Cactus decorated with lights
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Decorate a Cactus with Holiday Lights, Step-by-Step

These DIY step-by-step instructions correspond to my YouTube video: Decorate a Cactus with Holiday Lights

Inspired by my friend Sabine’s holiday succulent garden, I decided to light up a succulent of my own. The resulting potted ferocactus is the holiday centerpiece for a patio table visible from my kitchen and dining room. The plant’s translucent spines glow when light shines through them, creating a fascinating display. I painted the pot to match the gold of the spines so the tabletop display would look good during the day as well as at night.

Cactus decorated with lights

Ferocactus glaucescens in a gold-painted, terra-cotta pot glows with mini lights.

Here’s how I did it, step-by-step.

If you’re decorating an in-ground cactus or one that’s already in a pot, skip to #7.

Cactus with holiday lights

My ferocactus is shaped like a pumpkin and is 7 inches in diameter (including spines).

Step #1: Select a spherical, long-spined cactus from the nursery. I chose Ferocactus glaucescens because its spines are quite long, and I like the plant’s blue-green color. In retrospect, I would have counted the number of ribs and gotten a barrel cactus with 10. This one has 12—two more than the number of lights in the package. But most arrangements are viewed mainly from one side, so the “dark” side is in the back, along with the battery pack.

Step #2: Choose a pot or container that’s in scale with the plant. I went with a new terra-cotta pot because I wanted something clean and simple that would elevate the plant, and that I could paint the same gold as the spines.

Decorate a cactus for Christmas

Tools and materials include long handled tweezers, a soft brush, a wood chopstick, mini lights, kitchen scissors, gold stones, floral pins, a disposable paintbrush, gold paint and water sealant.

Step #3: Head for the craft store. At my local Michael’s, I bought gold “patio paint,” a disposable brush, floral (“greening”) pins, and battery-operated lights. I already had a wood chopstick, a can of Thompson’s Water Seal, long-handled tweezers and the kitchen scissors I use for gardening.

Step #4: Paint the outside and inner rim of the pot with outdoor craft paint and spray the inside with the waterproofing sealer.

Step #5: Gauge the size of the plant’s rootball in relation to the shape and depth of the pot. Add soil (I simply used pumice—up to you) if you’ll need filler for the bottom. Otherwise you risk plopping the plant into the container and finding it sits too high or too low. Which means picking up the !@#$% porcupine again.

Step #6: Extract the plant from its nursery pot and plop it into the new pot. This is tricky. You can’t touch the plant, and I didn’t want to dump it out because that might get soil on it that would be difficult to remove or worse, break spines. I also didn’t want to pull on a heavy plant and risk detaching it from its roots. So I cut the plastic pot away from the rootball, using the kitchen scissors, resulting in a plant-plus-rootball I still needed to get into the pot. I knew garden gloves were useless with spines like those, so I improvised with a long-handled bathroom brush and tightly crumpled newspaper. Using them to push against it, lifted the plant. (Memo to self: Get a second bathroom brush.)

Step #7: Settle the plant in the pot. I adjusted it a bit using the bathroom brush and newspaper, then pushed down on the soil along the rim with the tips of my long-handled tweezers.

Step #8: Turn on the mini-lights to make sure they work. Start with the light on the end of the string and, using the long-handled tweezers, tuck it between two ribs, under the lowest spines. Use floral pins to secure the wires and conceal them. Remember they’re there when it comes time to remove the lights or repot the plant. The pins will rust in the soil and… Step #8.5: Get a tetanus shot.

Decorate a cactus for Christmas

Gold rocks are $14 for 1.65-lb jar. Small pebbles would work as well.

Step #9: Add topdressing. I used gold rocks that I found online. Wait a week to water it. Cactus roots really shouldn’t be watered immediately after planting because broken roots are more vulnerable to rot.

Step #10: Place it where you can see it at night. Take photos and post them on Instagram or Facebook and tag me @DebraLBaldwin. I’d love to see what you come up with!

Decorate a cactus with holiday lights

This is how the cactus looks after dark.

 

And at anytime, it looks like a snowflake.

