Cold Hardy Succulents: Tips For Growing Succulents Outside In Winter

Growing succulents as houseplants is becoming more popular with indoor gardeners. Read on to learn more.

What are Hardy Succulents?

Many people are intrigued by the unusual plants that are unique to them and they are certainly appreciative of the low maintenance needed by succulent plants. As they impatiently wait for temperatures to rise so indoor (soft) succulents can move out to the deck or porch, they could be planting cold hardy succulents to liven up the outside beds.

Cold hardy succulents are those that are tolerant of growing in temperatures that are freezing and below. Like soft succulents, these plants store water in their leaves and need much less watering than traditional plants and flowers. Some cold tolerant succulents live happily in temperatures below 0 degrees F. (-17 C.), such as those growing in USDA hardiness zones 4 and 5.

How cold can succulents tolerate, you may ask? That’s a good question. Some sources say that many cold tolerant succulent plants flourish after living through winters with -20 degree F. (-29 C.) temperatures.

Cold Tolerant Succulent Plants

If you’re interested in growing succulents outside in winter, you’re likely wondering how to choose the plants. Begin by looking for sempervivum and stonecrop sedums. Sempervivum may be familiar; it’s the old-fashioned hens and chicks that our grandmothers often grew, also known as houseleeks. There are a few online sites and catalogs that carry them. Check with your local nursery and garden center.

The common name of stonecrop reportedly comes from a comment stating, “The only thing that needs less water to survive is a stone.” Funny, but true. Keep in mind when growing succulents outside, or growing them anywhere else, water is not your friend. It is sometimes challenging to relearn watering techniques that have developed over many years, but it is necessary when growing succulents. Most sources agree that too much water kills more succulent plants than any other reason.

Jovibarba heuffelii, similar to hens and chicks, is a rare variety for the outdoor succulent garden. Jovibarba specimens grow, multiply themselves by splitting, and even flower in the proper outdoor conditions. Delosperma, the ice plant, is a succulent ground cover that spreads easily and offers beautiful blooms.

Some succulents, like Rosularia, close up their leaves for protection against the cold. If you’re looking for the most unusual specimens, research Titanopsis calcarea – also known as Concrete Leaf. Sources are inconclusive about how much cold this plant can take, but some say it can be overwintered in zone 5 with no problem.

Growing Succulents Outside in Winter

You’re probably wondering about growing succulents outside in winter with the moisture that comes from rain, snow, and ice. If your succulents are growing in the ground, plant them in a base of perlite, coarse sand, coarse vermiculite, or pumice mixed with half peat moss, compost, or cactus soil.

If you can add additional drainage by planting the beds on a slight slope, so much the better. Or plant cold tolerant succulent plants in containers with drainage holes that can be moved out of heavy rains. You may also attempt to cover outdoor beds.

13 Hardy, Hard-to-Kill Succulents

Are you a plant killer?

Do you love having plants around but sadly, the love is unreciprocated? I have a confession to make, I was one of those plant killers until I discovered succulent plants.

I started from one succulent plant. Now I have an entire collection and I am quickly running out of space in my tiny porch that I am actually giving some baby plants away to friends.

Generally speaking, succulents are easy going, low maintenance plants. They have grown in popularity over the years and have become so popular that you can find them anywhere these days.

If you want to try your hand at growing succulents but you are afraid of killing them, start with the easy ones first. There are succulent species that are easier to grow than others. Reserve the exotic, rare types for later on when you gain more experience with these plants.

I have compiled a list of succulent plants that are easy to care for and almost impossible to kill. The quickest way to accidentally kill a succulent plant is to literally shower it with love and attention. They thrive from minor neglect, or as I like to call it, ‘watchful neglect’.

How to Plant an Outdoor Succulent Garden

Succulent garden design is appropriate for warm, temperate, and even cold season locations. It is not always possible in cold climates to have a succulent garden outside, but you can grow them indoors in containers.

Learn a little about how to plan a succulent outdoor garden and bring some fun shapes and textures to your landscape.

Garden Design

Succulents are generally drought-tolerant plants that have thick leaves where they store moisture. Although they are very tolerant of dry conditions, succulents need water, especially during the growing season.

Succulent garden design should consider the location, soil type, configuration, moisture level, and plant types. Some succulents are more drought tolerant than others. Do a little research on the wide variety of succulent shapes and sizes before starting a succulent garden outside.

For instance, cacti are succulents and hold water in their stems and pads. Other succulents are not spiny but have swollen leaves with a myriad of growth habits. There are spreading or drooping types, such as Sedum morganianum, wide spiky plants like Agave, or tall, columned varieties such as Cephalocereus senilis. Plan the design with enough space for the plants to fill in as they grow.

Plant Selection

Growing a succulent garden outside starts with plant choices. If you are a novice, begin with plants that are easy and foolproof. Sedum and Sempervivum are easy to grow and adaptable to bright, sunny locations or even slightly dappled areas.

Whatever types of plants you choose, succulents need well-drained soil. They can thrive in cracks and crevasses, rockeries, and sandy or gritty soils. Succulents in cool-season areas will do best in containers that can be brought indoors for the winter.

Try some Kalanchoe, Aloe, Echeveria, and Aeonium. Have fun with the unique sizes, shapes, and textures of these plants. Use succulent outdoors as part of the garden's xeriscape area to conserve water and provide interest and color.

Planning Your Garden

When you have chosen your plants and are ready for planting, you will need to know how to plan a succulent outdoor garden. Choose a sunny location and plot the space you want to fill.

Check the soil conditions and drainage by digging a hole at least 1 foot (30 cm) deep and filling it with water. If the water drains within a half-hour, the soil is sufficiently porous. If not, mix in 3 inches (7.5 cm) of sand or other gritty material to increase the texture and drainage.

Use taller specimens at the center of the area and spreading species at the edges or dotted among the larger plants as ground cover.

Top the area with a layer of pebbles or small rocks to act as mulch. This will help prevent weeds and conserves moisture while allowing the evaporation of excess water.

Garden Care

Succulents tolerate periods of dryness but should receive regular water during the growing season. When soil is dry a couple of inches down, water deeply and then let the soil dry out again between waterings.

The most common problem with succulents is rot. Keeping the stems out of the soil and providing drying periods between irrigation will help prevent this. Water from the plant's base to keep leaves dry.

Watch for insect pests and combat them with sprays of water and horticultural soap spray.

Remove dead stems and offsets during the care of succulent garden plants. Offsets are easy to start as a completely new plant. Put them in a well-drained potting mix and care for them until roots are full and healthy, then plant them in a new area of the garden.


SUCCULENTOPEDIA: Browse succulents by Genus, Family, Scientific Name, Common Name, Origin, or cacti by Genus

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