Succulents for zone 6



If you are plant lover, you know that selecting plant that suit your climate zone might play a major role to success. One of the first criteria to be considered before choosing a plant is their hardiness zone.


“Hardiness zone”, “planting zone” or “growing zone”, all these phrases might seem confusing. At its core, hardiness zone is a scale defining 13 US zones based on the minimum temperature calculated in a 30-year period. For years, it has been adopted by planters to simply determine whether a plant can survive the winter in a certain area.

ZONE 3 & 4

Hardiness zone 3 cover the majority of Alaska and some far northern states of US. Average minimum temperature fluctuates within -40 to -30 degree Fahrenheit. Due to highly continential climate, this portion of US land experience some of the coldest winter, high wind and low moisture. The long winter with temperatures falling below freezing point make it difficult to cultivate most plant.

Zone 4 expand over the southern coastal land of Alaska, northern and some highlands. The vast coverage results in different climates: some mountainous states like Wyoming has dry and windy weather, others present a more humid condition. The average minimum temperature in zone 3 range between -30 and -20 degree Fahrenheit.

Typical states in zone 3 & 4: Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Wisconsin.


The long and extreme winter limit the plants options for growers. Some hardy succulents for zone 3 & 4 include Sedum Stonecrop and some Sempervivum genus such as Sempervivum Red Lion and Sempervivum Mahogany.

ZONE 5 & 6

The hardiness zone 5 include the outer rim of Alaska, central US mainland and a portion of New York and Pennsylvania states. Featuring a minimum temperature of -20 to -15 degree F, these areas often experience moderate cold winter. Compared to zone 3&4, the variety of environments ranging from coastal climate to plains and woodlands facilitate the propagation of a greater number of succulents.

Zone 6 features a fairly pleasant weather with minimum temperature from -15 to -10 degree F. Cold weather combined with a mild summer, there are a lot more plants choice for growers.

Typical states: New York, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Nebraska, Ilinoiis, Idaho, Missouri, Ohio, Kansa, Utah.


Most Sempervivum and Sedum can actually survive in zone 5 & 6 thanks to their low maintenance and hardiness.

As the USDA system is based entirely on average minimum temperature in an area, its ability to describe the climatic conditions is limited. In other words, a gardener may have to account for numerous other reasons to determine whether or not a given plant can grow well in a given zone.

Also, regardless of genus, you should never put your succulents in freezing temperature. Preparing for your succulent when winter fall is essential to keep them in healthy state, especially if you live in cold zone 3-5.

See more about Choosing Succulents for Zone 7 & 8 – Texas, Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina

to get all the details.

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Gardening How-to Articles

Hardy Cacti: Living Sculptures of the American West

By Panayoti Kelaidis | June 1, 2006

A few decades ago you would have been considered a hardy-cactus collector if you had a hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus) or two in your garden alongside a ball cactus (Coryphantha vivipara var. vivipara) and, of course, some prickly pears (Opuntia). Nowadays there are collectors in New England and the upper Midwest—even in the Pacific Northwest—who grow a hundred selections of cacti outdoors from a dozen or more genera. The explosion of interest in hardy cacti has come about because of the increasing availability of inexpensive, nursery-grown plants as well as more adventurous gardeners with improving horticultural skills.

Hardy cactus lovers no less than all succulent lovers owe an enormous debt to the dozens of nurseries in the American Southwest that have made choice succulents cheaply available from seed and eliminated the need to collect these sometimes rare plants in nature.

Growing Hardy Cacti

Fabulous architectural plants for gardens in cold-winter regions, prickly pears and other hardy cacti reward good care with an eye-popping flower display.

Hardy cacti have two key requirements: good drainage—especially in winter—and abundant sunshine. For this reason, they do best when grown among rocks. A rock garden or stone wall provide both a beautiful setting to display cacti and ensure the sharp drainage they need to grow as vigorously and sturdily as they would in nature. In the Rocky Mountain and Intermountain regions that receive less than 20 inches of precipitation annually, cacti usually grow well in heavy clay soils as well as sandier soils. In wetter regions, they are generally cultivated in a gravel and sand mixture. A slope with a generous three- to eight-inch topdressing of a gravel and sand mix provides more than enough drainage even in wet climates. This type of treatment helps to keep the vulnerable crowns dry and therefore less prone to rot and allows the cacti roots to reach down into the soil, where they find nutrients and moisture needed for good growth, especially in summer. Because these plants have evolved in dry regions where soil nutrients are not regularly leached by precipitation, if you garden in sand or gravel you may need to fertilize your cacti regularly. They will grow in lean soil, but to thrive they need nutrients. I prefer to use inorganic fertilizers such as Osmocote or Sierra Blend: usually a three-month formulation. Always err on the side of caution with succulents: They need to shut down growth in late summer and excess fertilizer can cause weak growth when frost comes.

