Succulents are a fun, laidback plant for that requires only a little watering here and there, including during the winter months. Not only are they hardy and require little maintenance, but they can also be a whimsical and beautiful addition to any office desk or windowsill.
Succulents thrive during the warmer months of the year, but what about during those chilly winter months? Read on to find out how to water succulents in winter, what to avoid, and the steps you can take to keep your succulents thriving and healthy even when it’s chilly out.
Bring Your Succulents Inside for the Winter
We are talking about watering, but first, it must be stated that succulents are not going to thrive in frigid conditions. Anything below 40 degrees Fahrenheit will likely damage or even kill your succulents. So, if you anticipate temperatures dropping below 40 degrees in winter, it’s best to set your succulents up indoors.
Properly preparing and weatherizing your succulents will guarantee that they don’t die in suboptimal temperatures. Make sure to keep your succulents in a warm (but not overly hot) room with plenty of sunlight.
Check them for bugs and infections, tidy them up, and get them ready for their new indoor winter life. Transfer them to the appropriate indoor pots if necessary.
Also, note that succulents, like most plants, go “dormant” in winter. This means that they are preserving energy and not actively growing or really doing much at all during the cold winter months. Dormant plants require less active maintenance and actually make a passive approach to daily care better for their long-term success.
Prepare Your Succulents for Successful Watering
Making sure your succulents have optimal conditions for watering will help ensure they have a successful winter season. A pot that allows adequate drainage will be crucial to not overwatering and allow the unneeded and possibly damaging moisture to pass through the soil and not pool at the roots.
The appropriate soil that allows for quality nutrients but doesn’t retain water will be ideal for your succulent, but the best soil will be dependent on the actual species of succulents and can vary from plant to plant.
Water your succulents at the root, not on the leaves. Standing water on the leaves can cause damage or decay, so make sure the water goes directly into the soil. Using a mister or spray bottle can actually do more harm than good, and experts recommend a watering can that will allow the water to bypass the leaves and goes straight into the roots.
Water Your Succulents When Their Dirt Becomes Dry
One of the nice features of most succulents is that they are actually quite low-key and require a lot less maintenance than the average house plant. Succulents should not be watered until their dirt is dry to the touch and not until then.
Succulents retain water inside their leaves, meaning while you may feel like you aren’t watering your little plant enough, your succulent is actually holding onto a lot more water than it may seem. Overwatering is one of the leading causes of succulents becoming infected or dying, so be mindful of how much water you’re giving them and how often.
Water Succulents Less in the Winter
We’ve discussed that succulents shouldn’t be watered when the dirt is wet, but how often will you actually be watering your plants? While each plant and species is different, the average succulent will not require watering more than once a month, possibly even once every other month.
This contrasts significantly with the once-a-week watering required during summer for most succulent species.
That being said, time is not the best indicator of whether or not you should plant your succulents. The soil is really going to be your best guide, so checking the dirt of your succulents for moisture will be the most consistent and reliable indicator of watering needs. If the dirt is still wet, wait a few days or even another week or so to check again before watering.
Don’t Overwater or Underwater Your Succulents
Unlike most traditional plants that require more frequent watering, succulents will develop rot or mold if overwatered. Many people worry about their standard houseplants going dry as it can be damaging or even fatal, but this is not the case for succulents.
Succulents thrive in dry, arid conditions with minimal water, so don’t worry about waiting several weeks between watering, particularly in winter.
Signs of overwatering include:
- Leaves that fall off
- Soft leaves
- Discolored or semitransparent leaves
- Yellowing leaves
- Black spots
Additionally, underwatering can be damaging as well to succulents. While succulents require infrequent watering, not watering them at all or forgetting for too long will cause them to wither away. Making sure to check your succulents regularly, even throughout the winter months, will ensure that they are getting adequate hydration.
Signs of Underwatering Include:
- Shriveled leaves
- Dried leaves/roots
- Crunchy leaves
It’s much better to underwater than overwater when it comes to succulents, even in winter. Succulents have ways to protect themselves during long periods of minimal water, but they are very susceptible to a whole host of infections and problems related to too much water.
It is easier to revive a succulent that has received too little water, but too much water might be a death sentence for this plant species.
Provide Proper Drainage
If your succulent is in a pot that doesn’t have drainage holes, consider repotting it for the winter months. While some pots drain just fine outside, they might not be so efficient with draining and the indoor air. Draining is key for succulents during the winter months.
When you repot your succulent for the winter months, again make sure you use soil that’s meant for these plants. This will also help with ensuring they’re draining properly.
Allowing roots to get soaked without airing out invites all kinds of problems, including root rot and bugs. Ew!
Add Humidity in Particularly Dry Climates
If you live in an area that has very dry winter air, then use a humidifier or even keep your succulent in the bathroom. These are both efficient ways to add moisture to the air and keep your succulent from drying out. You can also try a pebble tray under your pot for another source of humidity.
Know Your Succulent Species for Optimal Care
“Succulent” is a broad term covering a wide and diverse range of plant species, but each succulent, and each succulent variety, is different. Knowing what species your succulents are will allow you to provide the optimal care, soil, and watering schedule.
For example, the succulent species String-of-Pearls is known by succulent enthusiasts to be a great winter plant because they are so low maintenance, particularly in winter. This plant thrives in colder conditions and isn’t prone to the same problems as more temperamental plants.
Finding a species of succulents that is capable of thriving in your climate will likely help you attain gardening success with minimal effort. Consult your local nursery if you are unable to identify your species of succulents or for further suggestions about what kind of succulents would be most successful in your home.
A Special Note on Cactus Care
Cacti and traditional succulents are often confused due to their similar look and comparable drought resistant, but cacti are a somewhat distinctive species and require a slightly different approach to certain aspects of their care.
However, the winter watering schedule should remain the same for cacti as it is for other succulents. Cacti should not be watered until the soil is dry. Just like regular succulents, cacti are susceptible to overwatering, and too much water can damage these hardy little plants.