How Long Do Succulents Live? 3 Tips for the Longest Lifespan
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Like many people, I just can’t seem to resist the appeal of an adorable succulent plant. So, also like many people, I’ve surrounded myself with quite a few of them. But that got me wondering- how long do succulents live, and how can I help them reach their full lifespan? Research was in order!
How long do succulents live? The potential life span of a succulent depends on the succulent type, and there are quite a few types out there. Even then, some of the shorter-lived succulents still continuously grow offshoots that replace older plants. Some succulents, like jade, can live up to a hundred years; aloe vera and lithops can live up to fifty years; echeveria hybrids and sempervivum may live just one or two years.
Succulents grown in a garden or home can still live as long as their wild counterparts, as long as the conditions meet their needs, which tend to the drier, hotter and sunnier side of things. In this article, we’ll talk about just how to help your succulents thrive so they can live as long as possible!
How Long Does an Indoor Succulent Live?
According to Stacie Krljanovic, Head Groundkeeper in Houston, TX and advisor at Patio Productions, succulents are long-lived plants and house plants.
“In general, succulents are hardy plants and can thrive for many years with the right care,” says Krljanovic. “Some species of succulents, such as agave, aloe, and certain cacti, can live for decades or even centuries in their native habitats. In my own houseplant collection, I have had succulents that have lived for several years with proper care. Some of the longer-lived succulents in my collection include agave, aloe, and various cacti.”
The University of Wisconsin Extension Office says that there are at least 50 plant families that have members with succulent characteristics, meaning that there are a lot of succulents out there.
Since there are too many to list here, I’ve compiled a non-exhaustive list of common succulent houseplants and how long you can typically expect them to live with good care.
In the Wild
Up to 25 years
Up to100 years
Up to 100 years
10+ years (less for hybrids)
Up to 50 years
5+ years (less for hybrids)
String of Pearls
Up to 100 years
Up to 100 years
Up to 50 years
Up to 3 years (for the main plant)
Up to 3 years (for the main plant)
Up to 20 years
Up to 100 years
Up to to 200 years
Your aloe plant can be in your houseplant collection for decades if it’s in well-draining succulent soil, you repot it annually and you give it infrequent but deep watering. Drooping aloe leaves can be a problem, but that’s usually from watering issues.
Christmas or Easter Cactus
You know how your grandma lovingly cared for her Christmas or Easter cactus, and it thrived for years? With the right care, these plants can be family heirlooms for a few generations- anywhere from 70-100 years!
Probably the most easily-recognizable succulents around, there are over 100 species within the Echeveria genus. Most echeveria will happily live indoors for up to 10 years, but many of the special, newer hybrids only have a 1-3 year average lifespan.
This adorable plant looks much like a miniature aloe, but it is a separate genus that comes in many pretty colors and patterns. Your haworthia plant should live for at least 5 years on your windowsill.
Kalanchoe are native to the southern regions of Africa, and the Kalanchoe genus has approximately 120 species. As a houseplant, expect your Kalanchoe to live for about 5-7 years, but if you have a newer hybrid species, the lifespan will probably be shorter.
String of Pearls
There are quite a few “string of” houseplants, including string of hearts and string of dolphins. But one consistent favorite is the string of pearls- these little gems have an average lifespan of somewhere between 3 and 5 years.
This one long-lived plant- it can survive up to 100 years if given the right care! And jade can also be trained into a small bonsai tree if you’d like to keep it smaller over its impressive lifespan.
Lithops (aka Living Stones)
These unique plants are native to the southwestern regions of Africa, where their stone-like appearance gives them a natural camouflage defense against hungry animals and birds. Their simple, sturdy shape contributes to a long lifespan, usually between 40-50 years when kept as a houseplant.
There are a lot of sedum varieties out there, but they all have one thing in common- they’re super easy to care for and are happiest when you all but forget about them! Thanks to their low-needs nature, they should easily live for 5+ years.
Sempervivum (aka Hens and Chicks)
This plant produces a main stem that lives for about 3 years before producing numerous baby off-shoots which then carry on as independent plants. So while the original stem only lives a few years, subsequent generations can continue on almost indefinitely.
How Long Do Outdoor Succulents Live?
Outdoor succulents tend to reach their maximum age limit in most cases. That could be anywhere from 2-3 years all the way up to the cacti family, some of which live up to 300 years.
