Overwintering Succulents

by Risa
(New York)

Hypertufa Sphere with several different Sempervivum

Hypertufa Sphere with several different Sempervivum

I was given a lovely container of succulents (winter hardy) as a gift. What is the best way to winter this? We have very severe winters in upstate NY and I'm afraid that just leaving the pot out would not work. I know these plants would survive in the ground.

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Risa, there are several options for overwintering succulents such as Sempervivum, Sedum and other hardy succulents. These are very hardy given the right conditions; mostly they rely on being kept relatively dry, as in all cases, extreme wet situations where the soil around the roots then freezes will be the end of them.

Here are a few suggestions:

Option #1) If you want to keep the plants in their container, as long as it has good drain holes and fairly well drained soil (ie: sandy or gravelly, not peat, manure or bark based potting soil) then you can most likely safely overwinter them by placing the pot on a gravel bed - raised beds work well for this so no water will pool around the base of the pot.

Only use this option if you're guaranteed to get good snow cover.

I use this method with my topiary and succulent spheres, and although I lose a few plants, they're quick to fill in with new ones in the spring.

Clay pottery containers are especially vulnerable to freezing, and will crack.

Option #2) You can determine if you want to take the next step, which is to construct an open wire mesh container, made out of a length of chicken wire, or other fencing material, which is placed around the pot like a fence, and then filled with dry leaves.

You can cover the top with some type of board or other roof to keep heavy rain off, while the air will still circulate through the leaves.

Important! Make sure you don't place the covering of leaves too early, as mice or other vermin will quickly move in to the lovely warm place you provide for them, and they'll also help themselves to the free lunch.

Mouse bait in some type of covered container so pets can't get into it will keep them at bay, killing the mice before they can do much damage.

Option #3) Another way to overwinter succulents is to take them right out of the pot and plonk them in the ground, water them once or twice before winter really sets in, then mulch with lava rock or pebbles.

You can dig them up again in the spring and replant them in the pot. This gives you the assurance that the pot itself will not get accidentally broken as you can store it for the winter in a dry area such as a basement, garage or greenhouse.

This last option is my recommended course of action.

Many succulents such as Sempervivum especially take a couple of seasons to really get established in the garden, but once they do, they'll quickly take off and provide you with many more seasons of enjoyment.

Each year there are more rosettes, which can be split from the main one to be potted up in decorative containers, clay pots, or hypertufa.

You don't indicate what type of material your pot is made of, but if you're not sure, then err on the side of caution and choose option #3.

Happy Succulent Gardening!

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Sep 13, 2011
Overwintering Succulents
by: Risa

I think I'm going to use option #3....the best solution to make sure that I do not damage the beautiful container and probably the best shot at the plants surviving. I will dig them up in the spring and repot the container. Thanks so much for the great advice.

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