Can Succulents Live Outside?
by Succulent MarketJan 22, 2021
When it comes to succulents, one of the most frequently asked questions is “can succulents live outside?” The short answer is yes they can, but there are a few important factors to consider: light, water, temperature and soil.
Why are they so important you ask? Because if they aren’t taken seriously, your succulents may burn, rot, or freeze outside.
So, to prevent this from happening in your garden, read on to learn more about each of these four factors.
How much light your succulent needs to live outside depends on its species. The general rule is that they can tolerate a lot of it. For example, most Echeverias, Crassulas, and Aeoniums grow best when they get 50% of shade a day. But even so, these succulents and many others can thrive in direct sunlight outside.
Now, before you expose your succulents to live outside in direct sunlight for the first time, you must first acclimate them to these conditions. Use growers or shade cloth to help. Cover the succulent for half of the day to start. After a week, cover it for a quarter of the day. The week after, you can then expose the plant to direct sunlight for the entire day.
As you're acclimating the succulent to living outside, it’s critical that it doesn’t burn. You won’t know what it can tolerate straight away though, so you’ve got to feel it out. If the tips start to wither or look red, then it’s burning. If this does happen, just place your shade cloth over it for longer.
Of course, just because most succulents can tolerate the sun, that doesn’t mean that they all love being in it. Some species like Haworthia and Peperomia actually prefer to be in the shade. These types of succulents can still live outside; just ensure that they’re kept out of the sun for as long as possible. If you don’t, then it’s very likely that the plant will burn. Again, signs of burning are withering and the tips of its leaves turning red.
The next important thing to consider when growing a succulent outside is watering frequency. Think about your climate’s rain pattern. Succulents living outside don’t like being watered often, so if you live in an area that gets a lot of rain, then you should ensure that it’s protected from the weather.
The reason is that succulents’ roots will rot in waterlogged soil, or at least inhibit its growth. Contrary to other plants, succulents actually thrive off of stress. They grow at their best when they are starved of the vital nutrients that other plants crave.
Succulents only need watering once a week at most. Even this can be too much for some species, so in a rainy climate, it’s very unlikely that the succulent will go through prolonged stress periods.
Similar to rainy climates, succulents won’t grow to their full potential in humid climates. The same logic in rainy environments applies to humid ones. Succulents need dry climates to feel stressed, but this cannot occur in high humidity.
That said, there are some exceptions to the rule. For example, Haworthias can withstand humid climates.
Next up is temperature. The minimum temperature that a succulent needs to live outside is 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Exposing a succulent to temperatures under this threshold is similar to giving it a death sentence.
Succulents hold a lot of water within their stems and leaves. When the temperature drops below 30 degrees, the water within the plant freezes up, causing the plant to freeze from within. As such, many succulents living outside cannot survive the winter.
Again, there are some exceptions. For example, sempervivums are very winter hardy succulents, but just note that most other succulents will not survive in low temperatures.
If you live in a climate that regularly drops below freezing, it’s probably not a great idea to grow a succulent outside.
This isn’t as important as the above factors, but it’s still important nevertheless. Make sure to grow your succulent living outside in well-draining soil. The reason follows on from the notes about watering earlier; it prevents the roots from bathing in water all day long which leads to rotting.
The simple solution is to grab some specialist succulent soil from the store. If you plan on using regular soil though, make sure to add perlite to help with drainage.