Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

Winter Care of Succulents


“I live in Zone 8a, and I’ve got a lot of succulent plants that do well in hot temperatures. While we don’t get much freezing weather, it does happen sometimes. How should I take care of succulents during the cold winter months?” -Meredith

If you are planting winter-hardy varieties, such as Sedum (Sedum sp.), Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum sp.), Ice Plant (Delosperma sp.), Lewisia (Lewisia sp.), or Yucca (Yucca sp.), you shouldn’t have to worry about any extra winter care. You may see them begin to wither, shrink, or change color as cold weather approaches, but this is part of their normal winter routine. These plants withstand freezing temperatures, with some varieties hardy down to zone 3.

For less hardy varieties, the problem during the winter is the deadly combination of cold temperatures and waterlogged, soggy soil from rains and snow melt. Many varieties will withstand colder temperatures if the soil can be kept dry enough. Some tips for caring for tender succulents during freezing weather include:

  • Keep the soil as dry as possible. Stop supplemental watering and feeding around late fall.
  • Be sure there is adequate air circulation, to keep the winter dampness at bay.
  • Plant succulents in sheltered areas if your winters are rainy – a good spot might be a sunny location underneath the eaves or porch.
  • Make sure your soil has good drainage – if you notice soggy soil around your succulents during wet weather, you need to improve the conditions to help your plant survive. Add sand, well-draining organic matter, or a product such as Perma-Till to increase water drainage.
  • Cover tender plants when freezing temperatures are forecasted. You can use fabric covers, bushel baskets, or purchased frost covers. Just make sure the covers do not touch the leaves, and don’t keep them covered any longer than necessary – they need air circulation and sunlight.
  • Don’t remove snow cover – it’s a good insulator.
  • Julie

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22 Comments on “Winter Care of Succulents”

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  1. Deb Peterson Says:
    July 19th, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    What is the name of the succulent plant at the top of this page?? I have been searching for the name of this plant for some time! It is a beautiful plant and I suspect it is in the sedum family or maybe hens and chicks. Please advise……thanks, Deb

  2. Norm Says:
    September 7th, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    I also need to know the name of the pictured plant b/c I have several of them and am always asked by visitors what it is. It spreads easily so I do give away some. It has been rel fun to have. {zone 5-6}
    Thanks, Norm

  3. Charmaine O'Rourke Says:
    October 17th, 2010 at 10:47 am

    I too need to know the name of the plant pictured at the top of this page. Two people above requested the name of this plant but I cannot find the answer anywhere. A friend has this growing all over her property up at an altitude of about 7500 and it grows great and spreads and doesn’t die in the winter from the snow nor do the deer eat it. Please let me know what the name of this plant is. Thanks!

  4. Official Comment:

    Julie Day Says:
    October 18th, 2010 at 8:13 am

    It’s a variety of sedum, but I’m sorry to say I don’t know which one! I contacted the gardener who provided the setting for the photo, and she doesn’t know either. Sorry I couldn’t offer the name this plant so well deserves – it’s a very hardy, wonderful succulent that works well by itself and also peeks beautifully out among other plants in the garden. For some great photos and possibly an answer, visit sedumphotos.net and prepare to be boggled by the choices!

  5. Kathy Says:
    November 19th, 2010 at 7:23 am

    The plant above looks to me like myrtle spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites). I have it in my zone 4 garden

  6. Nancy Tryon Says:
    May 15th, 2011 at 8:13 am

    I have two special dahlias, which I purchased potted from a garden center, they were beautiful last year. I dug them and stored them loose in a storage shed which stays in the 40’s-50’s all winter. We’re in zone 5, this spring the bulbs aren’t sprouting, although they look healthy and are firm.

  7. Sue Says:
    November 10th, 2011 at 9:16 am

    Succulent at top of page is a euphorbia biglandulosa AKA rigida ….a type of gopher plant.

    I live in Tucson, AZ, where it lives in the full sun and survives the freezing winters,and spreads quickly after the blooms seed in the spring.

  8. Rachel Says:
    January 31st, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    I also spent weeks trying to identify the above plant. It’s beautiful, but poisonous! I got some of the milky juice of the plant on my hand, and then touched my face. It burned my skin, burned my eyes, and left red welts anywhere that it touched me. Now I know!

