Growing Cacti and Succulents in Portugal

Just over a year ago some new friends inspired me to start collecting cacti and succulents. I’d always admired the different species but only as a passing interest.  However, once they showed me their incredible collection, I was hooked. Have you ever studied these plants? Structure, leaves and flowers? They are beautiful! Okay, I concede beauty is in the eye of the beholder but over the next few months I will share my collection, latest additions, challenges and passion and just maybe you will be converted.

A woman on a mission my search for plants began in earnest.  I was amazed to discover most garden centres in the Algarve offer an extensive choice of cacti and succulents at reasonable prices. So my advice: don’t be tempted to import, buy locally if possible. Even Lidls sell cacti and succulents on occasions from as little as €1 each. I’ve also picked up a few plants at car boot sales while friends have donated plants and cuttings.

One of the biggest challenges I’ve encountered and still find confusing, is identifying the plants. Although I’ve been a keen gardener for several years, I’ve never had any inclination to dig deeper (no pun intended) beyond their common names such as Morning Glory, Money plant or Lady of the Night etc. Now I’m faced with words such as Phylum, Life,  Family, Subfamily, Genus, Tribe and Species etc. etc. And as for the Latin names, they are real tongue-twisters! I envy people who can memorise and then reel them off at the drop of a hat.

I am now on a journey of discovery so if there are any cacti and succulent gurus out there, please step forward.

Plant Family – I already have several plants from the list below. Now comes the fun part of identifying them

Genus: Aloe (over 500 species)

Aloe (Aloe arborescens)

Genus: Agaves (over 200 species)

Agave (Agave Attenuata)

Genus: Crassulas -(about 200 species)

Crassula (Jade)

Genus: Echeveria (about 150 species)


Genus Euphorbia

Euphorbia (Euphorbia aeruginosa Schweick)

Genus: Gasteria (7 species?)

Gasteria (Gasteria brachyphylla)

Genus: Haworthia (about 60 species)

Haworthia (Haworthia Attenuata – Wide Zebra)

Genus: Kalanchoe (about 125 species)

Kalanchoe – Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi

Genus Sedum (around 470 species)


Genus: Sempervivum (40 species)


For ease of reference, I will just focus on the genus and then identify the species within each. This will give me a better understanding of the needs of each plant, especially as some species require bright light but not full sun.

We are fortunate  that in some areas of the Algarve most succulents and cacti can live outside during winter as we don’t have severe ground frost.  I grow the tender plants in containers so I can move under a covered terrace during the winter months. I think they would be fine if I left them out, but as a new collector I’m on a steep learning curve so I err on the side of caution.

For example: Aloe is the genus of which there are over 500 species! So far I have succulents and cacti in following  and now it’s time to photograph and identify each of the species.

Tip: when you buy a plant in a garden centre they sometimes remove the identification label when you go to the till as they need the barcode.

Who else grows cacti and succulents?

I’d love to hear from you, so don’t be shy and please leave a comment below.

Related Posts: 
Pachypodium Lamerei – Madagascar Cactus Palm
Queen of the Night Orchid Cactus (Epiphyllum Oxypetalum)


26 thoughts on “Growing Cacti and Succulents in Portugal

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  1. Hi. I live in London, but planning to move to the Algarve. Wondering if one can buy Calandrinia spectabulus there, or should I try to collect some seed? other name is ‘rock purslane’ . I have a reasonable sized collection of succulents here. I guess I will have to leave them all and start over in Portugal.


    1. Quite a few of the garden centres here in the Algarve have a fantastic collection of succulent and cacti. I don’t know about the rock purslane, it is probably available but I would bring some seeds with you just in case. Which part of the Algarve are you planning on moving to?


