There are succulents that are hardy enough to tolerate not just cold weather, but even frost. These are called hard succulents. Most other succulents cannot stand the cold and should be taken indoors during wintertime; these are called soft succulents.
Succulents in nature are native to the arid deserts and semi-deserts of North, South, and Central America, Europe, and Africa. They live in the driest conditions with little to no rain for most of the year. They are able to survive these stretches of drought by storing water in their bodies and leaves, rationing it to live as long as they can and hopefully reach the next rainfall.
Can succulents grow in cold weather?
Yes, even though most species of succulents prefer warm weather, there are a few that can tolerate and even grow in cold weather. These plants thrive in snowy weather and the low temperatures can even bring out their beautiful, vibrant colors. These succulents are called hard succulents, and they include the Euphorbia, Sedum and Sempervivum genuses. They can withstand temperatures as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit. Some people even leave them in their outdoor gardens all year round without worrying.
Soft succulents, or those that are not frost-tolerant, need to be transferred indoors before night-time temperatures reach below freezing. You need to keep them indoors until the first sign of sunny weather.
How do you prepare your succulents for indoor living during the winter?
Before you take your succulents indoors for the winter, make sure you spray them down with insecticide at least three weeks before bringing them into your house. This is especially important if you have indoor plants that need to be protected from possible pests that your outdoor plants may harbor.
Make sure you remove any dead leaves, weeds, and other debris from the plant and the pot. Take the time to inspect for any signs of infestation. Try to see whether there are any flies or other insects flying around or gathering near the plant. If there are, it is best to change the soil in the pot as this could also cause infestation of nearby plants when you transfer it indoors.
Check that all the pots you plan to bring indoors have well-draining soil as well as drainage holes at the bottom. The soil should be able to drain quickly and have good aeration so that the plants do not get root rot.
Also know that because the plants will be indoors, they will not need to be watered as often as there will be no heat from the sun to dry them out easily. This is crucial because it is quite easy to overwater succulents.
Giving the succulent less water, coupled with the low temperature, will usually put the succulent into a state of dormancy and help it to get through the winter.
When the succulents are safely indoors, do not water them unless the top inch of the soil feels dry to the touch. Make sure the temperature of the room where the succulents are is between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Another important factor to address when winterizing succulents is the provision of light for the plants. If these plants are used to being under the sun, or at least getting half a day of sunlight, they will need adjusting to the minimal light inside your house. The best thing to do when growing any kind of plant is to simulate the conditions of their natural habitat. In hotter areas, you can place the plant next to a windowsill for six to eight hours. However, if you live in an area with close to no sunlight during the winter months, you should consider getting a grow light for your plants.
A grow light is very helpful, especially for non-dormant plants that continue to grow even during the winter. Keep the light on your plants for 12 to 14 hours a day to give almost as much sunlight as they would get under the midday sun.
What are some succulents that can grow in cold weather?
Because most people only know of the succulents that live in deserts, they assume that all succulents need to be brought indoors in the winter. But there are actually several species of succulent that survive and even thrive in cold weather and snow.
Here are some of the most common hard succulents that you can grow.
This plant is native to the Puebla and Oaxaca states of Mexico. It has rosettes that can grow up to two feet tall when it reaches full maturity. Its leaves are thick and cream-colored or grayish-green. Its growth phase is during the spring and summer months, and it goes into dormancy during winter.
This plant likes to get a lot of sun which is why it prefers being left outdoors when the weather is warm. As much as it can tolerate drought and heat, it can also survive light frost and temperatures as low as 22 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ice plant, or Oscularia deltoides
This succulent is native to South Africa. It has small, plump, green leaves and flowers that look like daisies. These flowers bloom in the summer. This particular succulent can be grown both indoors and outdoors. All it needs is well-draining soil and appropriate watering.
It can be left outdoors in temperatures as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit. If the cold is persistent and goes below freezing, it might be best to take it inside.
Sempervivums are some of the hardiest succulents and are able to withstand temperatures as low as -30 degrees Fahrenheit. Their rosettes will often close up and their colors will darken; this is their defense mechanism against the cold.
Sedums are another group of succulents that are known to be hardy against the cold. They can survive through temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit. They will drop their leaves and even look dead, but do not worry because there is new growth under all the dead foliage. These plants will turn a brilliant color when the weather becomes cold and look just as good after the snow has melted.
There are several succulent species that can survive and even thrive in the cold. Even though most species of succulents like warmer weather, a select few will be completely fine if left out in the snow for the duration of the winter season.
The most hardy of these succulents come from the Sedum and Sempervivum genuses, which can withstand temperatures as low as -30 degrees Fahrenheit for months on end.
Image: istockphoto.com / Nadya So