Succulents have exploded in popularity and have become a massive planting trend. What plant enthusiast doesn’t love these fascinating, fleshy forms of flora? The more unusual, the better, right?
Unique and rare succulents are distinguished by their specific adaptive features and scarcity. These succulents are often easily identifiable because they generally have non-typical growth or an unusual appearance displaying rich texture and colour.
1. Adromischus Cristatus | Crinkle Leaf Plant
Adromischus cristatus, commonly called the crinkle leaf plant, is a dwarf succulent that is now uncommon in its natural habitat (Eastern Cape, South Africa). They get their name from their plump, crinkle-edged leaves. In spring, small off-white or red tubular flowers blossom from tall stems. Adromischus cristatus is gradually disappearing from the market, making the crinkle leaf plant one of the most unique and rare succulents.
Mature crinkle leaf plants develop tiny white hairs that make the plant look like it has a silvery sheen and a felt-like texture.
2. Adromischus Maculatus | Calico Hearts
Adromischus Maculatus, commonly known as “calico hearts,” is a unique and rare succulent with low-growing, mottled brown and green wedge-shaped leaves. Pale yellow, tubular flowers bloom in the spring. Calico hearts are very hard to find and are often out of stock. Native to South Africa’s Langeberg Mountains, this succulent requires bright sunlight and high temperatures to thrive.
Adromischus Maculatus is a mat-forming succulent with beautifully marbled foliage.
3. Albuca Spiralis | Frizzle Sizzle
This whimsical succulent has distinctive spiralling foliage, earning them the name ‘Frizzle Sizzle’. Native to South Africa, Albuca spiralis is a bulb succulent. The plant goes dormant in the summer and sprouts corkscrew leaves as the weather cools down. Frizzle Sizzle can be difficult to grow indoors because they prefer full sun.
If cared for properly, Albuca spiralis will produce quirky, yellow-green flowers with a vanilla scent.
4. Aloe Haworthioides | Haworthia Leaved Aloe
Aloe haworthioides is a stemless succulent native to Madagascar. These unique and rare succulents can be quite hard to find, with there being a very limited supply on the market. Their dark green, pointed leaves are covered in soft white spines, resembling the “Haworthia” genus. The Haworthia-leaved aloe forms clumping offsets that bloom with orange flowers in late summer and autumn.
The spines of aloe haworthioides are not prickly and are safe to touch.
5. Aloinopsis malherbei | Giant Jewel Plant
Aloinopsis malherbei, or giant jewel plant, is another rare dwarf succulent native to South Africa. Their flat, fleshy leaves have a unique appearance; they are flat and fan-shaped with bumpy, rounded edges. These edges are lined with little tubercles that resemble glistening jewels from a distance. In early spring, they bear yellow flowers.
The Giant Jewel Plant is adored for its tiny structure, typically growing no more than 5 cm (2 inches) tall.
6. Aztekium Valdezii
Aztekium are unique and rare succulents found only in Nuevo León, Mexico. Aztekium Valdezii has an attractive, ribbed, starfish-like shape. They have small, curved thorns and bear magenta funnel-shaped flowers during spring.
Poaching has made Aztekium Valdezii a vulnerable species, as with many other succulents and cacti.
7. Conophytum sp. | Living Pebbles
Plants of the Conophytum genus are known as “living pebbles” and are easily mistaken for Lithops. These unique and rare succulents form large mounds of spotted, fused leaves. Conophytum plants are gravely threatened by poachers, making them increasingly scarce in their natural habitat.
Conophytum truncatum (pictured above)
Conophytum subglobosum is one of the rarest varieties of the Conophytum species. Subglobosum has rounded heads instead of fused leaves. In summer, a new body forms inside the existing one, absorbing the nutrients until just the skin remains. This protects the new plant from the harsh elements. The seeds of this succulent are hard to find.
Conophytum subglobosum has white and light yellow daisy-like flowers in the autumn months. Their flowers open at night and close during the heat of the day.
8. Corpuscularia lehmannii | Ice Plant
Corpuscularia lehmannii is a unique and rare succulent that is threatened by invasive alien species, pollution, and habitat degradation in its native habitat. Their fleshy diamond-shaped leaves grow in attractive pairs and can be as thick as ice cubes, giving them their name, “ice plant.”
