Succulents with their unique forms, shapes and textures are popular as both outdoor, as well as indoor plants. These low-maintenance plants can survive the heat and grow well in arid areas. While succulents are great all-year-round plants; however, when the temperature begins to drop, they need help and care to survive the cold. Here are some succulent care tips.
Can You Leave Succulents Out in the Winter?
Hardy succulents such as some Sedums, Sempervivums and Opuntia are excellent hardy succulents. They can tolerate below-freezing temperatures, frost and can remain outdoors all through the winter months. These hardy succulents are suitable for all-year-round, outdoor growing and in fact, they do much better outdoors than indoors.
However, before you plant any succulents in your garden, check their cold hardiness according to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map and this will determine if the plant will survive the winter in the area where you live. The succulents are labeled according to the USDA Plant Hardiness zone and if the area you live in is lower than the recommended zone, then the succulents will not survive the winter in that particular area.
How to Care for Succulents in Winter
Succulents have special needs, especially during the winter, when the temperature drops and you must ensure that your care for the succulents is tailored so that these demands are met to enable them to survive the harsh winter conditions.
However, you must remember that not all types of succulents require the same type of care and so you must ensure that their care routines are customized according to the succulent variety.
Overwintering Soft Succulents Indoors
Soft or tender succulents like Echeveria, Crassula and Aeonium cannot tolerate very low temperatures and frost conditions. These soft succulents are quite happy and thrive well outdoors in warm and sunny weather.
They must be brought indoors before the temperatures fall below freezing levels at night and require a little more hands-on care when the temperature falls to protect them. However, when you bring your succulents indoors for the winter, you must ensure the proper soil, light, water and air conditions.
You can move the succulent to a cool, indoor area like a basement or garage, which gets sunlight for at least 1-2 hours a day. If the sunlight does not reach your indoor spaces, then you should put the sun-loving succulents near a window that gets good sunlight. You should also consider investing in grow lights. Make sure that you rotate the pots, in order to prevent any fading or stretching.
If your succulents have any drainage problems, then bringing the plants indoors is an excellent way to fix any issues. You can use a cactus and succulent soil that is lightweight and gritty, which allows better drainage.
Avoid fertilizing the succulents until spring. The drainage will not be improved by simply adding rocks to the container in which you’re growing the succulents. So, it is recommended to use pots or containers with drainage holes.
The idea of overwintering succulents indoors is to reduce the frequency of watering. And, because the soil takes very long to dry in winter, if kept too wet, the succulents will rot. Except for winter succulents such as Aloe, Haworthia and Aeonium, most of the other varieties of succulents prefer very little or even no water during the winter months.
It is recommended that succulents kept indoors be watered once every 6-8 weeks or only when the soil is completely dry. However, as you water the plants, make sure that the foliage remains dry.
Succulents need good airflow and ventilation, without which they are more prone to rotting and pests. Also, make sure that you place the plants in a room that is neither very cold nor too hot.
It is a good idea to open the windows or run fans to keep the air flowing in the room; however, reducing the frequency of watering the succulents and changing the soil mix can help to prevent rot and also hasten the drying.
Overwintering Hardy Succulents Outside
Hardy succulents such as Sempervivum, Sedum, Agave, Lewisa, Yucca and Ice Plant grow best outdoors and are tolerant to very low temperatures and frost. Typically, these plants overwinter quite well up to zone 5 to 6 and higher.
If planted in the garden, it is best to leave these as-is over the winter. You can simply clean up all the leaves that have turned brown or transplant these succulents in the spring season.
If these are in pots or containers, then you can simply move the containers under the deck, eaves or bench. Here are some steps to overwinter your hardy succulents outdoors.
Remove the Dried Leaves
Typically, healthy succulents tend to shed their basal leaves naturally and new ones grow above. However, in cold and wet climates, the leaves can become soggy and rot. So, it is a good idea to remove the leaves in the fall, which ensures that not only will your succulents be more disease resistant, but they also look a lot neater.
Transplant the Succulents
You could transplant the succulents in pots or containers into the ground if you have sufficient time, at least a month before the arrival of the first frost. This is because the plants that are in the ground are better insulated compared to the ones in pots or containers.
However, before the frost arrives, you must ensure that the succulents are fully rooted and are properly acclimatized. If there isn’t sufficient time, then just move the pots with the succulents to a place that receives the morning sun and is protected from the rain.
Protect the Succulents from Water
Hardy succulents do not require frequent watering during the winter months. You should also protect the plants from water that is dripping from trees, taller plants, roofs, etc.
If the snow covers your hardy succulents, they are well insulated and can survive the winter; however, if left out in the cold and wet conditions, the succulents are prone to rot. If the winters in your area are cold and wet without snow, then it may be a good idea to move your hardy succulents under a roof to protect them from the rain.