Succulents for zone 5

Zone 5 Succulents: Tips On Growing Succulents In Zone 5

Succulentsare a diverse group of plants found throughout the globe. They are often considered desert denizens, but these plants also have remarkable cold tolerance and can perform beautifully in many environmental settings. Zone 5 succulents have to withstand temperatures of -20 to -10 degrees Fahrenheit (-29 to -23 C.). Growing succulents in zone 5 requires carefully choosing the right species with a tolerance of these potential cold temperatures. This article will help.

What are Hardy Succulent Plants?

Hardy succulent plants may seem an impossibility if you consider them just warm region flora. Look outside the box and consider that some succulents actually survive in chilly alpine climates and thrive in areas where freezes are potential. Many succulents for zone 5 are available as long as you consider their hardiness range. When you purchase your plants, check the tags or ask nursery professionals to determine whether they are right for your United States Department of Agriculture zone.

Hardiness is determined by a plant’s ability to withstand certain temperatures and weather conditions. The United States Department of Agriculture has a handy map outlining the climates and microclimates of the

United States, and the UK and other European regions have similar maps in Celsius. These are excellent references when choosing plants and help determine the specimen’s fitness to withstand the climate in which they will be planted.

Many succulents are remarkably adaptable in colder regions because their native range experiences similar weather challenges. The key is to find succulents for zone 5 that are adaptable to your specific zone.

Growing Succulents in Zone 5

Zone 5 regions run from the middle of the United States, east to New England and west to parts of Idaho. These are chilly areas in winter, and succulents have to be able to withstand freezing temperatures of at least -10 degrees Fahrenheit (-23 C.) during the winter. In summers, the heat ranges vary, but most plants are perfectly happy in any warm temperatures they can experience. However, the freezing temperature determines if a plant can survive over the winter and is crucial unless you are bringing plants indoors for the cold season.

Many plants that might be marginally hardy can survive with heavy mulching to protect the root zone or even by carefully covering the plant to help protect it from ice and snow. Zone 5 succulents, such as classic hens and chicks (Sempervivum) and bold yucca, will still survive that region’s winter and explode with beauty in spring. Growing succulents in zone 5 that are marginally hardy can also be done by planting in microclimates and protected areas of the garden.

Types of Succulents for Zone 5

Many succulents are so adaptable that they can grow in zones from 4 to 9. These tough plants only require well-draining soil and spring and summer sunshine to thrive. Some examples of zone 5 plants include:

  • Agave (several species)
  • Thompson’s or Red Yucca
  • Myrtle Spurge
  • Stonecrop (and many other species of Sedum)
  • Opuntia ‘ Compressa’
  • Jovibarba (Beard of Jupiter)
  • Ice Plant
  • Orostachys ‘Dunce Cap’
  • Othonna ‘Little Pickles’
  • Rosularia muratdaghensis
  • Sempervivum
  • Portulaca
  • Opuntia humifusa

Have fun and mix up these tough succulents. Intermingling them with grasses and other perennial plants can create quite a year around spectacle with no worries that your succulents won’t survive the next harsh winter.

Ask most gardeners to define succulents, and they’ll likely respond with “cactus” …

And while there’s some truth to that answer, the real story goes far beyond …

Let’s explore the back story of these fabulous, hardy plants – and bust a few myths while we’re at it. There are indeed quite a few succulents appropriate for Zone 5 and Zone 6 gardens, and their easy care will have you taking a second look at these unique and diverse beauties …

Succulents Defined

The gardener that equates the terms “succulents” and “cacti” is correct. All cacti are succulents, but that’s where it ends …

Not all succulents are cacti, and broadly defined, succulents are plants with the ability to store water in their leaves. Cacti are actually a distinct family of succulents, most commonly differentiated by their protective spines …

Some general examples of succulents include the following familiar plants: Aloe, Jade, Cactus, Sedum, Agave, Crown of Thorns, and literally hundreds and hundreds more are common examples.

That’s not to say, though, these plants will do well in your Zone 5 & 6 gardens.

Read on for more …

Why Succulents?

Long a favorite of indoor gardeners, succulents like cacti, aloe, and jade plants are attractive to any level of expertise because they’re so easy care.