Corpuscularia lehmannii is a compact, low-growing succulent originating from South Africa (Eastern Cape).
9. Echeveria runyonii | Topsy Turvy
Echeveria runyonii is a unique succulent also known as “Topsy Turvy.” They have gorgeous rosettes of thick, grey-green leaves that warp and curl along the edges. In late summer and fall, orange flowers arch above the foliage. There are many variations of “Topsy Turvy.” Some of the rarest are “San Carlos” and “Swan Lake,” spontaneous mutations of Echeveria runyonii.
Echeveria runyonii is a fast-growing, evergreen succulent native to Mexico.
10. Euphorbia Obesa | Baseball Plant
The baseball plant is currently one of the most unique and rare succulents in the wild. It shares characteristics with a cactus; but is in fact a succulent species. It has a round, bulbous, sea urchin-like stem, especially in younger plants. When the correct conditions are provided, small flowers appear in clusters on the top of the plant. This South African dwarf succulent is protected as an endangered species. Over-collection almost resulted in the plant becoming extinct in the wild.
Euphorbia Obesa is protected by national (Nature Conservation) and international (CITES) legislation.
11. Faucaria Tigrina | Tiger’s Jaw
Faucaria Tigrina is a small stemless succulent with speckled green leaves. These thick triangular leaves have finely toothed edges, giving them their common name, Tiger’s Jaws. These “teeth” are used to collect moisture.
Faucaria Tigrina will bloom large yellow flowers if they receive sufficient sunlight.
12. Fenestraria rhopalophylla | Baby Toes
Baby toes (Fenestraria rhopalophylla) belong to the same family as lithops. It has green finger-like foliage that grows in upright clusters. These unique and rare succulents are native to the deserts of South Africa. The tips of the leaves have translucent windows, which aid photosynthesis when the plants are almost completely covered in sand. Baby toes have yellow daisy-like blooms that follow the sun just like sunflowers do.
It also goes by the name living stones because of the resemblance to stubby baby toes and small rocks. These varieties include plants known as “Mimicry” plants for their ability to camouflage with their environment.
13. Hatiora salicornioides | Dancing Bones
Dancing bones (Hatiora salicornioides) have a beautifully distorted, coral-shaped growth habit. Their slender, bushy stems are made up of many tube-shaped segments. They bear small yellow flowers that later develop into small berries.
Hatiora salicornioides’ arching stems are capable of growing quite long, eventually cascading.
14. Haworthia Cuspidata | Star Window plant
Haworthia Cuspidata, commonly known as the Star Window plant, has rosettes of beautifully thick, fleshy, two-toned leaves that change colour with the seasons. Haworthia cuspidata variegata is one of the rarest cultivars of Haworthia.
This stunningly unique plant is native to South Africa (Western Cape) and is considered a rare succulent.
15. Haworthia truncata | Horse’s Teeth
Haworthia truncata, commonly known as “horse’s teeth,” is a unique and rare succulent found in the Little Karoo region of South Africa. They have distinctively stubby, windowed leaves that grow opposite each other with a fan-like growth habit. This dwarf succulent grows flat on the ground, disguising itself from herbivores and protecting its fleshy root system under the soil. This allows Haworthia truncata to absorb every bit of available moisture.
Haworthia truncata is a sought-after succulent for avid collectors, making them vulnerable to poaching.
Haworthia truncata v. maughanii has a very unique appearance. This showy succulent has interesting designs on the transparent tops of their leaves. They are easy to cultivate, however, it is slow-growing and may take a couple of years to produce attractive heads.
16. Lapidaria margaretae | Karoo Rose
This is another unique and rare succulent that resembles the Lithop family, although Lapidaria margaretae typically has two to four opposing pairs of pale leaves that support one another. These unusual-looking succulents have thick, rounded leaves with slightly pointed tips and usually have a pinkish hue near the base. In early winter, the Karoo rose plant has large yellow blooms with up to 100 petals.
Lapidaria margaretae’s pale colour and light texturing allow them to camouflage themselves against the quartz rocks in their native habitat.
