How to Keep Succulents Alive In Winter: Best Tips

Succulents have gained immense popularity among plant enthusiasts for their unique and low-maintenance characteristics. These fleshy plants come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, making them a delightful addition to any indoor or outdoor garden. However, succulent care becomes a bit more challenging when winter arrives with its colder temperatures and reduced sunlight. This comprehensive guide will explore the best practices for how to keep your succulents alive in winter. We’ll cover everything from choosing the right succulent varieties to providing adequate light, soil, and water, and even how to protect them from freezing temperatures. So, let’s dive in and ensure your succulents survive the cold season!

Succulent plant outside trying to stay alive in the winter snow

Understanding Your Succulents

Before we delve into the specifics of how to keep succulents alive in winter, it’s essential to understand that not all succulents are created equal. Succulents can be broadly categorized into two groups: hardy succulents and tender succulents.

Hardy Succulents

Hardy succulents, true to their name, are built to withstand colder temperatures and are more resilient to the winter chill. These succulents can tolerate freezing temperatures and are excellent choices for outdoor planting in cold climates. Their ability to thrive in harsh conditions makes them a favorite among gardeners who experience cold winters. Some popular hardy succulent varieties include Sempervivum (hens and chicks), Sedum (stonecrop), and Opuntia (prickly pear cactus).

Tender Succulents

Tender succulents, on the other hand, are less equipped to handle cold weather and are therefore much harder to keep alive in winter. These delicate plants are native to warmer climates and require extra care during the winter months. While they may not be as robust in the face of chilly temperatures, their stunning colors and intricate shapes make them highly sought after for indoor cultivation. Examples of tender succulents include Echeveria, Crassula, and Aloe vera. If you live in an area with harsh winters, it’s a good idea to grow these indoors during the colder months.

Providing Adequate Light

One of the most crucial factors for keeping succulents alive in winter is providing enough light. Succulents thrive in bright, indirect sunlight, and during the winter, the reduced daylight hours can pose a challenge. Here’s how to ensure your succulents get the light they need:

1. Find the Brightest Window

Place your succulents in the sunniest window available to ensure they receive enough sunlight. South-facing windows typically receive the most sunlight throughout the day, making them an ideal choice. If you don’t have a south-facing window, west or east-facing windows can also work well. Remember, the more light your succulents receive, the better they’ll fare during the colder months.

2. Use Grow Lights for Consistency

If natural light is scarce or inconsistent, consider using a grow light. Fluorescent lights or LED grow lights can provide the necessary light spectrum for succulents to photosynthesize and grow. Position the lights a few inches above the plants for the best results and leave them on for about 12-14 hours a day. This artificial lighting mimics the longer days of summer and helps your succulents thrive even in the darkest of winters.

3. Rotate Your Succulents

Rotate your succulents regularly to ensure all sides receive equal sunlight exposure. This practice helps prevent your plants from leaning or stretching towards the light source. Succulents tend to grow towards the light, so a simple quarter-turn every few weeks ensures balanced growth and maintains their aesthetic appeal.

4. Be Mindful of Overexposure

While succulents need plenty of light, be cautious of intense, direct sunlight, especially through glass windows. Too much sun can lead to sunburn and damage your succulents. To mitigate this risk, use sheer curtains or window blinds to diffuse harsh sunlight if needed. Striking a balance between ample light and protection from scorching rays is key to winter succulent care.

Choosing the Right Soil

Proper soil mix is crucial for succulent health, especially during the winter when overwatering can become a problem. Here are some soil-related considerations for keeping your succulents alive in winter:

1. Well-Draining Soil Is a Must

Succulents thrive in well-draining soil. A gritty mix that includes ingredients like perlite, sand, and coarse potting mix provides excellent drainage. Ensure your pots have drainage holes to prevent water from pooling at the bottom, which can lead to root rot, a common issue in winter when soil takes longer to dry.

