Martha Stewart Explains The Difference Between A Cactus And Succulent

Have you ever wondered what the difference between a cactus and a succulent is? They may seem like the same thing since many potting soil brands advertise one type of mix for both plants. Plus, they're always grouped together at nurseries and often come arranged in the same pot. Succulents and cacti also have similar requirements to survive.

They're perfect for beginners since they don't need much maintenance. They're great as houseplants because of the low humidity, but they do need a lot of direct sunlight. Sandy soil with lots of drainage and a south-facing window will provide them with what they need. However, they can easily develop root rot if you overwater them. They only need it when the soil is bone dry, which can take a week to a month. It depends on how much sunlight they get, the temperature in your home, and the humidity. However, if you've found yourself with a collection of succulents and cacti, you may want to know what makes them different. Luckily, Martha Stewart explained it perfectly.

All succulents are succulents, but cacti are also succulents

Martha Stewart, the domestic lifestyle innovator, has the answer to the pressing question about these desert plants. During a segment with the TODAY show, she explained, "all succulents are succulents, but cacti are also succulents." These terms can't be used interchangeably. Just like rectangles and squares, succulents are a group of different plants, and cacti are just one type that is a part of that classification. They are simply a sub-category of the group.

There are about 60 plant families that are classified as succulents. In order to be a part of this group, a plant needs to store water in its leaves, stems, and roots. Since cacti hold moisture in their stems, they are technically succulents. However, the distinction between the two changes depending on who you ask. Scientifically, Stewart is right with her explanation, and botanists agree. Although horticulturists don't believe that cacti can be called succulents. They classify them as an entirely different type of plant.

How to tell the difference

In order to differentiate between a cactus and a succulent, you need to look at the physical features. Depending on the variety of plant, it may seem obvious, but sometimes they can appear very similar. The first thing you should look for is if it has needles. That's an easy way to identify a cactus. However, don't confuse the spines or thorns that some succulents have with a cactus needle. If you're having trouble, you can continue investigating to see if the plant has areoles. These are round, white bumps that sit on a cactus. Flowers, needles, hair, or new branches will grow from the areoles.

Another way to tell the difference is by looking at what flowers bloom from the plant. Succulents will have smaller flowers with simple structures. Beware, many garden centers glue fake paper flowers on their cacti, so double-check that the blooms are real before comparing them. Lastly, you can differentiate the two by their overall appearance. Cacti have waxy stems, while succulents produce leaves in unique arrangements. Looking at the shape and growth pattern of the water-filled foliage will tell you exactly what succulent you have.