I’ve been hearing from Texans with severely damaged gardens. Sounds like you did the best you could, but no one anticipated the severity of the cold snap. You're asking what might be done, and here's my best advice:

Even though the top growth is severely damaged, your succulents may survive if their roots are intact. You won’t know for certain for several months. Spring—the main growth season for the majority of succulents—can work wonders. Remove any soggy, collapsed leaves as soon as all danger of frost is past. If you don’t see new growth by May or June, it’s probably time to pull up the plants and start over. Keep us posted, OK? 

Below is my earlier post for this page, which has to do mainly with coastal and southern CA in-ground gardens (like my own). -- Debra

Will succulents recover from frost damage?

It depends. Here's how frost-tender succulents looked before temps dropped into the mid-20s F, and after:

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Here’s the same Euphorbia ammak ‘Variegata, after the frost:
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Likelihood of recovery: Nil. Too much of the tissue was damaged. But what about the Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks on Fire’ behind it? It’s hope of recovery is excellent because only the top growth froze. It protected the stems underneath, which are still healthy.

IMG_3059annotated_resized

Portulacaria afra frostburned (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

This frost-burned Portulacaria afra (elephant's food) will be fine. The top growth froze, but it shouldn't be pruned until all danger of frost has passed. It serves to protect the healthy plant underneath.

If something similar has happened to your plants, succulent or otherwise, once all danger of frost has passed, prune the dead top growth and the plant will be good as new…except smaller, of course!

How about the frozen aeonium below? Pretty much hopeless. But look a the Sedum ‘Angelina’ surrounding it. It’s a succulent too, and perfectly fine!
IMG_1237resized_annotated

Why does frost kill some succulents and not others? A lot has to do with where a particular kind of plant originated. Succulents, which store water in their leaves to survive drought, are mostly from dry, hot climates. But some are from dry, cold climates. See my Wall Street Journal article on this topic.

If Your Succulents DO Become Damaged

Remove collapsed leaves if it's likely they'll rot, because that threatens the health of the plant. If instead they dry out, they'll help protect healthy tissue from future frosts. Leave them on, then prune after the weather warms.

Preserve the symmetry of slender-leaved succulents (such as agaves and aloes) by trimming tip-burned leaves to a point, rather than cutting straight across. (See below.)

Chalk it up to experience. Now you know that particular plant is vulnerable and needs a protected location.

How to trim a frost-burned Agave attenuata

The tips of the leaves of this agave melt at 32 degrees, but the plant is usually fine. Here's how to make it look good again---only takes a minute!

Related articles and info:WSJ article

Cold Weather Care for Outdoor Succulents

 

Winter Protection for Succulents: Products  Soggy soil, dim light, high humidity and freezing temperatures can be death to succulents native to warm, arid climates. These items will help you get your succulents through cold, wet North American winters...[Continue reading]

My books have info on growing succulents in challenging climates and how to protect them from frost and excess rain.

All the info you need, all in one place: 

I also recommend this excellent book about succulents that survive freezing temps: Hardy Succulents, by Gwen Kelaidis, illustrated by Saxon Holt.

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14 Comments

  1. DEBRA L BAXTER on December 8, 2020 at 11:02 am

    I have a raised bed and put my hanging plants in there covered with frost cloth over wire frame; all inside my new pop-up greenhouse. I put a plant light in there to generate some heat. Today when checking out everything 3 of my kalancho plants have leaves that are an apricot color.. I can’t figure out why some were damaged and others were healthy. The placement of the pots is varied. Did they get too hot or too cold?

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on December 9, 2020 at 1:05 pm

      Hi Deb — It sounds like there are pockets of cold in your new greenhouse. I’m guessing the leaves turned “apricot” (putty colored) because they froze.

  2. sabu jose on February 20, 2021 at 6:12 pm

    hello,I have watched a lot of your vedios. I have an agave garden in Houston, but with the recent freeze, I covered them but with this unusual freeze and snow , it seems like they are dead and soggy leaves, it makes me very sad to look at them. Can I save them by doing some tricks?. Please advice.

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on February 20, 2021 at 6:51 pm

      I’ve been watching with dismay the weather reports about Texas over the past few days, but I hadn’t thought about the inevitable damage to the gardens. Sounds like you did the best you could, but no one anticipated the severity of the cold snap. Even though the top growth is severely damaged, your succulents may survive if their roots are intact. You won’t know for certain for several months. Spring—the main growth season for the majority of succulents—can work wonders. Remove any soggy, collapsed leaves as soon as all danger of frost is past. If you don’t see new growth by May or June, it’s probably time to pull up the plants and start over. Keep us posted, OK?

