Cactus or Succulent?

In the world of design and decor, cactus and succulents are having a moment and show no signs of slowing down. They are everywhere! Which is wonderful as they have a minimalist beauty and charm. Even my 12 year old daughter wants her room decorated with cactus & succulent decor. But, here is my question – what is the difference between a cactus and a succulent? Even though I grew up in Texas, surrounded by wild cactus, I never asked this question before, so I looked it up and here is the official difference: 

All cactus are succulents, but not all succulents are cactus.

Confused yet? Me too! : )

Upon further reading I learned that a succulent is any plant that stores water in juicy leaves. Cactus is simply a succulent that can store moisture but is placed in a separate category from all other succulents. Succulents do not belong to one plant family. They are represented in over 40 botanical families that are spread around the world and include close relatives of the pointsetta, geranium, lily, grape, amaryllis, crassula, daisy, milkweed.

Cacti are easily identified because, with rare exception, they do not have leaves. They have stems modified into cylinders, pads or joints that store water in times of drought. Thick skin reduces evaporation. Most species have spines or bristles for protection against browsing animals.

Most succulents evolved under less severe conditions than cacti in areas where rainy seasons were followed by long dry periods. Most have leaves. To tide them over the dry spells, their leaves gradually became fattened by water-storing tissues and their leaves became covered with a waxy or horny material that reduces evaporation from the surface.

Now that the biology lesson is over and we know the difference between the two, here is the fun part!  Check out all these awesome decor options I have found for you (clicking the links will take you directly to the vendor website) if you desire to join in on the trend – Happy Shopping!

Fun home decor featuring cactus & succulents:        

Photographic print of agave cactus from Target

Brass hands terrarium from West Elm


Succulent area rug from Pier 1


Modern ceramic cactus decor from Wayfair

Adorable cactus throw pillow from Wayfair


Succulent wall garden from Pottery Barn


Cactus wall art from Minted

Gold cactus ring dish from West Elm


Cactus doormat from Target

For live succulents & cactus:

Trader Joe’s has a wonderful selection of succulents for low prices.

For Central Texas residents check out East Austin Succulents for cactus & succulents

What’s your take on the trend? Are you on board? Let us know in the comment section.

2 Replies to “Cactus or Succulent?”

  1. Thanks for a great discussion about succulents. I did not realize succulents were so versatile. I plan to add a few to my patio container garden.

    1. I didn’t know either until I starting researching them. : )
      So glad I could help! Send us a photo after you add some to your garden – we would love to see!

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