Hardy Cacti in Containers

Extremely cold-hardy Hamatocactus bicolor needs to stay dry in winter, which can be tricky in wet areas unless it is grown in a pot and moved to shelter as needed.

Hardy cacti also do well in containers, either in stone or stonelike materials such as hypertufa troughs or frost-proof stoneware containers. In a pot you can control the growing medium to provide the perfect mix for your plants. Even in dry Colorado, I use plenty of grit and some sand along with heavier loam to supply ballast and nutrients. Most succulent fanciers like to use scoria or other gravelly amendments to their favorite potting mix for succulents. The wetter the climate, the more gravel you need to add to the soil. I rarely use more than one-third scoria in my garden, but two-thirds may be too little in a rainy climate.

Many of the more moisture-sensitive Southwestern cacti, such as plains cactus (Sclerocactus) and fishhook cactus (Pediocactus), which invariably succumb when cultivated in open soil, no matter how well drained, thrive in containers.

A Collection of Hardy Cacti

Cacti are, of course, an endless source of fascination to gardeners in regions where the plants are native, and it is intriguing that they can provide so much pleasure to gardeners in cold climates that aren’t traditional cactus territory. I remember seeing a large collection perched on a balcony in China. I have corresponded with enthusiasts across Europe and Asia who all want to capture a bit of the magic of the Southwestern landscape in the form of these most classic, gorgeous, and utterly defiant American wildflowers. The species below are just a few of the many plants available for growing in gardens and adaptable to a wide range of growing conditions.


Over time, Coryphantha vivipara var. vivipara produces buds that drop off and vegetatively form new plants nearby.

Hardy to –20°F, Coryphantha vivipara var. vivipara is the standout of another large genus containing many hardy plants. I grow a dozen or more selections and feel as though I have just scratched the surface. Imagine a baseball completely obscured by white or tan spines, and you have an instant image of this cactus when it’s not in bloom. Some have stems that grow over eight inches in diameter, and some form clumps that reach over a foot across in nature. The flower color varies from pale pink to deep purple-rose, and the flowers can open from May through the summer months, depending on the individual plant. There are also half a dozen subspecies from the Southwest available commercially. A miniature form of the species that is especially white-spined and petite is sometimes found throughout the range of the species. Unfortunately, it is not distinguished botanically.

Just a trifle more tender are Coryphantha sulcata and C. scheerii, which can survive to –10°F if kept dry. Both have huge bright yellow flowers.

At first glance, the tiny ball cactus Coryphantha missouriensis seems very much like C. vivipara. The strange copper flower color and brightly colored fruit will quickly distinguish it. This cactus, hardy to –25°F, grows over much the same range as C. vivipara, yet is far less often found in gardens. Though not exactly showy, the strawyellow, brown, or amber flowers are quite appealing, as are the bright red fruit that persist from late summer to spring. It is variable over its huge range and worth obtaining in various forms.


Claret cup cacti are a very variable group of plants: Echinocereus triglochidiatus, strawberry cactus, produces bright red flowers that last a few days and are followed by edible juicy red fruits.

The glorious hedgehog cacti with their cylindrical symmetry, like lacy columns or gothic spires, will always hold pride of place in a hardy-cactus collection. Over a dozen species have survived repeated subzero winters, and some of these include a number of subspecies and forms, so just one genus can provide a lifetime’s opportunity for the hardy-cactus lover.

The main attraction among these cacti is unquestionably Echinocereus reichenbachii, which has the greatest cold tolerance (it is hardy to –25°F) and is the least sensitive to excess moisture. Commonly known as lace cactus, this wonderful species is quickly and easily grown from seed and offers a tremendous range of flower color, spine development, form, and stem size. Different subspecies of lace cactus can range in size from a few inches to nearly two feet, with pure white to nearly black spines.

