We love succulents for their ease of care, unique colors, and can-do attitudes. We also love succulents for their compact size and ability to grow in tiny spaces; however, not all succulents stay tiny.
Some of the most adorable succulents that stay small include cacti species like mammillaria, the star cactus, and the feather cactus. Other types of tiny succulents include Haworthia, living stones, and split stones. These plants are perfect for miniature gardens or small-space living.
In the following article, we’ll explore the fascinating species of succulents that stay small and provide growing tips. We’ll also touch upon some of the largest types of succulents that you should avoid if plant real estate is an issue.
Different Kinds of Succulents
Succulents are an enigmatic type of plant with mysterious water-holding abilities. This talent to store water is what makes a succulent, a succulent. There are three main locations within the plant where they may store liquid.
A lot of the succulents that come to mind when you think of the species of plant are leaf-type succulents. These specimens have plump, often fleshy leaves where they can store large amounts of water. Aloe Vera, String of pearls, and echeveria are all examples of leaf-type succulents.
The second most common type of succulents is stem-types. These plants suck up vast amounts of water and hold it in their thick stalks. Most cacti fall into this category of succulent. Tree succulents also fall into this category, like the Ponytail Palm, which has a very wide trunk where it stores large quantities of water to get it through spells of drought.
Some succulents also use their roots to hold extra water. These often appear as taproots, long roots that extend down into the ground to maximize water storage and widen access to potential nutrients. Carrots are a great example of a plant that functions in this way, though it is not a succulent. In succulents, this tactic is usually used in combination with one or both of the methods above.
Succulents of All Sizes
With each water-storing method above, you can find plants of various sizes. Many leaf-type succulents stay compact, but not all.
Agave plants are a type of succulent that combines thick water-storing leaves with a large taproot, and these plants can reach up to 20’ (6.1 meters in height. Stem-type succulents can grow even larger, like the Baobab Tree, which can reach heights of up to 20 meters.
Why You Might Want a Small Succulent
If you’re looking for plants, it’s often the large, luscious plant that catches your eye first. However, there are many reasons to covet the small species as well.
- Space restrictions. If you live in a small apartment or have even jumped on the recent trend of “van life,” your plant real estate is going to be very limited. Small plants will allow you to bring greenery into your home, whether it’s sedentary or mobile, and won’t take up too much space.
- Easier to move. If you know that you have a move coming up in the next few years, you might want to consider purchasing plants that are on the smaller side. Large plants are much more difficult to move. Not only are they large, but the pots can also be extremely heavy.
- Can fit in bathrooms and on window sills. Tiny plants can be tucked into cute corners of your home. Compact bathrooms might only have space for a few miniature plants, but this is not an issue for small succulents. You can fit a one-inch potted plant nearly anywhere in your house; just don’t forget where you put it!
- Cheaper. Have you ever looked at the price tag for a large snake plant and thought, “how can a plant cost this much?!” Well, snake plants are notoriously slow-growers. The larger the plant, the more work the nursery has put into growing that plant, and the higher the price will be. Small plants are much more affordable, and you also get the satisfaction of watching them grow.
- Create a succulent garden. Small succulents are perfect for creating a dreamy fairy garden scene. You can fit many of the little plants together to form pathways and picnic spots for imaginary friends. Large plants may be impressive, but they don’t have the same sense of whimsy as the little succulents listed below.
Every succulent starts off as a tiny seedling. It’s easy to confuse them at this size, and you could mistakenly bring home a baby saguaro cactus instead of a mammillaria. Make sure you’re actually picking up a small succulent, and look for the following names at your local garden center.
Living stone succulents, or “lithops,” are a very unique-looking plant. As the name suggests, these small specimens take the appearance of flat rocks on the ground. This helps the plants to be overlooked by grazing animals and allows them to survive for years.
These plants do not have a proper stem; instead, the leaves grow almost directly out of the taproot that hides below the soil. The leaves of the plant grow in pairs, with each leaf making up half of the so-called stone. The faces of the leaves are speckled with a variety of colors, which makes an entire tray of these succulents particularly fascinating.
