The Guide to Purple Succulents


Even though they are best known for their green leaves, there are several types of purple succulents that will truly blow your mind. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about these purple plants, from flowering to different species, so read along.

Purple succulents are generally stress-induced succulents or specific subspecies of common succulents with a particular purple hue in their leaves. The most well-known and common purple succulents or purple-leafed succulents are the following species:

  • Purple Beauty (Sempervivum tectorum)
  • Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida)
  • Perle von Nurnberg (Echeveria gibbiflora or Echeveria elegans)
  • Santa Rita Prickly Pear (Opuntia santa rita)
Purple Succulents
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Ok. So now you know about the most common purple succulent plants and which one you could buy. But you might still be wondering: Which one should you buy? How do you take care of them? What makes them so special? What should you do if your plant is starting to turn purple? So let’s get right to it. 

(If you want to dig deeper into each species and the care they need, then go directly to the bottom of the article to read more.)

Basic Care – What are purple succulents called? 

Purple succulents are simply called succulents, as they are regular ones, but chances are you are referring to the Echeveria subspecies as this is the most well-known purple succulent of them all. 

They might be called differently if you are explicitly referring to a particular purple subspecies such as the Purple Heart, Purple beauty or Echeveria to name a few. However, succulents that have a light purple color in their leaves, are regular succulents that change color due to stress that can be caused by light, water or temperature.

This means that the most important aspect of purple succulents is for you to determine if you intend to have a purple one, either by owning a purple subspecies or by inducing stressful effects, or if you have one but want them to go back to their normal green color. 

In any case, let’s start by understanding what makes your purple succulents become purple in the first place. 

Green and Purple Succulents
Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

Factors Affecting the Color of Your Succulent

Most succulents are green or greenish in nature, but can turn red, reddish or purple. If this is the case, then you might want to check out the following factors as they can be the cause of this change, and as you might have guessed it, they are sunlight, water and temperature. 

Sunlight

Sunlight plays a vital role in the colors that you find in succulents – the more sunlight they receive, the stronger their colors will be. Their colors perk up because these pigments help protect the leaves from getting burnt.

In succulents, these pigments are called anthocyanins and carotenoids, which keep plants protected whenever they are subjected to stress. This stress is environmental stress, which is basically a period in which a plant is under suboptimal conditions – such as too much direct sunlight or too little water. 

Anthocyanins are the pigments responsible for giving succulents the purple, red, reddish color we’ve been talking about. On the other hand, carotenoids are the pigments that turn the leaves into a yellow or orange color. 

This process is pretty similar to what happens with humans and sun-burnt skin. As you might know, our skin is composed of layers. When exposed to sunlight, we release melanin in order to prevent the lower layers of our skin from burning. Resulting in sun-burnt skin. This is exactly what happens with succulents. 

Water

You can influence your succulents color with water and how much you give to it. Somewhat related to the previous point, the main reason why succulents have a purple or red color is if they are under some sort of stress – which can come in a number of forms. One way of stress is by having insufficient water, which can, in turn, bring out the purple color in its leaves. 

This is why you can decide to water your succulents less frequently than you normally would, in order to bring out the colors in the leaves. Experts agree that there is a sweet spot in which you can give the succulent enough water for it to survive and be healthy, but little enough water so that its colors can show.

A rule of thumb to achieve this sweet spot is allow the soil of your succulent to dry out completely between waterings and you should have your purple plant. 

Thankfully, succulents are plants that can really hold their water, so not watering them for a while can be just fine. However, we don’t really recommend this since it’s better if your plant has the right care it needs. 

Temperature

Succulents tend to become purple if they are exposed to colder temperatures. 

The reason behind this is evolutionary. In winter there are colder temperatures and less sunlight, which is why plants adapt to these conditions by slowing their growth, and changing their shape and color in order to survive the harsh conditions. For instance, leaves from plants tend to change to a darker hue in order to capture more heat (as darker colors do) and survive during colder periods. 

Even though you can’t control it entirely, this is why you can expect your succulents to turn purple during the colder months of the year. So just be patient and you can expect this change at the end of your year. 

Why is my succulent purple? Why are my succulents turning purple?

Purple hanging succulent
Photo by Cristina Aragon on Unsplash

Let’s start by clearing something up. There is an important difference between purple species of succulents and succulents that are green but turn purple. 

If your succulent was originally green, but turned red, reddish, pink or purple, then this might be a stress response by the plant. This can be fairly common if your succulent is suddenly exposed to direct, strong light. Some experts call this a “plant tan” as if the plant is merely responding to the additional exposure to sunlight – but most agree that as long as the plant shows no signs of slowing down in terms of growth, then it should be fine. 

If you purchased your succulent recently, and noticed that it has a reddish, pink, red, or purple hue, then it might be a purple species of succulent. To determine if this is the case, then keep on reading as we will cover the most common species at the bottom of this article. 

How do you grow purple succulents? 

Fortunately, growing purple succulents is as simple as growing any other type of succulents. Purple succulents differ from regular (green) succulents mainly in their leave’s color, but in all other basic care requirements they have no special consideration.

However, if you want to stress your succulents and turn them into a colorful color, whether it be red or purple, simply read along. 

How to make succulents purple?

If you already have a succulent, but wish it to be a bit more purple than it actually is, you can fortunately do a couple of things to make them this way. 

