Can succulents live outside? Are succulents able to cope with direct sun? Or frost? What are the ideal conditions for succulents outside? The quick answer is yes; succulents can live outside in the right conditions. Succulents are best suited to outdoor environments with plenty of sunlight, low humidity, low rainfall and well-draining soil.
It is important to note that the light, water and temperature requirements vary among different succulent species, and it’s essential to choose succulent varieties best suited to your local climate.
In some areas, succulents can live outside all year round. In other areas, particularly those with colder winters, your outdoor succulents will need to be protected from cold temperatures and frosts or bought inside during the colder months. High rainfall and high humidity are also challenging outdoor conditions for succulents.
Many succulents are native to desert and semi-arid regions, where they have evolved to survive in dry conditions with soils that are often rocky and low in nutrients. Succulents store water in their leaves, stems, or roots. This allows them to survive in environments where water is scarce, and most succulents are known as drought-tolerant plants.
Having said that, there are range of climates around the world that succulents grow in. These are the main climates where succulents can be found:
- Desert Climates: Many succulents, such as cacti, originate from desert regions with extremely dry conditions. These areas typically have hot temperatures during the day and cooler temperatures at night, with very low rainfall.
- Mediterranean Climates: Succulents types like Aloe and Echeveria are native to Mediterranean regions, which have mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. They thrive in areas with moderate temperatures and seasonal rainfall.
- Mountainous Climates: Certain succulents, such as Sedum and Sempervivum, are found in mountainous regions. These areas may have cooler temperatures and variable rainfall patterns.
You don’t have to mimic the native conditions of your succulent plant exactly, but, if you know what conditions your succulent ideally likes, it gives you an indication of which succulent types will be the easiest to grow and care for in your outdoor space.
So, yes, you can grow your succulents outdoors; you just need to choose those best suited to the conditions they will experience in your garden or outdoor area.
What Is The Best Temperature For Outdoor Succulents?
In general, most succulents will do fine in temperatures between 60 – 85 degrees Fahrenheit (15 – 30 degrees Celsius). If the temperature gets too high or too low for prolonged periods, your succulent may start to experience stress. The specific temperature limits depend on the species. Some succulents are more cold-hardy and can endure freezing temperatures, while others are more sensitive to cold and require protection or milder climates.
If you live in an area with extreme temperatures, it is important to take steps to protect your succulents from the heat or cold.
During the summer, provide them with plenty of shade and water. In the winter, move them indoors or into a greenhouse where they will be protected from the cold.
Certain succulents, like some species of Agave, Sedum, and Sempervivum, are cold-hardy and can withstand freezing temperatures. They can endure temperatures as low as 0°F (-18°C) or even lower, depending on the species.
Echeveria, Crassula, and Kalanchoe, for example, can tolerate temperatures down to around 25 degrees Fahrenheit (-4 degrees Celsius). They may experience some damage or leaf discoloration in freezing temperatures, but can usually recover if the cold exposure is temporary.
While those native to warmer climates, such as certain types of Aloe, Haworthia, and Lithops, typically prefer mild to warm conditions and can be damaged or killed by prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures.
How Much Space Do Outdoor Succulents Need?
Succulents prefer low humidity and plenty of airflow to allow water to evaporate and not sit on the surface of the leaves, stem or soil. You can assist good airflow by allowing some space between each plant and not putting your succulents too tightly packed. Excess water sitting on leaves and soil can lead to bacterial and fungal growth that can damage your succulent.
If you are planting your succulents in the ground, leave them space to grow. Ground cover plants need space to spread. Sempervivum, for example, (pictured below) spreads by producing chicks (baby plants) alongside the parent plant.
While Sedum Adolphii (Golden Glow Sedum) (pictured below) likes to spread as groundcover or as a trailing plant in a hanging basket.
Can Succulents Stand Direct Sunlight
While we think of succulents and cacti as plants well suited to sunlight and hot temperatures, the truth is many can suffer from sunburn and heat stress if subjected to too much direct, harsh sun and very high temperatures.
Most succulents prefer bright, indirect sunlight and welcome some partial shade from harsh midday and afternoon sun.
If you are moving your indoor plants to an outdoor location, be prepared to acclimate them gently as a rapid change in conditions can shock them.
When Should I Water Outdoor Succulents?
Water your outdoor succulents early to mid-morning to allow any water that gets on the leaves and stems to evaporate during the day.
As with potted or indoor succulents, you should always allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again. If your succulents are planted in the ground, check that the top 2 inches (5 cm) of soil is completely dry before watering.
You may not need to water your outdoor succulents if there has been rain recently. However, since you can’t control when the rain falls and how much rain there is, it is essential that your outdoor succulents are in well-draining soil to ensure the roots of your succulent are not sitting in damp conditions for a prolonged period, as this can lead to root rot.
Most succulents will require less water during colder winter months when they tend to go into a dormant or rest period. The same is true of succulents that are summer dormant, such as aeonium, aloe, sedum and senecio.
8 Succulents That Make Great Outdoor Plants
Our list is actually for eight succulent species that thrive outdoors. Within these species, you will find an enormous variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Have fun exploring these varieties when building your outdoor garden. And remember, if your succulent is not cold-hardy, pot it in a container so you can bring it indoors during colder months.
The species are listed in alphabetical order.
Aeoniums, known as tree houseleeks, are beautiful succulents whose leaf arrangements often resemble roses.
Native to East Africa and the Canary Islands, there are over 30 different varieties of aeonium, although this number is boosted by additional cross-breed hybrids.