Fendler’s hedgehog (Echinocereus fendleri), hardy to –20°F and almost as versatile as lace cactus, also has a number of unusual forms. The rare, corky-spined E. fendleri var. kuenzleri has become quite inexpensive in recent years and is often available. Claret cup cacti (Echinocereus coccineus, E. polyacanthus, E. triglochidiatus), also hardy to –20°F, occur in endless permutations, almost bewildering in their variability in nature and in cultivation. Flower color ranges from near orange, scarlet, and pink to deep crimson shades. Stems can vary from spineless to wildly tousled and reach anywhere from three inches to several feet tall, as in the White Sands form of E. triglochidiatus var. gonacanthus. Eventually, most forms can clump up to form mounds of almost mythic proportions. Studded with brilliant badminton-birdie flowers, they can stop traffic. Peak flowering comes from late April to June, depending on variety.

Over time, many claret cup cacti, such as this scarlet hedgehog, Echinocereus coccineus, grow into sizable clumps that put on a spectacular flower display in late spring or early summer.

Among other cold-tolerant Echinocereus cacti is the lemon-scented E. viridiflorus, (–20°F), less showy but every bit as hardy as any of the species described above. A welter of hedgehog cacti generally found further south have northerly disjunct populations and high-altitude forms that are regularly subjected to subzero weather in nature and thus are hardier than other members of the species. These include E. dasyacanthus, E. engelmanii, E. enneacanthus, E. knippelianus, E. viereckii, and others. Most of these are doing fine in Denver, which lies in USDA Zone 5 (–20°F). I wouldn’t try to grow most of them in wetter regions colder than Zone 7, however, unless they could be kept in an unusually protected microclimate with ideal soil conditions. Seek out the most cold-tolerant cultivar for testing. Larger plants tend to survive the first winter better than tiny seedlings. If you have small seedlings or plants, I recommend leaving them in the seed pot rather than planting them out too early.


Quite a few species in the genus Escobaria, which is closely related to Mammillaria, have proven themselves in a wide range of climates. Escobaria sneedii var. leei, hardy to –20°F, is one of our tiniest and rarest cacti, restricted in nature to the Carlsbad Cavern area in Texas. In cultivation it thrives almost everywhere in North America, in places as diverse as New England rock gardens and troughs in Colorado. It makes a huddled mound of marble-size stems densely covered in white-spines, with pale pink flowers in early summer. Escobaria sneedii var. sneedii, hardy to –15°F, is similar in form but larger and with pinker flowers. Larger still is E. organensis, hardy to –15°F. The largest relative is E. orcuttii, hardy to –15°F, from the mountains of southern New Mexico and yet extremely hardy far northward. These are all rather small plants, rarely more than a foot at the very biggest—either in height or spread. Escobaria hesteri and E. minima, which resemble dwarf races of Corypantha vivipara, can survive to –10°F in dry-winter regions.

Maihuenia poepiggii

Surprisingly, this prickly pear cousin with cylindrical stems and persistent tubular true leaves has grown vigorously for many years in gardens throughout the Pacific Northwest, where it is the best-performing outdoor cactus. It even blooms prolifically there, producing luminous, two-inch pale yellow roselike flowers. It is hardy to –15°F and can survive even colder temperatures in the interior West.

Opuntia, Cylindropuntia, and Grusonia

A common sight in the Southwest, some chollas take a shrublike form, like these wild-growing specimens; other species grow to tree size or creep along the ground.

The endless variations of prickly pear, cholla, and creeping cylindrical opuntia are the glory and bane of the hardy-cactus garden: Few plants combine such brilliant flowers and architectural stems and forms with such painful spines and glochids (spines that come off easily). The secret for growing Opuntia and closely allied genera is siting them where they won’t need constant care. I prefer to grow them primarily in large pots, where they droop gracefully and are easily weeded and maintained. Strategically positioned among rocks, they can likewise be managed for years without the need for cleanup and cutting back that can cause gardeners such discomfort. And opuntias are so easily propagated by severing and planting a pad, or even part of a pad, that there is no excuse for not quickly building a wonderful collection.

