Do Succulents Go Dormant?
by Lynn KirkSep 9, 2021
Yes indeed, most succulent plants go dormant sometime during the year. If you understand what dormancy is, when it is, and why it happens, you’ll know how to respond in ways most beneficial to your plants. Sometimes the best care is minimal care, but please read on for the particulars!
First, what does “dormancy” mean?
Rest and renewal. Biologically and botanically, it’s a temporary time period where the plant:
- Slows its metabolic activities
- Grows less or not at all
- Changes its water needs
- Requires no fertilizer
When do succulents naturally go dormant?
Most succulents go dormant during the winter months when cold temperatures are unsuitable growth (after all, most succulents originated in desert-like places). However, that’s not the case for all succulents.
The natural tendency for succulents to go dormant is based on:
- PLANT CATEGORY. Succulents divide into two categories of dormancy: winter-dormant plants and summer-dormant plants. As you might guess, winter-dormant plants slow down during winter but grow and thrive the other months of the year. Conversely, summer-dormant plants tend to be their best during the winter season.
- PHOTOPERIOD: The amount of light available each day also affects a succulent’s dormancy. As winter approaches, the photoperiod involves shorter days with less hours of light, so winter-dormant plants begin responding by slowing down their life processes.
Can anything else cause a plant to go dormant?
Sure! Stress caused by extreme changes in temperature or water can send plants into a survival mode, a.k.a. dormancy.
Tip: Your indoor succulent plants may not enter a dormant phase if your household temperature and growth light keep conditions about the same year-round.
Why do succulents go dormant?
Most plants go dormant to conserve and store energy for future use, such as spring blooming.
Tip: Never repot a succulent during dormancy. Wait until its active growth season.
What does a dormant succulent look like?
It is not always easy to spot a plant experiencing dormancy. Different succulent species have different signs or no signs at all. However, some succulents are fairly easy to read. For example, an Aeonium’s leaves might close up; another succulent’s leaves might fall off; and a Semperviven might seem shriveled … yet none are dying! Rosette succulents might start to develop bold-colored tips that are delightful to behold, while a sister succulent might seem sickly as it becomes yellow and limp ... yet both are just fine!
What should you do for dormant succulents?
Dormancy does not equate to zero maintenance and care. Continue to maintain your plants and plant beds by removing spent succulents’ blooms and fallen leaves, so as to avoid disease and pests.
Also, continue to water when dormant — but typically at a lesser amount. Avoid sudden changes. Instead, slowly reduce the amount of water given over a month or two … and then reverse the process as the plant becomes more active later in the year.
Tip: Succulents that go dormant in summer just might need more water, especially if outdoor growers! Again, when unsure, contact an expert or google for guidance.
Do cacti go dormant, too?
Once again, it depends on the species. The Thanksgiving cactus and Christmas cactus boast their holiday blooms during winter (hence their names). However, most other cacti are winter-dormant succulents, so they rest during the winter to renew, form buds for flowering, and prepare for their next active growing season.
Tip: Just like houseplants, indoor cacti may not go dormant during the year because their growing environment (light, water, temperature) don’t experience any significant changes.
Are my succulent plants winter-dormant or summer-dormant?
The following chart provides dormancy info on some of the more well-known succulents. But again, conditions make all the difference … so it’s always best to watch and get to know your plants!
Winter-Dormant Succulents. Active growth is mainly during spring, summer, fall for:
Sedum (cold-hardy varieties)
Summer-Dormant Succulents. Active growth is mainly in fall, winter, spring for:
Sedum (non-cold hardy varieties)
One more note: Succulent Market never goes dormant. Its experienced team of growers is always ready to ship your next favorite succulent, right to your doorstep!