Winter Care for Succulents
There’s more to like about succulents than their unique shapes, textures, and forms. Having adapted to arid environments, succulents can store water in their leaves and stems, making them especially hardy and low-maintenance. While succulents know how to survive the heat, they need some help during the winter. Whether you decide to overwinter your particular succulents or not, completing the following steps will increase the likelihood that your succulents will see many summers to come.
Succulents that remain outdoors all winter may need extra attention if they have trouble withstanding freezing temperatures. In that case, covering entire plants with frost cloth will provide protection from the elements. Frost cloth should only be applied when the temperatures drop below freezing, and removed when they rise again.
Leave succulents that are hardy in the face of freezing temperatures uncovered, however; air circulation keeps them dry. Damp soil is one of the leading causes of succulent death during the winter. Well-drained soil is necessary, since roots need to stay dry. Add sand to the soil if too much moisture is accumulating.
If you decide to overwinter your succulents, look for a suitable location. They prefer temperatures between 50°F and 55°F during the winter. These summer-loving plants will change their ways with the seasons, only needing three hours of bright light during their hibernation. The amount of indirect light that they receive the rest of the day is enough to satisfy their needs.
Succulents do require some diluted fertilizer, but only when they’re growing. Try to find the time for one last feeding before the temperatures drop and the light level falls, as succulents will go dormant for the winter soon after. Once this happens, you can stop giving succulents fertilizer, to prevent them from growing soft leaves prone to rot.
Succulents can do without food all winter, but they do need to be watered, albeit less frequently than during the summer. Prepare them for the cold season ahead by decreasing their water intake in late autumn. Water them deeply once a month during the winter, pouring for five minutes or until liquid leaks out of the bottoms of containers. Outside, frozen ground means that succulents shouldn’t be watered for the time being.
A monthly watering is a good opportunity to inspect succulents for pests. Keep an eye out for aphids and mealy bugs, which resemble tiny cotton balls, on the tops and undersides of leaves. If a plant does become infested, try not to panic. The targeted succulent should be separated from the pack, so that pests will be discouraged from spreading to other plants. To actually rid the succulent of pests, concoct a solution combining three parts rubbing alcohol with one part water. Fill a spray bottle with the solution and spritz the afflicted succulent repeatedly—over the course of a couple of weeks, if need be—until all traces of the pests have vanished. Only then should the succulent be reunited with other plants.