Succulent Care By Season & Region

Quick links to the seasonal and regional resources you need

Your Region and the Season Matter

Where you live and the time of year make a big difference as to how well your succulents grow and perform, and even which kinds you should choose---especially if they're in the open garden. Indoors or in a greenhouse, you have more control over the environment, but seasons still affect cyclical aspects of growth such as flowering and dormancy.

Most---but not all---succulents come from areas of the world that are hot and dry, with minimal rainfall. These plants are best suited to USDA zones 9 and 10, although they will survive outdoors in zones 8 and 11 with adequate protection from frost, excessive heat, and moisture.

This ideal climate for growing succulents is found sporadically in latitudes from 20 to 40 degrees, notably marine-influenced, nontropical areas of the US Southwest, Mexico, South America, eastern China, southern Japan, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the Mediterranean. In other zones, especially during seasonal temperature extremes, tender succulents are best cultivated indoors.

As with any plant---any living thing, for that matter---the more you understand it, the better you'll be able to keep it alive and thriving. For example, it may surprise you that aeoniums---which originate in the Canary Islands and the northwestern coast of Africa---love Southern CA but don't do well in Florida or Hawaii. The latter have high humidity and summer rainfall, which Southern CA doesn't. The same goes for echeverias, which are native to Mexico.

If you live where humidity and rainfall are high, consider succulents as annuals, get a dehumidifier, or grow "tropical" varieties (see pages 145-146 of Designing with Succulents, 2nd ed.).

Scroll down to find which page, post or video best answers your questions.

Resources

Videos

Growing Succulents in Northerly Climates, Sempervivums (9:03) - The basics, plus design ideas and exciting new cultivars.

Growing Succulents in Northerly Climates: Sedums and More (7:08) - Cool succulents for cold climates plus how to select, grow and design with them.

Debra Lee Baldwin’s Southern CA Succulent Garden in Spring (3:12)
See what's blooming and what needs doing.

Debra Lee Baldwin's Southern CA Succulent Garden in Summer (10:34)
On an 89-degree day I give a tour of my garden, noting what's in bloom, lookin' good (or sadly dreadful), and checking the health of succulents small and large.

Post-Summer Care for Succulents (6:49) I show and explain how to deal with scorched tips, sunburn, mealy bugs, shriveled leaves, yellowed stems, burned patches, dead-looking succulents, keeled-over cactus and cochineal scale.

Books

"Seasonal Care for Succulents" on pages 74-75 of my book, Succulents Simplified.

"Cultivating Succulents in Challenging Climates" pp. 143-148 of Designing with Succulents (2nd ed.)

Seasonal Succulent Care

Spring

Spring in My Succulent Garden: Flowers Wow with Bold, Hot Hues

My spring garden’s most vivid blooms are those of succulent ice plants. Aloes, bulbine and numerous arid-climate companions are bright and beautiful from March through mid-May. Increasing temps tend to put the kibosh on delicate spring flowers. If you live near the coast of CA, you’ll enjoy a longer spring, but you may not get…

Summer

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.

Autumn

Frost and Succulents: What You Need to Know

See the video 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 (“frost burn”). In a “hard…

Winter

Oh No, My Succulents Froze!

Texas update, June 2021: Gwen’s agaves recovered beautifully! What you’re seeing on the lower leaves is all that’s left of the damage. New growth is concealing the old. Basically, all Gwen needs to do is to cut the damaged leaves to a point to make the ugly tips go away. See me trim a frost-damaged agave:…

Regional Succulent Care

Bay Area Succulents

How to Grow Succulents in San Francisco (Bay Area) Gardens

  HOW TO GROW SUCCULENTS  in San Francisco (Bay Area) Gardens   A plant is “succulent” if it stores water in fleshy leaves and stems in order to withstand periods of drought. Cultivate species native to arid climates (the majority) in warm, sunny areas of your garden, in mounded, fast-draining soil. Protect from prolonged dampness,…

