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How to Care for Succulents During the Winter

Succulents come in many colors and can bring joy to you all year round.

Succulents come in many colors and can bring joy to you all year round.

Caring for Succulents in Winter

Just like the snowbirds that spend the winter in warmer climates, your succulents need to escape the cold too. If you live in a region where temperatures drop near freezing, you definitely need to keep those little plants warm and give them a comfy environment to wait out the frigid months.

Remember, not all succulents are hardy like cacti. Many of the popular succulent varieties retain water in their leaves and stems, making them quite susceptible to cold. In this article, you will learn how to protect your precious succulents from winter’s chill, keeping them healthy and happy until warmer weather arrives.

4 Ways to Care for Your Succulents During the Winter

  1. Forego the Fertilizer
  2. Keep Your Succulents Hydrated
  3. Check for Pests
  4. Give Your Succulents Vitamin D

Forego the Fertilizer

The best thing for indoor succulents is to feed them one last time right at the end of summer or early fall. Most plants don't require fertilizer as temperatures drop and light levels fall during the winter.

Plants go dormant which is similar to hibernation. They only need nutrients during the growing season when it becomes warmer and daylight hours increase. Over-fertilizing can cause these tender plant leaves to become soft and susceptible to rot.

Eliminate fertilizer during the dormant months.

Eliminate fertilizer during the dormant months.

Keep Them Hydrated

It can be a pain to water an indoor garden of succulents, but you need to keep their soil moist even though they’re considered drought tolerant. Unless you have a really good humidifier, your indoor environment dries out from central heat, wood-burning fireplaces or even electric space heaters.

Check their soil a couple times a week. Maintaining the proper amount of moisture is a balancing act that requires some trial and error. As soon as the soil begins to dry out spritz them with a fine mist of water or if they're extremely dry place the plants in a sink and soak the soil thoroughly. Put them on an elevated platform in the basin to allow the water to completely drain through the pots.

Don't forget, your succulents don’t like wet feet. If you haven’t already, put your succulents in a container with a drainage hole. If the soil seems to retain too much moisture they'll run the risk of root rot. Make sure they are potted in a well-draining soil mix specially formulated for succulents.

Furnaces can suck the moisture out of the air, so it is important to mist the plants regularly.

Furnaces can suck the moisture out of the air, so it is important to mist the plants regularly.

Check for Pests

Regularly inspect the leaves every few weeks. Also make sure to check under the leaves for insects such as mealybugs, aphids and spider mites. The bugs are difficult to see but the clues they leave behind are webs and spots that look like tiny cotton balls.

How to Treat Succulent Pests

If you notice an infestation on a plant, move it away from the others. To avoid using toxic chemicals in the house, make a mixture of 3 parts rubbing alcohol with 1 part water and mist the succulent to get rid of the nasties. Keep it quarantined for a couple of weeks while applying the homemade insecticide. Repeat until the bugs are gone.

Keep an eye out for nasty pests on the top and underside of the leaves.

Keep an eye out for nasty pests on the top and underside of the leaves.

Give Them Vitamin D

Making sure your succulents receive the right amount of sun is also something that might take time to get right, much like your watering routine.

Start by placing them near a window with bright, indirect sunlight for most of the day. This is really important during the shorter winter days—your succulent friends need at least six hours of sun each day for optimum health.

We know there can be days and weeks on end without sun in some parts of the country. In this case, you might have to break out the grow lights to perk up your succulents during those extended periods of gray. Keep the lights on during daylight hours and turn them off at sundown. This will mimic the natural cycle of the sun and keep your plant happy and none the wiser.

You might ask, “How do I know if my plants aren’t getting enough sun?” Well, your succulents will actually tell you—here are a couple of easy signs to look for.

  • If your succulents seem to be getting a little lanky and rangy it’s probably due to insufficient sunlight. This is pretty common and not harmful at all to the plant. In the spring when the weather warms up and the days become longer you can trim them back and use the cuttings to start new plants.
  • Another subtle hint is when they start to lean toward their natural light source. It is common during short winter days. If you don’t want to go to the expense of artificial lighting simply rotate the containers to balance the amount of light they get. That will straighten them out in a few days.
Sunshine and warmth keep them from succumbing from the cold.

Sunshine and warmth keep them from succumbing from the cold.

Have fun with your succulents this winter. They’re so darned adorable and brighten up any room with their color variations, interesting shapes and amazing textures. Caring for them during the winter can be a bit more difficult, but most of the same rules apply any time of the year.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Will my cactus be safe if I put a glass house over them in winter?

Answer: Cacti won't survive very long in an enclosed terrarium because it needs plenty of airflow and low humidity to remain healthy and thrive.

© 2018 Linda Chechar

Start a Conversation!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 27, 2018:

Dianna, they are such fun little plants and are super trendy. Their care and maintenance for the winter is equally important during the summer months as well.

Dianna Mendez on October 27, 2018:

I used to have quite a few succulents living up north. They are interesting to grow and add a simple beauty to any space. Only wish I had your advice back then!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 23, 2018:

Emmy ali, glad you liked the succulent article Great little plants and they do quite well even in cold weather if they're kept warm. Yes, I suppose a few of these suggestions would work for other plants as well.

Eman Abdallah Kamel from Egypt on October 23, 2018:

Thank you for this useful article. I love plants and I like to see them at home all year long. Some steps can also be followed with most ornamental plants not only cacti during winter.