How Long do Succulents Live: Lifespan Explained

Succulents are among the hardiest of plant varieties. They survive many conditions that other plants will succumb to. They are easy to care for, adapt well to the indoor environment, and often live long.

There’s no one simple answer to how long succulents live since they are a diverse range of plant species; Different species have different lifespans. Furthermore, their lifespan will also depend on the growing conditions and the level of care they receive. Depending on the variety, succulents can have lifespans of a few years to over a hundred years.

Growth Habits of Succulents

The lifespan of succulents also depends on how they grow. Succulents are typically slow-growers. Their slow growth rate is partly because of the less optimal conditions they usually live in, where water and nutrients are sparse. Mini succulents growing in small pots and terrariums will take at least a few years to grow to maturity.

Many succulent species also alternate between dormancy and growth with the changing seasons. During dormancy, the plant will grow even slower than its usual rate. However, with suitable conditions, like warm temperatures and bright light throughout the year, dormancy can be completely avoided.

Monocarpic Succulents

Some succulents do not have a long life, but are accustomed to survive through propagation. Monocarpic succulents, for example, die right after flowering. For this reason, it is often referred to as the “the bloom of death.”

monocarpic succulents
Sinocrassula yunnanensis

Sempervivums, most Agave varieties and most Aeoniums are monocarpic plants. Even for the succulents that die after flowering, the life isn’t short. There are certain conditions that need to be met before these succulents can flower. Agave Americana, for instance, can live for 10 to 30 years before flowering.

Once you see blooms on a monocarpic succulent, there isn’t much that can be done to avoid death. However, they typically propagate well and give lots of pups, before blooming and dying. The pups will continue to live even once the mother plant is dead.

Average Lifespan of Common Succulents

Below is a list of the most common succulents along with their average lifespans and the conditions required to ensure their longevity.

Jade Plant

Also sometimes called the money plant, the scientific name of Jade plant is Crassula Ovata. They are a treasured houseplant since they’re easy to care for, propagate well and have a long lifespan. Furthermore, they are often associated with good luck, hence the name “money plant.” Jade plant can live for over 70 to 100 years, which is typically longer than the life of the owner themselves.

jade plant
jade plant – Crassula Ovata – “Money Plant”

However, to ensure their longevity, Jade plant require optimal care. Direct sunlight for 4 hours or more everyday is ideal for the plant. Additionally, regular watering to ensure that the soil stays moist, but not wet, will also keep it healthy; Ensure the soil is well drained. If it is planted in a container, there should be enough drainage holes at the bottom to allow water to flow out easily without waterlogging the soil.

Temperatures between 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit are best for Jade Plants. In colder climates, the plant will perform better when grown indoors. In an indoor environment, artificial lights can also be used to maintain adequate lighting and temperature levels.

Aloe Vera

Taking 3 to 4 years to mature, Aloe Vera can survive anywhere between 5 to 25 years and attain a height of about 2 feet; Giving it the right care can help it survive longer.

aloe vera
Aloe Vera

Though they are sun-loving plants and need at least a few hours of direct sunlight to grow optimally, too much sun isn’t good for them either. Exposure to direct sunlight for long hours can burn the leaves. Room temperature is ideal for the plant, though they’ll also tolerate cold temperatures.

Hens and Chicks

Hens and Chicks is the collective name given to a group of succulent plants because of the way they look; There is a mother plant with a wider base at the center, surrounded by smaller ones. Hens and Chicks include ground-hugging species of Sempervivum, including Sempervivum ‘Pekinese’, S. arachnoideum , and S. tectorum.

hens and chicks
Hens and chicks – Sempervivum globiferum

The average lifespan of Hens and Chicks is 3 to 4 years; However, this is the lifespan of a single plant. The mother plant – in the center – continues producing new “chicks” year after year.

Even once the main plant dies, the chicks continue living. The chicks mature to become the mother plant and start producing their own “chicks.” In this sense, the plant can survive indefinitely.

