Whether you’re planning on growing succulents indoors or outdoors, there are some general rules of succulent care you should follow. Watering tips, the type of soil, light requirements – these are mostly the same for any type of succulent. However, the climate you live in will determine what succulents you can grow outdoors. Read on to learn how to choose the right succulent for your climate and how to care of succulents indoors and outdoors.
Choosing the Right Succulents for Your Climate
Most of the succulents, both tender and hardy varieties, can be successfully grown indoors with minimal care. Not that growing succulents outdoor is more demanding – it just requires selecting an adequate type of succulent suitable for your climate conditions.
Before choosing and buying your succulents for a garden, you should consider the climate you live in and the climate and growing conditions of a succulent’s native region. That means that if you live in a climate with harsh winters and freezing temperatures, you may not be able to grow tender succulents outdoors. Most of the succulent species are native to arid and dry regions, such as deserts or semi-deserts, and they are adapted to a lot of sunshine, shortage of water, and high temperatures.
In the US, most succulents species are suited to hardiness zone 3-9, but generally, if you live in an arid zone, you aren’t limited in choosing your succulents as are gardeners in cooler climates.
Although in warm climates gardeners can grow almost any succulent or cactus species, some succulents prefer wet conditions, such as some Yuca plants.
What Are the Best Cold-Hardy Succulents?
And, fortunately, living in a cold climate doesn’t mean you can’t grow succulents outdoors. There are plenty of succulents, including selected cultivars, that can withstand low temperatures and survive the winter.
Here are some cold-hardy succulents that you can successfully grow outdoors:
- Sempervivum (common names: hen and chicks, houseleek). Some Sempervivum species thrive among rocks in the mountains of alpine and subalpine regions. They are hardy succulents, adapted to a life among dry rocks and stones, growing almost without soil.
- Sedum or stonecrop. Some super-hardy varieties are Sedum reflexum, Sedum hispanicum, Sedum acre, Sedum album, Sedum spurium, Sedum Kamtschaticum, etc.
- Varius types of Agave are suitable for an outdoor garden in cold climates. Go for A. parryi, A. gracilipes, A. havardiana, A. neomexicana, A. toumeyana, etc.
- Yucca species: Y. aloifolia, Y. elata, Y. faxoniana, Yucca rostrate, etc.
- Cactus - Many Escobaria, Echinocereus, and Gymnocalycium species are cold-hardy. Opuntia humifusa, Escobaria vivipara, Opuntia fragilis are just some of the renowned cold-hardy cacti.
How to Grow Succulents Outdoors in Cold Climates
Having an outdoor succulent garden in the northern hemisphere and cold regions is not impossible, but requires some special care.
Here are some tips on how to care of a succulent garden in cold climates:
- Position your succulents wisely – place them in a spot that will give them a lot of sun during the winter. Avoid shady places. Some less-hardy succulents can be planted near the house, where the warmth of your house creates a microclimate.
- Include rocks and stone into the planting place. The rocks will retain temperature and provide extra warmth to your plants.
- Let your plants go dormant because that’s the only way they can survive the freezing temperatures. In the fall, cut them back on water gradually to force dormancy.
- Mulch them, or cover them with a cloth during the winter.
- If possible, protect them from hot sun when they exit the dormancy, so as from a sudden autumn frost when they’re in their active period.
How to Choose the Right Soil for Succulents
Once you’ve chosen the right succulents for your growing conditions, you should consider the soil.
Even birds know that succulents need wise watering, but as much the watering schedule is important, the right soil plays a crucial role.
The best type of soil for succulents consists of an organic component and inorganic component. Organic material (pine bark for example) provides nutrients, while the inorganic component (big-size particles such as rocks) provides soil stability, porosity, and adequate drainage.
Succulents love well-drained soil, with an additive that helps with the drainage (pumice, granite or perlite). They can even thrive in a rocky environment with a minimal amount of soil, but the soil commonly used for houseplants will kill them.
The soil should drain well, otherwise, the root will rot and the plant will die off. The soil should be drained and dried out within 1 or 2 days from watering. Sitting in water for more than 3 days can lead to root rot.
How to Water Succulents
As previously said, succulents don’t like wet feet and are more drought-tolerant than regular plants. Succulent plants store water in leaves, stems, or roots. They ‘collect’ water during the growing season, but need to have a dry period or a dormancy period. That means that you need to cut them back on watering during their dormancy period.
During their active period, water your succulents only when the soil is completely dried out. Water them thoroughly. You can leave them without water for several days or even weeks. The first sign that your succulent needs water is wrinkled leaves, soft to the touch.
Give your succulents a shower and the leaves will replenish in a few hours.
Light Conditions for Succulents
Most succulents prefer bright sites with plenty of sunshine. They usually need around 6 hours of light in order to look healthy and beautiful. If your succulents lack light, they may become stretched or ‘leggy’.
To avoid such scenario, keep your indoor succulents at the south-facing window. East and west are also an option, but no succulent will thrive in the north-facing window.
Although they need a lot of light, direct sun can cause them harm. Hot afternoon sun can give them sunburns and cause stress in plants. Make sure to place them in a bright spot, protected from the direct midday sun. A few hours of sun in the morning, and a few hours in the afternoon – that is a perfect balance.
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