The Californian’s Guide to Outdoor Plant and Succulent Care Over Winter

Cooler weather is here, and your outdoor garden succulent care requirements are about to change. During a California winter, we need to take into consideration our weather, as well as the natural life cycles of our plants. You might not have known it, but many of our plants go into a period of dormancy over winter, even if they don’t lose their leaves or change color. It’s kind of like hibernation—it’s a time for your plant to rest so they can charge up for their next growth spurt the following spring. Of course, the opposite also occurs: our extreme summer heat can induce dormancy in some plants, so it’s important to know what’s in your garden in order to provide the necessary care.

Follow this guide to modify your seasonal care routine so that you won’t end up with a garden full of soggy, sad-looking succulents. 

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Should I Water My Succulents in Winter?

Succulents and other plants need significantly less water from November to February, so you’ll definitely want to scale back on this part of your care routine. If we’re having a particularly rainy season, then you might not need to water them at all! Allow the soil to dry completely before watering again, especially if your succulents are in containers. Keep an eye out for signs of overwatered succulents, like mushy, limp, or translucent leaves. 


Outdoor Succulent Care During Dormancy

Another task you can take out of your succulent care routine is fertilizing. Fertilizer will stimulate more growth during dormancy when your plants should be resting instead. That growth will end up being weak and leggy because your plants have not rested sufficiently. Stop fertilizing until March, and then start your fertilizing regime back up to jump-start that gorgeous new spring growth. 

The same goes for pruning your succulents—leave that as part of your spring care routine! Pruning during dormancy can stimulate new growth, so wait until March to remove any dead or damaged parts of your succulents.

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Cold Protection: A Crucial Part of Succulent Care

While December and January are generally pretty mild in California, we can still get hit with a cold snap once in a while. If the forecast calls for overnight frost, spring into action and protect your plants ASAP! You can use landscape fabric or burlap to cover your plants, providing insulation and protection from cold winds. If the soil is dry, water it—this will help the ground to retain more heat. 

Applying a fresh layer of mulch in October will also help conserve heat in the ground for the rest of the cold season. Use a natural mulch like shredded bark—preferably one that doesn’t have any chemical dyes added.

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When to Take Succulents Inside

If it’s looking like we’re going to have a long stretch of cold weather or a super heavy rainstorm, it may be worth bringing your succulents inside if they’re in containers. Just remember to thoroughly debug them first, then keep them somewhere away from your other houseplants to prevent the spread of pests like spider mites and mealybugs. Use a natural insecticide such as insecticidal soap, neem oil, or pyrethrin—that way, you won’t end up introducing a bunch of harsh chemicals into your home space. 


If you have any more questions about succulent care in California, or if you’re having trouble keeping your plants happy over the cold season, feel free to pop into OC Succulents! One of our experts will be happy to share their expertise. 


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