2. Avoid Moist Soil

During the winter months, succulents need less water. Be cautious not to overwater, as moist soil can lead to root rot. Allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings. A good rule of thumb is to water your succulents when the top inch of soil feels dry. This practice ensures that your succulents receive enough moisture to stay healthy without becoming waterlogged.

3. Consider a Cactus or Succulent Mix

You can find specific cactus or succulent soil mixes at garden centers or create your own by mixing regular potting soil with perlite or sand. This type of soil ensures your succulents get the right balance of moisture and aeration. The well-draining properties of this mix help prevent waterlogged roots, a significant concern during the winter months when soil takes longer to dry out.

Proper Watering Techniques

Watering is perhaps the most critical aspect of succulent care, especially in the winter when the plants require less moisture. Here’s how to water your succulents effectively during the colder months:

1. Less Frequent Watering

As mentioned earlier, succulents need less water during the winter. Reduce your watering frequency to prevent overhydration. Stick to a schedule of watering every 2-4 weeks, depending on the specific needs of your succulent varieties. During the winter, the rate of evaporation decreases, so succulents can make do with less frequent watering.

2. Water Thoroughly, but Infrequently

When you do water, make sure to water thoroughly. Water until you see excess water draining out of the bottom of the pot. This ensures that the entire root system receives moisture, which is essential because succulents prefer deep, infrequent watering. Providing a thorough soak promotes robust root development and supports your plants through the winter months.

3. Check Soil Moisture

Before watering, check the soil moisture level by inserting your finger into the soil. If it feels dry about an inch deep, it’s time to water. If it’s still moist, wait a few more days before checking again. This simple test prevents overwatering, which is a common mistake, especially in winter when succulents are more susceptible to root issues due to excess moisture.

4. Avoid Watering in Cold Temperatures

Try to water your succulents during the warmer parts of the day. Watering in the evening can leave the soil damp for an extended period, increasing the risk of cold damage during the night. To protect your succulents from temperature extremes, aim to water them when the ambient temperature is at its highest during the day.

Temperature Considerations

Succulents are generally hardy and can withstand cooler temperatures, but there are limits. Here’s how to ensure your succulents stay comfortable in colder climates:

1. Protect Them from Freezing Temperatures

If you live in an area with freezing temperatures, it’s crucial to protect your outdoor succulents. Cover them with a frost cloth or bring them indoors when the weather forecast predicts the first frost. Freezing temperatures can harm or even kill your succulents, especially tender varieties. Providing them with a cozy cover or relocating them indoors can make all the difference.

2. Monitor Indoor Temperatures

Indoor succulents also need some attention to temperature. Most succulents prefer temperatures between 60-80°F (15-27°C). Avoid placing them near drafty windows or heaters, as extreme temperature fluctuations can stress the plants. Maintaining a consistent indoor temperature ensures your succulents remain healthy and vibrant throughout the winter months.

3. Know Your USDA Grow Zone

Understanding your USDA plant hardiness zone can help you select the most appropriate succulent varieties for your region. Certain succulents are better suited to specific climates, so check the labels or do some research before purchasing new plants. By choosing succulents that naturally thrive in your zone, you set yourself up for greater success in keeping them alive during the winter.

Enhancing Air Circulation

Good air circulation is essential for preventing moisture buildup and fungal issues in succulents. Here’s how to ensure your succulents get the airflow they need to stay alive in winter:

1. Avoid Crowding

Don’t overcrowd your succulents. Leave enough space between them to allow for proper airflow. This reduces the risk of mold or mildew developing on the leaves, a common concern when plants are closely packed. Proper spacing not only promotes air circulation but also showcases the unique beauty of each succulent.

2. Use a Fan for Indoor Succulents

If you’re growing succulents indoors, consider using a small fan on the lowest setting to gently circulate air around the plants. This mimics the natural breezes they would experience outdoors and helps prevent stagnant air that can lead to moisture-related problems. Adequate air circulation is especially crucial when your succulents are sharing indoor space with limited ventilation.