A living stone plant is the perfect place to start when collecting small succulents. These plants are ideal for small spaces, as they rarely grow larger than an inch (2.5cm) in height. They are also happy to be slightly root-bound, meaning their repotting needs are minimal.
The split rock succulent is similar to the lithops in many ways. Instead of appearing as flat stones like the lithops do, the split rock succulent grows into a slightly larger, egg-shaped stone. These little plants have also developed to blend into their surroundings.
The egg shape is made up of two leaves that meet in the middle, mimicking a rock that has been cracked in half. When flourishing, the funny plant will produce a new set of leaves that will grow from the center of this crack at a right angle to the existing leaves. Plants that have grown healthily for a few years will start to take on the look of a small pile of broken rocks.
Though these succulents nearly double in size every time they make a new pair of leaves, the plants rarely grow larger than 5” (13cm) tall and 4” (10cm) wide. They are the perfect companion to a sunny windowsill or under a plant light on your desk.
One of the houseplants that can live almost anywhere is the Haworthia. These succulents are native to Africa, where they are used to surviving extreme heat and bouts of drought. The plants are also tolerant of less-than-optimal lighting, meaning even low-light rooms can house this plant.
The haworthia is like a typical succulent in that it grows very slowly. These plants grow mere millimeters a year, and the average plant is only 1-3” in diameter. You can fit multiple haworthia plants in a small pot, so if you’re short on space but still want to feel like you have a full garden, these succulents are the perfect way to go.
As a leaf-type succulent, these plants store their water in thick leaves that splay out like a spiky rosette. The dark green shapes are often adorned with white spines that form stripes, which is why it is commonly referred to as the zebra plant. These succulents have an attractive contrast, and their determination to grow in the worst of conditions makes them an inspiring small plant to have in your home.
Echeveria minima is an adorable dwarf version of the already-small echeveria plant. The echeveria succulents are easily recognizable by their muted green leaves and their rosette-shaped growing pattern. They are a leaf-type succulent, with thick, fleshy leaves that hold enough water to keep them healthy in desolate locations.
The echeveria minima, in particular, is the perfect small succulent for the tiny spaces in your home. Their pale green color with a bluish hue gives these plants a dreamy feel, which makes them ideal for succulent fairy gardens. At a maximum size of 5” (12cm) tall, these succulents are perfect for a bedside table or a small kitchen nook–– as long as they get a decent amount of light.
Little Missy is a dwarf variegated form of Crassula, which is a mat-forming plant that creates an attractive carpet across the pot or garden where it is grown. It loves sunny locations, preferring bright to full amounts of sun. While many people grow Little Missy in their garden beds, full pots can live happily indoors if they are placed near a south-facing window or in a bright office.
The ground-covering succulent appears more like an elegant bush than a liquid-hoarding plant. Delicate stems only grow up to 2” (5cm) tall and bear small pale rosettes. The mint-colored leaves are tinged with a pink edge, making this a beautiful small plant for indoor hanging baskets.
While the plant stays low in terms of height, it can spread out over vast areas. Growing the plant in a pot will restrict the size, keeping it as a small, sprightly bush that is suitable for small spaces. It works extremely well in window boxes or elevated pots on your patio, as long as you live in a decently warm area in the US.
Though it sounds like a song from the ’50s, Baby Jade is actually another example of a dwarf succulent. The plant is also known as the Dwarf Jade Plant for its shared appearance with its larger cousin. While the actual Jade Plant can grow up to five feet (60 inches) tall, the Baby Jade stays under 2.09 feet (25 inches). This size can be restricted even further by keeping the Baby Jade in a small pot indoors and by practicing regular trimming.
This succulent is a favorite in the bonsai community, which practices the art of growing and shaping miniature trees over decades to achieve the desired appearance. The Baby Jade plant is a naturally small plant that doesn’t need an extremely high amount of care. Combine this with its tiny tree-like appearance, and you have a perfect bonsai tree.
Interested in creating Bonsai Succulents? Check out the link to this amazing book on Amazon called Pachyforms 2: Bonsai Succulents.
Of course, you don’t need to be interested in the art of bonsai to enjoy owning a Baby Jade plant. As mentioned, these small succulents appear to be shrunken trees, and they add a sense of curiosity to any room or garden. You can cut these trees back to keep them even smaller or restrict their growth with a small pot.