Watch me make it on YouTube: Decorate a Cactus with Holiday Lights DIY

Decorate a cactus with holiday lights

Related Info on This Site:

Succulent Topiary Tree

Succulent wreath how-to

Books by Debra Lee Baldwin

2019 Watercolor calendar cover
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View my 2019 Succulent Watercolors Calendar

I’m pleased to show you my 2019 Succulent Watercolors Calendar! It features a dozen new, vibrant watercolors based on my favorite photos of succulent plants.

2019 Watercolor calendar cover

Last year I was so busy with the launch of the second edition of Designing with Succulents, I didn’t pursue my watercolor hobby. This year happily I found time.

I try to do a calendar every year because I tend not to get around to things—even things I enjoy—without a deadline and people waiting. It’s highly motivating that some of you requested a 2019 succulent watercolors calendar for yourselves and to give as gifts.

My calendars and other succulent-themed gift items are available from Succulent Chic, my online Zazzle store. Never pay full price at Zazzle. They charge too much! I use them because their production values are high and there’s no overhead, leaving me free to paint and design. Zazzle keeps 90% of the sales price.

Zazzle doesn’t make it easy to pass along discounts, but here’s a 15%-off code you can use through Jan. 31, 2019. Copy-and-paste it when you order: UQEYOJQKDMCOXQJQPRTP. But first see if they’re offering an even better discount (which they often do).

Historically, Zazzle has discounted calendars 50% on Veterans Day and 60% on Black Friday, so I usually wait until then to buy them. FYI, Zazzle will mail them directly to the recipients for you.

So, what’s new for ’19?

All my 2019 Succulent Watercolors Calendar paintings are based on my own photos, except Miss December. I based the agave-in-snow watercolor on a photo by Portland’s amazing Karina Aldridge (Instagram @sacredelements) with her permission.

See more of my watercolors ~

Past calendars are of course outdated, but the images are not:

2016 Watercolor calendar 

Related Info on This Site:The easy way to paint watercolors

Sixty succulent coloring book photos

Debra's art supplies

Go to “Debra’s Art Supplies” for the watercolor paints, paper and brushes I prefer.

 

On My YouTube Channel:

Paint a Succulent Watercolor the Easy Way

In “Paint a Succulent Watercolor the Easy Way” I trace the image onto watercolor paper, mask certain areas, apply washes, paint one leaf at a time by dropping in dabs of color, then scrub out highlights when the paint is dry.


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The Easy Way to Paint Watercolors

Is there really an easy way to paint watercolors? Yes, if you go straight to painting and don’t spend time laboriously drawing the image first. I learned the technique described here from San Diego watercolor artist Diane Palley McDonald.

The easy way to paint watercolors Step by step:

  1. Select a photo that inspires you.
  2. Print the photo on 8-1/2 by 11 paper.
  3. Put the photo on a light table or against a sunny window, and tape a piece of watercolor paper over it.
  4. Using a pencil, lightly trace the photo’s main lines onto the watercolor paper.
  5. Tape the edges of the watercolor paper to a thick rectangle of cardboard.
  6. Mask any bright white lines. (optional)
  7. Have fun painting!

This technique is a bit like painting a coloring book page. The worst that can happen is you’ll have to start over, but the hard part of any painting is the drawing, so you can skip that part. I sometimes do two or three paintings of a subject before I’m satisfied.The easy way to paint watercolors

The easy way to paint watercolors

The easy way to paint watercolors

The easy way to paint watercolors

The easy way to paint watercolors

 

Here’s why I prefer watercolors to any other art medium, except possibly photography: When you dilute watercolor paint with liquid light (clear water), you can create an image that’s translucent. Because the white of the paper shines through, the result suggests a sunlit moment.

Related Info on This Site:
Debra's art supplies

Go to “Debra’s Art Supplies” to find out which watercolor paints and brushes I prefer.2019 Succulent Watercolors Calendar

Sixty succulent coloring book photos

Also enjoy this YouTube video in which I share my painting method.

See more paintings from past succulent watercolor calendars still available on Zazzle. Many are are on my Succulent Watercolors Pinterest page as well.

