Can Succulents Survive Winter? Top 10 Cold-Hardy Succulents

Can Succulents Survive Winter? Top 10 Cold-Hardy Succulents

Succulents, celebrated for their beauty and resilience, captivate gardeners and plant enthusiasts worldwide. As winter’s cold embrace approaches, the question of whether succulents can withstand the frost becomes vital.

This article dives into the world of succulent winter survival, exploring their types, factors affecting their cold tolerance, and providing essential tips for preparing, caring for, and propagating these remarkable plants during the chilly season.

Top 10 Cold-Hardy Succulent Varieties

Some succulent varieties are hardy in cold weather conditions, and can easily survive the winter months in dormancy. Here is a list of the main varieties of succulents that can stay outdoors year-round:

  1. Sempervivum (Hens and Chicks): These rosette-forming succulents are known for their resilience in cold climates and come in various colors and sizes. These are commonly used for ground cover.
  2. Sedum (Stonecrop): Many cold-hardy sedums can survive freezing temperatures. Some popular varieties include Sedum spectabile and Sedum acre.
  3. Agave parryi: This Agave species is known for its ability to endure cold winters, making it suitable for regions with a lower hardiness zone.
  4. Yucca filamentosa: Commonly referred to as Adam’s needle, Yucca filamentosa is a hardy yucca species that can withstand cold temperatures and snow.
  5. Opuntia humifusa (Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus): Native to North America, this prickly pear cactus is cold-hardy and can tolerate freezing temperatures.
  6. Rhodiola rosea (Rose Root): This succulent plant is not only cold-hardy but also has medicinal properties.
  7. Delosperma cooperi (Ice Plant): Ice plants are known for their colorful, daisy-like flowers and cold-hardiness.
  8. Jovibarba heuffelii: These succulents are closely related to Sempervivum and are also well-suited for cold climates.
  9. Euphorbia myrsinites (Myrtle Spurge): This succulent has blue-green, fleshy leaves and is adapted to cold and dry conditions.
  10. Lewisia: Lewisia species are native to North America and are adapted to cold mountainous regions.

Please note that the cold hardiness of these succulents may vary based on specific varieties and local climate conditions. Always research the specific needs of the succulents you choose to ensure they can thrive in your particular cold climate.

Common Non-Hardy Outdoor Succulents

Non-hardy outdoor succulents are those that are sensitive to cold temperatures and are more likely to suffer damage or die when exposed to freezing conditions. Here are some examples of non-hardy outdoor succulents:

  1. Aloe vera: While aloe vera is a popular succulent known for its soothing properties, it is not cold-hardy and can be damaged or killed by frost.
  2. Echeveria spp.: Many Echeveria species are not cold-hardy and may experience damage or die when exposed to freezing temperatures.
  3. Crassula ovata (Jade Plant): While the jade plant is a common indoor succulent, it is not cold-tolerant and should be protected from frost when placed outdoors.
  4. Sensitive succulents: Certain succulents in the Kalanchoe genus are sensitive to cold, such as Kalanchoe blossfeldiana.
  5. Aeonium spp.: Aeoniums, including Aeonium arboreum, are sensitive to frost and can suffer damage or die in cold climates.
  6. Haworthia spp.: Many Haworthia species are not adapted to cold conditions and should be protected from freezing temperatures.
  7. Graptopetalum spp.: Graptopetalum succulents, such as Graptopetalum paraguayense (Ghost Plant), are not typically cold-hardy and require protection in freezing weather.
  8. Senecio spp.: Some Senecio species are not suited for cold climates and may need shelter during winter.
  9. Crassula tetragona (Mini Pine Tree): This succulent, despite its pine tree-like appearance, is one of the desert plants that cannot survive below-freezing temperatures.
  10. Mesembryanthemum spp. (Livingstone daisies): These succulents, often grown for their colorful flowers, are not cold-hardy and should be sheltered from frost.

It’s important to remember that specific cold tolerance can vary among different species and varieties within the same genus. To protect these tender succulents, it’s advisable to bring them indoors or provide proper winter protection when the minimum temperature survivable is expected.

Aloe vera is a non-hardy succulent that can't survive low winter temperatures.