Scattered over the eastern two-thirds of the United States and a short way into Canada, Opuntia humifusa may be the most widely distributed prickly pear. It is certainly the most widely cultivated. Most forms are nearly spineless, and even its glochids are less lethal than those of most western prickly pears. In summer, the bright green mass of stems provides a fine contrast to the predominant silvers and grays of other cacti, but in winter it wilts into a limp mass of darkened matter aptly described as “depressa.” In spring, it resurrects miraculously within weeks of the return of warm weather. It can be dazzling in early summer, when it is intermittently covered with bright yellow flowers. Despite its wide range, there have been surprisingly few selections: O. humifusa ‘Lemon Spreader’ is one of the few cultivars. The closely related O. macrorrhiza of the southern Rockies seems to be much more variable in both pad shape and flower color. As with so many cacti, the potential for hybridization is limitless.

Over much of the 20th century, some of the finest Opuntia selections were made by Claude Barr, the great nurseryman of the Great Plains: His clones Opuntia ‘Crystal Tide’ (–25°F), ‘Claude Arno’ (–25°F), and others still form the basis of many hardy cactus gardens. These are mostly hybrids of O. polyacantha, the commonest cactus in the West.

With abundant sunshine and good drainage, especially in winter, hardy cacti do well in most areas of North America. The cholla cactus shown here braves winter in a Connecticut garden.

Opuntia fragilis (–35°F) has the honor of being the most northerly cactus, growing hundreds of miles north of the Canada-U.S. border. It has provided many fascinating selections, including nearly spineless forms with spherical pads and bright bright pink or yellow flowers produced quite generously. Hunger cactus (O. polyacantha, hardy to –25°F) must be the most abundant western species, with flowers in every imaginable shade of yellow to pink and deep red. Opuntia phaeacantha (hardy to –20°F) is nearly as variable, with statuesque pads, especially in the tall variety (O. engelmannii, hardy to –15°F). It is not unheard of to find these up to six feet tall.

Few plants are as statuesque as Cylindropuntia imbricata (hardy to –15°F) and its many cousins: C. echinocarpa (–15°F), C. kleiniae (–20°F), C. leptocaulis (–20°F), and C. spinosior (–15°F). These form tall, almost treelike candelabra with midsummer flowers and showy autumnal seedpods.

The creeping cylindrical opuntias of the Southwest have had a botanical name change and are now called Grusonia. The hardiest of these is undoubtedly G. clavata (–25°F), with wide, bright white sheathlike spines and a dense, creeping habit that is as appealing as the two-inch pale yellow flowers. In nature, this plant can spread many feet across: Gardeners are pleased if it spreads to a foot after many years, however.

Pediocactus and Sclerocactus

Plants of high, cold, dry mountain ridges or hot deserts, most species of plains cactus and fishhook cactus grow in regions where subzero cold is a frequent winter phenomenon, making them endlessly teasing to gardeners in cold climates. They are useful in dry-region gardens where gardeners control their impulse to water, but they are only apt to gain wide currency in wet regions if and when they can be obtained grafted onto moisture-tolerant rootstocks, such as Opuntia fragilis or perhaps Coryphantha vivipara. Though grafted plants are rarely available, you can perhaps do the grafting yourself—it’s not as hard as you might imagine.

More Cacti

Cacti and other succulents thrive in the humid summers of the Northeast, as they mingle with perennials in the Connecticut garden of John Spain.

Quite a few unusual ball cacti have gained wide currency, although they are more challenging in wetter regions: Echinocactus texensis, Echinomastus intertextus, Epithelantha micromeris, Hamatocactus bicolor, and Mammillaria wrightii all have cold-hardy variants that can survive subzero cold provided they stay dry. Gardeners in the interior West have brought a surprising range of South American cacti through many winters, including Echinopsis (often sold and listed in catalogs as Lobivia), Gymnocalycium, Parodia (often sold and listed as Notocactus), as well as numerous opuntioids such as Maihueniopsis, Puna, and Tephrocacti, which are all subject to extreme cold in the Andes. There is now such a wealth of data available on many South American cacti that I expect they will be a large new basis for experimentation in the coming decades.

Panayoti Kelaidis is a plant exlorer, gardener, and public garden admninistrator at Denver Botanic Gardens, where he is now director of outreach. He began his career at the garden in 1980 as curator of the rock alpine garden, where he designed and oversaw the initial plantings of the now extensive garden. He has a special passion for hardy cacti and is responsible for introducing most of the USDA Zone 5 hardy South African succulents currently in cultivation.

Flowering Succulent Plants

Succulents with Flowers

As if succulent plants aren’t already intriguing and beautiful enough, on top of their interesting textures and forms some of them also have the most incredible flowers.

Often, they are the form of tiny crowns – Sempervivum flowers in magnification are beautiful!

