Keep your Succulents Snug this Winter
Here’s our guide on winter succulent care. This article focuses on tender varieties, which need to be wintered indoors in all but the warmest of climates.
Is your succulent dormant over winter?
The most important factor in your succulent’s winter care regime is whether your species becomes dormant over the winter or not.
Here’s a list of winter growing and winter dormant species:
Winter growing succulents
These succulents grow in the winter, given enough light.
Photo by Massimo Botturi on Unsplash
Winter dormant succulents
These are more active in fall, spring, and summer.
What is dormancy?
Dormancy is when a plant reduces photosynthesis and growth to conserve energy at certain times of the year. It is triggered by temperature, light, and humidity changes.
In the wild, succulents enter dormancy to survive dry seasons by storing water in their leaves. This means that although dormancy is triggered by temperature and light changes, it is not a response to these factors in themselves. Rather, your succulent goes dormant during the colder, duller months if those months coincide with less rainfall in their natural habitats.
Succulents from the Mediterranean (like the Aeonium or stonecrop) can grow year-round, given optimal conditions. This is because the Mediterranean does not have extreme dry and wet seasons. Here, water-conserving dormancy is not a survival requirement.
However, many succulents hail from deserts and sub-tropical environments with pronounced dry and wet seasons. Here, dry seasons coincide with the colder parts of the year. Lithops and prickly pear from the desert or Haworthia from subtropical Southern Africa are likely to enter dormancy once they detect cold and reduced sunlight. These conditions indicate that the dry season is setting in.
This being said, if you mimic summer throughout the year, many succulents may never completely go into dormancy.
If you keep succulents in a warm bedroom, they might never stop growing entirely. Other parts of the house like conservatories and kitchens might experience more seasonal fluctuations, inducing more pronounced periods of dormancy in your succulents.
However, even if you provide summer-like warmth throughout the year, the weaker sunlight of fall will normally tell your succulents that it’s time to conserve energy.
For winter dormant succulents, adjust your watering regime. During winter, water well only once a month. For lithops, withhold water altogether until spring.
Just before spring begins, begin watering as normal (as soon as the soil is completely dry).
It is worth separating winter dormant and winter growing succulents, so you don’t accidentally over or under-water your plants.
Creator: Melissa Ross/Getty Images/Moment RF
Because indoor succulents will live in similar temperature year-round, the reduced sunlight is what the succulents will primarily notice as a sign of seasonal change
All succulents need a reasonable supply of bright light throughout the year, regardless of dormancy. During winter, it is especially important to position all succulents in the brightest spot in your home, ideally facing South.
This applies to both winter and summer growers alike, but winter growers will need even more light. For these, you might consider getting indoor grow lights.
If you succulent doesn’t get enough light, it will ‘stretch’, making its stem long and thin.
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash
Unless you live in a very warm climate where winter temperatures do not go below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) even during January, bring any tender succulents you’ve been keeping outdoors into your home.
If you have succulents that can withstand lower temperatures, bring them into a greenhouse. If you are keeping succulents in the greenhouse over winter, keep them off the floor. You may need to heat your greenhouse if it falls below 40 degree in the winter. Wherever you place them, make sure you keep them dry.
Keep succulents at between 40 – 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Never place the succulents in areas that might reach freezing. This will kill them.
It is always best to wait until just before the growing season to repot succulents.
For winter growing succulents, repot them in the fall. For winter dormant succulents, repot them just before spring.
If you do repot winter dormant succulents while they are resting, wait two weeks after watering to do so. This will ensure the roots have managed to soak up all the moisture.
Succulents need fertiliser with more phosphorus than nitrogen. You can get specialist
Succulents never need many nutrients, and this applies especially during dormancy. For winter dormant species, do not give any fertiliser over winter.
For winter-growing succulents, apply fertiliser once just when the weather starts to turn cold and then again just when spring begins.
Before bringing succulents inside, check for pests so they do not introduce unwanted guests into your home.
Mealy bugs are common succulent pests. Check for tell-tale mounds of white fluff. Spray some 70% isopropyl alcohol on affected areas.
Spraying your plants with half-strength diluted rubbing alcohol should treat most succulent pests in including white flies and spider mites.
Cinnamon powder sprinkled onto your potting mix can treat fungal problems and fungus gnats.