What are the coldest temperatures succulents can tolerate?

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I get this question frequently from my readers, especially from those living in those beautiful regions where four seasons change every year–at least for now, because with global warming and everything else we experience in the world, four season can soon become just a history. Anyway, back to the succulents and cold conditions.

Although succulents are versatile and can sustain a lot of stuff, they may struggle to survive under extreme temperatures. When winter comes with snow and cold weather, you have to think carefully about your plants. To say it as it is, in most cases, succulents can tolerate up to 40°F. However, even cold tolerant succulents do need sunlight and warmth. So what can you do to protect your succulents?


Frost clothes are your first remedy

One of the best protection you can use for your succulents is the frost cloth. Covering the plants by a frost makes the warm air trapped inside while the cold air from the outside could not penetrate. You don’t need to wrap the plant. The frost cloth should not be reaching the ground to give the plant space to breathe.

To avoid the frost cloth to be blown away by the wind, you need to put weight on the side to make it resistant to windy conditions. The size of the cloth is dependent on the size of the succulent. Bigger succulents do need bigger frost cloths. If you don’t have a great frost cloth for succulents like this one from Amazon, you can use any type of cotton-made cloth. A blanket will do. The most important thing is to give some sort of protection for your plants.

Use furniture to cover the succulents

Outdoor tables and chairs are good covers for outdoor plants during winter. Put succulents under the table during the freezing climate. The good thing about this is that tables and chairs are easy to move when necessary.

You can also incorporate tables with cloths and other covering materials for the plants. A plastic cover can also be a good choice. However, when using plastic, make sure that there is sufficient space between the ground and the covering. This helps the plant to breathe freely. You also need to be aware that when occasional sunlight arrives in winter, the plastic cover can hurt the plant. The heat from the sun will be trapped inside which in turn suffocates the plant. In my opinion, if you can avoid plastic with your plants–plastic in any form, you should avoid it. It is better for both plants and the environment.


Hessian cloth

An old Hessian cloth or commonly known as burlap can be used to protect succulents from freezing temperatures. The good thing about Hessian cloth is that it is breathable. Meaning, unlike plastic, the air can easily enter the cover allowing the plants to breathe.

If the cloth is too thin, you can double it to provide good protection from snow or ice. This way you can keep the succulents safe from damage, or simply make sure that they won’t suffer any unnecessary extreme environmental changes.


Move succulents to safer place

During winter, there is no safer place for succulents than indoors. If the previous remedies do not work, or you want to keep things simple, transfer your plants inside. A barn can also be a safe place for the plants. It protects them from cold wind and punishing snow. However, there are things you need to remember when moving succulents indoor.


The size of pots and containers

You need to consider the size of the pots or containers before moving plants inside. Smaller pots are easy to carry when moving. Bigger pots, on the other hand, are difficult to move.

As long as possible, avoid planting the succulents in large pots. I personally prefer the smaller containers not only because I need to move them from time to time, but also they are easy to manage especially when watering. If you have succulents planted in the ground, it is better if you transfer them into smaller containers.


Dirt and debris

It is very important to remember cleaning your succulents before moving them inside. You don’t want to bring dirt and debris to your house. Examine each pot and plant. Make sure that you wipe out the dirt and take away dried leaves.

Dust may not only bad for indoor but also could potentially block the light that should have been absorbed by the plant. The best way to remove dust or dirt is by using a washcloth to carefully remove the dirt. Spraying water may not a good idea. This is because succulents don’t like water on their leaves.


Insects and pests

Aside from dirt and debris, you should also pay attention to insects and pets. Before moving your plants inside, check them for insects. They can be hiding in the leaves, for example beneath them, and before you know it, they will jump onto your other indoors plants, and you’ll have a big problem. 

If some of the plants are infested, you can isolate them to avoid the pest from spreading out. Keep them away from other plants for days or weeks until you manage to get rid of the pests. For this purpose I suggest you to check my guide on fungicides for succulents.


Light source for succulents

Lighting for plants does play an important role in keeping the plants healthy inside especially during winter. A grow light (click here to check my favorite grow light on Amazon) will temporarily serve as the source of light necessary for photosynthesis.