Aeoniums have spoon-shaped fleshy leaves that can be green, purple, black, or variegated and grow in a rosette formation, with the leaves arranged in a circular pattern around a central stem. Their leaves are thinner and not as plump as some other succulents. They can have tiny teeth along the edges of the leaves.
They have woody stems, and can have multiple branches, leading to their resemblance to small trees and the common name of tree houseleek.
They are drought-tolerant, summer-dormant plants. Aeoniums can be grown in full sun or partial shade in well-drained soil.
Pictured below is Aeonium Arboreum Atropurpureum, Purple Rose, which is planted amongst other aeonium varieties.
For more, read our article, Everything You Need To Know About Aeonium Plants. 8 Popular Aeoniums With Pictures.
Agaves are excellent outdoor succulents. Native to arid and semi-arid regions, such as desert and Mediterranean climates, they are known for their striking rosette-shaped leaves and architectural beauty.
They are drought-tolerant, cope well with full sun and are hardy, low-maintenance plants. They can grow quite large – which is perfect if you have a vacant spot to fill in your garden. Some have sharp points to their leaves so bear that in mind if planting in a high-traffic area that might have people and pets brushing by on a regular basis.
Pictured below is Agave Victoriae Reginae, Queen Victoria Agave. It is a cold-hardy succulent, although not all agaves are. Agaves are winter dormant succulents.
Pictured below, Agave Attenuata, Fox Tail Agave, is a popular garden plant because of its striking architectural form and lack of sharp spines or points.
Crassula is a genus of over 300 succulent plants, most of which are native to southern Africa.
The most well-known type of crassula is the Jade Plant, Crassula Ovata, a popular houseplant due to its easy care requirements. Crassula are hardy plants that can tolerate a range of light conditions from full sun to shade. They are drought-tolerant and do not require much water. Crassula are summer dormant plants. You should reduce watering frequency in both summer and winter.
Pictured below is a Crassula Ovata, Jade Plant, just about to flower with clusters of small, white blooms.
With their beautiful foliage and attractive flowers, crassula adds interest and color to any garden.
If you’re looking for a succulent that can live outdoors, echeverias are a great option. These hardy plants can withstand direct sunlight and heat, making them perfect for rock gardens or as an accent plant.
The key to keeping your Echeveria healthy is to ensure it doesn’t sit in waterlogged soil, so be sure to provide well-draining soil. Echeveria is a winter-dormant succulent, and you should reduce watering during winter.
Pictured below is Echeveria Imbricata, Blue Rose Echeveria, looking stunning after a rain shower.
Haworthia succulents can be grown outdoors. Native to southern Africa, most haworthias have thick, fleshy leaves that store water, making them ideal for growing in dry areas. They tend to grow low and wide, spreading to form ground cover. Haworthia succulents are also known for their low-maintenance care requirements and ability to tolerate neglect.
Most Haworthias prefer bright, indirect light and are best kept partially shaded from the full sun. Haworthia are summer dormant plants and use the time of summer heat as a rest phase. Reduce your watering in both summer and winter.
Pictured below is Haworthia Cymbiformis (Cathedral Window Haworthia) in a rocky, outdoor garden.
Sedums are native to mountainous, rocky regions and thrive in poor soils in rock gardens and hanging baskets. They are easy to care for and require little water. They prefer bright light.
The sedum species is also known as stonecrop, and its fleshy leaves and stems store water, making it drought-tolerant. There are over 300 varieties of sedum, ranging in color, including green, yellow, pink, red, and purple. Many of the succulent varieties have fleshy, bulbous leaves like jelly-beans. The leaves are typically arranged in a rosette pattern around the stem.
Sedum is often used as ground cover, in rock gardens or trailing in hanging baskets because of its tendency to spreads quickly and cover large areas. Sedum is a summer dormant species.
Pictured below is Sedum Morganianum, commonly known as Donkey’s Tail or Lamb’s Tail.
Sempervivum is the perfect succulent for an outdoor garden. Also known as hen and chicks, the sempervivum species is hardy and can withstand extreme weather conditions, including cold weather.
Sempervivum are low-maintenance and drought-tolerant. When planting, use well-draining soil and place the plant in an area with plenty of sunlight. Sempervivum is a winter dormant species and requires watering infrequently (if at all) during the winter months.
The Senecio species covers over 1,000 different plants, all of which grow well outdoors in the right conditions. There are a number of trailing and spreading senecios that are often used as a ground cover or in rock gardens. Native to Southwest Africa, senecios can tolerate full sun and like plenty of bright light. Many senecios have thick, fleshy leaves that are green or blue-green in color and have a powdery coating. Senecios are relatively easy to care for. They are drought-tolerant and do not need much water once established. Senecio plants are summer dormant.
Pictured below is Senecio Mandraliscae, Blue Chalk Sticks, which can spread up to 2 feet (60 cm) along the ground.
Other popular senecios include String of Pearls, String of Dolphins, and Senecio Macroglossus (Wax Ivy).
Other Outdoor Succulents
Of course, there are many other succulents and cacti that thrive outdoors. Here are some other articles you may find useful when choosing the perfect succulent for your outdoor space.
- Best Tall Succulents
- Succulent for Hanging Baskets – Succulents That Trail Or Hang
- Most Popular Flowering Succulents
- What Succulents Can Be Planted Together
- Best Succulents For Full Hot Sun
All succulents can live outside, you just need to pick the right succulent to match your local climate. If you do want to grow a succulent that might not be well-suited to your conditions, you will need to take more care with its watering needs and offer protection in cases of extreme heat or cold snaps. Growing succulents in pots gives you the flexibility to move them to different conditions if neccessary.