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Can Succulents Grow Outdoors?

Updated: Feb 2

There are tens of thousands of different succulent species and varieties out there and the number keeps growing as new plants are being created by growers every year. Thanks to globalization succulents endemic to one part of the world are being grown world wide and sometimes the conditions can be very different to their home environment- dessert succulents grown in cold climates, for instance.

Succulents can also have very different needs- some like lots of sun and some prefer a shady spot. The rain, too, worry a lot of succulent enthusiast. So is it safe to grow succulents outside?

The majority of succulents can and grow better outside and most will often struggle indoors ,especially, the sun-lovers. However, there are circumstances when succulents will need to be sheltered and cannot grow outside.

Below i will look at scenarios when succulents will need to be sheltered and protected from the elements.

Can succulents grow outside in winter?

Most succulents can't grow outside in countries with harsh winters as, apart from a few species like Sempervivum or some Sedum, succulents are not frost hardy. The water in the leaves freezes and the whole plant collapses into mush if exposed to frost for too long. Short exposure to frost is like to leave burn marks on leaves.

In cold climates succulents will need to be brought indoors or in a greenhouse in order to survive the freezing temperatures. Our nursery grows 95% of our succulents outdoors all year round but the temperature rarely drops below 1C (33.8F).

Can succulents grow outside in tropical climates?

Some succulents also have hard time surviving in humid environments and so may need to be sheltered from the rain. Although, those succulents that need the sun to grow well will still need to stay outdoors on a covered, sunny veranda or in a greenhouse where watering can be controlled.

High humidity is not succulents' best friend and may cause fungal diseases such as mildew, black or brown spots and rot.

The majority of succulents come from dry, arid parts of the world (with the exception of jungle cacti or Rhipsalis) and do not cope well in tropical climates.

When watering is controlled and succulents are not rained on in humid environments, they stand a chance. But if they are constantly wet, succulents will struggle. Many succulent species will not survive even if they are sheltered and have their roots dry.

Can succulents grow outdoors in the rain?

While most succulents will happily grow outdoors even when it rains, there are succulents that can be a little too sensitive to the rain and water in general. The ones that immediately spring to mind are Echeveria Romeo, Echeveria Lauii and many Cotyledon species. However, there are more.

These plants will need to be sheltered from the rain and only watered when the potting mix has completely dried out, though they will also need lots of very bright light. Again, a covered veranda or a greenhouse may be needed to grow water sensitive types.

If you're growing succulents outdoors they should be planted in well draining succulent potting mix, in pots with a drainage hole. If the water can easily escape the pot, succulents should cope even during rainy spells.

In the garden, never plant in flood areas or where water pools after heavy rain. A slope or a raised garden is best for succulents.

To conclude most succulents will need to be grown outdoors to keep their shape and colours. Sun loving succulents will likely eventually die if grown indoors but there are shade-tolerant succulents such as Haworthia, Gasteria, Sansevieria that will survive inside. For those in cold climates with frosts and snow, overwintering plants indoors or in a greenhouse is a must. Water sensitive plants will need to be kept under cover in tropical parts of the world or if it rains too much.

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