Aloe Vera In Desert Climate

Preparing Succulents For Winter: Move Potted Succulents Indoors

As winter approaches, potted succulents that reside outdoors may require transitioning indoors to shield them from frost damage and extreme cold. This process involves the following steps:

1. Aim For A Gradual Transition Of Your Succulent Plants

Begin by gradually acclimating succulents to the indoor environment. Move them into a shaded or partially shaded area indoors for a few hours each day to prevent shock.

2. Select Adequate Containers

Ensure you have suitable indoor containers with proper drainage to accommodate your succulents. Terra cotta pots with drainage holes are often preferred for their breathability.

3. Provide Ample Light

Place potted succulents near windows where they can receive more than enough sunlight, or supplement with grow lights if natural light is limited.

4. Adjust Watering To Accommodate Slower Growth

Reduce the frequency of watering during the winter months, as indoor succulents typically require less moisture compared to outdoor conditions.

Place succulents in pots or containers to bring them inside over the winter months.

Potted Succulents Indoors

Protecting Outdoor Succulents From Winter Weather

If you have outdoor succulents that you plant to overwinter in the ground, it is important to take the appropriate steps to ensure they are protected from harsh winter weather.

1. Use An Organic Mulch To Insulate The Roots

Mulching is a valuable method to shield outdoor succulents from colder temperatures and moisture during the winter. Here’s how to implement it:

  • Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as straw, wood chips, or dead leaves, around the base of the succulents. This helps insulate the soil and maintain a more stable temperature.
  • Avoid mulching directly against the plant’s stem, as it can trap moisture and promote rot. Leave a small gap around the plant to allow for airflow.
  • Monitor the mulch layer throughout the winter, and adjust it as needed to prevent excessive moisture accumulation.

2. Provide Appropriate Shelter From Harsh Winter Conditions

Providing shelter for outdoor succulents can significantly improve their chances of surviving the winter. Consider these options:

  • Use frost blanket or cloth: Cover the succulents with breathable frost cloths or blankets on nights when frost is expected. Remove the coverings during the day to allow sunlight and air circulation.
  • Build temporary greenhouses or cold frames: Constructing small structures using clear plastic or plexiglass can create a controlled environment for succulents, protecting them from harsh winter conditions.
  • Group succulents: Clustering succulents together can help create a microclimate that offers some protection from the cold and wind. Be mindful of the species you group, as their care requirements may differ.

3. Provide Appropriate Soil Conditions For Winter

The soil in which succulents are planted plays a crucial role in their winter survival. Here are some key soil considerations:

  • Well-Draining Soil: Succulents are particularly vulnerable to root rot in cold, wet conditions. Ensure the soil has excellent drainage to prevent waterlogged roots.
  • Soil Amendments: Consider adding materials like perlite, sand, or a gritty mix to improve wet soil aeration and drainage. These amendments can help reduce the risk of excess moisture retention.
  • Elevating Pots: If you have potted succulents, place pot feet or bricks under the pots to elevate them slightly. This allows excess water to drain more effectively and prevents the pots from sitting in cold, damp soil.

Properly preparing succulents for winter is crucial in maintaining their health and vitality, and the methods described above can help ensure their well-being during the colder months.

An indoor potted succulent is protected from harsh winter weather.

Indoor Potted Jade Plant

Winter Care And Maintenance For Succulents

1. Watering Schedule Adjustments

Adjusting the watering schedule for succulents during winter is essential to prevent overwatering and root rot. Here’s how to tailor your watering routine:

  • Reduce Frequency: Succulents are typically dormant or have reduced growth during the winter months. Therefore, water less frequently compared to the growing season. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings.
  • Watering Techniques: When watering, do so deeply but ensure that excess water drains from the pot or the planting area. Use the “soak and dry” method, which involves thoroughly wetting the soil and allowing it to dry before the next watering.
  • Be Mindful of Conditions: Adjust the frequency based on the specific conditions in your region. If your area experiences a particularly dry winter, you may need to water more often, while in areas with high humidity, less frequent watering may be sufficient.

2. Temperature Monitoring

Monitoring temperatures is crucial to ensure that succulents are not exposed to extreme cold conditions. Here’s how to keep an eye on the temperature:

  • Use a Thermometer: Install a thermometer near your succulent garden or in the vicinity of potted succulents to monitor temperature fluctuations.
  • Frost Alerts: Pay close attention to weather forecasts, especially for first frost or freeze warnings. Protect succulents if freezing temperatures are expected by using frost cloths, blankets, or other methods.
  • Microclimates: Be aware that temperature variations can occur within your garden. Some areas may be more sheltered and retain more warmth, while others are more exposed to cold winds.