  2. Hi!

    The thumbnail picture you used for sempervivums is wrong. That’s very clearly a flower from an equeveria and not from a sempervivum.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Boa tarde,
    Ha cerca de 1 ou 2 anos que, e em Almocageme, Colares, Sintra, que vi uma Agave que nunca encontrei o seu nome
    Só conheci a “flor” , a planta já estava a apodrecer, tinha à vontade uns 3 metros de altura, tinha um “mastro” central e os seus ramos eram Imensos e ao logo de cada um desses ramos viam se, não as flores porque já tar, mas umas agaves jovenzinhas, às centenas!
    Não é nenhuma Agave comum, porque de todos os sites que procurei não encontrei nenhum que me desse a certeza. Tenho alguns desses “filhotes” desse Agave. Mas gostaria de lhes conhecer o nome
    Espero que saibam ler Português,


  4. Hi! I have two Opuntias, one Fuzzy Navel and one Haworthia myself! Just one question, where have you found places (apart from supermarkets) that sell cacti and succulents? I’ve found an awesome place in Alvor, near Portimão, that grow them themselves, but as I live between Lisbon and Monte Gordo (south-east corner of Portugal, right next to Spain and the sea), it is a bit off hand. Would love to know more places like that 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Great thanks! This one is a much shorted detour from the way between Lisbon and Monte Gordo! I’ll be sure to check it out.
        No, I never went… Would love to go though


  5. For a while, I had all but one of the 49 identified specie of Yucca (which some consider to be succulent, although I do not know why). The one that was lacking was not even the rarest one. It just happened to be the one that I could not find.
    I also grow common houseleeks and a few other common succulents in my planter box downtown just because they happen to work out there.
    Otherwise, I do not intentionally grow succulents. I am certainly no expert. They just happen to be the sorts of plants that many of us end up with by default.
    Did you need to identify those in the pictures above? I can identify only a few of them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Tony, I had three species of Yucca now I only have two. I had to get someone in to remove the others as, while it had the most beautiful flowers, the pointed tips of the leaves were lethal.

      “Did you need to identify those in the pictures above? I can identify only a few of them’

      I’ve tried to identify a few of the above but could not immediately identify the others. Any help appreciated, please.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I would concur that the first is Aloe arborescens, and that the second is Agave attenuata. The third seems to be Crassula ovata. After that, I can not confirm the specie, although the genera are accurate. You have identified more names than I can. (I thought that some names were missing earlier.)


    1. Epiphyllum Oxypetalum (Queen of the Night)
      I can only speak from personal experience and what works for me.
      When I place my plant in full sun it went yellow and it was not a happy plant. I moved it to partial shade (more early morning sun and dappled shade from about 10/11 am rather than direct sunlight) and it thrived. It is now nearly 2 metres tall and growing like a weed.


  6. I love succulents too and have a big collection in my garden and I propagate many from fallen leaves or from leaves I pick from friend’s gardens. They do very well in our warm weather but don’t like wet feet so they need good draining soil. I had some in pots that weren’t draining well and due to heavy rains this winter some of them were getting a bit soggy.
    Apart from the Gasteria and Haworthia I have all of the above, plus a few others.
    Look for the Aeonium ‘Schwartzkopf – I have them all over my garden, they are beautiful and I just propagate from leaves.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, yes. I have a Aeonium ‘Schwartzkopf but did not know what it was. Thank you 🙂 I also have a couple of others as well.

      I am only just discovering the consequence of plants having wet feet and having ‘wet feet’ and now prod the soil around the succulents with a moisture tester. This is especially useful for plants in containers. I found the top few inches dried out very quickly so I kept watering not realising that the roots were drowning!


  7. We have every species you have shown except for the Gasteria.
    The Aloe Vera is my personal favorite as they attract Sunbirds so I have planted them at various points around the garden.
    The species of Kalanchoe you’ve featured is my wife’s favorite. It does extremely well in one of the rockeries outside the dining room which is a sun-trap.
    We get frost in Johannesburg but the succulents seem to tolerate it.
    However, they are having a hard time dealing with our recently acquired hens!

    Liked by 1 person

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