One of the most frequently asked questions by succulent lovers concerns problems with succulent plants and cold weather. This is a common problem, mainly when the succulent is first cultivated, as many of them do not usually withstand excessively low and freezing temperatures.
The problem lies in the significant amount of water a succulent stores in its leaves and when it reaches freezing temperatures, the succulent leaves freeze, destroying the tissues of the plant. That’s why it’s important to identify which species your plant belongs to and look for information about its cold tolerance. Don’t be careless and if in doubt, protect the succulents during the coldest months by bringing them indoors.
In general, freezing temperatures do not support Echeveria or Aeonium species. There are a few Aloe and Agave resistant to low temperatures. Cacti have some very rustic species, such as the Opuntias, but not all of them are frost tolerant.
There are succulent plants native to icy areas that can withstand the effects of the cold without being affected, usually coming from mountainous areas.
Succulents that Can Tolerate Freezing / Cold Temperatures
Sempervivum: Plants native to the Pyrenees and northern European mountain ranges are the most resistant to cold and can thrive in temperatures at ~30ºC.
Sedum: Sedums resist frost, but some varieties do better than others. Some maintain leaves and stems despite the low temperatures, others lose them and sprout from the root when the warm weather returns.
Jovibarba: Native to the Alps and the Anatolian Peninsula, they are a subgenus of Sempervivum that can withstand temperatures as low as -15ºC.
Euphorbia: Honestly, I don’t know if all of them can withstand frost, but I have found varieties that resist below -10ºC. Euphorbia characias, Euphorbia’Diamond Frost’, Euphorbia dendriodes, Euphorbia rigida, are some of them.
Agaves: Some precious agaves can be grown in cold climates. Agave ovatifolia resists -18ºC and Agave victoria-reginae (one of my favorites) resist -12ºC.
So, if you live in an area that get to freezing temperatures but like succulents, this is a great guide to choose from to avoid succulent frost problems. However, if you were wrong about the choice and now one of them is giving you problems with the cold, I recommend you do the following:
If a succulent plant shows symptoms of frostbite it is not always necessary to give it up. Typically, the first thing that gets damaged on the succulent is the leaves, and a soft frost will leave black spots or small holes in the epidermis if the cold is persistent the foliage will become soft and slimy, or wrinkled and black. As long as the stem shows no signs of frost, there may be hope. Remove the damaged leaves and put the rest in a protected place to provide intensive care and try to recover the plant.
Make sure to bring these damaged, and all soft succulents indoors over the Fall and Winter.