3. Preventing Common Winter Issues (Rot, Pests)

Winter conditions can bring about specific challenges, such as root rot and pest infestations. Take the following precautions to prevent these issues:

  • Inspect for Rot: Regularly inspect your succulents for signs of rot, such as mushy or discolored stems or leaves. If you detect rot, remove the affected parts promptly to prevent it from spreading.
  • Avoid Overwatering: One of the primary causes of rot is overwatering. Ensure that the soil is well-draining, and water only when the top inch or two of soil is dry.
  • Pest Vigilance: While pests are generally less active in the winter, it’s still important to check for signs of infestation. Mealybugs and aphids are common culprits. Isolate affected plants and treat as necessary.

4. Special Care for Certain Succulent Types

Different succulent species have unique needs and may require special care during the winter. Some considerations include:

  • Cold-Hardy Succulents: While cold-hardy succulents are more resilient, they may still benefit from occasional protection during severe cold snaps.
  • Non-Hardy Succulents: Succulents not suited for outdoor winter conditions should be brought indoors or provided with additional protection when temperatures drop.
  • Unique Care Requirements: Some succulents, such as Lithops or certain cacti, have specific care requirements even during the winter. Ensure you understand the needs of each species in your collection.

By adjusting your watering practices, monitoring low temperature conditions, addressing common issues, and providing specialized care as needed, you can help your succulents thrive during the winter and ensure their health and longevity.

Succulent Propagation And Growth During The Winter Months

Strategies For Propagating Succulents During the Winter

Propagating succulents during the winter presents unique challenges due to the reduced light and cooler temperatures. However, it can still be accomplished using specific strategies:

  1. Leaf Cuttings: Many succulents, such as Echeveria and Sedum, can be propagated from individual leaves. Select healthy leaves, allow the cut ends to callus for a day or two, and then place them on well-draining soil. Provide minimal water and indirect light. Although the process may be slower during the winter, you can still expect new roots and tiny plants to emerge.
  2. Offsets and Pups: Some succulents, like Sempervivum and Agave, produce offsets or pups around the base of the mother plant. These offsets can be gently separated and potted during the winter. Ensure well-draining soil and protect them from extreme cold.
  3. Seeds: While less common, you can start succulents from seeds year-round. Sow seeds in well-drained soil and place them in a bright location with consistent, moderate temperatures. The germination process may take longer in the winter due to reduced light, but it’s still feasible.
  4. Indoor Propagation: If outdoor conditions are harsh, consider setting up an indoor propagation station with artificial grow lights. This provides a controlled environment with stable temperatures and adequate lighting for successful propagation.

Winter Growth Expectations and Limitations For Succulents

Succulent growth during the winter tends to be slower and more limited compared to the active growing season. For best results, it is important to manage your expectations and understand the factors that contribute to these limitations:

  1. Reduced Light: Winter days are shorter, and the angle of the sun may be lower, leading to less sunlight. Succulents, which thrive in bright light, may experience slowed growth due to reduced photosynthesis and not getting enough light.
  2. Cooler Temperatures: Succulents generally prefer warm temperatures, and cold winter conditions can slow down their metabolic processes. Growth, both above and below ground in their root systems, can be significantly hindered.
  3. Dormancy: Many succulents enter a state of dormancy during the winter, where they conserve energy and reduce their metabolic activity. This dormancy limits new growth but helps the plant survive until more favorable conditions return.
  4. Limited Water Uptake: The reduced water needs of succulents during winter can also restrict growth. Since they take up less water, they have fewer resources for growth and development. Help prevent root rot during this phase by using a potting mix with good drainage and avoid giving the plant too much water.

Understanding these limitations can help you make informed decisions about propagation and care during the winter. While growth may be slower, it’s still possible to propagate and maintain succulents during this season with appropriate adjustments and care.

Keep Gardening Through The Winter Months

If you’re like me and gardening makes you happy, then continuing to garden can be a big mental boost during the winter months. I take every chance I can get to tend to my indoor plants, and it is very fulfilling! If you’d like to learn more about growing indoor plants and succulents, or are interested in trying out an indoor garden, check out these easy guides:

An outdoor rock garden featuring hardy succulent plants that can survive in winter temperatures.

Outdoor Rock Garden With Succulents