Agave 'Blue Flame' and dasylirion

These six late-summer care essentials for succulents come from my own experience with growing hundreds of varieties over decades. In my inland Southern CA garden, late summer heat can do as much damage as midwinter frosts. Below is what I do routinely every year. Modify my suggestions according to your own climate and region.

1. Shade any smooth-leaved succulents that are not from the desert Southwest

Unless you live in a mild, maritime location, those that I call "the pretty little ones" need protection from scorching summer sun. Ideally they'll get several hours of early morning or late afternoon sun, and bright or dappled shade the rest of the day. (See how I define Types of Shade.) If need be, throw a sheet or shade cloth over exposed aeoniums, aloes, echeverias, kalanchoes, and the like.

2. Protect young desert plants

When established, most cacti, yuccas, agaves and other succulents native to Mexico and the Southwest sail through summer. However even in their native habitats, young cacti grow beneath "nurse plants" that shelter them from harsh conditions.

Desert thunderhead

Above: View from my deck during a mid-August heat wave that sent temps into the triple digits. I'm located midway between ocean and desert. When temps rise into the 90s in late summer, thunderheads appear in the eastern sky. Occasionally the storms drift this way and we see flashes of lightning and may even get rain.

3. Give cold-climate succulents preferential treatment

Rock-garden plants such as sempervivums (hens-and-chicks) and sedums (stonecrops) thrive in the northern and eastern US and in Europe. Farther south, these can go downhill when temperatures rise above 80 degrees F. Keep them shaded and cool. Exceptions are sedums (and Sedum crosses such as graptosedums) that have fat, thumb-sized leaves and that turn vivid shades of red and orange.

4. Monitor soil moisture

Soil that goes bone dry may not kill thick-leaved and -trunked succulents, but if fine root filaments desiccate, growth will slow or cease. In pots you can test soil moisture by inserting a chopstick; if soil clings, it's moist.

5. Soak plants before leaving town

Generally if other conditions are met, succulents won't miss you if you water them well before you leave, then again when you return. As an extra precaution in case temperatures rise significantly while you're gone, move potted succulents into shade.

6. Don't stress over your succulents

Gardening is a process, and sometimes the only way to know what will do well is to lose a few plants. Weather extremes lead to valuable lessons. Consider any casualties as annuals, and fill gaps when weather cools.

See the video

Debra's Summer Garden video See my video on protecting succulents from summer heat and sun

Related info on this site

Summer Care for Succulents: Heat and Sun Concerns

Don’t let summer sun and heat harm your succulents! Heat generally isn’t a concern. Although some succulents (like sempervivums) tend not to thrive in temps above 80 or 90 degrees F, the majority are fine. It’s heat plus sun that’s the concern.

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Sun and aloes

Don’t Let a Heat Wave Ruin Your Succulents

You have two options for protecting your succulents from heat waves that follow cool weather:
1. Move them. Of course this is only possible if they’re in pots. But don’t forget to do it! When sudden heat and sun hit, succulents that haven’t had time to acclimate may sunburn. There’s no reversing the resulting brown or beige patches. 

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Agaves Handle Summer Heat

Late summer is when tough succulents really shine. Large agaves handle summer heat, and are unfazed by harsh sun, high temps and lack of rain. Their statuesque, fountainlike forms lend a sculptural element to any landscape, and contrast beautifully with fine-textured ornamentals. They also make good firebreak plants and security fences. With the exception of a few…

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Cactus backlit

A Dozen Reasons I Love Cacti

Why do I love cacti? It’s a natural progression: As we gain appreciation for the lines, textures and shapes of succulents, we arrive at those that exhibit elegant simplicity—never mind that they have spines (in fact, sometimes because they do). Here are a dozen reasons.

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5 Comments

  1. Cindy Hewatt on August 18, 2020 at 11:05 am

    It’s been so hot where I live, this definitely helps, thank you for sharing, Debra!

  2. Shirley Van De Mark on August 18, 2020 at 1:55 pm

    I live in Manta, Ecuador, which is on the Pacific coast. This area is considered arid and under normal circumstances, we get very little rain all year. Although we are usually in the 80’s when the sun is out, it feels hotter here because we have more direct UV rays because we are almost on the equator. I have a hard time protecting plants from the sun and have just gotten a 50% shade cloth through Amazon. Now, I’m not sure that it is enough blockage; I’ll have to wait and see if leaves turn yellow again. I just moved my agaves and my ponytail beaucaria(?) under it. Some of my other succulents are getting sun part of the day and my portulacaria verde, is in blasting sun most of the day. The cactus are also in sun most of the day. When the sun moves, then the plants have to move too. We do what we have to for our plants.

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on August 18, 2020 at 2:16 pm

      Thanks for the insight into your location and climate, Shirley. Wow, almost at the equator!

  3. Mary Jane Olenski on August 24, 2020 at 10:02 am

    Something is chewing the leaves of my succulents in pots, every night, leaves chewed on the patio.
    Sluggo and enviropel on board. Chula vista , sun part shade.

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