These mini-trees are happy to grow in pots and are less temperamental when it comes to being moved than other succulents. A bright indoor location is best for these trees in the fall and winter, but a moderate-sun outdoor location will benefit these trees greatly throughout the spring and summer.
Fondly known as the World’s Smallest Cactus, the Blossfeldia Liliputana is a hardy succulent that grows in conditions that other plants would never survive. This tiny round plant grows in clusters, though even groups of the Blossfeldia can be easily overlooked. Reaching a maximum size of 12mm in diameter, these minuscule specimens grow in cracks and crevices of rocky areas of Bolivia and Argentina.
The tiny cacti are about the size of a penny and reach only a centimeter or two off of the ground. When full of water, they appear as little round balls and can grow small white flowers when truly flourishing.
They are not very good at regulating their own water retention, however, and will quickly deflate when conditions get dry. When this happens, they appear deflated and puckered but will perk up again with good watering and without any damage to the plant.
These tiny cacti are perfect for small spaces and for the home gardener looking for a low-maintenance plant. They actually don’t like full sun, instead preferring indirect light. A south-facing window sill with a sheer curtain will help to dissipate some of the sun’s strength or place these tiny succulents under the shade of a larger plant in your rock garden.
A member of the large mammillaria family of cacti, the Pincushion cactus is native to Mexico and parts of the southern United States. However, with the right indoor care, they can thrive anywhere in the world.
The Pincushion cactus is a round ball of a plant with symmetrical spines that cover the entire surface of the round stem. The plant appears to have been stuck all over with pins, hence the name. While this succulent may not be the most cuddly plant on our list, it’s ideal greenery for small spaces.
Like a lot of cacti, the growth of this plant happens slowly. Plus, the Pincushion cactus will only grow as large as its container. With a maximum size of six inches (15cm) in both height and diameter, the plant won’t get too large, even if you don’t restrict its growth.
This cactus does require a lot of sunlight, preferring 6-12 hours of it a day. If even your sunniest window doesn’t receive this much light, not to worry. You can purchase a plant light to help supplement your Pincushion’s growth. The Ezorkas Plant Light offers a 12-hour timer, so you can simply turn the light on and leave your cactus to soak up the artificial rays.
When extremely healthy, the Pincushion cactus will flower, bursting into a crown of pink petals that sits atop the head of the cactus.
The mysterious Star cactus is another round cactus, though this one lacks any spines. The thornless plant only reaches 6 inches (15 cm) across and up to 2.7 inches (7 cm) tall. It is usually a dull green or brown color, which helps it to blend into its desert surroundings.
The round body of the star cactus grows in eight equal sections, with a crease between each. Upon each section are a few nodes that grow vertically along the ridge. These plants are also referred to as the “sea urchin cactus” because of their similarities in appearance.
Very happy star cactuses will sprout wide yellow flowers out of the very tops. These flowers are such an attractive balance to the rest of the toad-ish plant that some nurseries sell the cactus with fake flowers glued to the top.
If you want to bring this small succulent into your home, be sure to purchase the plant from a reputable plant nursery. Unfortunately, this cacti has been labeled as “endangered” due to over-collecting and habitat destruction.
The Feather cactus looks like the soft, cuddly version of the Pincushion cactus. This succulent also belongs to the Mammillaria family and grows in a similar ball shape. Just like the Pincushion cactus, this plant is covered in spines; however, the Feather cactus hides its defense mechanism behind delicate white hairs.
While this cactus may not be soft-to-the-touch, it is easy on the eyes. The white “feathers” cover the dark green stem of the plant, and small yellow flowers sprout from the crown when the cactus is flourishing. The Feather cactus only reaches 3 inches (8 cm) in height and will grow as wide as its container.
This cactus is perfect for small, warm spaces that receive plenty of light, like in a loft or under a skylight. Since this plant is sensitive to the cold, it’s best to keep it away from drafty windows and cold basements. The plant is still hardy when it comes to surviving drought, though, and care efforts are minimal once the pot is in the right place.
