Cold Hardy Succulents for Northern Climates
Looking for succulents that go below freezing? You’re in the right place! Start with the labeled photos here.
These common varieties 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. Certain species of Agave and cacti also can handle all but the coldest climates.
Sedum (stonecrop) — Trailing varieties are lovely as ground covers and in rock gardens, terraces and hanging baskets. Larger-leaved Mexican sedums (such as burro tail) are less tolerant of damp cold and need to be overwintered indoors or kept in greenhouses. Shrub sedums die back in winter and return in spring. All produce clusters of star-shaped blooms.
Note: Many plant names have been changed. I’ve updated these according to Brent Horvath’s excellent “Plant Lover’s Guide to Sedums” (Timber Press).
Sedum ‘Lime Zinger’, from Chris Hansen’s patented line of SunSparkler sedums.
The correct name is Sedum x rubrotinctum. I can never remember that little “x.” (It means “crossed with.”) The cultivar name ‘Pork and Beans’ is correct, except the leaves look more like jelly beans!
Design by Gina Maloney.
Hylotelephium sieboldii f. variegatum (variegated Sedum sieboldii)
The full name is Sedum spathulifolium ssp. pruinosum ‘Cape Blanco’.
Updated name: Phedimus takesimensis ‘Golden Carpet’
Sempervivum (hen and chicks) — These resemble echeverias but rosettes have thinner, pointed leaves and a more compact, spherical form. A similar genus, sometimes lumped with Sempervivum, is Jovibarba.
Sempervivum calcareum ‘Oddity’, above, is also known as ‘Griggs Surprise’.
Below: Selected new Sempervivum cultivars (sourced as annotated) shown on Instagram ~
Below: New Sempervivum cultivars from the Instagram page of SMG Succulents ~
More new Sempervivum introductions by hybridizer Kevin Vaughn. Photo courtesy of Mountain Crest Gardens.
Lesser-known hardy succulents
Succulents in the genera Jovibarba (above) and Rosularia (below) resemble sempervivums and have similar cultivation requirements.
Agaves that are cold-hardy (if kept dry) include A. ‘Baccarat’, which can go to Zero degrees F. For more on agaves, yuccas and cacti for northerly climates, see the Cold-Climate Succulent Gardens section of Designing with Succulents (2nd ed.).
Delosperma – These ice plants have satiny, daisylike flowers in brilliant hues of pink, orange, red, yellow, purple and combinations thereof. They make great rock garden plants.
Lewisia, native to the Pacific Northwest, was named after explorer Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. The genus has been extensively hybridized, resulting in vivid-hued cultivars.
Orostachys is an annual succulent that dies back after blooming. When bred with Sedum the intergeneric cross is Sedoro.
How to Grow Tender Succulents in Northerly Climates: Resources and info for growing tender succulents in cold, northern climates.
Designing with Cold-Hardy Succulents: Becky Sell of Sedum Chicks plants cold-hardy succulents in repurposed wood-and-metal containers, hypertufa pots, wreaths and more.
Designing with Succulents (2nd ed.) See the section on Cold-Climate Succulent Gardens.
All my books show design ideas and give care and cultivation for Sedum and Sempervivum.
On my YouTube channel:
— Growing Succulents in Northerly Climates, Sempervivums Part One of my presentation at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show. Gorgeous new cultivars and design ideas.
— Growing Succulents in Northerly Climates: Sedums and More Part Two of my presentation at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show. More cool succulents for cold climates plus how to select, grow and design with them.
— Sedum Chicks at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show. Designer/grower Becky Sell of Turner, Oregon explains how to beautifully combine sedums, sempervivums and other cold-hardy succulents.
— Make a Frost-Hardy Succulent Wreath with Hens-and-Chicks. Simple steps to a stunning wreath!
Enjoy my other succulent photo galleries ~