Techniques for protecting perennial cacti and succulents during winter

Protecting certain succulents and cacti helps keep them from getting scarred due to cold weather. This protection additionally allows for quicker recovery and faster growth in the spring.

 A topdressing of stone in your garden can help insulate your succulents 

  • Darker stone helps inflate ground temperatures on cold winter days and assists in retaining more heat on cold winter nights 
  • Black lava rock and other dark colored stones are great options for USDA Zones 5 and 6
  • Using brown, red, or other lighter colored stones are great alternatives to keep unbearable temperatures in your rock garden down during the day for USDA Zones 7 and up (black stone can be used and won’t harm the plants)

Mulch can be used in place of stone

  • Be sure to spread no thicker than an inch around succulents and cacti
  • Spreading too thick will hold excess moisture in and potentially rot the succulent or cacti

Clear plastic containers are an excellent wintertime protection method that we widely use on smaller plants

  • They help boost the ground temperature during the day by as much as 20°F
  • They are very good at keeping precipitation off of succulents. Precipitation during the winter months is typically not beneficial for many borderline succulents; even though there are numerous varieties that are moisture tolerant.
  • Make sure to measure your succulents before going to purchase containers! Any foliage that touches the plastic will burn the foliage and eventually may cause the plant to die. 
  • These containers act as small cold frame when there is a half-inch to an inch wide hole cut on each side of the container.
  • It is extremely important to not cut any holes on the bottom of the container. This is because when you flip the container over to cover your plant,water will then be able to come in through the top causing possible root rot due to potential issues with airflow and excess moisture. 
  • Propping the east facing side of the container one to two inches with a small rock helps with airflow as this helps keep the plant dry since most weather comes out of the west.
  • Stick a brick or something small but heavy on top of the container to keep it from blowing away.
  • The container should be removed when temperatures begin warming up in early spring.

Frost cloth or frost blanket is used to protect larger succulents and cacti where containers are just too small  

  • Helps keep cold winter wind and precipitation off succulents
  • When wrapping taller succulents with frost cloth start at the top and work your way down
  • Nails are an excellent way to pin the frost cloth in place
  • Can be removed in the early spring when temperatures begin to warm up
  • Often found at local nurseries, home improvement stores, and online independent nursery suppliers

 Christmas Lights

  • Great option for exceptionally cold nights or days when the temperature is under 10°F
  • Can be laid around the succulents, on top of stone or mulch, or used in combination with clear plastic containers or frost cloth
  • Heat is held in by the container or frost cloth and this can boost the air temperature by at least 10°F