The hardiness of Echeveria varies greatly from species to species but none are frost hardy. Some may survive mild frost, but repeated frosts and snow are very likely to kill any Echeveria.
Echeveria is a very popular genus of succulents amongst gardeners and succulent enthusiasts alike. The beautiful rosette arrangement of the leaves creates a visual splendour and can charm any plant lover. Thanks to this, Echeveria can be found in gardens and greenhouses all over the world, even in climates that can kill them.
How cold hardy is Echeveria?
Echeveria should tolerate temperatures down to the freezing point (0C/32F) but once frost starts settling, Echeveria can get burn marks on leaves in mild frosts, but when it freezes over, it will almost certainly die.
Echeveria originally come from dry and arid regions of Central and South America. These regions are quite warm (semi-deserts) and although it can get chilly at night, frosts are unlikely. Because Echeveria are so stunning, they have become a must have plant for succulent collectors and plant enthusiasts all over the world and have been also hybridized heavily. The problem is that some climates are so different to their home environment, it is just not very suitable to grow Echeveria outdoors all year round.
Mild frosts might not kill Echeveria, but they can cause burns from frost. These will manifest as dark, mostly black marks that will not heal. They will, however, grow out in time as the Echeveria produces new leaves.
Our nursery Fern Farm Plants grows Echeveria outdoors all year round, but the climate here is mild with only a very occasional frost of about -2C/28F in winter. To protect Echeveria from frost I simply pull shade-cloth overhead which is good enough for weak frosts. If the frosts were any stronger, the plants would have to go into a plastic greenhouse.
Cold weather stresses Echeveria into displaying their best colours and so keeping these plants in the cold (but not frost) will encourage some spectacular displays. Cold is very unlikely to kill or have any adverse effects on Echeveria.
Can you save Echeveria damaged by frost?
Whether Echeveria can be saved after it has been damaged by frost depends on how bad the damage is. If it’s only burns, then yes, it should still be possible to save the plant. If the frost has gone into the stalk, it is likely the Echeveria will collapse and rot.
Once frost has gone past the leaves and damaged the stalk and roots, it is highly unlikely that Echeveria can be saved. Frost will have the same effect as rot, collapsing the plant and making parts of it mushy.
If the frost has only burned some of the leaves, the plant can be saved. The leaves will not fix themselves but on the whole, the plant will slowly grow out of its damage. If the burns are extensive the Echeveria can be ‘be-headed’ (see our guide on be-heading Echeveria & other succulents). Do not do this straight away. It is best to wait until spring as most Echeveria are dormant in winter and more damage than good can be done.
When only a couple of leaves have been damaged by frost they can be simply pulled off. The plant will eventually correct its growth and in a few months’ time you won’t even know the plant has been burned.
How do you care for Echeveria in cold climates?
When temperatures are expected to dip below the freezing point Echeveria will need to be protected by either frost cloth (if the frost is not going to be strong) or by bringing it indoors/in a greenhouse for the duration of frosty weather.
Unfortunately, Echeveria are not too happy indoors either and their stay inside of the house should be limited to minimum. They will also need a sunny windowsill/ a bit of a helping hand from plant growing lights to not deteriorate. The light indoors is just not good enough for Echeveria (unless you have an extremely large window or a sunroom. We have another article on Echeveria inside the house too.
As mentioned above, Echeveria will tolerate temperatures down to the freezing, but as soon as frost starts forming, damage can happen.
Another thing about many Echeveria (especially hybrids such as Romeo, Lauii etc) is that they are not too keen on too much rain and prefer to stay completely dry out before watering again. Many cold climate countries tend to experience increased rainfall during autumn and winter, so this something to protect Echeveria from.
Although this is not all Echeveria and it would be difficult to try name all the varieties that are very sensitive to rain, many can suffer prolonged, cold, rainy spells.
Which Echeveria-like succulents are frost hardy?
Although most succulents are not frost hardy there are some that will survive frost and snow. Sempervivum are incredibly tough plants that form rosettes and come in a great array of colours. They make a great substitute for Echeveria in cold climate gardens.
Although Sempervivum are not as chubby and attractive as Echeveria, they can be a fantastic substitute in cold climates. Sempervivum are tough, not as sensitive to rain as Echeveria and somewhat look similar thanks to their pretty rosettes and pups forming at the base, creating clumps.
Sempervivum also come in different colours and look great in pots and garden alike.
Orostachys is another genus of succulents with a rosette forming leaf arrangement that will survive frosts and even a blanket of snow. These plants are native to mountainous regions and go deeply dormant in winter, looking quite dead the colder it gets. But once spring comes along, Orostachys grow fast.
We have a more comprehensive article on succulents and frost, along with a list of succulent genera that are frost hardy.
To conclude Echeveria will almost certainly not survive deeper and prolonged frosts. Because of this in cold climates with cold winters and snow, it is not advisable to plant Echeveria in the ground, but rather in pots so they can be moved indoors for the duration of frosty temperatures.
Echeveria are not great indoor plants and so the time inside should be limited to a minimum. Plant growing lights can help greatly with overwintering Echeveria.
There are frost tolerant succulents slightly similar to Echeveria that would make a good substitute in the garden.