Whenever the sun is available (which typically isn’t too often during the winter) put the succulents in places where the sun can reach them. When you see your succulents start to lean towards a certain direction, that indicates that they are seeking for sunlight, and you should make them easier for them to reach the sun, by moving them to that spot.


Water frequency and quantity

In 99% of cases, indoor succulents, especially in winter, need a lesser amount of water than succulents you grow outdoors. To avoid over-watering, follow the soak and dry method. Just water the plants when the soil is completely dry. The watering frequency may completely rely on the moisture in the soil.

Avoid fertilizers in winter and cold temperature

During the winter season, applying fertilizer for succulents is not a good idea. This is because the plants do not need extra nutrients. So save your money and resources too, and wait for a better time to fertilize the plants, such as spring or summer.


Can a frozen succulent be brought back to life?

The possibility of revival heavily depends on the damage of the plant. For minimal damage like blackening or rotting on the leaves, you can simply cut affected areas and the succulents will be saved. Of course, once you do it you’ll also have to make sure to take it to more favorable conditions so it can recuperate.

Use cutting tools in removing affected areas. A disinfected sharp knife is a good option in cutting the damaged parts of the plants. Most of the time the affected areas have changed color such as brown or black. The texture also changes. It turns into mushy or soft.  Cut those parts of the plant that have brown, black, or mushy texture until you see the green tissue. It indicates that you have cut out the affected areas. After cleaning, isolate the plant and place it under a shade. At this point, the plant is not ready yet for receiving direct sunlight. Do not water it as well.

After a week or so, the plant will heal itself. It will develop and grow once again. New branches or leaves will grow. At this time, you can begin with moderate watering. And once you see the plant is growing nicely again, it is time to take it to direct sunlight again.  It is important to remember though that the strategy only works with succulents up to certain level of damage. When the plant is soft from the leaves down to the roots, that means that there is no chance that you can revive the plant. Shed a tear, say goodbye to your plant, and make sure to write down what exactly happened so you won’t repeat the same mistake with your succulents the next winter.


Moving succulents back outdoors after winter months

Outdoors has several benefits, such as exposure to sunlight and fresh air to breathe. Hence you should always move your succulents back outdoors once the winter ends. Make sure to give them gradual acclimatization though.

I know you may be tempted to transfer your succulents outdoors right away. But this is not good for the plants. This is because, during winter, they got accustomed to an indoor environment where direct sunlight is not accessible. Transferring succulents outdoor right after winter may hurt the plants. The direct sunlight can potentially cause sunburn which may in turn kill the plant.

To keep succulents healthy, you should expose them to sunlight gradually. At first, you can move the plants to a shaded location. As they adapt to the outdoor environment, you can transfer them to a brighter place. For those types of succulents that love direct sun exposure, place them under direct sunlight straight away, but make sure that they do not stay there all day long, at least right after winter. Move them to shade after they got a few hours of sunlight in a day.

Do not forget to change your watering schedule after winter

The watering schedule may change once you move your succulents back outside. You can increase the frequency as well as the amount of water you need to give. But this does not mean that you should overwater the succulents. Again you should go with the soak and dry method.

What’s more, plants may need more nutrients to sustain their growth momentum after long winter. If you want to make sure that the fertilizer is best for your succulents, you can try my favorite brand. I use this fertilizer to all my succulents (check it on Amazon). It can also be helpful for your plants too…


Final thoughts

Succulents are hardy plants that endure a lot. A bit of freeze won’t kill them. Neither will a bit of snow. However, you should also remember they are native to semi-desert areas, and hence you should try to protect them from anything that is unnatural for them.

A frost cloth, covering them under a table, or bringing them inside for the winter, are the most common remedies you can use to protect the plants from frost and temperatures they cannot tolerate. Remember though that your work does not end there. Succulents demand some light also during winter, and it is important adjust the watering schedule, and also to return them outdoors when the time is right–because they prefer to live outdoors…

Anyway, that’s it for today’s post, and do not forget to check also my complete guide on how to grow succulents.