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Saving Your Succulents For Santa

December 28, 2019 4 min read


Many succulents do not enjoy the freezing temperatures of winter. They need a little special attention before it gets too cold. Once prepared, though, they'll happily wait up for Santa with you! Other succulents are just fine with freezing temperatures. It is important to know which type of succulent you have so you can give them the best winter care.

Know Your Succulent 

Every succulent has a zone-rating, and this is essential to know. There are two main categories of succulent: Hardy and Soft. Hardy varieties withstand frost and can remain outdoors during cold winters. Soft varieties are cannot withstand frost or freezing temperatures and must be brought indoors as soon as it gets cold outside. 

Succulents like Sedum, Ice Plant, Yucca, and Hens and Chicks are hardy to freezing temperatures and will be ok left outside. They may change colors, shrink, or wither as the weather cools, and this is normal. 

In addition, there are a few cold-weather varieties that are on the opposite schedule of other succulents and spend the winter flowering and blooming instead of sleeping. 

Hens and chicks succulents

Preparing Succulents For Winter 

Don't wait until the last minute. Start 3-4 weeks before the first expected cold spell so the plants will be ready once the temperature changes. This also gives you time to address any issues. 

Carefully trim any overgrown plants. While trimming them, check them over for signs of disease or pest infestations. This is especially important if you are bringing the plants indoors. One troubled plant can infect or pass on pests to all the others in the house. Addressing plant health issues is always best to do immediately. However, it is also especially important to do it before winter, while the succulents are still at full strength. Once they enter winter dormancy, they will struggle to deal with any issues.

Remove dead leaves and branches and any debris around the plants or in the pots, as well. This will reduce the opportunities for pests and diseases to take hold. 

Outdoor Succulent Care

Succulents that are not cold-weather hardy suffer from the chilly temperatures. Because they store water, when the weather is freezing, the water in them also freezes. Frozen water expands, and in the succulents case, this means burst leaves, stems, and trunks. If this happens too much, the plant will eventually die.

Outdoor succulents are also at risk of drowning as snow melts and soaks the soil. If you live in an area that gets lots of snow and cold, choose varieties for outdoor planting that are hardy to your zone. 

When you plant succulents, choose areas protected from wind, rain, and snow. Because they are so sensitive to temperature changes, the extra safeguarding will make a big difference.

Root rot is a serious concern, especially as the snow melts. It can be slowed or prevented with good drainage. Before the cold weather starts, inspect the area around the plants. Watch where rainwater goes during storms. If necessary, create a drainage channel to boost the water runoff. The soil can also be amended with the addition of sand or organic matter to improve drainage.

Clear away any plant matter or debris around the succulents. Creating good air circulation around the plants will help them dry faster and prevent mold or disease from taking hold. 

Cover outdoor succulents with fabric or frost cover only when the temperature is too cold for them. For some varieties, this is freezing. Other types, like Crassula, and Echeveria, need to be covered when the temperature is below 45F. Succulents need lots of sun and air circulation, and being continuously covered will harm them.

Indoor Succulent Care

Bring potted plants indoors before the first frost. This is a great time to replace potting soil and fix any drainage issues. Give each succulent a deep watering once a month, letting the soil dry completely before each soaking.

Keep the temperature between 50-60F. Place succulents near bright windows or in any location where they will receive at least 6 hours of indirect sunlight. Do not put the plants directly in front of a window since cold air can seep through the glass and chill the plants.

succulent near window

If you have many succulents, care for them can be easier if they are grouped by watering and light needs.

Winter Blooming Succulent Care

Succulents like Aloe and Haworthia grow during the winter months and need regular, frequent watering. This is also the time to fertilize these varieties. 

As with winter-dormant varieties, sun and temperature are important. Ensure the plants are receiving a minimum of 6 hours of indirect light per day, and the temperature is around 50-60F. To induce blooming, give the plants 12-16 hours of dark each night. 

The key to successfully transitioning succulents between seasons is to know which type you have. Once you know the variety, care is straight-forward and easy to accomplish so Santa can enjoy their beauty as well.

Aloe and Haworthia

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