Plant and Garden

Succulents in Winter. Don’t Give Them the Cold Shoulder! But you can Leave Some Out in the Cold?

Winterizing succulents indoors or out can be simple and hands-off if you pick the right variety, keep it in its preferred location, give it plenty of light, and just enough moisture.

I have been covering all my plants because I do not want to lose a single one to what feels like an antarctic freeze to me. I was surprised to learn that there are lots of succulents that can live outdoors all year, even in cold climates.

Many succulents will thrive in Floridas winters. To help you know how to treat your succulents during winter you should know the plants category and what region you live in.

Because some species of succulents use their Crassulacean metabolic processes to survive extreme cold, they can survive incredibly cold winters with ease, In many cases, they can actually continue to grow right under a covering of snow.

Succulents are categorized into two groups: “hardy” and “soft”.

There are many hardy succulents which have been used on green roofs for many years, especially in Europe and Iceland.

Some of the toughest and most resilient plants on earth have adapted to cold, drought and terrible conditions.

Hardy succulents tolerate frost and can stay outdoors through below-freezing temperatures, making them ideal for year-round outdoor growing. In fact, hardy succulents grow better outside than they do indoors.

Soft varieties are not frost-tolerant and might love to spend summer in the sun, but must come indoors in the fall if you can get freezing temperatures in winter.

Plant zoning can get more specific too. Using just your zip code, find your USDA Grow Zone, which is based on minimum winter temperatures.

If you live in a zone with a lower number than the plant’s Cold Hardiness, it will have to come indoors before temperatures start dropping in the fall.

For indoor succulents, good choices are Echeveria or Senecio, if you can keep them near a sunny window.

Can’t get enough light?

There are indoor succulents that have low light requirements. You can take them outside from time to time on nice days. Be sure not to overwater plants stored in darker areas.

Less Light = Less Water.

Succulents are growing, partially dormant, or fully dormant during the winter months.

Most types are partially dormant in winter.

These will not change drastically in appearance because they are not actively growing and need less water and no fertilizer.

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Sedum spurium

There are a few types that go into a deep dormancy and experience foliar die-back. Sedum spurium will lose leaves like a deciduous tree.

While Sedum kamtschaticum and Orostachys sp. will senesce completely above-ground, leaving nothing to see.

Expect these types to be unavailable or dormant at our nursery from November through March, but their root structures live on, ready to spring back with foliage in April.

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There are varieties that GROW during the cooler months, namely Aloe, Haworthia, and Aeonium.

Shorter days and lower temperatures initiate their growing season, meaning that they will need more water and nutrients.

If you choose to fertilize, winter is the season for it with these varieties.

Leave Them Out Or Bring Them In?

That is a great question!
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There are two main varieties of succulents that can tolerate freezing temperatures.

 Sempervivums (commonly called hens and chicks) and Stonecrop Sedums.

Most will tolerate temperatures down to -20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Other plants that are cold hardy are:

All succulents rated higher than Zone 5 can’t survive the cold outdoors in winter.

The USDA map (can be viewed for Florida below), was last updated and released in 1990 (based on weather records from 1974-1986). It was the standard measure of plant hardiness throughout the United States until 2006.

In 2006 the Arbor Day Foundation completed an extensive updating of U.S. Hardiness Zones based upon data from 5,000 National Climatic Data Center cooperative stations across the continental United States.

Leave Them Out…

It is imperative that your succulents are fully rooted and acclimated before frost hits. If there’s not enough time, simply move potted hardy succulents to locations with morning sun that are protected from heavy rainfall.

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Remove dried leaves: Healthy succulents naturally lose basal leaves as they grow new ones above. In climates with cold, wet winters, however, these leaves can get soggy and become a source of rot.

Remove them in the fall and your succulents will not only look tidier, but they will also be more resilient against disease.

You’ll find hardy succulents need less frequent water from you in the winter, but it is also important to protect them from water dripping from roofs and trees.

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A hardy succulent insulated under a blanket of snow can weather the winter well, but one left cold and wet is at risk from rot.

If you get cold, wet winters but no snow, consider moving your succulents under a roof or positioning a clear rain cover at least 18″ above them.

Bring Them In…

If you grow succulents that cannot survive outside, year-round in your grow zone, it can be beneficial to move them outdoors in the summer for sunlight and bring them back in before temperatures drop too low.

Transitioning a succulent to indoor conditions for winter means paying attention to light, air, soil, and water.

Indoor spaces inevitably get less sunlight, so it’s important to put sun-loving succulents like Echeveria, Tender Sedum, and Soft Hybrids near a sunny window and rotate their pots regularly to prevent stretching and fading.

