Southwest Succulent Garden: Planting Time For Desert Succulents

Succulents With Rock Soil
SW succulents
(Image credit: joloei)

Growing succulents in the southwest U.S. should be easy, as these are the conditions that most closely resemble their native conditions. However, succulents have been hybridized and changed so much it is likely they’d be forced to re-adapt to even their native habitat. It is sometimes difficult to set a definite planting date with the fluctuating weather patterns we’ve experienced in recent years. A few guidelines apply and we should use these when planting a southwest succulent garden.

Southwestern Succulents in the Garden

The southwest has a wide range of temperatures and precipitation. Remember, that while succulents are low-maintenance, there are still limits to when they will grow. Planting time for desert succulents and for those in the Colorado Mountains differs. Soil temperatures have a large effect on when to plant succulents in the southwest. As in other areas, a soil temp of 45 degrees F. (7 C.) accommodates many succulent plants in the southwest. However, when it is combined with snow or rain (or moisture in any fashion), it can turn deadly for young succulents that aren’t established in a deep, fast draining soil. When freezing temperatures are no longer a factor, usually in late winter to early spring, this is the time to get southwestern succulents in the ground. This allows time for a good root system to develop before summer heat becomes an issue. When possible, plant succulents in a morning sun area so you won’t have to provide protection from damaging afternoon rays in summer. Choose a rain-free time to plant in amended soil and don’t water for at least a week. Most information about planting succulents in the southwest indicates late winter and spring planting is best in most areas of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and other states in the southwest. Those in more northern states, such as Utah and Colorado, may need an additional week or two before the soil warms and temperatures cooperate. Late fall and early winter are also appropriate planting times when growing succulents in the southwest, but not in the heat of summer. Jump start your plantings by growing them in containers until outdoor conditions are right for planting in the ground. This allows for the development of a healthy root system prior to planting in the outdoor garden. You may also choose to grow your succulents in containers where they can be overwintered inside.

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.