How to Keep Succulents Alive in the Winter?

How to Keep Succulents Alive in Winter

Many plant species have evolved to survive harsh winters. But how about exotic plants, including succulents, that are typically grown in warmer climates? Can these plants survive winter?

In order to keep succulents alive in the winter you need to first determine what type of succulent you have. Based on that information you can take the appropriate steps to keep your succulents alive in the winter.

Determine what type of succulent you own

Contrary to what some people may believe, many varieties of succulents can survive winter even if they are planted outdoors and the actions that you need to take to help keep your succulents alive are dependent on the type of succulents you own. Also the temperature that is too cold for your succulents depends on the type of succulents.

Succulents can be classified into two categories: hardy and soft.

Hardy succulents

Hardy or hard succulents can adapt to harsh winters because they originally come from alpine climates. These plants prefer the outdoors and can even tolerate sub-zero conditions.

The Sempervivum heuffelii, Opuntia, and Sedum are among the more popular hardy succulents.

Soft succulents

Soft or tender succulents originally come from areas with an arid climate. Unlike hardy succulents, soft succulents cannot survive if you leave them outside during winter.

Senecio, Kalanchoe, Aloes, Haworthias, are perfect examples of tender succulents.

Prepping hardy succulents for the winter

Due to their ability to adapt to cold and harsh weather, hardy succulents do not require much for overwintering. However, if you want to gain peace of mind knowing that your succulents can survive an upcoming winter, there are a few things that you can do.

1. Move potted plants to the ground.

If you keep your hard succulents in pots, it is a good idea to transfer them to the ground.

Hard succulents planted on the ground fare better than their potted counterparts for one key reason: the soil provides them with insulation.

You should transplant your succulents at least a month before the first frost. This will give your plants enough time to acclimate to their new location and allows them to stretch their roots.

If it is not feasible to transplant your hardy succulents, the next best thing that you can do is to move their pots to an area on your property where they will get shelter from rainfall.

2. Provide shelter from water.

Come wintertime, hardy succulents require less water. Furthermore, these succulents can easily weather the cold weather.

However, the combination of cold weather and excess moisture can prove fatal to hardy succulents. If you are transplanting your succulents, do not place them under a roof where water can drip over them. 

If you live in an area that has wet winters, it is better to shield your plants from the rain by putting them under a roof.

3. Eliminate dead leaves.

It is normal for succulents to shed their leaves to make room for new ones.

However, during winter, you should keep a watchful eye on your plants’ leaves. Your succulents’ leaves can become soggy, leaving your plants vulnerable to rot.

Caring for soft succulents during winter

Once the temperature begins to drop, you should commence with your winter preparations for your soft succulents. For overwintering soft succulents, there are four main areas that you should pay close attention to.

1. Watering

Generally speaking, the water requirement for succulents decreases. This is primarily because succulents enter into dormancy. However, there are a few varieties that enter the growth phase during winter.

During winter, water your soft succulents once every three to six weeks. Make sure that the soil in their containers is dry before watering them again.

2. Soil

Boost your succulents’ ability to cope with the drop in temperature by improving the drainage of the soil in their containers.

Take advantage of winter to modify the soil in your plants’ containers, especially if you notice drainage issues. 

Be sure to use a container with drainage holes to facilitate faster elimination of excess moisture.

Wait until spring before fertilizing your plants.

3. Airflow

It can be humid indoors, even during winters. This, in part, can be attributed to the lack of airflow.

You can boost airflow inside your home by opening your windows. Alternatively, you can use fans in the area where you place your soft succulents.

Improving airflow inside your home can help prevent root rot by allowing the soil in containers to dry faster.

4. Light

Despite the shorter hours of sunlight, you should not neglect your succulents’ lighting requirements.

Place your soft succulents near windows that receive lots of sunlight. It is also a good idea to rotate their containers from time to time to prevent problems associated with low lights like stretching.

If you cannot find a suitable area in your home with adequate sunlight, consider investing in grow lights.

5. A few important things to remember

Try to move your tender succulents indoors around fall. Do not wait for the onset of winter before bringing them inside your home.

But do not bring your succulents indoors without helping them with the transition. Ideally, you should give your plants three weeks to adjust to an indoor environment.

Start by spraying your succulents with a surface insecticide to eliminate pests. The last thing that you want is to have pests tag along with your plants when you bring them into your home. Be sure to check the soil in their containers for flies that lurk beneath.

Next, check your plants and their containers. Eliminate dead leaves as well as weeds and debris.

Succulent dormancy

Succulents grow at different rates within a year, like most plants.

In general, a succulent’s growth rate can be divided into two: dormancy and active growth. Furthermore, some succulents grow actively during summer and there are those that grow actively in winter.

But bear in mind that this is not a fixed rule. Succulents can thrive in different conditions because they take advantage of their surroundings. If their environments provide their requirements, they will enter the growth phase. Conversely, they enter into dormancy if the conditions are not right.

Temperature extremes push succulents into dormancy which is their default survival mode. This means that a succulent can enter dormancy if it is too hot or too cold.

And speaking of survival, dormant succulents do not grow and require less water because their focus is not growth. 

Succulents that enter dormancy in the water can get by with watering every three to six weeks. In contrast, succulents that enter dormancy in summer may require less water than they normally need but still need the occasional watering to help them keep cool. 

Image: istockphoto.com / sultancicekgil

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