Is There Any Difference Between Cacti and Succulents?

People who have no experience with plants, and especially with succulents, generally cannot recognize the  true difference between them and cacti. Most people might jusr say that the difference is obvious to everyone and that some have leaves and others thorns. And that is true, but does one exclude the other? If you think about it, some cacti even have flowers on their areolas, leaves, etc.

Mixing these two terms is common. However, you will best understand their individual meaning if you understand how they are related. Most people see these terms as separate but quite related groups of plants. They actually are, but it is much more complex than that. To learn a little more about them, keep reading the text and discover all the details. In the following text, we will try to present you the clearest possible connection between these plants as well as their individual characteristics.

Relationship between cactus and succulent

Both types of plants have something special that sets them apart from all the others, and that is their ability to survive. As you know, they need extremely little water. This is because they have the ability to accumulate fluid that they use later as reserves. In this way, they can never dry out, but even a large amount of water can harm them. Therefore, growers of these plants recommend that they be watered infrequently. However, it is not only because of this that plants are extremely capable.

They can survive high temperatures and do not need supplementation. Additional nutrients are certainly desirable, but it is enough for the plant to consume them once a year (spring or summer). Keep in mind that they still come from a harsh environment. And because of that, they are inactive in winter in order to survive the low temperatures in the desert. Their extremely unusual structure makes them very popular. That is why they are one of the favorite forms of decoration used to beautify the interior and exterior.

The difference between a cactus and a succulent

When we look at cacti on one side and succulents on the other, we can notice several important things. Cacti are a family that comes from a wider category of succulents. The biggest difference is in the thorns, because all cacti have thorns unlike succulents. So, from the physical and appearance, we can conclude what kind of plants it is. And that’s exactly the best way to differentiate them from each other. However, when you think a little better about their appearance, you will realize that some have leaves, while others do not.

This physical characteristic changes a lot, especially the place of accumulation of fluids. Cacti store water reserves in the root mainly while succulents retain fluid in the leaves. They are just the main indicator when something is wrong with the plant as well as an indicator of dehydration or too much water. The leaves are extremely dense due to their primary function. You will notice that the leaves of succulents look very strange and magical and rarely leave them indifferent. There is a difference in survival because they come from different backgrounds.


Now that the differences between cactus and succulents are clear to you, let’s define these two terms a little better. It is almost impossible not to recognize them. Thorns, which are the main reason for their popularity, contribute to its specificity. In addition, we must not ignore this fact for a moment, because of which we can get hurt. They are considered a subcategory of the succulent group. They range from tall and skinny to short and round. They are also the most beautiful decorative plants and people around the world even have their own collections of small cacti.

Numerous species of cacti bloom only once a year, and sometimes they do not bloom. That is why they are considered a reward. There is an opinion that they will bloom only if you reward them with boundless love. Domesticated cacti can be your best friends in the house, and if they bloom, believe me, they will be the most beautiful decorations in homes.


These plants do not have thorns and are distinguished by that. However, there are a few more things that make this plant unique. They have a fleshy appearance, and this is precisely because of its leaves in which water accumulates. The larger the number of leaves, the more water the succulents need, because the plant has a higher capacity. Their skin is also very thick and not permeable to water. The root is not deep at all and is very close to the surface, but it is also widespread in order to collect as much water as possible. While some cacti may have only areolas, flowers and more, succulents are limited. They can’t have thorns.

Situations in which the appearance of succulents and cacti can deceive you

Many people wonder why some succulents and cacti look almost identical. Also numerous shops, like SucculentMarket, are selling both, so it is natural to thing that they are same. This mainly refers to plants such as Aloe, Haworthia, Agave … The reason for the doubts is precisely their visual characteristics. And it has cylindrical shapes and spines. So many may think they are genetically related, but they are not. What happened here? There has been a convergent evolution. Thus, these two genetically unrelated plants developed the same traits. This often happens in animals as well, so it is widely present in nature.

This phenomenon is mainly a consequence of the environment in which both species develop, because the conditions are very comparable. For example, succulents that face external conditions as well as cacti naturally acquire their characteristics in order to be able to cope with difficult conditions. By that we mean the same cylindrical shape that gives them the ability to cope with drought and everything else that comes with it. Sometimes the similarity is so great that it is difficult for an expert to distinguish them. So don’t be surprised if you sometimes get confused in a situation like this.


When we compare these plants, we are more inclined to find common things and that makes it difficult for us to distinguish them. This is a completely normal phenomenon since they function almost identically. However, when we take a closer look at their physical appearance and take into account their characteristics, we can conclude one thing. The main difference between succulents and cacti is the following … All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. We hope we’ve been able to help you find the answer to your question.