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Published on October 19th, 2018 | by ozlem

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[Guide] How to Care for Succulents in the Winter

I don’t have an outdoor garden for succulents. I keep most of them in my home or office, and some others are placed in the balcony. Since November is yet to come, I have made a research about how to care succulents in winter. I thought it would be helpful for whose succulents are growing outsides or really tender to cold weather.

Basically, there are two things you can do to help succulents survive winter. One of them is choosing the cold hardy types in the beginning. And the second is changing the watering frequency.

There is not much changing about taking care of them at indoor spaces during winter. But if you have very tender kinds, be careful about some points such as placement, watering, bugs, drainage, and fertilization.

Let’s start with this frequently asked question:

How Cold is Too Cold for the Succulents?

The ideal temperature for succulents is changing according to the season. In summer they usually like to be in a place that’s around 15 – 20 Celsius degrees. However, they like 10 to 15 Celsius degrees better in winter.

Sometimes succulents are sold with a label describing the temperature preferences. So you can tell beforehand what kind of climate they would like. Or you can identify the type of succulent before you purchase it. By this way, you can predict if it will survive in your area or not.

There is also another fact that has to be mentioned. Some succulent types are hardy for cold climates, where some others are not able to survive low temperatures.

Cold Hardy Succulents

I love how exceptions are always out there when we talk about succulents. Despite the succulent are desert plants and adapted to hot and dry climates, some of them are able to survive freezing cold weather.

Sempervivums are one of the widely recognized cold hardy succulents for dropping temperatures in winter. And hey! There are a lot of them, in case you didn’t know!

Sempervivum Tectorum

Sedums are another species That can survive through winter. That is why they are used is a ground cover in succulent Gardens.

Sedum Dendroideum

Delosperma, Lewisia, or Yucca can also tolerate more alteration in temperature and sunlight.

Delosperma Pruin

Tender Succulents

And some other succulents respond more tenderly to slightest temperature change compared to other species. Lithops (Living Stone), Aeoniums (Tree houseleek), and Mammillaria Plumosa (Feather Cactus) are among the species you should stay away if you live in an area where the winters are harsh.

Lithops

Moving Outdoor Succulents to Indoors

If winters are rainy where you live, find a sheltered place for the succulents in your garden. Nevertheless, my recommendation would be moving them inside even though you have a moderate climate in your town.

Instant and extreme temperature change will harm even the cold hardy succulents. It’s a good idea to take them inside before the weather starts to get cold around November.

A garage or a basement would be a good place. Be careful about the room temperature doesn’t get lower than 10 Celsius degrees. And make sure that the plants get at least 3 or 4 hours of sunlight, although not many of them need much direct sun during winter.

Covering the Succulents

If you have no opportunity to carry your outdoors succulents inside, you should use a coverage for protection. You have options like wooden or wickerwork baskets, fabric covers,  frost or snow covers that you can purchase. Snow covers are especially good at insulating.

Frost cover on Amazon.

Please don’t leave the plants covered for too long since they will need airflow and sunlight. You don’t want to go back their resources of life. Check the forecast daily and take precautions.

How to Water Succulents in the Winter?

Most succulent plants require less often watering in winter. I wait longer than I usually do before watering mines to see how long it will take for the soil to get completely dry. Not every type of succulents has the same seasonal change of behavior.

You will follow the same basic principles when watering your succulent in winter. Once you give it a good soak, it will take the water from the roots to the leaves where it has the storage for long periods. The only change is this time period between irrigations. In my case, it takes about two months generally speaking.

If you identify what species is your succulent, you better check whether it is dormant in winter or in summer. On contrary to the winter dormant succulents, summer dormant succulents need more frequent watering in winter because it is the season for them to grow out.

Besides, the pots near the heaters or ventilators are going to dry very quickly. Keep an eye on them all the time in case you find the succulents next to a heater all dried out.

How to Keep Succulents Well-lightened During the Winter?

Unfortunately, we don’t have many sunny days in winter where I live. So I place my succulent pots near the brightest window in my home, getting the Southern light.

Sunlight is extremely important for the succulents, even they can stay alive with indirect sunlight if they are in dormancy during winter. Best is when they get 6 hours of daylight everyday. The dormant succulents also need – at least – 3 or 4 hours of light per day ideally.

For instance, Euphorbia and Pachypodium are dormant during the winter months, whereas Kalanchoe and Aloe slip to dormancy in the summertime.

Aloe Vera

Try out Grow Lights!

Let’s say you live at the very Northern end of the continent, and have only a few hours of sunlight in depressing winter days. There is still a way your succulents can make it through winter.

I heard the grow lights actually might help them out. Why don’t you give it a try? A few grow lights can save your succulents by replacing the natural light that they miss.

Is it the first time you heard of it? Here is what it looks like.

Find on Amazon.

How to Overcome Stretching?

As a sign of a poor lightning, succulents often tend to stretch towards the direction of the sun. Stretching is undesired mainly because the plant has a longer stem and lose the density of its leaves.

If it is not avoidable, you can take a cutting of the stem and propagate your succulent when winter passes. Check my guide about it if you don’t know how to propagate succulents by a cutting.

And as another way, turning the pot to the other side will straighten the leaned succulents back again.

Pay Attention to the Soil

In winters, succulent soil has to be kept as dry as possible. Dampness in the winter and excess water prevent air flow around the roots and cause them to rot in the end.

The soil is better to be protected from rain if the succulents stay outside during the winter months. Plants should be placed somewhere protected like a porch or an eave. If not, other protective shelters should be used as I mentioned before.

If you already moved the pots indoors, there will be a poor air ventilation for the succulents that got used to live outsides. Using the proper soil for them is so important for keeping the roots dry and airy.

Fertilize Before the Winter

Succulents should be fertilized when they are actively growing. Since many of them will slip into a dormancy period, there is no point to use fertilizers in wintertime.

Usually fertilizing succulents one time a year in Spring will be just enough for many of the species. But if yours like to be fed more than once, fertilize it at the end of the summer one last time.

Control the Pests and Bugs

Once you moved the outdoor pots inside the house, you might want to check if there are pests or bugs in them. See if there are aphids or mealybugs which look like cotton on the soil also under the leaves.

One simple solution for that is mixing the rubbing alcohol with water according to a “3 to 1” formula. And applying this liquid by a spray bottle in order to get rid of the pesticides.

You probably find some ants, spiders, and mealybugs too. The sooner is the better for protecting other indoor succulents. 

Winter is Coming!

Indoor succulents usually suffer from the poor light and frequent watering in winter months. It is not really hard to overcome their difficulty since they already pass these months in dormancy.

If you want to grow an outdoor succulent garden despite the cold climate of winters around your city, pick up cold hardy succulent types and protect them as much as possible from the extreme conditions.

Succulents can survive the winter with a little help from us. Be aware of the troubles in order to be prepared for them when winter comes.

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