 


Books by Debra Lee Baldwin

Indoor dish garden
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Dish Gardens Bring Gardening Inside for the Winter

“Dish Gardens Bring Gardening Inside for the Winter” is the headline of a recent Associated Press* succulent story. Reporter Dean Fosdick interviewed me because, as he writes, “indoor gardens, with their miniature, low-maintenance plants, thrive in small spaces, and that makes them a natural fit for succulents.”

Indoor dish garden

Indoor dish garden

Quotes from the article:

— “Thanks to their intriguing forms and ease of care, succulents are replacing African violets as the plants of choice for indoor gardens,” said Debra Lee Baldwin, author of “Designing With Succulents” (Timber Press, revised second edition).
— “For a windowsill, a pot that fits into your cupped hands is perfect.”
— “If using a tall or deep container, fill it half full with empty plastic water bottles, tightly capped. You won’t waste soil that the plants don’t need and that might even compromise their health by holding moisture that causes rot. Plus the pot will weigh less.”
— Much of the fun in growing succulents is their adaptability, Baldwin said. “Give them adequate light, good air circulation and fast-draining soil and you can grow succulents in a pair of socks.”
Why I put plastic bottles in big pots
Any of those might be a launching point for an article, but perhaps the most useful is the empty-bottle idea. I use plastic bottles to make large pots lighter before I add potting soil. It makes pots easier to carry, cuts down on the amount of soil needed, and is better for shallow-rooted succulents. Before I plant any tall or large pot, I half-fill it with… [continue reading].
*The Associated Press is a US-based news agency headquartered in NYC. The article appeared in the Washington Post and other media.

Related Info on This Site:

How to grow indoors
About Debra page. Widely known as the “Queen of Succulents,” Debra Lee Baldwin is the award-winning garden photojournalist who launched worldwide interest in succulents in 2007 with…[Continue reading]
Go to TV, Radio and Media. Here you’ll find excerpts and links to a few of many media articles and interviews in which Debra Lee Baldwin is featured and quoted as an expert on succulents and their design uses. Included are book reviews, radio, podcasts, TV news, Wall St. Journal, Washington Post, KPBS… [Continue reading]
Books by Debra Lee Baldwin
Why I put plastic bottles in big pots
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Use Plastic Bottles for Lighter Pots

I use plastic bottles to make large pots lighter before I add potting soil. It makes pots easier to carry, cuts down on the amount of soil needed, and is better for shallow-rooted succulents. Before I plant any tall or large pot, I half-fill it with tightly capped empty water bottles.
Why I put plastic bottles in big pots
Good design and aesthetics dictate that large spaces need large pots. They make a “wow” statement in any garden, patio, entryway or sunroom. Pots that aren’t in scale with a big space can be visually lost or add clutter.

Problem is, if you fill a big pot with soil, you might not be able to move it, especially after you water it. And if succulents sit atop soil that never dries, roots may rot. My solution, a result of trial-and-error, also works for window boxes.

Kalanchoe luciae

To make my deep window boxes less heavy, there’s a layer of plastic bottles beneath the soil.

Mistakes to avoid

— Initially I tried placing a succulent, still in its nursery pot, inside a tall glazed pot. The plastic rim showed, which looked tacky. I tried the nursery plant in a different large pot. The plastic pot dropped too far inside, making the succulent look like it was hiding. Not to mention I hoped to put more than one succulent in the focal-point pot. I considered half-filling it with rocks, but being denser, they’re even heavier than soil. As for lightweight organic matter, like chipped wood, it makes the soil level sink as it decomposes.
— I tried keeping the lower half of a large pot empty by using a pot saucer as a shelf inside it. It was tricky to find a saucer that fit and would rest where I wanted it to (about a foot below the rim). Plus it needed a drainage hole.
— Next I tried filling the bottom half of a large pot with styrofoam packing peanuts. Later, when I emptied the pot to reuse it, I discovered that wet soil plus styrofoam equals a sodden mess that’s no fun to dispose of.
— I also tried dumping clean items from my recycling bin into a hefty pot, but discovered that bottles and crushed cans hold soil and water—an anaerobic mix that becomes a microbial soup. Even bubble wrap, when stuffed into a pot, forms nondraining pockets.

