What To Do With Succulents in the Winter

Don't let your hard work in the spring and summer die!

Succulents have been an amazing quarantine project for many this year. So far, temps have been pretty mild but soon many succulent lovers will be entering the cold fall and winter months. Freezing temperatures and low light conditions are a challenging environment for most succulents and without intervention, they won’t make it through the winter.

how to care for succulents in the winter

32° F/ 0°C

Is the temperature at which water freezes. Bring your soft succulents indoors before the temps dip this low. Succulents are made mostly of water and their cells will expand and burst when they freeze.

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Why knowing your zone is important

Your “zone” tells you what the lowest average temperature is in your area.

Succulents are classified into the lowest zone they can survive in. 

So… if you are in zone 7, any succulent that is classified as being hardyhardy Able to withstand most climatic conditions all year without protection, often qualified with a minimum temperature to zone 8 or higher needs to come inside for the winter. 

Most succulents are hardy down to zone 9 or so which means much of the country will need to bring most soft succulents indoors when the temperatures go below freezing.

Sempervivum can stay outside in the winter

There are some succulents that are very popular in colder locations because they can actually survive through a freeze. Sempervivum is one of the most commonly planted succulents outdoors in areas that experience freezing temperatures. Some Sedums are also cold hardy.

The goal for bringing your succulents in for the winter is...

Your goal when bringing your soft succulents inside is going to be to mimic the ideal conditions in their natural habitats using grow lights, controlling the temperature, and providing them with lots of airflow indoors.

Use an open wire rack shelving system for your succulents over the winter. The wire lets lots of air pass through which can solve the problem of stagnantstagnant having no current or flow and often having an unpleasant smell as a consequence inside air. Solid bookcases are usually too dark unless you mount some grow lights under the shelves. 

This one is nice because it has wheels so you can move it around. 

Find some S-hooks for your hanging succulents so you can hang them around the wire shelving. This will free up some space on the shelves and allow your trailing succulents to keep growing longer. 

If your succulents end up stretching because they’re not getting enough light, wait until the spring to cut them to propagate.

Grow lights are a must when bringing your succulents indoors for the winter. Most succulents will stretch when brought inside because they just don’t get the same amount or quality of sunlight as if they were outside in the summer.

The days are shorter and an increased cloud cover also restricts the amount of light needed for succulents to stay compact.  Keep your grow lights on for at least 8 hours a day to start. 

These grow lights will attach to the bottom of your wire shelves about 8″ above your plants to start. Observe, then react and make changes when necessary. 

Airflow, airflow, airflow.

I see too many succulent losses from rot that could have been avoided by providing lots of airflow. Indoors, soil will always stay wet longer so it is important to have your succulents in the right soil/pot along with lots of ventilation as if they were outdoors. 

Watering Succulents in the Winter

As a general rule, you will water your succulents less than you would in the summer. It is even more important to know what signs of thirst look like and WAIT until you see those signs before watering indoors. Learn signs of thirst here.

There are some succulents that will need very little if any water at all because they are dormant. Read the Guide to Dormancy to determine which succulents are dormant in the winter and which ones are in their active growth phase. 

If you run the heater in the winter, you may need to water a little more frequently.

If you need help identifying your succulents, head over here

do not water lithops in the winter
Don't water lithops at all in the winter. Not even a little.

Use a narrow tipped water bottle to be more precise when watering. Avoid getting water on the leaves as this will quickly lead to rot. 

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