Succulents are becoming increasingly popular among gardeners as well as indoor plant enthusiast. Most succulents available in the shops are usually still quite small and the most sought after are in a rosette shape or low growing plants. So which ones grow tall? And are there any succulents that can be planted as hedges or trees?
The Best Tall Succulents
Let’s have a closer look at each one, how large they grow and how to care for them.
This is a species of Baobab native to Australia where it is referred to as a boab. Adansonias are the largest succulent plants on earth. The African species can grow to 23m and are truly giant. Australian Boab grows from 5-15m which is still highly impressive and very tall. Their trunks can become extremely swollen and can grow to a few meters in diameter.
Adansonia Gregorii is deciduous, meaning the plant will loose its leaves in winter and then grow new ones in spring along with flowers. The plant is mostly edible and the indigenous Australians use it as a source of water as well.
If you’re after a tall succulents this is as tall as they get. Adansonia Gregorii would most definitely be an eye catching garden plant. They can be grown in pots too and will bonsai if their root system is restricted.
The best place to purchase these would be online as they are not common plants and are unlikely to be found in garden centres. Seeds can also be bought from specialist online nurseries.
Also known as Tree Aloe or Aloe Barberae this plant grows into a tree reaching over about 15m in its native land of South Africa. In mild climates with the absence of harsh winters it has the potential to grow this big too. The good news is that Tree Aloe can also be pruned and kept in manageable height by cutting the tops off.
This evergreen, tall succulent can be used as a feature in the garden or even a hedge in mild climates. It is not frost tolerant, but will grow well in a large pot.
The Tree Aloe may be a bit difficult to find, though not impossible. Try online nurseries or Amazon/ eBay.
There are many common names for this plant including Jade, Elephant Bush or Lucky Money Tree. This perennial succulent has brownish-red stem and small round leaves filled with water. It has a branching habit and can grow into a medium sized shrub to over 2 meters height which is pretty tall for a succulent plant.
Portulacaria Afra can be pruned just like hedging plants but also trained to grow a smooth stalk with a canopy on top. This is a very hardy plant that will look fantastic as a hedge or a feature in the garden.
It is also very common and can be picked up from nurseries for a reasonable price. Given its popularity, it’s bound to be in an acquaintances garden, so if you see one, grab a cutting. Portulacaria is easy to propagate from cuttings and will root in about 2-3 weeks in its growing season (spring- early autumn). For those of you with very cold winters and freezing
temperatures, this plant is not frost hardy so best to keep it in a pot to be able to bring it in for winter.
Another plant that people refer to as Jade or Lucky Money Tree. Crassula Ovata must be one of the most common succulents out there and can be found in many gardens.
The thick trunk and branches are brownish in colour and end with bright green leaves. When the plant is stressed by either sun, low water or cold, the leaves edges will turn bright red.
Crassula Ovata can grow to approximately 1.5m and can be used as a hedge or a small tree.
This plant is very hardy and will survive long periods of draught, but is not frost tolerant.
Again, a very common plant that may be obtained as a free cutting from someone you know or bought for fairly cheap in plant shops.
Euphorbia Tirucalli or Fire Sticks is a succulent plant native to Africa. It is evergreen and changes colour when stressed to a gorgeous green, yellow and orange. It looks like a trunk and a lot of thin branches. In winter, it may loose its tiny leaves that grow out of each branch.
Euphorbia Tirucalli, just like other Euphorbias is filled with a white sap that can cause an allergic reaction (quite severe in some people) and should never get on the face or into the eyes. It is also toxic to humans and pets and so is best to be avoided if you have small kids that like to explore the garden or plant nibbling pets.
The Fire Sticks is quite a stunning plant that can grow into a tree over 2m in height and can also be used as a hedge. It is also quite common and sold in nurseries.
Also known as the Propeller Plant, Senecio Crassimus has interesting leaves in the shape of a plane propeller. The colour is silver-blue and the edge of the leaves is purple. The colour of the purple also does not fade in the warmer months, unlike many other colourful succulents, as long as it’s exposed to sun for a few hours a day.
Senecio Crassimus can grow to about 1m in height and can be used as a low hedge or trained into a small tree. It is also a lovely, eye-catching background plant in a succulent garden. It is suitable for both pots and garden.