Tips for Keeping Succulents Small
While most of the plants on this list won’t ever reach an unmanageable size, there are many more succulents that you may find yourself pining over. If you want to get some of the plants that can grow large but your space is limited, there are ways you can keep your succulents small.
Restrict Pot Size
One of the easiest ways to keep your succulents from growing too large is to restrict their pot size. While an Aloe Vera plant can reach up to three feet (91 cm) tall, you can slow its growth by keeping it in a small pot. Plants like the Aloe grow quite quickly, so keeping them in a small pot will keep them a manageable size for longer.
Grow Them in a Low Light Environment
Succulents are famous for being sun lovers, and many succulents will die without the right amount of light. Some succulents can actually survive in low-light environments, though their rate of growth will be greatly decreased.
Using the Aloe Vera plant as an example again, this succulent will survive nicely in a low-light bathroom, but it probably won’t ever reach the three-foot height it’s capable of.
Succulents are a plant that already has minimal fertilization needs, with the addition of too much fertilizer quickly burning most of these plants. To slow down their growth rate, lower the fertilization rate even more. Succulents and cacti are used to very desolate environments with little to no available nutrients, so you don’t have to worry about starving them this way.
Trim Them Regularly
The key to keeping many types of succulents small, like the full-sized Jade Plant, is to trim them regularly. Cutting back unwanted growth will not only keep the plant small, it will provide you with fresh cuttings with which you can propagate your plant. You can gift your cuttings to friends, or add them back into the soil of the parent plant, making the pot a fuller centerpiece.
Crowd Them in One Pot
Many people plant different types of succulents together in one pot. This usually keeps the succulents small, as the plants have to fight each other for nutrients and water. The more plants you have in one pot, the less chance they’ll have of getting root rot, as each plant is helping to suck moisture out of the soil.
Much like keeping a succulent in a small pot, having the plants next to each other cramps their roots and restricts their growth. If this sounds uncomfortable for your plants, don’t worry; many succulents prefer less room for their roots.
Largest Succulents in the World
Now that we’ve discussed 10 small types of succulents let’s take a brief look at four of the largest types of succulents in the world. These are the ones you’ll probably want to avoid if you’re decorating a bachelor suite!
Officially the largest succulent in the world, the baobab tree is an ancient tree, expected to be able to survive for more than 3,000 years. The African Baobab tree can reach up to 82 feet (25 meters) in height and have a circumference of the same measurements.
These massive trees are known for their thick trunks, which hold massive amounts of water, allowing the Baobabs to survive inhospitable temperatures and weather. They are not a tree you’ll find at your local plant store, so you won’t have to worry about accidentally picking one up.
Agave, on the other hand, is extremely common at garden stores. These small succulents appear very similar to the Aloe Vera plant, although the agave is generally a lighter color, with thinner leaves. In the wild, agave plants can reach a height and width of up to 12 feet (3.6 meters). They also grow a tall stalk from their center, which can be 40 feet (12.2 meters) tall!
Luckily, you can restrict the growth of the agave plant by using the tactics we discussed above. If you live in a warm, southern state, you may want to refrain from planting agave in your garden, as it could soon overtake the yard.
The Ponytail Palm is another tree succulent that can grow to great heights. In the wild, it’s not rare to see a Ponytail Palm reach more than 20 feet (6 meters) in the air.
These succulents are extremely slow-growing, however, so you could actually keep one indoors for years before it outgrew its home. Like the Baby Jade plant, you can also use pot restrictions and regular trims to keep this tree as a bonsai.
The timeless saguaro cactus is synonymous with the American West. These giant cacti often have “arms” that reach out from the plant’s main stalk, which stores extra moisture for the driest times. The tallest ever recorded saguaro cactus was measured at 78 feet (23 meters) tall. A fully waterlogged specimen can weigh more than 4,000 lbs.
However, if you do mistakenly bring one of these plants home, don’t worry. It takes a decade for a saguaro to reach just one inch (2.5 cm) in height.
Succulents are a hardy type of plant that makes easy house guests. All you need to provide them with is a little water, a bright window, and a tiny pot that they can call their own. Some of the best small succulents are cacti, but a lot of succulents’ sizes can be restricted by trimming them or keeping them in small pots.