Flowering succulents range from simply interesting, to gorgeous, to outright flamboyant.

It’s almost as if they figure they won’t attract the right insects if they’re too subtle, so they produce these incredibly complex and colorful flowers.

Some produce tall sprays of delicate pale green and pale pink trumpets, like Haworthia. Echeveria bloom in season, usually in the fall, depending on where you are.

Collect the seeds to grow your own new plants.

Aloe flowers are beloved by hummingbirds, and Aloe bloom stalks tower over trees and buildings alike.

One huge botanical greenhouse had to remove part of the roof to give the flower stalk room to grow!

Some attract insects by scent, sometimes not the kind of perfume that attracts us, in the case of Stapelia and Huernia.

These are also known as Carrion Flowers, so that should give you an indication of how they smell.

Others, like many of the Kalanchoe species offer spires and spikes of bell like blooms, in multi colored striped and blended flowers. Then stripes and spots are known as ‘bee guides’ and assist the pollinators in finding the nectar.

Some flowers use perfume to help the insects locate them – if you’ve ever had the unique experience of the Queen of the Night blooming at midnight, you’ll know first hand how strong a fragrance it is, and specifically evolved to attract moths to pollinate them.

Stapelia and Huernia are known as ‘carrion flowers’ because of the smell of rotting meat, designed to draw in flies to perform that same role.

Kalanchoe daigremontiana, the Mother of Thousands plant, has fabulous cascading flowers of pink or peach colors.

Many others in the genus are equally as gorgeous in bloom, like the Kalanchoe x houghtonii below;

Cactus plants are renowned for their gorgeous fleeting tissue paper flowers, only after a long period of drought.

Ephiphytes like Schlumbergera and Epiphyllum are misleadingly dull – until they flower with masses of flowers all at once, or with dinner plate sized orchid blooms.

Other colonizing plants make a carpet of texture, but when they burst into flower it adds a whole new dimension. Most succulents lift their flowers high into the air on arching stems, probably to make it easier for insects to find them.

They are also seasonal and bloom in fall, winter or spring, giving them their name of Holiday Cactus – Thanksgiving Cactus flower in the fall, Christmas Cactus around the Christmas holiday and Easter Cactus in spring.

Succulent flowers come in all shapes and sizes, but most are designed by nature to attract their pollinators – insects.

See more Flowering Succulents here…

…maybe yours is here…

Help identify my plant!
Hi, I received this plant as a gift a few years ago. I’ve been trying to identify it for a long time, without much success. For the first time this …

Hi I found this plant growing in my garden underneath some fronds of sedum “angelina”. I noticed it because of the bright red flowers but have no idea …

Yellow Flower
If possible can you identify just from the photo. Hi Lee, from the leaves, this appears to be some kind of orchid – there are many, many kinds, of …

This plant looks like an aloe plant but with leathery leaves and a single stem of about 2″ skinny tubular flowers about an inch apart and changing color …

inverted heart shaped small green leaf
Small disc shape green leaf on dark stem at the end of the stem is a closed whitish bud that looks star shaped until it grows deepening in color to a …

beautiful flowering succulent
it was about 30cms high, the stem was red and white. I think it cam in some mulch that was delivered here. its had a flower for 2 months, now theres no …

green stalks, leaves grow then drop, strange-shaped pink flowers
green stalks, leaves grow then drop, strange-shaped pink flowers; see photo(s) Hi Philip, that one has me stumped! I don’t know what this plant is, …

Yellow/Orange Flowers with Fuzzy Leaves
I purchased at a flower shop in Honolulu. Its around 6″ tall with fuzzy leaves, orange and yellow flowers. Each flower has 5 petals with small green petals …

mysterious whit flowered plant
A plant about 3 feet tall. It has an odd white flower with a yellow center. I won’t know how to properly take care of it until I find out what it is! …

Spathe Flower
Hi there, I’ve had this plant for a couple of years now. About a year ago I cut it back and gave some cuttings to my mum. The leaves on the original …

Arched leaves that look folded on themselves, flowers on long fragrant stalk.
Hi, I have a plant with fleshy leaves that are kind of half moon shape. The leaves have a notch in their upper edge, and they have the appearance …

Maybe in the Christmas Cactus family??
A friend bought a sick succulent several years ago, on sale at a Lowe’s, that wasn’t identified. It bloomed last summer for the first time, and then set …

