How To Overwinter Succulents

How To Overwinter Succulents

Succulents are amazing plants that store water in their leaves. The stored water causes their leaves to be thick and fleshy and enables them to thrive in dry, hot climates. Some varieties of succulents can be grown in cold climates too. A few tips will help you successfully overwinter succulents regardless of where you live.

There are over 500 succulent varieties that range in size from tiny to gigantic. Some produce flowers, some have thorns, some grow best outdoors and some are strictly indoor houseplants. All are interesting and can be overwintered in any climate with these tips.

Can Succulents Survive Winter?

Many succulents can live outdoors and survive winter even in very cold climates. Plant the right variety for your climate and they will survive and thrive.

Succulents are divided into two groups - hardy succulents and soft succulents. Those in the hardy group will survive frost, snow, and cold winter temperatures outdoors. Those in the soft group must be kept indoors during the winter.

Hardy succulents grow better outdoors and include beauties like Sedum, Opuntia, Sempervivum, Rosularia Prometheum, Stonecrop, Agave, and Yucca.

Succulents in the soft group that can be grown in a container outdoors and brought indoors for overwintering include Aloe, Echeveria, Crassula, Kalanchoe, and Senecio.

soft succulents vs hardy succulents

Why The Hardy Ones Survive

The hardy group of succulents sense when colder weather is coming and they reduce the amount of water they have stored in their leaves. This prevents the cells inside the plant leaves from developing ice crystals and bursting.

The plants go into dormancy so they can survive the winter. They will come out of dormancy and begin to plump up their leaves with water again in spring.

What Factors Indicate That It’s Time To Help Succulents For Overwintering?

When the temperature begins to cool down in fall and the leaves on your succulents are not as plump as they were during summer, it’s time to prepare succulents for overwintering.

Stop watering them. Indoor or outdoor succulents stop absorbing water so they can go into dormancy during the winter. Continued watering just makes the soil soggy and will cause the succulent roots to rot.

mountain snow view

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Methods Of Overwintering Succulents Outdoors

Covering succulents with horticulture fleece will provide them with enough warmth to survive and protect them from freezing.

If you have several pots of outdoor succulents, place them together in a group in a sheltered location. Under the eave of the house is an ideal location. There will be enough radiant heat from the house to prevent the plants from freezing and the eaves will protect the plants from frost and snowfall. Cover the potted succulents with horticulture fleece for even more winter protection.

Image Credit: everythingbackyard.net

Succulents grown in the ground can be covered with natural organic matter like fallen leaves or hay. After the plants have begun to go into dormancy but before the first frost falls, scatter fallen leaves or hay over the plants. A thick covering is not needed, about 1-inch will work fine and provide the plants with a little insulation to help them overwinter and return the following spring.

Propagation is another way to overwinter succulents indoors. Sometimes there just isn’t enough space for overwintering all the potted plants and propagation is needed. Propagation allows you to take a cutting off of the parent plant and overwinter it in a small container and start a new plant in the spring.

To propagate any type of succulent, fill a small pot with a cacti-specific potting mix. Cut one leaf off a healthy parent plant and dip the cut end into the rooting hormone. Insert the cut end into the container of potting mix 1-inch deep. Water soil thoroughly and place the container in a cool, dry location, and don’t water the cutting again during the winter. Click here to learn succulent cuttings propagation.

 

Within a few weeks, a new succulent will form at the base of the cut leaf. The original leaf will slowly die, leaving just the new plant behind.

When the weather warms and it’s time for succulents to come out of their dormancy, place the newly propagated plant in a warm and bright location (not in direct sunlight) water it and feed. Re-pot into a larger pot if needed when the plant begins to actively grow.

a jade plant is enjoying shiny bright sunlight

Overwintering Succulents Indoors

Indoor succulents need a little help for successful overwintering and force them into dormancy.

As soon as the nighttime temperatures dip into the 50F (10°C) stop watering the plants and move them to a cool indoor location. An unheated garage or shed is perfect. Don’t place the plants in direct sunlight but a little light in the overwintering area is fine.

Image Credit: theownerbuildernetwork.co

The succulents need a dry, cool environment with no humidity and no food to enable them to successfully survive the winter.

In early spring when the temperature begins to rise into the 50‘s F (10C) during the daytime, take the potted succulents outdoors on a sunny and warm day and place them in sunlight. Give each plant a light watering but don’t get any water on the leaves. Allow the pots to sit outdoors and drain for a few hours, then bring them back into the location where you let them overwinter. Leave the succulents alone until mid-spring. Move the potted succulents back into their summer growing location and feed and water them. Click here to learn succulent summer care!

Conclusion

Succulents are easy to grow and can be easily overwintered and kept alive for decades. The key to overwintering any succulent is to reduce the water level in its’ leaves so it can go into dormancy during the cold weather.

Graptopetalum amethystinum cluster

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