Like most other succulents, Hens and Chicks grow best in light and well-drained soil. Water each time the soil dries out. Since they reproduce frequently, they will need to be split up in additional containers as soon as the original pot becomes crowded. Make sure they get lots of sunlight, but avoid overexposure to sun for long hours as it may overheat them.

Living Stones

Native to South Africa, Living Stones (Lithops sp.) are intriguing succulent varieties because of their unusual appearance. They can be easily mistaken for split pebbles at first glance, hence the name. Living Stones grow slower than most other succulents and stay small. Their longer than usual lifespan is partly due to their slow development.

living stones
Living Stones – Lithops sp.

Typically, lithops can survive between 40 to 50 years, as long as they are given the right care. Though they are low maintenence plants and need very little watering, lithops won’t survive in low light. They need to be placed at a location with 4 to 5 hours of bright sunlight. They can also live in full sunlight, even if its gets hot.

Grow the plant in well-drained, sandy soil and water only when the soil dries out. Don’t water through the winters while the plant is dormant. A little bit of fertilizing during the growing season can also help it bloom once a year.

Christmas Cactus

Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera sp.) is a favorite in homes because of the showy blooms it gives right around Christmas time. As compared to a single flower on many succulent varieties, Christmas cactus bears lots of flowers, in red, pink or white, depending on the variety.

When cared for, they can live for 30 years or longer, blooming each year throughout their lifespan. Grow them in a pot with drainage holes and well-drained soil. Water them regularly, but avoid overwatering all the same. Water the plant only once the soil surface feels dry to touch. Fertilize it with a diluted mix specialized for succulents every year to keep it healthy and to promote blooming.

How To Help Succulents Survive Longer

Though succulents are hardy plants and respond better to negligence than other plants, certain conditions can help maximize their lifespan.

Use the Right Container

Breathable containers, with drainage holes at the bottom are best for succulents. Typically, they do well in terracotta pots, though they might need to be watered more often since the soil dries out faster. The faster the soil dries out, the better it is for the plant.

Best Soil

Sandy, well-drained soil is best for succulents. The ideal choice is a cactus and succulent mix, available at garden centers, since it’s specifically formulated for succulent growth.

Avoid Crowding

Though succulents clustered densely in a small pot may be an attractive sight, it does not offer the ideal growing conditions for the plants. They need sufficient room for their roots to breathe.

When not given enough space around the root zone of each plant, the leaves start loosing their stored moisture, wrinkling as a result. Soon, the root cells start dying, eventually killing the plant.

Optimal Sunlight

Though most succulents appreciate bright light, overexposure to direct sunlight and hot temperatures is not good for them.

Different succulents have different sunlight requirements. It’s best to research the plant before choosing a spot to place it.

Typically, succulents with green or variegated leaves are most susceptible to sunburns. They should be placed next to a sunny window, with some shade during the hottest hours of the day. Succulents in red, grey, or blue colors, and those covered with spines can generally survive full sunlight and hot temperatures.

Little Water

Offer them just enough water to keep the soil moist, but not wet. Overwatering is the most common cause of premature death in succulents.

Succulents store water in their leaves, stems and roots, which is why they need less water as compared to other plants. However, depriving them of moisture isn’t good for their health either.

As an estimate, most succulents need a deep soaking every two weeks.

Fertilization

A well-balanced fertilizer, containing a combination of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, offered once a year at the beginning of the growing season is enough to keep them nourished; Over-fertilization can also burn them.

Final Thoughts

With proper care, most succulents can survive for several years. For those with shorter lifespans, the easiest way to continue enjoying them is to propagate them. Gardeners can reproduce generations of succulents from a single plant.

Kinza Zaheer
Kinza Zaheer is an aspiring Horticulturist; She received her Bachelor of Science (B.Sc. Hons.) in Horticulture from the University of Punjab (2016 - 2020). On Phyt Plants she shares her knowledge and experience of plant life in order to help her fellow Gardeners.