Stemmed plant with downhanging orange blooms
This one was thick stem and branches, thick leaves and downhanging pods that produced orange coloured blooms. Got it from my brother in Houston, TX and …

Trailing with small orange flowers
Hi, I’d like to know what species this is, I picked the plant up from a dollar store. It has squat, oval leaves and a tiny (1cm blossom) orange flower …

low round succulent plant with pink flowers on on thin frail stalks
a round lowish succulent plant which grows in California and has feather-like stems with bright pink flowers at the tip What a pretty plant – if no-one …

Long stems, oval leaves, yellow stemed bulb shaped flowers
I have a picture… Drought Smart Plants says; and a gorgeous picture it is! That’s quite a plant. It doesn’t look familiar to me, so maybe someone …

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Zone 6 Hardy Succulents – Selecting Succulent Plants For Zone 6

Growing succulents in zone 6? Is that possible? We tend to think of succulents as plants for arid, desert climates, but there are a number of hardy succulents that tolerate chilly winters in zone 6, where temperatures can drop as low as -5 F. (-20.6 C.). In fact, a few can survive punishing winter climates as far north as zone 3 or 4. Read on to learn about selecting and growing succulents in zone 6.

Succulent Plants for Zone 6

Northern gardeners have no shortage of beautiful succulent plants for zone 6. Here are a few examples of zone 6 hardy succulents:

Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ – Grayish-green leaves, large pink flowers turn bronze in fall.

Sedum acre – A ground-cover sedum plant with bright yellow-green blooms.

Delosperma cooperi ‘Trailing Ice Plant’ – Spreading ground cover with reddish-purple flowers.

Sedum reflexum ‘Angelina’ (Angelina stonecrop) – Groundcover with lime green foliage.

Sedum ‘Touchdown Flame’ – Lime green and burgundy-red foliage, creamy yellow flowers.

Delosperma Mesa Verde (Ice Plant) – Grayish-green foliage, pinkish-salmon blooms.

Sedum ‘Vera Jameson’ – Reddish-purple leaves, pinkish blooms.

Sempervivum spp. (Hens-and-Chicks), available in a huge variety of colors and textures.

Sedum spectabile ‘Meteor’ – Bluish-green foliage, large pink blooms.

Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’ – Deep purple foliage, long-lasting purple-pink flowers.

Opuntia ‘Compressa’ (Eastern Prickly Pear) – large, succulent, paddle-like pads with showy, bright yellow blooms.

Sedum ‘Frosty Morn’ (Stonecrop -Variegated Autumn) – Silvery grey leaves, white to pale pink flowers.

Succulent Care in Zone 6

Plant succulents in sheltered areas if winters tend to be rainy. Stop watering and fertilizing succulents in autumn. Don’t remove snow; it provides insulation for the roots when temperatures drop. Otherwise, succulents generally require no protection.

The key to success with zone 6 hardy succulents is to select plants suitable for your climate, then provide them with plenty of sunshine. Well-drained soil is absolutely critical. Although hardy succulents can tolerate cold temperatures, they won’t live long in wet, soggy soil.

What is a Succulent?

With succulents at the height of popularity, there is now a great variety of interesting new plants available for the home garden. There are so many beautiful and decorative specimens, you very well may have collected some succulents that you would like to grow for years to come. This is how I overwinter succulents, both hardy and tender, so that they continue to thrive in my garden.

A succulent is a fleshy-leafed plant that is tolerant of drought due to the retention of extra water in the leaves or stems. Plants such as Sedum, Sempervivum, Echeveria, Aeonium, Crassula, Aloe, Haworthia, and Cacti are considered succulents as the term is used to generally categorize plants that have fleshy parts and a similar need for some water, bright light, and a tolerance of drought. And while there are about 60 families of plants that fall into the category, not all plants in all of those 60 families are succulents. As you can imagine, it’s difficult to have a care standard for “succulents” as there is a wide range of plants that fall into the category.

That being said, I tend to separate them into three categories and use those guidelines to care for my plants and know how to overwinter them: cacti, hardy succulents, and tender succulents. I don’t grow any cacti outdoors and so I will focus on overwintering hardy succulents and tender succulents.

Hardy Succulents to Overwinter Outside

Before getting started with overwintering, I clean up my plants and transplant the pups or offshoots into their own containers as you can see in this article. Any tall or spindly succulents that I don’t love the look of, I remove the tops and transplant them as you can see in this article.

