Plant and Garden

Are Succulents Okay Outside In The Cold?

Depending on where you live and the type of succulents you are growing, you may need to consider bringing some of your succulents inside for the winter. Many succulents can’t handle temperatures below 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

Some Haworthias can survive a few degrees of light frost for a short period

If you live in a climate with four seasons, even one with harsh winters, there are some succulents that will grow outdoors year-round for you! Some Sempervivums  Sedums, Agave, Ice Plant, Lewisa, Yucca,  and Optunia are cold hardy beauties.

These marvelous plants are often overlooked in the world of succulents. A lot of people don’t realize they exist, or that there are so many of them!  These are all great options for maintaining a gorgeous succulent garden outdoors year-round, even if your climate gets below freezing.

Sempervivums winter well for the most part.

Interestingly, Sempervivum responds to the cold primarily by changing color and closing up. While some Sedums are perennials because they die back completely to protect their roots during the cold months.

Regardless of the species of succulent and no matter where you are growing it, you should feed the succulents one last time at the end of summer. That’s because succulents don’t need fertilizer during the winter months. Succulents need diluted fertilizer only while they are actively growing.

Kalanchoe Copper Spoon will not tolerate frost.

Stop feeding when the plants stop growing for the year and go dormant, which occurs when the temperatures drop and the light level falls. Too much fertilizer causes succulents to develop soft leaves, which are prone to rot.

Move an infested succulent away from other plants. Fill a spray bottle with a drop if Dawn dish soap and water to mist onto the plant to kill the pests.

Keep the succulent away from the rest of the plants for a couple of weeks just in case a few of the bugs survive the first spray. Repeat the Dawn application until all the pests are gone.

But what about Echeveria, Sanserveria, and the other plants in most collectors care?

Any plants considered soft succulents (Echeveria, Crassula, Kalanchoe, etc.) are not cold hardy and must be kept indoors in the winter. These are semi-tropical plants and generally will not survive temperatures below 25-30 degrees Fahrenheit. Fortunately, they do make great house plants.

Elephant Bush is not cold hardy

The biggest factor in keeping succulents alive over winter is light. Too little light will cause succulents to stretch in an effort to get closer to the light source. Succulents, in general, thrive in full sun. This is difficult to provide indoors, but give them as much direct sunlight as possible. A south-facing window is best, but east or west windows will work.

Place your dormant succulent in an area with at least three to four hours of bright light. In fact, succulents need less light during the winter than when they are actively growing during the summer. Succulents can survive with indirect light during the winter.

Fluorescent lights can be used if natural light is insufficient. It is important that the plants be kept within 1 to 2 inches of the bulbs. Fluorescent light becomes practically useless to plants at more than 3 inches from the bulbs. Incandescent bulbs are too hot and give off the wrong spectrum of light for plant growth.

Echeveria will not tolerate winter temps

Extreme temperature changes can harm soft succulents. Bring them in before winter temperatures dip below freezing. Keep the temperature of the room the succulents are in no cooler than 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter.

Some succulents such as Aeoniums may do better in a cool room or basement, between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit, to allow them to rest during the winter.

Most succulents do not need to be kept especially warm during the winter. Keeping the plants cool will keep them in a semi-dormant state. A warm location encourages the plants to grow and with the lower light intensity indoors during the winter, results in leggy plants.

If the succulent species can tolerate freezing temps it will go into complete dormancy. You’ll notice leaves get limp and thin. However, with some water in early spring, they’ll be back easily.

Succulents get their name from the fact that they store water in their leaves, roots, and stems, thus requiring much less moisture than other types of plants. Over-watering them can lead to root rot.

Cold Temp = Less Water

Most Aloe species winter well.

Succulents are always better off too dry, than too wet.

This is especially true during the winter when the plants are receiving less than ideal light and cooler than normal temperatures.

Jade plants will tolerate temperatures of 45 to 55 F. But not below 40 F.

Keep your succulents on the dry side during the winter. Water just enough to keep the plants from shriveling. In a cool room, you may only need to water once every 10 to 14 days.

Be especially careful to keep the plant itself dry, especially rosette plants like Echeverias. Water will set in the center of the rosette and rot will quickly turn the plant to mush. Remember, the quickest way to kill a succulent is to keep it wet!

Overwintering can be a pest… and bring in pests! Be sure to check the leaves of your succulents every month for aphids or mealybugs, which look like tiny cotton balls. Look under the leaves as well.

Move an infested succulent away from other plants. Fill a spray bottle with a drop if Dawn dish soap and water to mist onto the plant to kill the pests.

Keep the succulent away from the rest of the plants for a couple of weeks just in case a few of the bugs survive the first spray. Repeat the rubbing alcohol application until all the pests are gone.

While you can remove dead foliage from your dormant plants, for aesthetic purposes, in the winter it does offer a form of protection.

Shocked From The Cold

Staghorn Ferns cannot tolerate temperatures below 55 degrees F.

Succulents in cold winter climates need some way of preventing the water in their cells from freezing. They do this by becoming dormant and allowing their cell sap to lose water.

To grow succulents well, you need to mimic natural conditions and expose the succulents to increasing cold, and then revive them in spring.

Succulents from warm winter climates aren’t built to withstand cold temperatures and can suffer physical damage if exposed to cold.

If you live in an area where temperatures regularly drop below 45 F, you should keep your succulent plant in a pot and bring it indoors for the winter. You can move it back outdoors in the spring when temperatures are regularly above 45 F.

If you live in a region where temperatures only sometimes drop too low for your succulent, then it will probably be fine outdoors with some protection from frost, such as bringing it onto a covered patio, covering it with cloth, or stringing Christmas lights onto the plant.

Let us know your ideas and comments below!