Unless you are lucky enough to live in a location that does not fall below freezing during the winter, many of the most popular and beautiful succulents will need to be brought indoors for the winter. A greenhouse is ideal, but few gardeners have this luxury. Fortunately, most succulents can easily be over wintered indoors.
Succulents encompass a huge assortment of different plants, some of which have very specific needs. However, the tips outlined below will keep most of the commonly grown succulents alive through the winter.
Succulents often have a habit of becoming stretched out and leggy when kept indoors, resulting in weak and ugly plants by spring time. This can be minimized by taking into consideration three important factors when caring for succulents indoors during the winter: light, water, and temperature.
Light is Critical
The biggest factor in keeping succulents alive over winter is light. Too little light will cause succulents to stretch in an effort to get closer to the light source. Succulents, in general, thrive in full sun. This is difficult to provide indoors, but give them as much direct sunlight as possible. A south facing window is best, but east or west windows will work.
Fluorescent lights can be used, if natural light is insufficient. It is important that the plants be kept within 1 to 2 inches of the bulbs. Fluorescent light becomes practically useless to plants at more than 3 inches from the bulbs. Incandescent bulbs are too hot and give off the wrong spectrum of light for plant growth.
Succulents Need Little Water During the Winter
Succulents are always better off too dry, than too wet. This is especially true during the winter when the plants are receiving less than ideal light and cooler than normal temperatures. Keep your succulents on the dry side during the winter. Water just enough to keep the plants from shriveling. In a cool room, you may only need to water once every 10 to 14 days.
Be especially careful to keep the plant itself dry, especially rosette plants like Echeverias. Water will set in the center of the rosette and rot will quickly turn the plant to mush. Remember, the quickest way to kill a succulent is to keep it wet!
Cool Temperatures are Good
Most succulents do not need to be kept especially warm during the winter. The important thing is to not allow them to freeze. 45°F to 55°F is perfect. Keeping the plants cool will keep them in a semi dormant state. A warm location encourages the plants to grow and with the lower light intensity indoors during the winter, results in leggy plants.
No Fertilizer Needed
Succulents do not need any fertilizer during the fall and winter. You want to keep the plants alive, not encourage them to grow.
These steps have worked very successful for me in over wintering Echeveria, tender Sedum, Aeonium, Agave, Aloe, Crassula, Graptoveria, Kalanchoe, Faucaria, Senecio, and others.
By keeping the plants bright, dry, and cool, they remain in a semi dormant state all winter, with minimal stretching. Once frost-free weather returns, the succulents can be returned outdoors for a summer of basking in the sun.
Words by Josh Spece. Photograph by Emory Ann Kurysh.