In fact, one of the most common causes of demise for many succulents is over watering. Remember, most of these plants do very well in dry, arid, hot conditions. They thrive without water in nature for weeks or even months at a time because of their unique water storage capabilities …

In colder climates, succulents are commonly grown in pots and kept indoors. For the most part, they’ll do well in well draining soil, minimal watering, and bright, sunny conditions …

Succulents In Zone 5 And Zone 6

Many people are surprised to know succulents can survive, indeed thrive, in colder conditions. It’s not unheard of for some types of succulents to do well in Zone 4 locales, even Zone 3 …

The trick, though, is something we continually preach to all our gardening friends. Knowledge is power and research is key. If you’re buying succulents on a whim, check the plant’s tags to make sure they’re appropriate for your growing zone …

Succulents are commonly seen as landscape elements and are often used by landscapers to fill voids or establish a garden. Chosen properly, a succulent variety can be the cornerstone of your garden for years or even decades to come …

Here’s a list of our five favorite succulents for Zone 5 & 6 gardeners, along with pictures, descriptions, and general care requirements …

Best Succulents For Zone 5 and Zone 6 Gardens

Color Guard Yucca

Color Guard Yucca: This one of a kind plant fits the bill if you’re looking for an easy care variety with three season interest …

The Color Guard Yucca is best known for its variegated foliage … they look terrific in a rocky garden, with perennials, or in a pot on your patio …

The plant starts out in the spring with individual leaves shooting up four to six inches from the mounded center. You’ll love the vibrant green trim they offer, which transition to red and pink as the weather cools.

Color Guard Yucca does best in full sun but will gladly tolerate partial shade. It tops out at about two feet with a similar or slightly larger spread …

If you add this succulent to your garden, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief – deer and rabbits don’t like it!

This plant is exceptionally easy care … drought, wind, heat, and humidity won’t deter it and it’s hardy down to Zone 4 …

Purple Ice Plant

Purple Ice Plant: Best used as a ground cover or potted plant, the stunning purple color of this succulent will wow you …

An early summer bloomer, the Purple Ice Plant will reward you with color all summer long. The foliage reaches only about 3-4 inches in height and the spread at maturity is about a foot wide …

This plant does well in full sun and is both drought and deer resistant …

Pair it with a nearby rose bush and you’ve got an eye catching colorful display!

Sempervivum – Hens & Chickens

Sempervivum (Hens and Chickens): We love the whimsical name of this colorful hardy succulent, but even more than that we love how it looks and performs in the garden …

A sempervivum (which means “always alive”), this plant is an excellent choice for beginners since it’s so easy care. Don’t worry at all about planting it in Zone 5 … it’s hardy for colder climates even to Zone 3 …

Hens and Chickens does really well in fast draining soil with plenty of sunlight. They like a good watering every couple of days but are generally drought resistant and as an added bonus, deer shy away from them …

They get their name from the small rosette looking buds (hens)that sprout small colorful flowers (chickens)! Hens and Chickens are an excellent and colorful succulent choice for Zone 5 & 6 gardeners …

Sedum Cauticola

Sedum Cauticola: We especially like this Sedum for two reasons … it’s colorful and it’s a slow spreader. If you’ve shied away from Sedums in the past because they tend to overtake your garden, consider this one as it’s easily controlled with just a bit of pruning …

Used primarily as a ground cover, this plant works well as a border or near landscape rocks. Butterflies love the flowers which appear later in the summer and turn a beautiful shade of crimson …

About as “set it and forget it” choice you’ll find, the Sedum Cauticola does well in just about any type of soil and tolerates drought and sunny conditions. The blue-gray foliage with purple edges is easy on the eyes and blends well with any garden color display …

This plant tops out at about five inches and at mature spread it’s a little over a foot …

Hardy down to Zone 4, it’s an excellent landscape plant that adds color interest and is very easy to maintain …

Euphorbia Ascot Rainbow

Euphorbia Ascot Rainbow: Another excellent all season color interest plant is the Euphorbia Ascot Rainbow. In the late winter and early spring, it features spikes of lime, cream, and green flowers …

As the temperatures begin to warm, the plant changes hue to a soft green grey color with cream accents. Saving the best for last, you’ll get a vibrant display of red and pink as the cooler temperatures arrive …

Distinct and unique, the Euphorbia Ascot Rainbow is well suited as an accent plant or in a featured container. It’s easy to grow and does well in the heat and drought …

Best of all, it rewards you with color all season long!