How to make succulents purple:

  • Sunlight: Expose your succulents to more direct sunlight for a prolonged period of time to bring out the purple in its leaves. 
  • Water: Water your succulent less frequently than you normally would. Allow the soil to dry out completely. 
  • Temperature: Wait for winter as the colder months should change the color of its leaves into a purple color. 

Purple Succulent Types

Here is a list we have compiled of the most common and well-known purple succulents you can get your hands on. Plus, a brief explanation of each of them. 

Purple Beauty (Sempervivum tectorum)

The Purple Beauty – one of the favorites for purple succulent lovers. Best known for their characteristic rosette patterned leaves, with blue-ish green outer coloring and an inner purple center. The Purple Beauty can grow up to 7.5 cm (3 inches) in height or 15 cm (6 inches) in diameter.

Purple Beauty Care

To care for the Purple Beauty simply consider its basic care fundamentals: light, water and soil – and this beginner friendly succulent should be a breeze to take care for. In terms of light, it prefers direct sunlight, but will do incredibly with partial sun too. In terms of water, it prefers infrequent watering (once every other week). Finally choose a well-draining soil to keep it alive as it is prone to quick root rot if overwatered.

Perle von Nurnberg (Echeveria gibbiflora or Echeveria elegans)

The Perle von Nurnberg another purple Echeveria is also known as “Conchita” – best known for its hardiness and resilience. Their rosette-shaped leaves are mostly considered gray in color with a slight purple hue, which tends to intensify with the amount of sunlight it receives (the more the better). When it blooms, it produces pink, red or fuchsia flowers that can attract hummingbirds.

Perle von Nurnberg Care

As with many other succulents, in order to properly take care of the Perle von Nurnberg, consider its basic care fundamentals: sunlight, soil and water. In terms of light, it prefers direct, bright sunlight if possible, but will do just fine in partial shade. As with other Echeveria succulents, it prefers infrequent watering and well-draining soil as it is prone to root rot. 

Santa Rita Prickly Pear (Opuntia santa rita)

Purple Opuntia
Credits: Pinterest

The Santa Rita Prickly Pear or Opuntia Santa Rita – for many, better known as a cactus, for others considered a purple succulent. This curiously looking plant is native to the southwestern United States, specifically in states such as New Mexico, Southern Arizona and some parts of Texas.

This purple cactus is becoming one of the most popular ones to have due to its unique pear shape and light purple tones which can intensify when it is stressed. They can grow up to 1.2m-1.8m (4-6ft) tall and 1.2m-1.5m (4-5ft) wide. They bloom yearly, during the spring with beautiful yellow flowers. 

Santa Rita Prickly Pear Care

To take care of the Santa Rita Prickly Pear, consider its basic care fundamentals: sunlight, soil and water. This cactus prefers and thrives under direct sunlight, which is why it can tolerate very high temperatures with very little water. This plant is especially sensitive to overwatering which quickly results in root rot, as well as sensitive to cold temperatures. 

Echeveria Purple Pear

Echeveria Purple Pear
Credits: Reddit

The Purple Pearl is probably the succulent that comes to mind when you think of purple succulents. Best known for their characteristically rosette shaped flat and rounded leaves with a light purple color. These can grow up to 20cm (8 inches) tall and up to 20cm (8 inches) in diameter. A class favorite as it can be easily propagated either through individual leaves or stem cuttings. Additionally it blooms pretty pink flowers almost every year. 

Echeveria Purple Pearl Care

To take care of the Echeveria Purple Pearl, also consider the basic care fundamentals: light, watering and soil. Due to its more sensitive leaves, the Purple Pear prefers indirect and partial sunlight or indoor sunlight to thrive. In terms of water, it remains similar to other succulents with a preference for infrequent watering and well-draining soil. 

Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida)

The Purple Heart can also be referred to as the “purpurea” or “Wandering Jew Purpurea”. Is the Purple Heart considered a succulent? Well, not exactly, but still a great purple compliment to your other succulents. They are best known for their pointy, narrow, purple leaves, this evergreen plant has become a favorite as an edging plant, for groundcover or in hanging baskets due to their full foliage.

Their leaves are mostly purple on the top and blue-ish green on the bottom and grow beautiful pale pink flowers. The Purple Heart can grow up to 30-45 cm (12-18 inches) in diameter or 30-60cm (0.5 to 2 ft) in height. Make sure to place them in an area where you won’t brush into them as they have weak stems so they can break easily. 

Purple Heart Care

For the ideal care for your Purple Heart, simply consider it’s basic care fundamentals, these being light, water and soil. In terms of water, these like to be watered regularly and thrive in relatively moist soil – so be sure to include a regular misting in there too. In terms of light, the Tradescantia prefers bright, indirect light due to its relatively thin leaves. In terms of soil, the Purple Heart will do with any regular soil as they are now too picky. 

Additional Questions

Where to buy purple succulents

You can find purple succulents in practically any local plant nursery you follow. Just be careful to distinguish between those succulents that are really purple by species and those that are due to stress. 

How do you take care of Purple Pearl succulents?

The basic care for the Purple Pear succulent is pretty similar to any other succulent. Most prefer infrequent water, well-draining soil and a whole lot of direct sunlight. For more detailed indications, please read above under the specific types.

Sebastian Moncada

I’m also a plant enthusiast and researcher. I’ve been privileged to have lived my whole life around the wilderness of Colombia and I’m happy to share everything I learn along the way. “Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience” – Emerson.

Recent Posts