Drought conditions that would kill most other plants are what succulents are designed to thrive in, so lack of water is easily survivable. For some succulents, however, cold weather can cause death. Most species of aloe or jade, for example, can’t withstand temperatures below freezing.
So if an area with normally-warm winters goes through an unusually cold one, these succulents may die or have significant dieback of plant material and a shortened lifespan. Similarly, some succulents thrive as outdoor plants in your garden during the summer, but come winter they’ll succumb to the cold like other annuals.
Succulent Growth and Survival
Succulents are some of the most resilient and long-lived plants because of the unique adaptations that allow them to store water in their stems and leaves and, in some cases, roots.
In fact, some succulents have stems and leaves that are 90-95% water, which accounts for the leaf shapes and textures that make succulents so interesting as ornamentals.
Succulents can collect water not just from the soil, but also from dew and mist. They thrive in arid climates that have high temperatures and low rainfall. Generally that means deserts, but some types of succulents are frost-hardy and grow in rocky alpine conditions.
On a botanical level, the term “succulent” describes these plants’ attributes, not their actual scientific classification. That means that there are succulents in many different plant families, with different genetic backgrounds.
Additionally, cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. Some cacti have incredibly long lifespans, with Saguaro cacti and barrel cacti being some of the longest-living. Several specimens known to be more than 300 years old!
How Long Do Succulents Take to Grow?
There is a range of growth rates for these plants. Aloes, jade plants, lithops and haworthia grow slowly, while kalanchoe, echeveria and hens and chicks grow quickly. Generally speaking, longer-lived succulents are also slower growers.
How to Keep Succulents Alive for the Long Term
Here are three vital care tips to grow healthy, happy succulents indoors:
- They need way less water than you want to give them.
- They need way more light than you realize.
- They need a carefully balanced fertilizing routine.
Here are the details on what each of these points actually looks like in real life:
1. Water Sparingly
Overwatering a succulent is the number-one reason for premature death.
I find that the less often I water my succulents, the better they seem to do. Think drought conditions. Visualize the background of the lonely desert highway where the Roadrunner constantly outsmarts Wile E. Coyote.
Krljanovic notes that these plants are adapted to dry environments, where rain might fall once a year, if that. “It is important to allow the soil to dry out completely before watering, and to avoid overwatering, as this can lead to root rot.”
This means that garden succulents will do best in areas where sprinklers and irrigation don’t reach, and indoor succulents should be watered as infrequently as possible to maintain their health. If your succulents are in an area with higher humidity, they may not need watering ever since they can pull moisture from the air.
For more details, see my guide on how often succulents should be watered.
2. Ensure Lots of Sun Exposure
Deserts aren’t just very dry. They’re also very sunny.
So succulents thrive in bright sunlight in your home or garden as well. Echeveria, in particular, tends to get leggy and weak if the light is insufficient. Here’s one that got stretched out on me- but I still think it’s cute!
This means that the best place to keep indoor succulents is close to your brightest window and, if necessary, to invest in a grow lamp as well. Krljanovic also recommends: “Gently clean your succulents’ leaves with a soft, dry cloth to remove any dust or dirt. This can help to improve the plant’s appearance and allow it to photosynthesize more efficiently.”
Removing the dust layer like this will keep them as healthy as possible for as long as possible, and will also keep them looking more attractive.
3. Fertilize Carefully
And one last tip from Krljanovic: “Succulents also benefit from regular fertilization during the growing season. A succulent-specific fertilizer or a balanced, all-purpose fertilizer with a lower nitrogen content (such as a 5-10-5 formula) can be used.”
For most succulents, the active growing season is during the spring and summer months in your region. It has more to do with the hours of sunshine daily- spring and summer have the longest daylight hours, so it puts the plant in “grow mode.”
I recommend giving your succulent a feeding at the beginning and mid-point of the growing season to keep them going strong all year long.
But the danger of over-fertilizing is a very real one. Remember- these tough plants are adapted to harsh, nutrient-poor areas, so too much fertilizing can overwhelm the plant and cause damage or even death.
Frequently Asked Questions about Succulent Lifespan
Succulents come in so many shapes and sizes- in my opinion, that’s what makes them so fun to grow indoors and out!
We all want our plants to live as long and happy of a life as possible. So remember to keep your succulents warm and dry, let them get lots of sun, and just enough fertilizer. Then you can look forward to your cute succulents giving you years of beauty!
I want to hear from you! Are there any other succulent questions on your mind, or do you have any other care tips to share? We learn best from one another’s unique experiences and thoughts, so please share in the comments!