Winter Care For Succulents: Keeping Succulents Alive Through Winter

Small Potted Succulent Plant On Windowsill
succulent winter
(Image credit: OSORIOartist)

Keeping succulents alive through winter is possible, and not complicated once you learn what they need. Overwintering soft succulents indoors is the best way to ensure they live if you’re in an area with cold winters. The indoors may be a greenhouse or heated building, but for most, it will be inside the home.

Overwintering Succulents Indoors

Indoor care for succulent plants in the winter is primarily about lighting. Many are dormant during winter and need little water. Winter is the season of growth for some succulents, though, and they need water, food, and even pruning. Learn your plant's names so you can research their individual needs and provide adequately for them. If you’re not sure which plants you have, stop feeding and limit watering as you move them inside in autumn. A sunny south or southwest window can sometimes give your plants enough light for the winter inside. If they begin stretching or looking pale, they likely need more light. Many succulent owners invest in grow light setups. Some units have lights already installed into shelving. Fluorescent lighting works in some cases, but the plants must be within a couple of inches (5 cm.) of the bulb. Numerous grow light systems are sold online and have a broader depth range. When trying to provide proper succulent care in winter, experts recommend 14 to 16 hours of light daily. The right winter care for succulents indoors includes locating them in a bright area, similar to what they were getting outside. Avoid putting them near drafts but do offer good air circulation. Clean up the soil before overwintering succulents indoors. If they’re not planted in an appropriate, quick draining soil, replant them. Clean up dead leaves from the soil and check for pests. You’ll want your plants in top shape before overwintering succulents indoors. Some people grow succulents as annual plants and leave them to survive outside or not. Sometimes, you’ll be surprised by a mild winter and plants that can take the cold. A key to keeping soft succulents alive outside is to keep them dry. A fast draining, gritty mix for planting is a necessity. Cold-hardy succulents planted in the right soil, however, can live outside with no problem and flourish again in spring.

Becca Badgett

Becca Badgett was a regular contributor to Gardening Know How for ten years. Co-author of the book How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden, Becca specializes in succulent and cactus gardening.