My cheap and easy answer

I fill large pots half full with empty plastic water bottles, tightly capped. As far as roots are concerned, bottles are the same as rocks. Yet empty plastic water bottles don’t weigh anything. Some soil does fall into gaps, so it’s a good idea to pour pumice into the pot prior to adding potting soil. Pumice, a lightweight volcanic rock, absorbs excess moisture. Make sure bottles are tightly capped, so inside them is only air and the weight of the soil won’t make them collapse.
Use bottles to make pots weigh less
Empty water bottles make big pots weigh less, save on soil, prevent soggy roots, and are easy to remove when emptying the pot. Simply hose them off before returning them to your recycling bin.

Use Plastic Bottles for Lighter Pots
Step-by-step [see the video]

— Assemble your materials: Pot, plants or cuttings, empty plastic water bottles, potting soil, pumice.
— Place empty bottles in the pot to midlevel, or to about 12 inches from the rim.
— Add enough pumice to nearly cover the bottles.
Use bottles to make pots lighter
— Remove plant/s from nursery pot/s and arrange in pot.
— Add soil so the crown of the plant (where roots meet stem) is a bit lower than the rim.
     OR, if planting cuttings, simply insert them in the soil.
— Move pot to its new location. Protect flooring from drips if need be. Water lightly to settle roots.
— After a week or so, insert a wood chopstick several inches into the soil to check its dryness. If the stick comes out clean, add water until it flows out the drain hole.

Related Info on This Site:

Showcase succulents in large pots

Use pumice to make pots lighter
Books by Debra Lee Baldwin
Gallery of large pots of succulents
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Showcase Succulents in Large Pots

For a dramatic, memorable enhancement to a garden or patio, showcase succulents in large pots. Big containers are both sculptural and eye-catching. Add succulents and you have a dynamic, ever-changing display as plants grow and seasons shift. Examples here are from my own garden and others I admire. Find more great ideas for succulents in large pots in my books, in particular Succulent Container Gardens and Designing with Succulents (2nd ed.).

Gallery of large pots of succulents

A nonfunctioning fountain planted with string-of-pearls and Dasylirion whipplei is at the end of an entry walkway adjacent to the front door.

 

Gallery of large pots of succulents

Big red pots planted with dasylirions add height and color contrast. The trio create a centerpiece for a rectangular bed of assorted ice plants. The pots also serve to relieve the eye in the midst of a lot of fine-textured plants.

 

Gallery of large pots of succulents

A series of knee-high pots planted with Agave ferox borders a walkway and contrasts with a coral wall. Beneath the pots, a topdressing of rocks and gravel provide texture and continuity.

 

Large pots in the garden

Large pots are an investment, but well worth it. This one, planted with Sedum burrito cuttings several years ago, is a surefire conversation piece. The homeowner sees it from inside her home and whenever she uses her patio.

 

Gallery of large pots of succulents

A sloped poolside planting includes succulents in large pots that stand out and add interest to a colorful assortment of succulents.

 

Gallery of large pots of succulents

Big pots needn’t be upright. This one, spilling Portulacaria afra ‘Variegata’, lends whimsy to a garden and a suggestion of motion. This is also a great way to utilize a cracked or damaged pot.

 

Large pots in the garden

Red glaze on a pot in my garden repeats the upthrusting lines of a red aloe nearby.

 

Gallery of large pots of succulents

A rectangular pot fills wall space and adds a welcoming presence at the entry to Jeanne Meadow’s garden. She planted it with aeoniums, aloes and trailing Portulacaria afra ‘Minima’.

 

Gallery of large succulent pots

A red pot containing a variegated sansevieria makes a clean-lined statement in the side garden of a contemporary home. Rounded river rock covers bare dirt and provides contrasting texture.

 

Gallery of large succulent pots

A pot in my garden adds height and interest to a terrace overflowing with succulents. I planted the pot with lampranthus, sedum, Othonna capensis and a variegated yucca.

 

Gallery of large succulent pots

In a patio in downtown Carmel, CA, a large pot with overgrown Aeonium ‘Cyclops’ creates a photo op and focal point.