There are some winter-hardy varieties that don’t need a lot of special care. In fact, some love to have a cold period in the winter to thrive the rest of the year. Winter-hardy succulents like many Sedum, Sempervivum, Agave, Ice Plant, Lewisa, and Yucca will overwinter well up to Zone 5-6 and higher. Again, this is a generalization and many of the varietals in each family will have more or less cold-hardiness.

If these hardy succulents are planted in the garden, I generally leave them over winter and just clean up the brown leaves or transplant them in the spring. If they are in containers, I move the containers under cover. Simply placing the pots under a bench, deck, or eaves near the house saves both the pots and the succulents some wear and tear.

Tender Succulents to Overwinter Indoors

More tender succulents such as Aeonium, Echeveria, and Crassula are worth doing what you can to protect them when the temperature drops. These are beautifully decorative succulents and they can add a lot of wow-factor to next year’s containers and projects.

Just as I do with the hardy succulents, I clean up the plant as much as possible and transplant any offshoots. It’s not worth saving a plant that is looking a bit rough around the edges or one that has disease and pest problems. Just compost those plants and focus on the healthy ones.

If your plant is a little bit overgrown, then it might be worth taking some cuttings and propagating those for new, young plants next spring.


Replace the soil by removing the plant from the pot, shaking off any soil from the roots and replanting the succulent into a sterile cactus & succulent mix. This will keep the critters that are in the soil from overwintering along with your succulents.

Location Needs: Temperature, Light, and Humidity

Move the plants indoors into a cool location like a garage or basement that gets at least a couple of hours of light per day. When the succulents go dormant in the winter they don’t need 8 hours of bright sunlight (but if you keep them indoors where it’s quite warm then they will need sunlight because they won’t be able to go dormant).

Keep the succulents in a location that gets enough heat to dry out the air. In areas that get quite a bit of moisture in the winter (like where I live in Vancouver) I find that an unheated garage or cold space in a basement can have too much moisture and cause the succulents to mold. I set my succulents on a north-facing window in a heated garage that I keep much cooler than the house and they are happy as can be.


When tender succulents have gone dormant for the winter they don’t need as much water. You can give them some water every 1 to 2 months and allow the soil to dry out between watering. The soil shouldn’t be soggy or else it will promote rot.

With these tips, both hardy and tender succulents will have a nice winter’s rest. In the spring when the temperature warms up, they may look a little bit scraggly. Pop them outside again, pull off any brown leaves, and place them out in the garden. In no time your succulents will be bright and beautiful again. Let’s hope they even multiply!

More Succulents!

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Cold Hardy Cactus

I’ve had a thing for cactus for a while… they’re so unlike any other plant you can grow in the garden. But since I didn’t live in Arizona, I was pretty limited on which types I could actually grow. For years, I only grew various species of prickly pear (Opuntia spp.) which are pretty and many of them very adaptable to cold climates, but they also have tiny little hairs called glochids that embed themselves in your skin if you touch them. Not my favorite thing in the world.

Which is why I now grow cactus in the genus Echinocereus. Yes, they are spiny, but they don’t have the awful little glochids, but they are both incredibly beautiful AND cold hardy. Many species are native to Zone 5 or even 4. The secret, I found, to keeping them alive, is giving them perfect drainage. Cold winters don’t kill them, but cold WET winters will cause them to rot. I’ve had great luck growing them in raised beds filled with sand and gravel, or just growing them in containers that I move under the eaves of the house (and thus, out of the rain) for the winter.

Claret cup cactus (Echinocereus triglochidiatus, Zone 5 – 9). My plant of this is still tiny, but someday it is going to look like this incredible specimen from the Denver Botanic Gardens! How incredible are those flowers?

Spiny hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus dasyacanthus, Zone 6 – 9). Not quite as cold hardy as claret cup cactus, but just as beautiful in yellow. This is another favorite of mine.

Lace hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus reichenbachii, Zone 5 – 9). This species has huge magenta flowers that practically glow, they are so bright.

Lace hedgehog cactus is also beautiful out of flower! There is a lot of variation in spine color and shape in the species, and this is a particular nice form with dark spines.

In the winter, cold hardy cactus tend to look a little sad… to avoid damage from the cold, they drain most of the water out of their stems, so they shrivel up and look like wrinkled old sacks. But come spring, they start pumping up again, and go right on growing!

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