Succulents are a stylish, trendy way to add to your outdoor landscaping. Succulents are widely acknowledged to be very low-maintenance. But, as with any plant, they do require specific care, and there are things you need to keep in mind if you want to plant them outdoors.
For all outdoor succulents, it is essential to consider where you want to put them. Certain types do better in low sunlight, and others do better with higher sunlight, so do your research to determine what is best for your region. You will want to be sure your outdoor succulents are not overwatered and are in adequately draining soil to keep them healthy. Fertilize them in the spring as they enter into their growing season and in the fall. They are not likely to be susceptible to pests, but you can always spray them and keep them pruned to prevent potential pests from bothering them.
With so many colors, shapes, and sizes, succulents are a great way to add to your outdoor foliage. Keep reading for 11 tips on what to keep in mind and how to keep your outdoor succulents healthy.
Tips for Growing Succulents Outdoors
Succulents are low-maintenance plants, but this does not mean that they require no care. It is essential to keep in mind their general needs before planting them anywhere outdoors. Follow the below tips as you consider incorporating succulents into your garden or landscaping, and you will reap the benefits of a low-maintenance, unique look for years to come.
Tip #1 How to Use Succulents Outdoors
Depending on the climate where you live, you have several options for how to use succulents outdoors. Let’s review some of them below.
Succulents can work well in containers on your patio, in hanging baskets, or in planters that you can spread about your landscape. This portability is ideal for areas where they cannot handle the temperatures at specific points throughout the year. This moveability allows you to bring them indoors during colder months.
You can also get creative and mix up your landscaping layout, trying different things without constantly replanting the succulents and causing them stress.
Several succulents work beautifully as container succulents: Aeonium (Aeonium spp.), Donkey Tail (Sedum morganianum), ghost plant (Graptopetalum spp.), and stonecrop (Sedum spp.) are just a few.
You can plant them individually in a planter to let them grow. Or you can combine several succulents to make a visually exciting display.
If planting several succulents in one container, consider the watering and sun requirements of those you are putting together. It is best to put succulents with similar care requirements together to ensure they receive the proper care.
Outdoor Succulent Garden
If your soil and climate are right (more on that below), you can also make an outdoor succulent garden. Enhance your yard by planting your succulents in a raised bed or portion of your lawn.
But do not combine them with your regular garden. Your garden plants will have vastly different watering requirements. As with container gardens, be sure to plant succulents with similar care needs together to help ensure that they receive proper care.
Landscaping with Succulents
If you want to extend beyond containers or a succulent garden, you can also integrate succulents into your landscaping at large.
Mix stones and pebbles among your succulents for visual appeal or to create little paths and walkways. Start small if you are a beginner, and give yourself room to grow.
In some areas where fires are common, succulents are even used as protection in landscaping. They minimize the speed at which fire can spread because many are fire-resistant. The water that is in their leaves makes them resilient to inflammation.
When used as fire resistance, succulents can be planted around the perimeter of the yard. This barrier does not eliminate the chance of a home catching fire, but it can serve as a protective measure by delaying the spread of the flames toward a home.
Some firewise plants include Aloe, Optunia (paddle cactus), aeoniums, crassulas, or euphorbia tirucalli (sticks on fire) are just a few.
But a fire barrier is not the only reason to plant your succulents as a part of your landscaping. They are a visually exciting and low-maintenance way to add colors and texture to your entire yard.
Tip #2 Check Your Temperature Zone
Take note of where you live and how cold your fall and winters get. Most succulents can handle a range of temperatures, but very few can handle consistent freezing environments.
If you live in a climate that is warm all year round, that may be more conducive to creating a full succulent garden in your yard.
If you live in an area with freezing winters, consider planting your succulents in containers that can be brought closer to the house for protection during the cooler months.
In some areas, they may need to be carried entirely indoors or into a greenhouse when the temperatures are below freezing.
If you are looking for cold-hardy succulents, consider planting the below:
- Sedum – This will die in the winter but will grow back in the spring. There are many varieties to choose from, as well.
- Spring Beauty Sempervivum – This succulent can handle temperatures up to negative 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Several Sempervivum varieties are cold-hardy.
- Kamchatka Stonecrop – It can grow in Siberia. That’s how resilient it is.
- Prometheum chrysanthemum – This succulent is cold hardy up to negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Tip #3 Pick the Right Location
After deciding whether you will plant container succulents or create a garden of succulents, choose where you want to grow them.
If you already have succulents that you are looking to plant, read up on how much sunlight that variety prefers.
Most succulents prefer a lot of sunlight – at least six hours each day. If they do not get it, they tend to become leggy and misshapen as they lean toward sunlight. Additionally, for many, their colors are enhanced in proper sunlight.
However, some varieties fade in too much and can be scorched under excessive exposure to the sun. If you already have succulent plants you are transplanting, make sure you choose the right location for the variety you have.
If you do not already have plants, make sure you select the suitable type for the area(s) you want to plant in.
Tip #4 Select Proper Soil Conditions
Optimal soil conditions for your succulents to thrive outdoor include well-draining soil. Succulents have shallow root systems that can quickly become waterlogged.
If you are planting your succulents in a garden or direct to earth, prepare loose soil. Consider mixing existing soil with gravel or pebbles to help with drainage.
You can mix your soil using the parameters above if you are planting in a container or simply choose a soil mix explicitly crafted for succulents. Of course, be sure your container has a drainage hole, as well, to ensure that the soil does not become overly wet.
Tip #5 Consider the Rain When Growing Succulents Outdoor
Succulents most often die because of overwatering. During the active growing season, they do better with slightly more regular watering. But they still prefer to dry out thoroughly between watering.