  9. Fred Stone Says:
    February 26th, 2012 at 2:51 am

    Dear Julie,
    We hope you can help us or direct us to someone who might.
    We mistakenly left our Graptopetalum paraguayense outside (2C) overnight about 2 weeks ago and since then it is looking really sad. It doesn’t seem to be recovering; in fact, it seems to be looking worse. It is a large plant that until a few weeks ago was thriving inside our home.
    What can we do? Can we cut it back and hope that it will recover quicker or easier when spring comes? Or will cutting it back kill it or make things worse?
    Thanking you in advance for any suggestion you might have.
    Best regards,
    Fred and Mandy

  10. thomas Says:
    May 7th, 2012 at 10:42 am

    The plant at the top of the page is Myrtle Spurge. We bought some years ago at a nursery, and have recently been notified by the County that it is now listed as an A Class Noxious Weed in Colorado, and we are required by law to remove it from our property. It is illegal to grow this plant in Colorado now!

  11. Alissa Says:
    July 9th, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    As Rachel mentioned above – the plant is poisonous. I to am just now recovering from burnt eyes/face mouth etc. from pruning the flowers off this week. Love the plant, beautiful and I have many but this time the plant won.

  12. Dee Cranfill Says:
    November 20th, 2012 at 12:45 am

    Thank you so much. I think the problem I have experienced is that I allowed the plants to get too much water. I will keep them under shelter outside in the future.

  13. Marsha Russell Says:
    August 2nd, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    The plant pictures IS Euphorbia myrsinities. It can seed excessively in MA, zone 5.

  14. gail Says:
    August 22nd, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    I live in NYC and have a terrace on the 25th floor . The winters can be brutal being that terrace is facing water from 3 angles.
    Any suggestions on how to protect a very large cactus and fruit tree?
    Thank you

  15. kathy gutmann Says:
    November 23rd, 2014 at 11:35 am

    I bought a basket of a variety of succulents over the summer. I live in s.e north Carolina. the winters are not like living up north, but it can get cold. should I cover this basket of succulents, or bring it in the house. I do not know the names of these succulents, but I do have hens and chics, and they do great in the winter. what should I do

  16. melanie Says:
    March 8th, 2015 at 10:55 am

    The myrtle spurge has been illegal to cultivate in colorado for years. It is poisonous to cattle, dogs, cats, humans etc. Causes skin eye rash and iritation, respiratory irritation, vomiting nausea. Can be deadly to animals. Pretty but pretty harmful also. It can shoot it’s seeds up to 15 ft I believe. Definitely wear skin and eye protection when removing this plant.

  17. Ben Says:
    April 13th, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    We planted the ice plant last year and loved it. Over the winter the plant was under the snow and the receding winter has left the plants looking beat down, but there is still some green growth. Is this normal? Can I cut away the parts that appear to be dead, or will they bounce back? This is our first experience with this plant.

  18. Debora Sheets Says:
    August 29th, 2015 at 10:41 am

    I have a big succulent plant in a big planter. Should it be in the ground, or will it be ok in the planter through the winter?

  19. Barbara L Miller Says:
    September 10th, 2015 at 9:32 am

    My succulent plants are “snug” in their pots. Can I keep them in those pots outside if I protect them. If the answer is YES, what would be the best protection I am in Zone 7…Whispering Pines NC. Please, I need your wisdom!

  20. karen Says:
    October 1st, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    Wow, was looking for info on Hens and Chicks and ended up learning about Myrtle Spurge, which I never heard of and don’t ever want in my garden! Thanks for the heads up!

  21. Stellasiltman Says:
    October 5th, 2015 at 8:44 am

    Can you just use straw on hens and chicks? It gets really cold where I live in Minnesota. We get a lot of snow, and I don’t want to lose my flowers.

  22. David Ryan Says:
    November 8th, 2015 at 5:09 pm

    Hello I live in central Mexico (Queretaro state) the elevation is about 6100ft. We get lots of sun and seldom temps going to freezing in winter, BUT there is a strong wind and some plants get “burned”, sometimes die.
    Is there a name for my area? I have lots of succulents and cactii, and bamboo. Any suggestions for winter care?
    Thank for any info!
    David Ryan

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