 

Large pots in the garden

This large unplanted pot serves as a sculptural element in Patrick Anderson’s garden. Its rounded lines contrast with spiky agaves nearby, and their orange leaf margins repeat its terra-cotta color.

Related Info on This Site:

Use plastic bottles for lighter pots

On My YouTube Channel:

Video how to make large pots lighter

 

Books by Debra Lee Baldwin

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Frost and Succulents: What You Need to Know

Frost and Succulents: What You Need to Know

Depending on how long temps stay below freezing (32 degrees F), “frost tender” succulents may show varying degrees of damage. When moisture in the cells of a vulnerable plant freezes, it expands, bursts cell walls, and turns leaves to mush. In a “light frost,” leaf tips alone may show damage. In a “hard frost,” temps stay below freezing for hours, which can collapse entire plants. Succulents typically don’t regenerate from roots.

Crassulas, aeoniums, euphorbias, and kalanchoes are among the most tender succulents. A few succulents have a built-in antifreeze that enables them to survive temperatures well below 32 degrees F—below zero, in fact.

Should you be worried about your outdoor succulents in winter? It depends on where you live. See “Cold Weather Care for Outdoor Succulents, By Region.”

Your area is frost-free (lucky you!) if…

Agave attenuata grows in gardens, and the plants look like this year-round.

Cold Weather Care for Garden Succulents

Agave attenuata is the first succulent to show damage from frost in winter.

In my garden, this soft-leaved agave is the canary in the mineshaft where cold is concerned. A lot of succulents breeze through a brief frost (less than an hour), but leaf tips of Agave attenuata show damage right away.

Frost and Succulents: What You Need to Know

After a brief exposure to 32 degrees, Agave attenuata will look like this.

Such damage is unsightly but seldom fatal. See the healthy green part of each leaf? Use scissors to trim off the tissue-paper-like frozen tips [see how], cutting each leaf to a point. When you’re done, the damage will be barely noticeable. By summer new growth will have hidden those shorter, trimmed leaves. (Note: Such damage is similar to scorching caused by too much sun and heat, typical of desert climates, and by—believe it or not—wildfire.)

 

Cold Weather Care for Garden Succulents

What about an agave or other succulent that has frost damage only on its leaf tips? Don’t bother to trim them. It’ll lose those oldest leaves in a few months anyway.

Areas of occasional, mild frosts (like inland Southern CA):

Watch the weather forecast, and if there’s a “frost advisory” for your area, before dark go outside and cover your tender succulents. Frost tends to happen after midnight, with temps getting colder toward dawn. Cold air is heavier than warm, and flows down slopes and collects in low spots. Consequently, succulents in swales are more at risk than those atop berms. You may have heard that Christmas lights raise the temperature a few degrees. Yes, if they’re the old-fashioned kind. Those sold nowadays (LEDs) don’t generate heat. The succulents you have to worry about are those out in the open, with nothing above them. I sometimes stand over a succulent and gaze upward. If there are no tree limbs or eaves directly overhead, it gets draped.

I live in the foothills NE of San Diego at 1,500 feet (Zone 9b). And yes, I’ve been outdoors in my pajamas and slippers at 11 pm after hearing the weather forecast on the late-night news, shivering as I throw sheets on vulnerable plants, while my husband holds a flashlight. If frost is predicted for a series of nights, I may leave the plants covered; otherwise, I remove the sheets the next morning. To make sure they won’t blow off, I secure them with clothes pins and rocks. Do NOT use plastic. It doesn’t allow the plants to breathe.

Frost and Succulents: What You Need to Know

Frost cloth protects jades and other vulnerable succulents in my garden. See the video. 

Why cold damages 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—and those are the ones that don’t freeze. See my article in the Wall Street Journal: Showy Succulents for Snowy Climates. Among the “hardies” are:

Frost and Succulents: What You Need to Know

Stonecrops (small-leaved sedums), like those above in a Colorado rock garden…

Frost and Succulents: What You Need to Know

sempervivums (hens-and-chicks, above) of which there are numerous species and cultivars; certain cacti, yuccas and agaves (like Agave utahensis, A. montana and A. parryi), and lewisias from the Pacific Northwest.

