Succulents are plants that have thick, fleshy leaves that retain water. The plants typically grow as natives in arid climates and dry soil conditions. Succulent plants range in size from the tiniest Blossfeldia Liliputana, which reaches 1/2-inch when mature to the largest African Baobab which will be 75-feet tall.
No matter how big or small a succulent is, it will have a dormant period in which its growth slows down for some varieties. There are a few secrets of succulent dormancy that you should know to take care of your plant during this normal time of its’ life.
What Is Succulent Dormancy?
Dormancy is the time when succulents will temporarily slow down their growth and physical activity. The plant will look the same day after day will no outward sign of change or growth. The plant roots are alive and the plant will minimize metabolism activity to conserve energy until the environmental conditions become more favorable.
Extreme temperature change, lack of water, air dryness, and other environmental factors can stimulate a succulent to enter dormancy.
Summer Dormancy & Winter Dormancy
Summer dormancy is the type of dormancy that winter-growing succulents enter. They will grow during the winter months but go dormant when the temperature becomes too hot.
Jade plant, Aloe Vera, Snake Plant, Haworthia, and Kalanchoe are popular succulents in summer dormancy. These succulents originated in hot, dry climates where the summer environment was too hot and dry to grow. They naturally entered the dormant stage to conserve energy until cooler weather arrived (50 degrees F USA)
Winter dormancy is for succulents that are in the category of summer-growers. They are actively growing during the warmth of spring, summer, and fall and enter dormancy when the weather turns cool.
However, they will slow down growth in a mini-dormancy during the heat of mid-summer (July-August USA). Agave, Euphorbia, Echeveria, Pachypodium, and Tillandsia are summer-growers. However, the plant is not dead, just sleeping, and will awaken and resume active growth when the temperature warms in spring.
Signs Of Succulent Dormancy
Succulent varieties act differently when they enter dormancy, but one sure sign for all these plants is that they stop growing. This is true for those that go into summer dormancy and those that go into winter dormancy.
Some succulents will shed their leaves just before they enter dormancy. Some will develop a papery-looking cover over their leaves. Rosettes will shrink.
Additionally, it's important to note that some succulents will turn green during dormancy, which might initially seem like a sign of revival but is actually part of their natural response. Click here to learn more about why succulents turn green.
Understanding which season your succulent goes into dormancy will prevent you from over-watering it trying to revive it, or trashing thinking it’s dead.
Summer Growers &. Winter Growers
How To Help Succulents Survive In Dormancy
Now you know that succulents go into dormancy, and these tips will help the plant survive during the dormant stage.
Due to air temperatures and evaporation Summer-growing succulents will require more water during their active growing periods.
However, transpiration is still occurring during dormancy, and the plant needs to be water. Therefore, water should be severely curtailed and only a small amount given to the plant every other week.
Winter growing succulents will also need bi-weekly waterings to help them survive.
Succulents are only trying to survive during dormancy. The plant is not trying to grow. Therefore, do not feed the plant, prune it, or increase light exposure.
Do not repot the succulents during their dormant stage. It may seem like the perfect time for re-potting, but it will disrupt their rest period and may result in loss of the plant. Click here to learn how to repot succulents properly.
Keep the plants away from extreme temperature changes and drafts.
Wake Up Dormant Succulents
Dormant succulents will awaken and begin to grow naturally once the temperature is favorable. Likewise, summer growers will perk up and begin to grow when the temperature rises above 60 degrees F at night and above that mark during the daytime.
Winter-growers will come out of dormancy when the nighttime temperature is below 60 degrees F and daytime temperatures are slightly higher.
You can help speed up the process by gradually warming or cooling the succulent by moving it to a different location (potted plants only).
The summer growers can be relocated to a warm sunroom or heated room in early spring to help break the dormancy a little early. Likewise, winter growers can be relocated to an unheated room in late summer to get them started growing again.