If you live in Chicago and want to successfully grow and care for succulents, this guide is for you.
So much of Chicago's weather is impacted by a large body of water, Lake Michigan.
Chilling cold winters and humid summers make succulent care quite tricky and we get lots of questions about what to do. Usually these questions come in a bit too late as the damage from humidity or frost has already taken hold of the succulents.
To make the guide extra helpful and easy to follow, we'll break down the care by season and succulent type. Soft succulents are plants that prefer temperatures to stay above 40 degrees F. Hardy succulents can handle temperatures down to -20 degrees.
We sprinkle in some seasonal planting tips along the way, and then we'll dive into what succulents tend to thrive indoors and outdoors year-round. You're welcome! Let's dive in!
This tends to be the most easygoing of climates for Chicago, but it has a ruthless, overnight potential to be a bit extreme.
Sometimes the summer's extreme heat and humidity can roll into the traditional Autumn months. Other times, the harsh winter-like weather rears its chilly head.
The weather can be so wild Autumn, I would suggest you plant soft succulents in containers small enough to bring indoors as often as you need to. Extreme humidity and cold can both kill your succulents in a matter of a night.
Frost hardy succulents can do well outdoors and planted in the ground if the temperatures stay above -20 degrees. If your weather drops below that, it's important to invest in and place some frost cloth over your succulents to keep them just a bit warmer and keep them from freezing over.
Oooof. I haven't personally experienced a Chicago winter, and from what I read and hear from customers... I am not sure I'd want to. No offense! :)
A Chicago winter tends to be unreasonably cold and usually snowy, with a heavy snowstorm that happens every 3-4 years.
Keep these indoors all season. Ideally you have a warm spot for them and because of the lack of sunlight during this time, invest in some full spectrum grow lights.
Placing these succulents near a windowsill might prove to be too cold for them because of how cold it is outdoors. Best to keep succulents away from the windowsill and instead, place them in a warm room that will provide them will full spectrum artificial light. This will ensure they do not stretch and are healthy.
It's also important that where you place them indoors matters. Keep them away from drafty heater vents as this can cause them to dry out quicker and damage the plant.
Because of the potential for lots of snow, plant your hardy succulents into either a raised bed or sloped garden with a fast draining soil. This will ensure the succulents and soil are not wet for too long
The windchill could drop temperatures down significantly, so grab your trusty frost cloth and protect your plants in your garden during the time. Use stakes or rocks to ensure the frost cloth is securely held down on these windy and freezing days.
If it drops below -20 degrees for an extended period of time, it's possible your frost hardy succulents will not survive this.
To be safe, you could plant them in pots that can be transported indoors when freezing and windy weather comes in.
What an unpredictable season for Chicago. Normally spring is all about birds, bees and blooms, but not so much here.
Winter snows has been known to hang around through May with 7 degree F temperatures. But then there's also the possibility for 100 degree F high humidity weather.
Because of the unpredictability of spring, you can bring your plants outdoors but keep a close eye on the weather forecast. I suggest keeping your plants in containers that can be easily moved indoors when need be.
If you know it's going to be on the warm or hot side, place your succulents outdoors in an area that provides early morning sunlight and afternoon shade.
Your hardy succulents will typically be okay outdoors, but because of the sun factor it is important to plant them in ground and place their container in a spot that gets early morning sunlight and afternoon shade.
This season is all about heat waves and humidity. Succulents will need less from you now than any other season. Let me explain:
Because of the high humidity, it's very possible your succulents that are outdoors will never need to be watered. The moisture in the air could be enough to sustain the plants without ever needing to be manually watered.
If the humidity is very high for a few consecutive days in a row, I might suggest bringing these plants indoors to protect them from all that moisture.
Some people use a dehumidifier indoors near their succulents to reduce the moisture in the air.
Like soft succulents, your outdoor plants may not ever need to be manually watered over the summer because of all that moisture in the air.
Make sure you have an extra fast draining soil by adding lots of pumice or perlite to the soil.
Best Succulent Plants for Chicago
There's lots to be concerned about when deciding on succulents in Chicago, but what we find is that most of our Chicago customers have the most success with:
- indoor succulents with little to no effort. These require little light, temperatures above 40 degrees and watering only when the soil is bone dry
- frost hardy succulents for outdoor year-round garden - raised garden beds or sloped parts of your garden are ideal
- any succulents so long as you have full-spectrum artificial grow lights and a warm spot indoors
Some items you might want to invest in for your succulents on days or seasons they need come indoors are:
- a dehumidifier for the high humid summers
- a dedicated shelf space away from cold windows for your soft succulents in the winter
- full spectrum artificial grow lights