Related Info on This Site:

Overwintering

How to grow indoors

Cold Weather Care for Outdoor Succulents

Frost damage

 

Learn more in my books:

Designing with Succulents (2nd ed.):
— Cold-Climate Succulent Gardens, pp. 111-113
— Cultivating Succulents in Challenging Climates, pp. 143-148

Succulents Simplified:
— Protection from Frost, pp. 48-50
— Frost Damage, p. 72 and p. 77

I also recommend Hardy Succulents, by Gwen Kelaidis, illustrated by Saxon Holt:

Screen shot 2016-01-05 at 7.59.00 PM

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Will Succulents Recover from Frost Damage?

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:

IMG_9517annotated_resized

Here’s the same Euphorbia ammak ‘Variegata, after the frost:
IMG_1410_annotated_resized

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

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

 

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

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

Screen shot 2016-01-05 at 7.59.00 PM

Cold weather care for outdoor succulents
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Cold Weather Care for Outdoor Succulents, By Region

Cold Weather Care for Outdoor Succulents, By Region

Should you be worried about your outdoor succulents in winter? It depends on where you live.

It’s all about frost. The temperature at which water freezes—32 degrees F—is the Great Divide. Above that, most succulents are fine. Below that, most are at risk. See “Frost and Succulents: What You Need to Know.

Hardiness Zone Map

The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is a good basic guideline. However, it doesn’t take into account climate variables potentially harmful to succulents.

Regional Care for Succulents, An Overview

There’s very little of North America where every kind of succulent will grow outdoors year-round. The “banana belt” is the heavily populated California coast. Of course, you can grow any succulent anywhere if you’re able to replicate the conditions it likes, either in your home or in a greenhouse. But this article is about cultivating succulents outdoors, in the garden, during the most challenging season: winter.

If you live in…

Coastal CA from the Bay Area south: You don’t get frost (at lower elevations), and humidity and rainfall are minimal, so simply make sure your succulents get good drainage during occasional rainstorms.

Cold weather care for outdoor succulents

My garden is in Southern CA inland, in the foothills NE of San Diego at 1,500 feet (Zone 9b). A freak snowfall happened on New Year’s Day, 2017. When temps rose above freezing, I hosed off the snow. The Agave attenuata at left was damaged but recovered.

Central and Southern CA inland: Frosty nights tend to follow rainy weather, December through February. Like a citrus grower, I pay attention to “frost advisories for inland valleys.” When temps are predicted to drop below 32, I drape succulents with bed sheets or commercial frost cloth made of non-woven fabric[Learn more about how I protect my garden.]

Cold Weather Care for Garden Succulents

When a non-gardening friend noticed bedsheets draped over my plants, she asked if my dryer wasn’t working (!).

Areas of hard frost: You get temps below 32 degrees that last for hours, so it’s not adequate to merely cover your in-ground succulents or shelter potted succulents beneath eaves. Move them indoors or into a greenhouse. Depending on where you live, an inexpensive temporary shelter may be OK. [See “Four Ways to Overwinter Succulents” on this site.]

Northwest and Northeast: Protect and shelter your succulents indoors (perhaps in your basement) or in a climate-controlled greenhouse. [On this site, See “Cold-Hardy Succulents for Northern Climates” for exceptions; “How to Grow Succulents Indoors;” and “Winter Protection for Succulents: Products].

Desert Southwest: You get hard frosts, so protect and shelter tender succulents indoors or in a climate-controlled greenhouse. Those that do well for you include cacti, agaves, dasylirions, yuccas and other succulents specific to your region.

South: If you get frost, see above. But even if temps stay above freezing, you’ll still contend year-round with trying to grow arid-region plants in a wet, humid climate. Find out which succulents you can grow outdoors in Florida and other states too damp and humid for most succulents.