While quite widespread, this plant may not be readily available in garden centres. Online nurseries should stock this plant.
While not the tallest one, this lovely succulent looks like a mini, blue pine tree. It’s leaves are thin and long and the plant can reach over 1m tall. Senecio Cylindricus has a shrub-like growing habit and can be used as a low succulent hedge.
Thanks to its blue colour, Senecio Cylindricus is a very attractive succulent that is suitable for pots or garden. It is also very hardy and draught tolerant, but will die in frost.
Online nurseries might be the easiest way to source this plant.
This succulent is a fabulous indoor plant plant that usually reaches about 1m tall though in ideal conditions it is known to go well over that. It is also suitable for the garden, but is listed as a noxious weed in some parts of the world and, therefore, is best kept in pots. If you want to use this as a tall indoor plant that it will need to be planted in a decent size pot to grow.
Sansevieria Trifasciata will also cope well in low light, though a nice bright spot will help it grow to a desired height.
Sansevierias are very common and can be easily obtained in nurseries or garden centres.
There is a bit of a disagreement as to whether Yuccas are actually succulents. Some say not all species are, others argue all of them are succulents. We will go with the assumption that they are succulents or part-succulents (part succulents also do exist). Either way, they are gorgeous and hardy plants that are suitable for indoors as well as the garden.
Yucca Elephantipes grows quite tall and is a popular house plants that can be placed against an empty wall etc. They are slightly spiky and should be placed in a low traffic corner.
They are also super hardy and will not require regular watering.
Yucca Elephantipes is a pretty common plant and should be available from most garden centres.
There are many more tall succulents out there. If you have a favourite one, you can share in the comment section below.
How To Care For Tall Outdoor Succulents?
The care advice can differ slightly depending on where in the world you are, but these tips will remain the same wherever you are.
For tall succulents to grow to their full height, it is best the soil is of good quality. Succulents have smaller and more delicate root systems that may not have the strength to push through heavy soil.
If you have heavy soil it can be broken up. The best time to do this is after rain, as it will more workable. When heavy soil is dry, it can almost be impossible to dig into. A standard potting mix (does not have to be succulent potting mix) can then be mixed in so to change the structure of the soil.
When the soil is more plant friendly it will also become more critter friendly. Burrowing bugs and worms will then do much of the heavy lifting as they dig small tunnels as well as produce nutrients.
A good woodchip mulch is unlikely to harm any of the abovementioned succulents and will prevent soil from becoming hydrophobic. The worms and other beneficial soil-residing animals will also be more likely to take up residence if there is mulch.
While succulents will survive long periods without water, to get faster and larger growth it is best to water regularly. Especially during droughts, heatwaves or when it has not rained for a while.
In the ground succulents are unlikely to rot from too much water (as long as they are not planted in boggy areas).
Succulents will not mind light pruning and can have branches cut to shape. However excessive pruning is to be discouraged as succulents tend to recover slower than other hedge plants.
In the ground succulents will not mind more nitrogen heavy fertilizers and will benefit from slow release pellets of any bog-standard fertilizer. If you're interested to learn how to fertilize succulents in pots and in the garden you can see another one of our articles especially dedicated to succulent fertilizers.
The majority of succulents are not frost tolerant but will tolerate temperature up to the freezing point. Unfortunately, succulents will not be suitable to grow in the ground in climates where frost and snow is a regular occurrence during the cold months.
If, however, only mild frosts with the occasional sprinkling of snow now and again is the norm, a frost cloth can be used to protect garden succulents during frosty nights.
Succulents deal with heat and strong sun better than many other plants, especially when they are grown in the ground. But once heatwaves of over 40C (104F) start, some succulents may experience sunburn in the hot afternoon sun.
Mature plants are less likely to get damaged, but young succulents can be more vulnerable. During extremely hot days a shade can be created over the plants with a use of cloths, umbrella or a 30% shade cloth. This will prevent sunburn and overall stress. The heat is not the problem, it is exposure to sun's UV that can kill a succulent.
In conclusion, succulents are a fantastic and hardy addition to frost free gardens. There is enough variety, shapes and sizes to satisfy any gardening needs.