Category: Blog, Librarian Mom|March 31, 2012 12:00 pm

Gardening Tips for Choosing and Growing Cold Weather Succulents

Succulents are a family of plants that have adapted to dry weather climates and soils by retaining water in their leaves, stems, and roots. The most well-known succulent is the cactus. However, although all cacti are succulents, not all succulents are cacti. Most succulents prefer climates that are warm and arid and often die in regions with cool or wet weather. If you do live in a region with cold temperatures, you can always grow succulents in containers and bring the pots inside when the weather turns cool. Or, if you are a more adventurous gardener, you can try your green thumb at cold weather succulents.

Varieties of Hardy Succulents

Frost hardiness is a measurement that describes the degrees of frost and freezing temperatures that a plant can withstand without damage or death to the plant. Most succulents are tender, which means the plants cannot be planted or put outside until after the last frost of the year. However, the following popular succulents are cold weather hardy:

  • Succulent PlantAgave parryi
  • Agave utahensis
  • Aloinopsis spathulata
  • Beavertail cactus
  • Brittle cactus
  • Cane cholla cactus
  • Chasmatophyllum musculinum
  • Claret-cup cactus
  • Dagger cholla cactus
  • Delosperma cooperi
  • Delosperma nubigenum
  • Devil claw cactus
  • Eastern prickly pear cactus
  • Engelmann’s hedgehog cactus
  • Fendler’s hedgehog cactus
  • Green-flowered torch cactus
  • Hesperaloe parviflora
  • Lee’s dwarf snowball cactus
  • Lewisia cotyledon
  • Low prickly pear cactus
  • Mountain ball cactus
  • Missouri pincushion cactus
  • Nipple cactus
  • Orostachys spinosa
  • Pencil cholla cactus
  • Porcupine prickly pear cactus
  • Purple candle cactus
  • Purple-fruited prickly pear cactus
  • Rat-tail cactus
  • Red-flowered hedgehog cactus
  • Rosularia
  • Ruschia hamata
  • Sedum
  • Sempervivum
  • Silver cholla cactus
  • Sneed’s escobaria cactus
  • Snowball beehive cactus
  • Spiny star cactus
  • Starvation cactus
  • Titanopsis calcarea
  • Uinta basin hookless cactus
  • Yucca baccata
  • Yucca herrimaniae

These cold weather succulents may be purchased in person at many garden stores as well as through mail order. Because of the nature of succulents, these plants ship well and do not need to be overnighted like most flowers, fruits, and vegetables.

Caring for Hardy Succulents

Caring for cold weather succulents is similar to caring for prototypical succulents. Most succulents grow well in poor quality soil so long as the dirt is porous and drains quickly. To make soil for your cold weather succulents, mix one part compost, four parts fine sand, and five parts garden dirt. The most important soil requirement for any succulent is quick drainage. If you are planting your cold hardy succulents in an outdoor garden, you may need to raise the beds to improve drainage. To mimic the conditions of most deserts in which succulents naturally grow, add plenty of rocks to the surface of your succulent garden.

Whether you choose containers or gardens, succulents need plenty of sunlight, so plant in an area with at least four to six hours of direct sunlight each day. Succulents also need at least fourteen to twenty inches of water per year, so plant in an area with good rainfall and plan to water if needed. The main difference between prototypical succulents and cold weather succulents is that cold weather succulents loose moisture at the end of the growing season in anticipation of cold weather and freezing temperatures. You should generally stop providing additional water to you plants at the beginning of fall to allow your cold hardy succulents to hibernate for winter. Do not water when the succulents shrink, change color, and become wilted in appearance. These changes mean the succulent is preparing for cold temperatures.

Although the majority of succulents tolerate only warm and dry climates, cold weather succulents can thrive in regions with cool winters. For gardeners who love the idea of growing cacti and other succulents but who live in regions with cold winters, planting cold hardy succulents is an excellent plant option.

References

Cacti & Succulents – The Cold-Hardy Discussion: http://www.cactuscollection.com/info/cold.html
Growing Winter-Hardy Cacti and Other Succulents Outdoors in Western Colorado: http://www.ccss-online.org/pdf/DonsHardyCactus.pdf
Winter Hardy Succulents: http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art11776.asp

Image Credits

Succulent Plant: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Succulent_plant.JPG


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