Related info on this site:
How to grow indoors
Overwintering

Frost and succulents Frost damage

Learn more in my books:

Designing with Succulents (2nd ed.):
— Cold-Climate Succulent Gardens, pp. 111-113
— Cultivating Succulents in Challenging Climates, pp. 143-148

Succulents Simplified:
— Protection from Frost, pp. 48-50
— Frost Damage, p. 72 and p. 77

I also recommend this excellent book: Hardy Succulents by Gwen Kelaidis, photos by Saxon Holt.Cold Weather Care for Garden Succulents

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Four Ways to Overwinter Succulents

These four ways to overwinter succulents give you several options, depending on how cold it gets where you live. Most varieties can’t handle temps below 32 degrees F.

These common winter conditions can lead to damage or death for dormant (not actively growing) succulents:
— soggy soil (causes roots to rot)
— excess rainfall (engorges cells)
— frost (causes cell walls to burst)

Some succulents do have a built-in antifreeze. Those indigenous to the Americas, such as cacti and agaves, or to northern climates like many sedums and sempervivums, tend to fare better than those from Madagascar and South Africa (kalanchoes, aeoniums, aloes and crassulas). But no succulents want a lot of water when dormant, nor high humidity at any time of the year. All prefer well-draining soil, bright but not intense light, and good air circulation.

#1: Cover your plants

If you live where frost is occasional and lasts only a few hours (inland valleys of Southern CA), cover vulnerable, in-ground succulents with bed sheets when there’s a frost advisory for your area. Or use what nurseries do: Pellon nonwoven fabric or Agribon’s floating row cover. These are made of spun nylon, like fusible interfacing without the fusible part. It will protect about 2 to 4 degrees below freezing. For a bit of extra warmth, use C-9 Christmas light strings (the old-fashioned kind).

Ways to overwinter succulents

In my YouTube video, Frost Protection for Succulents, I show how I do this in my own garden. In the foothills NE of San Diego at 1,500 feet, it’s subject to cold air that settles in inland valleys. 

Also:
— Don’t peel away dry leaves attached to a succulent’s trunk or stem. They protect it from temperature extremes (cold and hot).
— Keep succulents on the dry side. Cells that are turgid are more likely to burst when the liquid within them freezes and expands.
— Move cold-sensitive succulents beneath a deck, tree or eaves. Such structures help to keep heat from dissipating and protect leaves from falling ice crystals.
— Or place pots against walls, hardscape, boulders and/or shrubs that absorb and slowly release the day’s heat. South- and west-facing exposures do this best.

If you live in Zones 8 or lower, grow tender succulents as annuals or in containers that you overwinter indoors. These members of my Facebook community graciously shared their winter set-ups:

#2: Outdoors, Temporary Greenhouse

Candy Suter, Roseville, CA (near Sacramento): Midwinter nights may drop into the 20s F but seldom go lower than 25 F. Candy moves her succulents into a small walk-in greenhouse (center) or a gazebo (right), which she covers with 5mm plastic to hold in warmth. She anchors the plastic along the bottom, secures the seams with duct tape, and adds a small heater with a fan on the coldest nights.

Ways to overwinter succulents

#3: Indoors, shelves with lights

Pat Enderly of Virginia Beach, VA: Midwinter lows average 32 F. Pat brings her plants indoors and tucks them into shelving units she purchased online. Each shelf has a waterproof tray, and each unit is lit by two T5 bulbs. “They do a wonderful job of keeping my succulents from etiolating (stretching),” Pat says, adding that the lights, on timers, stay on from 7 am to 7 pm daily. Pat moves her succulents indoors in Sept. and Oct. and takes them outside in April.

Ways to overwinter succulents Ways to overwinter succulents

#4: Climate-controlled greenhouse

Tenaya Capron of Buffalo, TX: Although average midwinter lows hover above freezing, occasional winter lows may drop into the single digits. Tenaya and her husband built this 24×20 free-standing greenhouse, which they outfitted with exhaust and overhead fans, an overhead heater, and double sliding barn doors on either end. I love the library ladder, don’t you?

Ways to overwinter succulents

Find more info in my book, Designing with Succulents (2nd ed.):
— Cold-Climate Succulent Gardens, pp. 111-113
— Cultivating Succulents in Challenging Climates, pp. 143-148

Related Info on this Site:

Temporary greenhouse


Succulent FAQs, Basics

How to keep succulents happy