Winter Blues, Green Thumb: How to Care for Your Succulents in Winter

How to care for your succulents in the winter

Not too long ago, nobody was keeping succulents or cacti as houseplants. In fact, they were some of the most unpopular plant options around. Now, though, things have changed, and succulents are taking over gardens, homes, businesses, and everything in between.

Succulents are a great option for plant lovers, especially those who aren't known for their green thumbs. These plants are quite hardy and perfect for first-time plant parents.

That being said, they're not totally fool-proof. They especially require care during the winter months.

If you have concerns about taking care of succulents in winter, keep reading. Explained below is everything you need to know to protect and nourish your succulents when the weather outside is frightful.

What Happens to Succulents in Cold Weather?

There are some varieties of succulents that are able to survive outdoors when cold weather hits. Popular Winter succulents include varieties like Sedum confusum and Sempervivum will not freeze and die. Most succulents, though, need to be brought inside if you want them to survive and thrive long-term.

Some sedum and Sempervivum can thrive in freezing weather outside

When most varieties of succulents get left outdoors during the winter, they run the risk of freezing. Remember, succulents and cacti store water in their leaves and/or spines.

This storage mechanism is necessary when they're in their natural arid desert climates and have to withstand extreme heat and drought. In the winter, though, this same mechanism can become their downfall.

If the water stored in your succulents freezes, the plant will likely die.

When to Bring Succulents Indoors

To avoid having to deal with a dead succulent, it's best to bring your plants indoors when winter hits as a precautionary measure (unless you're dealing with a type that you know is hardy enough to handle cold temperatures).

If you want to see the best results from bringing your succulents indoors, it's best to move them in before temperatures reach freezing levels.

Most varieties of succulents can survive outdoors as long as the temperature does not dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Some are a bit more delicate, such as Aloe and Crassula, and need to be brought inside when the temperature drops below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. When Fall arrives, start checking your weather forecast and find out when the first 40-45-degree evenings are expected to arrive. Once you spot those days on the calendar, plan to bring your succulents inside.

Aloe species must be brought indoors over freezing winters

Aloe (image above) and Crassula ( image below) will need to be brought indoors when cold.  With enough sunlight and little water, they will be safe over winter.  

Crassula must be brought indoors over freezing Winters

How to Transition Your Succulents

Many people don't realize that there's a transition process required for bringing your succulents inside.

It's not enough just to move them in when the weather cools down. In fact, for best results, you need to start giving them some extra TLC before winter arrives. The following are some preparation steps you'll need to take to get them ready for indoor winter living:

  • Keep them Warm - Soft succulents like temperatures to stay above 50-degrees to stay healthy and happy. Plants near windows should be moved away at night.
  • Shield Them from Insects - One of the first things to do is spray your succulents with an insecticide product. Do this about three weeks before you plan to bring them indoors. This will help to protect them from insects that may spread to your other indoor houseplants.
  • Remove Debris - Next, be sure to get rid of any debris, leaves, or weeds that are present in your succulents' pots. Before you transition them inside is the perfect time to clean them up and make sure they're in the best health possible.
  • Give Them a Checkup - Speaking of making sure your succulents are healthy, check for signs of infestation, too. Are there any insect bites on your succulents' leaves? Do you notice flies collecting around them? If so, you may need to change the soil before bringing your succulent indoors.
  • Reduce Water - Throughout this process, make sure you're also reducing the amount of water your succulents receive. Reducing water will help to put them into dormancy so they can survive throughout the winter. 

Caring for Succulents Indoors 

Once you've completed your prep work and the cold weather has arrived, it'll be time for you to transition your succulents indoors. Here are some tips to keep in mind to ensure your succulents stay alive once you've brought them inside:

  • Give Them Plenty of Light - If your succulents have been living outside for a long time, they've gotten used to being exposed to bright light on a regular basis. Do your best to mimic this inside your home. Store your succulents in a place where they'll have access to plenty of natural light. It may be tempting to place them somewhere that fits the decor of your home. Resist this urge if that place also happens to be somewhere that gets very little light, though. Remember, a succulent might look nice on a mantel or shelf at first, but it won't look nice for very long if it ends up dying due to lack of sunlight. Grow lights should be considered for regions that don’t get much sun.
  • Separate Them from Other Plants - It's also best to separate your succulents from your other houseplants. This is especially true if you suspect that they may have an insect problem. If you store them too close to your other plants, it's more likely that the insect issue will spread and have a negative effect on those plants.
  • Group Them Based on Their Needs - In addition to separating your succulents from other plants, you'll also want to separate them into different groups depending on their needs. For example, keep the succulents that require the greatest amount of light together in the sunniest part of your home, and store some of your other, less needy succulents in another area. This also helps you to keep track of which succulents need the most water so you don't end up over- or under-watering them.
  • Limit Watering - Some of your succulents may need more water than others, particularly the ones that require the most sun. However, none of your succulents will need very much watering. Pay attention to their soil and only give them water when it appears that their soil has dried out. Your succulents aren't going to grow during the winter months, so there's no need to go crazy with the water. Remember, the goal is to keep them dormant until you can move them back outside.
  • Stop Feeding - You also don't need to worry about feeding your succulents once you've moved them inside for the winter. If you give them extra nitrogen at the same time that their growth rate is slowing down, this can cause extra stress to the plant. This, in turn, can cause it to rot, which is definitely not something you want to deal with when you're trying to keep your succulent alive.
  • Shield Them from Insects - Finally, take steps to shield your succulents from insects. Some people assume that insects won't be a problem during the winter. That's not actually the case, though. Because homes tend to be on the drier side during the winter, it's common for certain insects like mealybugs and armored scale to post up in houseplants. No plants are immune, including succulents and cacti. If you notice any signs of insect issues like bites or find insects on your plants, let the soil dry out all the way. Then, press a cotton swab soaked with rubbing alcohol against the insects. This is an easy way to get rid of them without spraying insecticides all over your house. You can also put the alcohol in a spray bottle and spray it on your plants.

When to Move Them Back Outside 

If you follow these tips, there's a very good chance your succulents will make it through the winter. Once the weather has started to thaw, you can begin planning to transition your succulents back outside.

Yes, you'll have to give up some of the mood-boosting benefits of indoor plants, but they'll be happier outdoors. Remember, too, that you can always buy more succulents to keep inside all year round.

When springtime arrives and temperatures rise about the 40-45 degree threshold, you can start planning to bring your succulents back outside.

It's best to gradually move them outdoors again. In the same way that you have to slowly acclimate to the sun after being stuck indoors all threw winter, your plants need protection from burns as well.

Slowly expose them to brighter light so you don't overwhelm your succulents. Most people have the best luck when they move them out into the light over a period of about 10-14 days.

Feel Confident Taking Care of Succulents in Winter

When it comes to caring for succulents in Winter, it's easy to feel intimidated. This is especially common if you're a new plant parent and have never cared for succulents during the winter months before.

It does take a bit of work and preparation to get your succulents ready to handle the colder weather. Hopefully, though, after reading through this information, you're feeling confident and empowered rather than scared and anxious.

As long as you follow the instructions laid out above, you'll be able to carry your succulents through the winter months with ease.

Do you want to add some new succulents to your collection? If so, head to our shop today. We have a wide range of succulents and cacti for you to choose from, and we add new plants almost every week!

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