Coastal Southern California Succulents

No-Water Succulents for Southern California Gardens

  Certain readily available succulents not only get by on rainfall alone, they’ll grow in nutrient-poor soil and can handle searing sun and frost. No-water succulents for Southern California gardens that are native to the Southwest and Mexico include dasylirions, agaves, cacti and yuccas. They thrive from south of the border to the Bay Area and…

Desert Succulents

I'm grateful to Nancy Mumpton of the Central Arizona Cactus & Succulent Society for this advice on growing soft (non-spiny) succulents in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area. Nancy explains why such plants tend to go downhill in summer, and what to do about it. She notes: "There are some areas of AZ like in the northern parts of the state and even Tucson that are somewhat cooler than Phoenix in the summer, where the problem is not as great."

Succulents in the genera Crassula, Echeveria, Sedum, Sempervivium, Aeonium and more close their pores during hot summer days (starting in June) and open them on nights when it cools down adequately. In other words, they breathe at night. The technical term for this is Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM).

In Phoenix, especially during the monsoon season (June through September), the nights do not cool down enough, but stay as high as 85 to 90 degrees. Consequently, CAM plants are unable to breathe effectively, and they suffer.

How to save soft-leaved succulents

Move them indoors to a cool but bright location in summer. Move them back outside when the nights start to cool down, usually late September. If they must stay outside all year, set them in the shade, give minimal water, and let them rest for the summer. "They will not look good and may lose leaves," Nancy says. "But in the fall they'll perk up, grow and look better."

Nancy suggests two Facebook groups that often deal with this topic: Arizona Cactus and Succulent and CentralArizonaCactus. "In June, you'll see all the problems that people ask about CAM plants!" she says, adding that in Phoenix such succulents are sold at Home Depot, Lowe's, many garden centers  and even at the Desert Botanical Garden. Consequently residents assume soft-leaved succulents should do well in their climate, and blame themselves when they fail to thrive.

Cholla backlit (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

The Joys of Cholla (Cylindropuntia)

In Baja California recently I was showing off my knowledge of native succulents when one “got” me. The friend who was taking a video with my phone gasped when I unsuccessfully tried to set a 3-inch-long chunk of cholla (“choy-ah”) cactus back onto a boulder. It resolutely clung to my fingers.     When I…

Opuntia fruit (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Why Grow Paddle Cacti? DLB’s 16 Reasons

Of the dozen or so types of cacti in my garden, I have more opuntias than any other. Also known as paddle cactus or prickly pear, Opuntia species have stems shaped like ping-pong paddles. New pads grow from older ones after rains drench the roots and help fuel new growth. Typically these new pads, and flowers that turn…

Succulents for Northerly Climates

Showy Succulents for Snowy Climates (Debra’s WSJ Article)

Showy Succulents for Snowy Climates (Debra’s WSJ Article): A shorter version of this article appeared in the Wall Street Journal, 3/9/18. This is the unabridged original. Is it a given that Northerners can’t grow succulents? Not at all. Granted, most of these moisture-storing, arid-climate plants prefer warm, sunny habitats. Yet in response to demand, major growers are…

50 Cold-Hardy Succulents for Northern Climates

The popular and readily available varieties shown here can handle northern winters, snow, rainstorms (if given excellent drainage) and summer dry spells. There are two main genera: Sedum and Sempervivum. Lesser known are Rosularia, Delosperma, and Orostachys. Notably, certain species of Agave and cacti don’t freeze in all but the coldest climates.

How to Grow Tender Succulents in Cold, Northerly Climates

With the exception of sempervivums, jovibarbas, many sedums and yuccas, and certain cacti and ice plants, the majority of succulents are frost-tender. Although they can tolerate temps down to freezing and in excess of 90 (if shaded), between 40 and 80 degrees is ideal. But you can grow any succulent, anywhere, if you understand its needs.

Southern US, Florida, Hawaii