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For rooms that just don’t get enough sunlight, you can supplement with a grow light or try Indoor Succulent Varieties like Haworthia, Crassula, and Senecio that can tolerate low light.

Without the wind and ventilation of the outdoors, indoor soil does not dry as fast, making succulents vulnerable to pests and rot. You can run fans or open windows to keep air moving, but changes to your soil mix and watering frequency can often be enough to speed drying.

Bringing succulents in for winter is the perfect opportunity to fix any drainage issues. Use a gritty mix like cactus/succulent soil from a garden center, or make your own with 1 part potting soil, 1 part coarse sand, and 1 part perlite or pumice. Adding rocks to the bottom of a pot will not increase drainage.

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You should find your watering frequency decreasing for indoor succulents in the winter, as it takes longer for the soil to completely dry.

Without sun or wind exposure, water will evaporate more slowly and succulents that are not actively growing will take in less water (except the winter growers, Aeonium, Aloe, and Haworthia).

Since it can be a hassle to water succulents indoors (bringing them all to the sink, waiting for them to stop dripping, etc.) water them one last time outside.

Try watering them 2-3 days before bringing them inside. This allows them to soak up the water they need and start to dry out. Then your shelf or table stays nice and dry once the succulents are inside.

It’s a good idea to wipe off the outside of the pot to remove any dirt, leaves or cobwebs that have become attached to the pot.

Also be sure to remove any debris, such as dead leaves, from around or between your succulents. Dead organic material can easily cause your succulents to rot or become infected.

Once you’ve removed all the dirt and grime, add in or replace the top dressing to help the arrangement look extra cleaned and promote good health during the dormancy cycle.

Inspect your succulents closely for signs of mealybugs, the most common succulent pest. Check out our page called The Perftect Solution For Healthy Plants for an awesome recipe!

It’s always a good idea to keep your succulents well pruned and maintained. This is especially important before bringing succulents in for the winter.

Use your fingers or the tweezers to remove as many of the dead leaves as possible. This will help prevent your succulent from rotting indoors.

One of the most difficult things about growing succulents indoors, especially over the winter, is making sure they get enough sunlight.

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You’ll want to place your succulents near the brightest window in your home. The ideal window will get bright, indirect sunlight all day.

Since the winter days are shorter this is especially important. Succulents need at least 8 hours of bright indirect sunlight each day to maintain their shape indoors.

With lots of gray or cloudy days in the winter you may find your succulents begin to stretch out or lean toward the window. This is a sign they aren’t getting enough light.

In this case, you can rotate your succulents to help offset any leaning. But in order to prevent stretching you will need to supplement with a grow light.

Make sure you don’t run the lights 24/7 as succulents do need dark at night to complete their regular growth cycle.

For succulents that do get stretched out or grow tall and leggy, at the end of the winter you can cut off the tops and propagate them! Then you’ll have even more plants for the summer!

Since most succulents aren’t growing as quickly over the winter, this is best done in the spring.

If succulents are left out in temperatures below what they can tolerate, you’ll begin to see damage from the frost or cold. It’s not a pretty sight!

Don’t risk leaving your succulents out during extreme cold, even if they appear to be ok. Often the frost damage takes 2-3 days to show up.

Succulents In Florida

In winter, keep cacti and succulents above freezing. Some plants prefer a nighttime temperature of 35-40ºF (some cacti and other succulents can endure temperatures well below freezing if kept absolutely dry.) More tropical succulents like adeniums, euphorbias, lithops, and stapeliads prefer a minimum of 50-60 degrees.

In Florida there are 7 zones defined according to the average annual minimum temperature observed in the state from 1976-2005:

  • Zone 8a: 10-15°F
  • Zone 8b: 15 to 20°F
  • Zone 9a: 20 to 25°F
  • Zone 9b: 25 to 30°F
  • Zone 10a: 30 to 35°F
  • Zone 10b: 35 to 40°F
  • Zone 11a: 40 to 45°F

In Florida as a GENERAL rule, plants are kept on the dry side. Most of the time it warms up to 70 degrees during the day. In this case, these succulents can be left outdoors during the following temperatures.

  • Echeveria = NOT a cold tolerant plant 45 degrees!
  • Kalanchoe = 40 degrees.
  • Sempervivums = -30 degrees 
  • Sedum= -30 degrees 
  • Euphorbia= 10 degrees 
  • Crassula= 45 degrees 
  • Most Cactus = 30-35 degrees

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