Like most plants, succulents will not grow at the same rate year-round. Most go through a dormant phase and an active phase.
For some succulents the dormant period (when they grow less) will occur during winter time, while others enter dormancy in the summer.
Succulents dormancy is triggered by a few things in their natural habitat. A decrease in sunlight and temperature are a couple of things that succulents take notice of.
They realize it is not going to get the elements they needs to actively grow, and decide to run on "energy-efficient" mode.
When a succulent goes dormant, it requires little water and no fertilizer. It will still need sunlight to keep it's compact shape, and a fast draining soil to stay dry.
There are a couple of variables to consider with succulents and their dormancy periods - Indoors and Outdoors - which are explained here:
Succulent Dormancy - Indoors
Succulents are very opportunistic plants, and when the conditions are right for them they will continue to grow.
If your succulents are indoors and you provide everything they need to thrive (light, a container with a drainage hole, fast draining soil, water, and temperatures between 40 and 85 degrees F) you will usually not notice their dormancy period.
They are triggered into dormancy by these factors, so if you eliminate those triggers the plant never goes dormant.
Echeveria, Euphorbia, and Agave will usually all go dormant during the winter months.
You will notice a slow down in growth.
These do not have to be fertilized, and watering should be every 2 weeks or when the soil is bone dry.
How do you revive a dormant plant?
Reviving a dormant succulent is easier to do indoors because you can control the environment they are in.
By giving your dormant plant indirect light, a thorough watering and boost of fertilizer, this should trigger the plant to start new growth.
Succulent Dormancy - Outdoors
One important factor to consider with a succulents dormancy period is the climate you provide for them outdoors.
An Echeveria in San Diego, CA is going to require a whole different type of succulent care than the same Echeveria growing in Vermont over the winter.
Hardy sedums and Sempervivums will tolerate cold temperatures. They may look unsightly at times, but come spring they will bounce back with lush blooms. These will not need to be watered during freezing temperatures.
Echeveria, Crassula, and Kalanchoe are soft succulents, and will need to be brought indoors over the winter to avoid frost and freezing temperatures.
With plenty of sunshine in the spring and summer months these will actively grow.
During peak temperatures, these succulent will slow growth a little bit.
Winter Dormant Succulents
These succulents are winter dormant and will stop actively growing in the cooler months.
Summer Dormant SucculentsThese succulents are summer dormant and will stop actively growing when it warms up.
Is my Plant Dormant or Dead?
When some succulents go dormant they look like they are completely dead.
They scale back on all their foliage and die out. But that doesn't necessarily mean they are dead.
The best thing to do is check the roots of where your plants were in the garden or potted arrangement.
If you notice the roots are rotted out or completely shriveled up and dried out - the plant died. The rot will almost smell like a sewer - I know... GROSS. :)
But if you notice the roots are healthy - the plant is just hibernating and will bounce back more lush than ever when it's time.