Care Instructions For Succulents

While issuing the general caveat that each plant is unique with their requirements, it’s fair to say succulents are among the most easy care plants …

There’s a reason they’re used so often in landscape beds – they do well without any specialized care and they’re long lasting and look good!

There are some general guidelines you should follow for succulents. Here are a few:

– Allow your plants to dry out before watering. About the only mistake you can make with succulents is over watering!

– It’s perfectly o.k. to trim and prune succulents to maintain their shape and keep them looking their best. Don’t fret about trimming too much or damaging the plant – the choices above are the ultimate in hardy.

– Succulents love sunshine, so always do your best to plant them in sunny locations …

– In terms of soil, succulents do best in well draining soil. If you’re creating your own potting mix, go for equal parts of potting soil, pea gravel, and sand.

But really, don’t worry about having to be “perfect”. Succulents are generally quite adaptable and will survive and thrive in pretty much anything but the worst soil conditions …


There’s a reason why succulents are so popular, and Zone 5 & 6 gardeners needn’t shy away. There are more than a handful of these hardy specimens that do quite well in colder climates …

Of course, succulents also make wonderful houseplants! They’re easy to maintain and serve as excellent air cleaning additions to indoor environments …

If you want to further explore the world of succulents, almost every decent sized community has a local succulent society and club where you can compare notes, meet fellow gardeners, and even adopt specimens for your home.

A good resource is the Cactus and Succulent Society of America at …

Happy Gardening!

About The Author

Flower Chick

Helping gardeners in Zone 5b (west suburban Chicago area) for over 30 years! During that time I’ve become a “go to” person among friends and family for practical, straightforward gardening advice. A long time friend dubbed me “Flower Chick” many years ago and the nickname stuck!

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Succulents, with their interesting shapes and colors, have become increasingly popular in the landscape. While larger succulents are often used singly as accent or container plants, smaller succulents are getting a second look for use as ground covers. As with other succulents, they are attractive, drought-tolerant and low-maintenance. Here are 8 low-growing succulents for you to try in your garden.

It’s important to note that all plants profiled below require well-drained soil and, in many cases, some supplemental watering. The amount and frequency of watering depend on several variables, including exposure, temperature and soil. A good rule of thumb is to water 8 inches deep and then allow the soil to dry out before watering again. Succulents need more water in spring, when they are actively growing, and very little in winter.

1. Rock Purslane
(Calandrinia spectabilis)

Gray-green leaves form a dense mound that is transformed by the appearance of magenta flowers spring through fall. The flowers are about 2 inches wide and last one day, with new ones ready to take their place the following day.

For an eye-catching combination, pair rock purslane with pig’s ear (Cotyledon orbiculata), a succulent that produces orange flowers. Rock purslane does best in Mediterranean climates but is suitable as a container plant and can be treated as an annual in colder climates.

Origin: Chile
Where it will grow: Hardy to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 6.7 degrees Celsius (USDA Zone 9)
Water requirement: Low
Light requirement: Full sun or filtered shade
Mature size: 1 foot tall and 3 feet wide; about 3 feet tall when in flower

2. Caucasian Stonecrop
(Sedum spurium)

Succulents aren’t just for warm climates. This creeping ground cover can grow in zones 3 to 8. The beauty of this species of stonecrop lies in its tightly whorled leaves, which are often tinged in red. In late spring and summer, star-shaped pink flowers blanket the leaves and attract butterflies.

S. spurium ‘Red Carpet’ grows in the foreground of this photo, with blue-gray S. reflexum ‘Blue Spruce’ in the background.

Origin: Caucasus region of Eastern Europe
Where it will grow: Hardy to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 40 degrees Celsius (zones 3 to 8)
Water requirement: Low
Light requirement: Full sun
Mature size: 3 to 6 inches tall and 1 foot to 2 feet wide

3. Blue Chalksticks
(Senecio serpens)

The lovely blue-gray and upright 1-inch leaves gradually spread to create an attractive ground cover in frost-free areas. The flowers range from white to chartreuse and appear in summer. Blue chalksticks is ideal for creating color contrast when used next to plants with bright green foliage, such as kangaroo paw (Anigozanthos spp.). It’s a good choice for areas with mild Mediterranean climates. In addition to making a great ground cover, this beauty is often used for erosion control, in containers and as a fire-wise plant.