If you live in an area with frequent rainfall (more than a couple of times a week, depending on how hot your region is), you may need to consider using containers for your succulents so that you can pull them out of the rain periodically.
In general, less water is safer when it comes to your succulents.
If you want to learn more about watering your patio-covered succulents or indoor succulents, read about it in our guide, how to water succulents.
Tip #6 Plant Early in the Year
When starting new outdoor succulents, be sure to plant as early as possible in the growing season. This will help your succulents establish themselves before the cooler months arrive.
Many succulents are cold-hardy, but some may need protection the first year if they have not had enough time to establish themselves.
If you plan to keep your succulents outdoors, be prepared to protect them from frost that first year, even if you have chosen cold-hardy varieties.
Tip #7 Give Them Space
When planting your succulents, be sure to give them space to grow and breathe. Some succulents, like Porticulara Afra, can grow up to several feet, so if you are landscaping with them, be sure you have plenty of room.
This is also true of your succulent garden or your container plants, depending on the varieties you have.
A good rule of thumb is at least one inch between plants in a container garden. Try to allow for more than that in a more extensive garden to encourage the succulents to take up more space.
Tip #8 Plant Your Outdoor Succulents Strategically
It is essential to give your succulents space to grow, but it is just as important to think of how they grow. When planning your succulent pot/garden, place your upright, taller growing succulents near the center and the spreading, ground cover succulents around the edges.
This will help ensure that all succulents are receiving the best/most light possible. It can also be a fun way to experiment with different shapes and sizes to create beautiful arrangements.
Tip # 9 Spray to Prevent Pests
Spray your outdoor succulents with insecticidal soap or neem oil to prevent pests.
While succulents are generally not prone to many pests, outdoor succulents can be more susceptible to mealybugs. Mealybugs are tiny insects that suck the moisture from your succulents. They are small and white and can be identified from their cottony white sacs of eggs.
As soon as you identify mealybugs, immediately remove the infected area. If the whole plant is infected, it is best to get rid of the entire plant before the infestation spreads.
You can try to spray the mealybugs directly, as well, with 70% isopropyl alcohol, which will kill them instantly.
Another way to prevent mealybugs is to be sure that your succulent soil is well-draining. Mealybugs are attracted to moist environments.
Tip # 10 Fertilize Them
If conditions are right, outdoor succulents do not often require fertilization. However, if done correctly and sparingly, it can encourage growth for your succulents.
When you fertilize your succulents, do it in the spring to encourage growth right before their growing season begins.
You can fertilize your succulents in the fall, as well, right before it gets cold.
Avoid fertilizing them more than twice in the year. Excess fertilization can promote too much growth too quickly, creating weak stems and brittle leaves.
Tip # 11 Get Creative When Growing Succulents Outdoor
Do not be afraid to get creative with your outdoor succulents, whether you are using them in landscaping, a garden, or a container plant.
If you are using containers, consider creating a succulent wall or utilizing a unique planter. You might also try propagating them in rocky areas of your landscaping or other cracks and crevices, like a brick wall or stones.
When planting succulents – whether in landscaping or containers- the possibilities are endless. Experiment with different varieties, colors, and textures, and you will soon have an exciting display of low-maintenance, high-appeal plants.
There are so many different ways to grow and display your succulents. Have fun experimenting with what works best in your space and region.
Extra Recommendations for Growing Succulents Outdoors
There are so many different succulents; it can be challenging to decide which kind to incorporate into your outdoor space. Below are some recommendations of hardy, attractive succulents that can fare well in a more diverse mix of climates and uses.
Sedums are exceptionally hardy succulents that can tolerate a variety of harsh conditions. Because of this, they make great options for both container plants and gardens. They can tolerate freezing temperatures as well as heat and drought.
Sedum is a large genus of succulents, so you have many different options to choose from, as well. Consider the below:
- “Lime twister” sedum
- “Red carpet” sedum
- “Vodoo” sedum
- “Turquoise tails” sedum
Hens and Chicks
Hens and chicks are the Sempervivum group of succulent plants and are commonly called “houseleeks.” They like temperate weather, but when they experience extreme weather conditions, they will go into dormancy and stop growing.
This flexibility makes them an excellent option for some more unpredictable climates.
Dudleya grows in a flower-like pattern. Some varieties are covered with a white powder, which is best kept on. For this reason, they are better options for container plants that can be kept under the protection of a patio.
These succulents are especially drought-hardy. In their natural habitat, they are often found growing at an angle on hills or in ridges.
This smaller succulent can tolerate a range of watering. It can also survive in less sunny areas, so this is an excellent option if you are planting succulents in a place that may not receive as much sunlight as some succulents might prefer.
They also form flowers, so they are especially attractive in container gardens.
Portulacaria Afra is not cold hardy, but it can survive in warmer, dryer temperatures. It is even considered a “firewise” crop, meaning that it can offer a layer of protection against fire due to how much water is held in its leaves.
This succulent can grow several feet in height, making a good groundcover plant for larger landscaping ideas.
Agave grows with large, sword-shaped leaves. It can grow quite large when planted with plenty of space, making it an eye-catching landscaping plant. Some varieties like the Neomexicana and Havardiana are extremely cold-hardy, surviving temperatures up to negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
There are many ways to incorporate succulents into your outdoor mix of plants. Do your research on succulents that work best in your region, take care that they have proper soil, water, and sunlight, and you should have no problem keeping them healthy outdoors.
If you are interested in learning more about caring for succulents, check out our expert guide to grow and care for succulents.
Let us know how you’ve used your succulents outdoors in the comments below. If you have any questions, you can drop them there too! We’re excited to hear from you.