17. Lithops sp. | Living Stones
Lithops are tiny, slow-growing plants native to Southern Africa. They have become increasingly popular among plant collectors as there are hundreds of varieties that come in a multitude of colours and textures. They blend into their surroundings by mimicking pebbles and rocks, giving them the name ‘Living Stones’. What makes them unique and (somewhat) rare succulents is that they are exceedingly difficult to propagate and their seeds can take up to a year to germinate.
Argyroderma pearsonii is a rare Lithop with cleft egg-shaped leaves. Each stem grows only two leaves per season.
18. Myrtillocactus Geometrizans Forma Cristata | Dinosaur Back Plant
Myrtillocactus Geometrizans Forma Cristata is commonly known as the Dinosaur Back Plant. This unique and rare succulent grows into a large, crested candelabra-like structure. Their blue-green colour and waxy texture make them highly sought-after by collectors. After flowers are produced in early spring, the Dinosaur Back plant bears red edible fruits.
The Dinosaur Back plants intertwined trunk gives this succulent a striking appearance.
19. Oscularia deltoides | Pink Ice Plant, or Vygie
Oscularia deltoides, also known as the Pink Ice Plant, Vygie, or Deltoid Leaved Dew Plant, is a low-growing succulent native to South Africa. This unique succulent is easily identified by its small, red-tipped, three-sided leaves.
The Pink Ice Plant produces a multitude of purple-pink flowers in early summer.
20. Othonna capensis | Little Pickles or Ruby Necklace
Othonna capensis has vibrant trailing stems that grow quickly. They are characterised by their bean-shaped fleshy leaves that turn from greyish-green to purplish-red as the seasons change, allowing them to earn both names, “Little Pickles” and “Ruby Necklace”.
Small, daisy-like flowers which are yellow in colour and that grow on red stems can appear around the year.
21. Pachyphytum Oviferum | Moonstones
Known as moonstones, or the sugar almond plant, Pachyphytum Oviferum is highly sought after for their colour and unique appearance. They have fleshy pale pebble-like leaves dusted with a fine layer of powder. The shade of the leaves vary from pinkish purple to bluish green.
Pachyphytum Oviferum is extremely fragile.
22. Pachyphytum Compactum | Little Jewel
Pachyphytum Compactum has distinct patterns on their matte blue grey leaves. The mesmerising leaves have white veins that form a geometric pattern giving it its nickname “Little Jewel”. When stressed, the tips of their leaves develop an attractive deep red tinge.Although more affordable than other unique and rare succulents, Pachyphytum is still hard to find.
Pachyphytum Compactum leaves have a powdery coating of natural wax (farina).
23. Rhombophyllum dolabriforme | Elkhorn Plant
Rhombophyllum dolabriforme, more commonly known as the Elkhorn plant, grows in low shrub-like mounds. They have thick, curved horn-shaped leaves that are covered with translucent bumps giving them their interesting texture. Native to South Africa (Great Karoo) this unique and rare succulent prefers warm climates. Given the right conditions, they bare silky yellow flowers in summer.
Typically the Elkhorn plant has green leaves, however, if exposed to extreme conditions their leaves will begin to turn a shade of purple.
24. Stapelia Gigantea | Carrion Plant
Stapelia Gigantea has tall green stems that look similar to a cactus. The carrion plant has beautifully large star-shaped flowers that bloom for only a few days. These eye-catching flowers have quite an unpleasant aroma, making them one of the most unique succulents around.
Stapelia Gigantea is a spineless succulent from the milkweed family.
25. Titanopsis calcarea | Concrete Leaf, or Living Stone
Titanopsis calcarea forms rosettes of fleshy grey green leaves with white tubercles on the edges, giving them the name Concrete Leaf or Living Stone. Their growth habit is dense, forming large living mats.
Titanopsis calcarea produces yellow-orange flowers in the cooler seasons.
Unique and rare succulents are adored for so many reasons, and nearly every succulent enthusiast is tempted to have these beauties in their collection.
This high consumer demand has made many of these species vulnerable to poaching causing their numbers to dwindle in their native habitats.
When purchasing your plants, ensure you’re buying from a reputable nursery that has grown the plants and not imported them.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.