      • Janet on February 21, 2021 at 10:01 pm

        This is very helpful! I live in Austin and even though I took extra steps before the big freeze (with heavier duty coverings) I lost quite a few of my plants *sigh*. Some I’m not sure, it’s hard to tell, but I’ll give this a try and see what happens.

        • Debra Lee Baldwin on February 22, 2021 at 8:27 am

          We had a cold snap here in Southern CA in 2007, during which I lost nearly all my crassulas (jades) and kalanchoes. The amount of dead plant material I removed from my garden was disheartening. But it helped me understand my plants and microclimates, and in the long run made the garden better from the standpoint of ease of care and suitable plants. But we only got down to the teens. I hope this was indeed a once-in-a-lifetime event for you and others in Austin. I wonder how members of your local Cactus & Succulent Society managed. I saw some wonderful collections when I was there.

  3. Shelley Frazee Boyce on February 25, 2021 at 12:01 pm

    Hi Debra-I was researching how to revive a few succulents and cactus after the freeze and your site came up! I live in Santa Teresa NM next to El Paso and have no experience with the plants here but will hold out hope that they’re not lost. Hello from a classmate from the past!

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on February 25, 2021 at 12:52 pm

      Hi Shelley! Wow, that was a loooong time ago, but I can see you in my mind exactly as you looked at 16! I hope you find helpful info here and your plants bounce back. Be sure to read the comments, too, especially my reply to “sabu jose.” Thanks for the quick trip down Memory Lane!

  4. Monique Goidhart on March 1, 2021 at 8:53 am

    My crown of thrones in garage but still look terrible. Any thoughts on those? They are a sone 10 and I’ve successfully overwintered every year. Can’t really stretch bark and all leaves above soil. Any chances of survival?

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on March 1, 2021 at 10:35 am

      Hi Monique — Not exactly sure what you’re saying, but the gist seems to be that you’re concerned about your Euphorbia milii. These are highly sensitive to temperature extremes, yet need plenty of light. Not easy except outdoors along the coast of Southern CA. Sounds like you deserve congratulations for keeping them going this long. I’d say if they’re ailing, replace them. They may have rot or pests that might spread to other plants. Hope this helps.

  5. Juli Ward on March 7, 2021 at 10:13 am

    Help please. We had 8 days of ice snow ice again temps in the single digits. Central Texas! My beautiful succulent make my heart ache. Anything I can do?

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on March 7, 2021 at 2:17 pm

      Hi Juli — I revised this post to add info at the top specifically for Texans, because I’m hearing from many like you who lost beautiful succulent collections. To be honest, with temps that low for that long, recovery is unlikely. I hope that this was unprecedented, and when you start afresh, you needn’t worry it’ll happen again. I wish I could be more positive about the plants you lost. You’ve got a lot of clean-up and removal to do. Truly heartbreaking.

  6. Sherry paine on March 23, 2021 at 9:31 am

    Hello Debra
    I have a big cactus in pot
    My husband passed 3years ago It was his plant.
    I tryed to cover during the long freezing temps ,but didnt work.

    Its wilted it was 4 ft tall, now 2ft because lited to the grownd
    some green, yellow, little black
    Please what should i do
    Now to save as much as I can?
    Thank you
    for any helpful advise you could give me

    Sherry

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on March 23, 2021 at 11:17 am

      Hi Sherry — With a sharp tool (knife or scissors) cut the damaged tissue so only healthy tissue remains. Each time you cut into diseased tissue, clean the knife by dipping it into Isopropyl alcohol to disinfect it. You don’t want pathogens on the blade when you’re doing surgery. You can use healthy pieces of cactus as cuttings to start new plants. Let them callous (heal) so they’re not raw and juicy, then set them upright in coarse potting soil. Keep them in bright shade and don’t water right away. In a few weeks, gently tug on them, and if they’ve rooted, go ahead and water them as you would normally and move them into greater light (add an hour of morning or afternoon sun a day until they’re in full sun most of the day). What’s left of the original plant will likely regrow, providing the roots are OK. You may end up with many more plants than you started with!

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