Here, blue chalksticks grow between Furcraea macdougalii in the background and ‘Elijah Blue’ blue fescue (Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’) in the foreground.

Origin: South Africa
Where it will grow: Hardy to 20 Fahrenheit, or minus 6.7 degrees Celsius (Zone 9)
Water requirement: Low
Light requirement: Full sun or filtered shade
Mature size: 1 foot tall and 2 to 3 feet wide

4. Parry’s Agave
(Agave parryi)

Small- to medium-size agave species are unconventional ground cover choices that are becoming more popular. For example, Parry’s agave, with its very attractive rosette pattern, makes a wonderful water-wise ground cover. Use it next to boulders for great texture contrast. This plant and other smaller agave species work well in arid climates, including low-desert climates, since they can handle the full sun and intense summer heat that may cause succulents better suited for mild Mediterranean climates to struggle.

In this photo, A. parryi var. truncata grows among larger species of agave.

Origin: American Southwest and Mexico
Where it will grow: Hardy to minus 10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 23.3 to 6.7 degrees Celsius (zones 5 to 9, depending on variety)
Water requirement: Low
Light requirement: Full sun or filtered shade
Mature size: 1 foot to 3 feet tall and wide

5. Upright Myrtle Spurge
(Euphorbia rigida)

Chartreuse flowers, which gradually turn green and then tan, provide welcome color to drought-tolerant landscapes from late winter into spring. The pointed blue-gray leaves are arranged in spirals, which offer decorative texture throughout the year. Upright myrtle spurge can handle temperatures from over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius) all the way down to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 28.9 degrees Celsius). Plant in groups of three or five alongside boulders and flowering perennials like beardtongue (Penstemon spp.)

Origin: Mediterranean region
Where it will grow: Hardy to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 28.9 degrees Celsius (Zone 5)
Water requirement: Low
Light requirement: Full sun or filtered shade
Mature size: 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide

6. Resin Spurge
(Euphorbia resinifera)

Square light-green stems arranged in clumps give this African native the appearance of a cactus. The sides of the stems are covered in brown spines. Older specimens can grow quite large and look at home next to columnar cactuses. Smaller ones look great next to boulders and drought-tolerant perennials such as desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata) and blackfoot daisy (Melampodium leucanthum).

Here, resin spurge surrounds a Peruvian apple cactus (Cereus repandus), along with soap aloe (Aloe maculata) and its colorful flowers.

Caution: The milky sap is toxic.

Origin: Morocco
Where it will grow: Hardy to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 6.7 degrees Celsius (Zone 9)
Water requirement: Low
Light requirement: Full sun; can take afternoon shade in low desert
Mature size: 2 to 3 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide

7. Royal Dewflower
(Drosanthemum speciosum)

Vibrant flowers in shades of pink, purple and red, depending on the variety, create a colorful carpet in late spring into summer, almost completely covering the foliage. When this succulent with purple flowers is not in flower, the narrow gray-green leaves add a visually cooling element to the garden. Royal dewflower roots when it comes into contact with bare soil, helping it to spread up to 3 feet wide. Although its low growth habit may lure you to walk on it, avoid the temptation since it doesn’t tolerate foot traffic. If you’re looking for a succulent with purple flowers, this is it!

Here, D. speciosum ‘Rosea’ covers a gentle slope.

Origin: South Africa
Where it will grow: Hardy to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 6.7 degrees Celsius (Zone 9)
Water requirement: Low
Light requirement: Full sun; part shade in the desert
Mature size: 6 to 12 inches tall and 3 feet wide

8. Candelilla
(Euphorbia antisyphilitica)

Narrow, waxy stems, with an upright growth habit, add another dimension to the landscape. Rather than spreading outward close to the ground, new stems are produced along the outer part of the plant, gradually increasing its width while still growing upright. Tiny pale pink flowers bloom along the upper half of the stems in spring. Small leaves may appear and are soon shed. Create a visually appealing design by planting candelilla in staggered rows.

Origin: New Mexico, southwestern Texas and Mexico
Where it will grow: Hardy to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 12.2 degrees Celsius (Zone 8)
Water requirement: Low
Light requirement: Full, reflected sun
Mature size: 1 foot to 2 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide

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