Succulents are hugely popular, both as houseplants and in the garden. Along with their striking visual appeal, succulents are highly drought-tolerant and don't need to be watered as frequently as most leafy plants. This makes them ideal for dry climates and areas where watering restrictions are stringent.
Succulents are quite adaptable but do need some attention as cooler months approach. “Hard succulents” like Sempervivum, Sedum, and Euphorbias can tolerate frost, making them a suitable choice in regions that get colder in the winter months. These varieties can survive temperatures as low as 20°F (Zone 5). "Soft succulents” are more sensitive to frost and will need to be brought indoors when temperatures go below freezing. A drop in temperature can damage the tissues of a soft succulent, eventually killing the plant.
Some of the hardiest, most frost-resistant succulents include burro's tail, snake plant, and hen and chicks. The popular aloe vera plant is also a hard succulent and makes a striking display with its elegant, serrated leaves. Temperature changes can bring out exciting color shifts in your plants, with hen and chicks showing incredibly vivid reds and purples in cooler weather.
If you live in an area that doesn't get much frost, or you have a greenhouse or a space indoors where you can overwinter more tender plants, you might want to consider soft succulents for your garden. Even if you live in a frosty region, you can still grow these more tender succulents; you just need to make sure that they're grown in pots or planters that are easy to move indoors. Soft succulents that require warmer temperatures are lithops (stone plants), aeoniums, and feather cactus.
Here are some Earth’s Ally tips for caring for your succulents and cactus plants this winter.
When caring for soft succulents, they should be brought indoors ahead of the first frost, which is typically around the end of September. To prepare them for this transition, several things need to be done in advance while the plants are still outdoors.
Outdoor succulents can become infested with common insect pests, which might be brought indoors if they are not attended to first. Three weeks before bringing your succulents indoors, carefully spray the leaves' tops and undersides with an OMRI Listed organic insecticide. Earth's Ally Insect Control an ideal solution—it contains no harsh chemicals, is made with all-natural botanical oils, and kills and repels soft-bodied insects. Retreat the plants every five days over the course of three weeks to fully address any bugs that may be hiding on your outdoor succulents.
You should also pull any weeds that have sprung up in the planter and clear out debris. Prune any dead or dying leaves from the plant. The pot or planter should have holes in the base and the plant’s soil should be well-drained. This will promote good airflow and minimize chances of root rot.
Two or three days before moving your succulents inside, give them one final watering. This watering should last the plants 4-6 weeks before you’ll need to water indoors in your sink.
Succulents typically become dormant through the winter months and don't take up much water. Water your succulents very sparingly, and only when the soil is dry (typically every 4-6 weeks). Soak the plant to the roots and let the water drain from the pot.
The ideal temperature for overwintering soft succulents is between 50-60°F. Try to mimic outdoor light levels, ensuring that your plants get six to eight hours of sunlight per day. A south-facing windowsill is ideal. If you don't have a sunny spot for your plants or live in a region with especially dark winters, you can supplement natural light with a grow lamp. Be careful not to run the lamp all day and night, as succulents need darkness to maintain their natural growth cycle.
If your succulents start to grow tall and leggy, increase the amount of light they receive. You can also prune the tops as spring approaches and propagate new plants from them.
Good airflow is important for your plants’ health. If your succulent is near a heat vent, the soil may dry out more quickly and require more frequent watering. And because the succulent is mainly dormant at this time of the year, there’s no need to fertilize your plants while indoors during the winter months.
You may notice some of the plant’s lower leaves dropping during the winter. In small amounts, this is normal. If your succulent is dropping leaves from the top of the plant, you may be overwatering.
Finally, be sure to inspect your plants regularly for any signs of pest infestation or disease, even while indoors. Treat them at the first sign of a problem with a safe organic product, such as Earth's Ally Insect Control or Earth's Ally Disease Control. These products are safe to use in your home, even around pets and children.
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