Winter Care for Specific Succulent Varieties

Different types of succulents may have slightly different winter care requirements. Here are some tips for specific varieties:

1. Jade Plants: Resilient and Cold-Tolerant

Jade plants are hardy succulents that can tolerate colder temperatures better than many other varieties. However, they should still be protected from freezing. Place them near a south-facing window and water sparingly during the winter. Jade plants tend to store water in their thick leaves, which makes them well-suited to withstand periods of drought, including the lower watering frequency of winter.

2. Aloe Vera: Thrives in Bright, Indirect Light

Aloe vera is another hardy succulent that can withstand colder temperatures if necessary. However, it prefers bright, indirect light and should be watered sparingly in the winter, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings. Aloe vera’s ability to store water in its thick leaves makes it adaptable to varying moisture levels, a trait that serves it well in winter.

3. Snake Plant: Low Maintenance and Resilient

Snake plants are known for their resilience and adaptability. They can thrive in low-light conditions and don’t require frequent watering. Keep them away from drafts during the colder months to prevent temperature stress. The snake plant’s ability to tolerate a wide range of conditions makes it an excellent choice for those seeking low-maintenance succulents that can withstand winter’s challenges.

Overwintering Your Succulents

Overwintering is the process of caring for succulents indoors during the winter months. It’s a great way to protect tender succulents from the harsh elements. Here’s how to do it:

1. Transition Them Indoors Gradually

As temperatures begin to drop in the fall, start transitioning your outdoor succulents indoors. Gradually introduce them to lower light conditions over a week or two to prevent shock. Abruptly moving them from high-light to low-light environments can cause stress and leaf damage.

2. Provide Adequate Light Indoors

Make sure your indoor succulents receive enough light. Place them in a sunny window or use grow lights if necessary. While indoor conditions may not replicate outdoor sunlight exactly, providing sufficient light is essential for the health of your succulents during the winter.

3. Adjust Watering for Indoor Conditions

Indoor succulents typically require less water than their outdoor counterparts. Adjust your watering schedule accordingly to prevent overwatering. The lower humidity indoors can slow down the rate of soil drying, making it even more crucial to let the soil dry out before watering.

4. Keep an Eye on Humidity

Indoor heating systems can reduce the humidity in your home, which can be challenging for succulents. Consider using a humidity tray or misting the plants occasionally to increase moisture levels. These measures help mimic the more humid conditions succulents may be accustomed to outdoors and prevent them from becoming too parched indoors.

Preparing for Spring

As the winter months come to an end, and the days start getting longer, it’s time to prepare your succulents for the warmer months ahead:

1. Gradual Transition to Outdoor Sunlight

When spring arrives, gradually reintroduce your succulents to outdoor conditions. Start by placing them in a shaded spot outdoors for a few hours each day, gradually increasing their exposure to sunlight. Sudden exposure to intense sunlight after a long winter indoors can cause sunburn and stress, so this gradual transition is essential for their well-being.

2. Check for Signs of New Growth

Inspect your succulents for signs of new growth as spring approaches. New leaves or shoots indicate that your plants are ready for more sunlight and regular watering. The appearance of new growth is a positive sign that your succulents have successfully weathered the winter and are ready to flourish in the warmer months.

3. Repot if Necessary

If your succulents have outgrown their pots during the winter, consider repotting them into larger containers with fresh succulent soil. A larger pot provides more room for root growth and can support the increased growth that typically occurs during the spring and summer. Repotting also allows you to refresh the soil, ensuring your succulents have access to essential nutrients.


Successfully keeping your succulents alive during the winter months requires attention to light, soil, watering, and temperature considerations. By understanding the specific needs of your succulent varieties and following these guidelines, you can ensure that your succulents not only survive but thrive throughout the cold season. Remember to provide them with adequate light, well-draining soil, and careful watering to keep them healthy and beautiful year-round. With the right care and attention, your succulents will continue to brighten your indoor and outdoor spaces, even in the harshest of winters.

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