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How Does Winter Affect my Succulents?

How Does Winter Affect my Succulents?

WINTER IS COMING... to affect your succulents.  

Are you and your plants ready for it and the things to come?    

House Stark's motto from Game of Thrones was one of warning and preparedness of things to come... except they're worried about the return of White Walkers and the Long Winter, and you succulent owners are worried about frost, dormancy and warmth.

You can expect colors to change, and hardy and soft succulents to respond differently to the cold winter.

1.  Colors may intensify

One of my favorite things about succulents is the intense color change that comes with cold climate. 

Cold weather can have an effect on the foliage of some succulents.  It can "stress" a green succulent into vibrant pink succulent - like the Kalanchoe Aurora Borealis you see here.

It's important to note that "cold stress" for soft succulents is weather between 40-55 degrees F.  A Southern Califronia winter is significantly mild compared to other regions of the country.

In Southern California nurseries, I have seen a dramatic shift in sections of nursery tables turn pink and purple over the winter.

Once the weather starts to warm up again, the plant colors will revert back to either green or muted versions of pink and purple.

2.  How hardy and soft succulents are affected by winter

You need to understand the difference to keep them alive once winter rolls around.

Hardy succulents can tolerate frost, freezing temperatures, below freezing temperatures, and are the ideal plant to have outdoors at all times.  They actually grow and thrive better outdoors than indoors. 

These are great plants for people looking if you want a ground cover that will survive year-round.

Soft succulents are fair weather plants that prefer 40 - 85 degree climates.  They enjoy being outdoors when the range is between these temperatures.  

Once it starts to dip below 40 degrees, it is time to bring these soft succulents indoors to avoid freezing the plants to death.

Once inside they will want temperatures to stay within their comfort zone, and sunlight as well. 

I know, soft succulents are such DIVAS!

3. How winter affects succulents by species

Beyond just hardy and soft succulents, you should expect certain species to respond differently to cold winters.  Let's get into it:

Hardy Sedum

Hardy sedum will be able to tolerate freezing and below freezing temperatures. 

They will vary from no significant change, to partial or total loss of leaves in the winter. 

Some sedums may slightly change color.  It may change from a lush green or colorful sedum to a dull color during its dormant cycle. 

Other sedum will be a bit more dramatic, and the changes you see may get you worried.  

One day, you'll notice they're losing all its leaves - leaving only the stems and honestly... you will think they are dying.  

But FEAR NOT - They are going dormant to do what it takes to survive winter.  

If you dig through the dead foliage to the base of the soil you usually will find new growth.

The new growth is protecting itself during the winter.

When spring season rolls around, they will be lush and colorful once again.


These frost hardy hens and chicks will respond to the cold by changing color and closing up the rosettes.

The change in color will usually go from green to a reddish or purple color.  This occurs because the pigment actually helps protect the sempervivum from the cold.

It will also ball up the rosette into what looks like a tight little rock for additional protection.

Once spring season rolls around they will lose its color and blossom beautiful sprawling rosettes around the mother plant.

Soft Succulent Species

Soft succulents encompass many species of succulents that react the same way to cold winters.

How do they react, you ask??? Poorly.  Soft succulents LOATHE cold winters.

This will include: Echeveria, Crassula, Kalanchoe, Haworthia, Sedum (soft varieties), Graptopetalum, and a variety of cross breeds between these.  

Light purple and light pink plants in the spring and summer will turn vibrant purple and pink colors. 

If you keep them outdoors in freezing temperature, they will respond by freezing, rotting, and dying.  Super tragic stuff.  :(

Bringing them indoors takes a bit of planning on your end.  Because these are fair weather succulents, they will need access to sunlight or grow lights to ensure they do not stretch, and warmth.


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