And while your other plants wither during summer droughts, it’s your succulents’ time to shine. All this means less time maintaining your succulents, with much more time to relax and enjoy.

Learn how to grow a succulent container garden.

The Best Soil for Succulents

Wild succulents grow in well-draining soil, often on slopes or in rocky crevices, where the tilt assists with draining. Test your landscape location by spading out about a gallon-size hole and pouring in the same amount of water. Standing water after a few minutes means you’ll need to amend the soil with porous material or, better yet, plant in a container. Select a container deep enough to ensure that your succulent’s roots are never waterlogged, which leads to root rot.

Even specialists debate the precise recipe for the perfect succulent soil mix. Some say any commercial mix made for succulents and cacti is fine, while others warn that these mixes have a bit too much organic matter. Many recommend adding porous material in varying amounts. Perlite, pumice, sand, pea gravel, granite or grit: whether or not to add these and in what amount varies by grower.

As long as you don’t use unamended regular potting soil, you’ll probably be fine. Look around at what other people growing the same cultivars are using, and keep in mind that, while many folks use slightly different soil mixes, they all have happy, healthy succulents.

Designing With Drought Tolerant Succulents

Green rooffotolinchen/Getty Images
Succulents growing on a green roof

Have you seen the amazing things people do with drought tolerant succulents? From gorgeous ground covers to dramatic single plants, succulents are the hot—and smart—answer to water, soil and space conservation.

Planting a succulent rooftop is a stunning and energy-efficient way to double your garden space. The vertical gardening concept has grown from small, charming picture frames to sprawling, museum-quality murals. From spelling out names and initials to covering three-dimensional topiary forms, succulents can say it all.

Succulents in a teacupPatricia Marroquin/Getty Images
Succulents will grow in almost any container, even a teacup.

The same root structures that enable succulents to crop up on rocky hillsides make them adaptable to pretty much any container, no matter how offbeat. You can plant them in seashells, toy trucks, high heels, coffee pots, and more. Terrariums make a perfect habitat for some succulents, provided you let them drain and dry thoroughly after watering.

Check out 10 seriously cool succulents that make great houseplants.

Lori Vanover
Lori has 20 years of experience writing and editing home, garden, birding and lifestyle content for several publishers. As Birds & Blooms senior digital editor, she leads a team of writers and editors sharing birding tips and expert gardening advice. Since joining Trusted Media Brands 13 years ago, she has held roles in digital and print, editing magazines and books, curating special interest publications, managing social media accounts, creating digital content and newsletters, and working with the Field Editors—Birds & Blooms network of more than 50 backyard birders. Passionate about animals and nature, Lori has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural and Environmental Communications from the University of Illinois. In 2023, she became certified as a Wisconsin Extension Master Gardener, and she is a member of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology and sits on the organization's Publications Advisory Committee. She frequently checks on her bird feeders while working from home and tests new varieties of perennials, herbs and vegetable plants in her ever-growing backyard gardens.