Over the last couple years, succulents have become one of the most popular choices for container gardening. The gorgeous array of textures and colors soar through our steamy St. Louis summers seemingly unscathed, coming out on the other side as amazingly beautiful as ever. But, like many of the other annuals we often plant in our gardens, succulents quickly go down-hill when the nights become too cold. However there is good news! While it may be a necessary evil to toss so many of your annuals, succulents are actually quite easy to keep inside over the winter.
If your container of succulents is small enough, you can simply carry it inside and care for it in its existing container. If you have your succulents in large containers that are difficult to move and do not have a plethora of strong men at your beck and call as I do at the nursery (trust me…is sounds way better than it really is), you can take the container apart and pull out the plants. Here’s how you do this:
1) Carefully lift the root mass of the succulents that you wish to save from the container. You may need a spade or garden trowel to separate the roots.
2) Transfer the succulents (or clumps of succulents) to smaller containers that you will take into the house for the winter. Make sure you have extra succulent potting mix on hand in case you need some for re-potting, however you are better off using smaller pots because with less potting mix the roots will stay drier which is necessary for the succulents to over-winter.
3) Carry inside to a nice sunny window!
Temperature and Light
Succulents, surprisingly, do not require much heat and will live in spaces that stay above 35 – 40 degrees. We overwinter our succulent containers at the nursery in our unheated retail center, but a sunroom or bright window would be the best location in your home. It is best to periodically rotate your container so your succulents don’t lean in only one direction – toward the light.
Water and Fertilizer
They also require very little water and no fertilizer in the winter. You will only water your succulents as needed and this will depend on the location they are in at your home. At the nursery, I may water them once during the winter if at all because of their cool location. At my home I place them in a large, west facing window that has heat vents nearby so I usually water 2 to 3 times during the winter months.
Remember to always err on the side of ‘not enough’ water as opposed to ‘too much’ when it comes to succulents. Succulents thrive in dry areas of the country so don’t be afraid if you think you are not giving them enough attention. That means you’re probably giving them just the right amount.
If you encounter any pests on your succulents during the winter, the simplest way to remove the pest is by placing rubbing alcohol on a paper towel and wiping them off.
The plants will ultimately stretch due to the limited light. So when your plants become leggy, don’t be afraid to cut them back in the early spring to encourage tighter, more compact growth. Don’t get rid of the cuttings though, they are just starts for more plants, but we’ll talk about that at a later time.
When the plants start to show new growth, usually in March or April, you can begin lightly fertilizing them and then back out into the garden they go once the weather warms up again!