Are Orchids Succulents?

Are Orchids Succulents

Orchids have many of the same characteristics that succulents do, in that they are also resilient plants that are able to survive low-light conditions and drought.

While not all orchids are considered succulents, there are some epiphytic orchids that are. These orchids have embraced a life very similar to that of a succulent, leaving some people wondering whether all orchids might be succulents.

In this article, we will dive deeper into the characteristics required of a plant for it to be considered succulent. So, if you want to learn more about orchids and whether they have what it takes to be considered succulent, then just keep reading.

What is an orchid?

Orchids are flowering plants that belong to the Orchidacaeae family, of which there are over 28,000 different species.

This is the largest family of flowering plants, and they are extremely popular among gardeners and plant collectors because of the great variety of colors and sizes that can be mixed and matched in a collection.

Orchids have the reputation of being tropical-only plants, but they are far more diverse than that, and can be found in the wild on all the continents except Antarctica.

What are the characteristics of a succulent?

Generally speaking, the characteristics that a plant should have in order to be considered a succulent are the following:

It should have the ability to store water in its roots, stems, and leaves. This stored water is what the plant uses when it encounters periods of little to no rainfall, or drought. Succulents typically come from the driest, most arid regions on earth, so this ability to store and conserve water is very important for the continued survival of their species.

Succulents also suffer very little damage despite drought conditions. The leaves and stems of the succulent will not dry out as quickly as those of other plants, despite its water needs being neglected.

Lastly, succulents are some of the hardest plants to kill. They can survive, and even thrive, despite receiving very little care for weeks at a time.

Are orchids succulents?

Many orchid species share some of the characteristics of succulents; they are also hardy plants that can survive despite very little water or light. Some epiphytic orchids have actually been observed to grow just like succulents. These are the ones that grow on the trunks and branches of trees, usually with their roots wrapped around said tree to help anchor themselves to it. They do this to be higher and therefore closer to sources of light. They absorb water and nutrients from the air through their aerial roots, and they are completely fine growing this way for their entire life.

What are examples of orchids that can be considered succulents?

1. Calanthe

Calanthe orchids are also called Christmas orchids, and there are more than 200 species included in this genus. This type of orchid comes from the tropical areas of Southeast Asia.

This is an evergreen plant that has thick roots, crumpled leaves and long flower stems. It produces orange, pink and white flowers.

2. Acampe

These orchids can be found in the Philippines, Malaysia, India and China. Their name comes from the tiny flowers that they produce.

These orchids produce slow-growing and thick leaves. Their flowers are yellow with red or orange stripes and are quite fragrant.

3. Vanilla

Did you know that the vanilla extract you use every time you bake comes from the Vanilla orchid?

There are over 100 species of Vanilla orchid, the most popular being the flat-leaved Vanilla orchid that is native to Mexico. The different species can be found all around the world, but particularly in tropical places.

This orchid has one of the most potent and recognizable scents in the orchid family, which is why it is heavily used in the cosmetics and food industries.

4. Liparis

The Liparis orchids are more commonly known as widelip or sphinx orchids. There are around 300 species in this genus alone, and they can be found all over the world except in Antarctica.

These orchids are epiphytic or lithophytic, and only have one or two leaves. They produce medium-sized purple, green, or yellow flowers that have a somewhat unpleasant smell.

5. Ansellia

The Ansellia orchid is also known as the leopard orchid. This is a monotypic orchid, which means there is only one species in the entire genus.

This orchid is native to South Africa and is usually found near the tree canopy in the forest or along the sides of a river.

Ansellia orchids can form large clumps while attached to a tree, and they have green or yellow flowers with brown spots. Sadly, the flowers do not last for very long; after around 10 days they will drop off.

6. Oberonia

Oberonia orchids are also called fairy orchids, and there are more than 200 different species. These orchids can be found in parts of Asia, Africa and Australia, and their distinct feature is their fan-like leaves. They produce cup-shaped flowers that tend to fall off very quickly.

7. Eulophia

These orchids are also known as corduroy orchids, and there are around 200 species in the genus. They are native to Asia and Africa, and can usually be found in woodlands or rainforests.

Many species of this genus actually do not have leaves and those that do have leaves that are long and narrow.

Their flowers grow on a thin flower spike.

8. Bolusiella

This genus of orchid has four species, native to the Comoro Islands and parts of the African continent.

These orchids are quite small, at just a few inches tall, and have leaves shaped like swords that are typically light green in color.

They are known to produce very beautiful flowers.


Not all orchids are considered succulents, but there are definitely some that can be because they live in a way quite similar to that of a typical succulent.

A plant is considered succulent if it can store water in its stems, roots and leaves for use in times of drought. It can go for extended periods with very few resources and will thrive despite extreme living conditions.

Orchid genuses that are considered succulent include Calanthe, Acampe, Vanilla, Liparis, Ansellia, Oberonia, Eulophia, and Bolusiella.

Image: / helen89