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Can Succulents Live Outside?

Succulents store water in their thick, uniquely shaped leaves, making them drought-tolerant plants. Succulents come in a wide array of interesting shapes and textures, which add visual interest to any landscape. A common question is can succulents live outside? The short answer is yes! They thrive in sunny locations with warm, dry climates and can tolerate some neglect, so growing succulents outdoors is a great option.

Grow succulents in-ground, in pots, or tuck them away in unexpected planting spots. Check out our tips for growing succulents outdoors and take the guesswork out of caring for these great conversation pieces with spectacular foliage.

Planting succulents into a clay pot.

Planting Succulents Outside

The Best Soil for Planting Succulents Outside

Planting succulents in an optimal soil composition will boost the health of the plant. Succulents have shallow root systems and prefer soil that well-draining. Plant succulents in a loose, rocky soil that is nutrient-rich for best results.

If planting in containers, use a potting mix specifically formulated for succulents and cacti and plant in a pot with holes in the bottom for drainage.

They grow well in slightly acidic soil that hovers around 6.0 to 6.5 on the pH scale. Alkaline soil has the potential to cause the demise of succulent plants.

Outdoor Succulent Light and Temperature Needs

  • Succulents grow well in full sun conditions. Sunlight makes for happy succulents that exude health through their plump and colorful leaves.
  • Too little sunlight will cause succulents to reach awkwardly for sunlight, resulting in spindly, blanched, and unbalanced plants.
  • Hardy succulent varieties can be overwintered in their containers or in-ground as long as the soil remains well-drained and there is some protection from harsh conditions and extreme dips in temperature.
  • More tender succulent varieties are not as hardy in the colder growing zones. It’s best to bring them indoors during the winter months and place them in a sunny window, preferably one that faces south. You can also place them under indoor grow lights to assist their growth through the chilly days of winter.
Outdoor succulent garden with multiple types of cacti and succulents.

Succulent Care Outdoors

Watering Outdoor Succulents

One of the biggest mistakes that people make when watering succulents is overwatering. The word ‘succulent’ is derived from the Latin root sucus, which means sap or moisture, so water is crucial for these plants. Use these helpful tidbits to guide you on how to water them while growing succulents outside.

  • Reduce watering during fall and winter months so that succulents can survive cold temperatures.
  • Saturated soil makes succulents more vulnerable to frost damage during the winter months.
  • During the growing season, water more deeply, but less frequently.
  • Saturate the potting mix thoroughly, allowing the water to drain through fully.
  • Then let the mixture dry out a bit before the next watering.
  • Watering about once per week keeps the roots plump and leaves full for your succulents.
  • Try to keep your plants on the dry side.
  • If the plant starts to look gangly or the leaves begin to wither, test the soil with your fingertip, and if it is dried, provide water more often.
  • Too much moisture in poorly draining soil can cause root rot and eventually the entire plant’s demise.

Fertilizing Outdoor Succulents

Many people think that since succulents can handle a bit of neglect that they don’t require fertilizing. But like most containerized plants, many succulents can benefit from a nutrient-rich feeding routine. For optimal growth, apply the fertilizer in spring as new growth emerges and once again in fall.

String of pearls succulent plant hanging in a greenhouse.

Planting Succulents Outside: Container vs. In-Ground

Now that you know the answer to the “can succulents live outside?” question is yes. We look at the best way to plant succulents outside. Succulent plants can benefit from container planting. Planting in pots showcases their prominent and unique foliage and allows gardeners to move their location when growing conditions are not optimal. Too much heat or too much rain can cause problems for succulent plants, so a container’s mobility provides plants with much-needed protection from the elements.

However, if you live in a warm climate year-round, you may want to plant your succulents in your garden bed directly. When planting succulents in-ground, always provide them with well-draining soil to ward off root rot.

In-ground doesn’t always translate to in the garden bed. You’ll often find succulent plants uniquely tucked into cracks and crevices.

  • Add them in unlikely spots like in stone walls
  • Nestled between patio pavers
  • Or as visual interest accents in rock gardens.

Recommended Outdoor Succulent Varieties

There are many varieties of succulents within each family of plants. So many, in fact, that you may not even realize that they are in the same succulent plant family. This makes things fun when growing succulents outdoors because you can add so much diversity to the garden without having to drastically alter the care you give them.

Check out some of these outdoor succulents that are sure to make an impression and will thrive in any outdoor space.

  •  ‘Sedums’ are a perennial succulent favorite and are hardy enough to be planted in-ground and go through a winter months’ dormancy period, growing back bigger and self-propagating in other spots in the garden for the next year.
  • ‘Hens and Chicks’ are cold-hardy and can survive some of the coldest winters. These cold-hardy succulents perform well all year round when planted in the ground outdoors.
  • ‘Echeveria’ is easy to care for outdoors and thrives particularly well in containers or warm and friendly garden beds.
  • ‘Agave’ can be grown outdoors year-round but require frost protection if cold weather threatens. Agave plants thrive in full sun to partial shade.
  • ‘Graptopetalum’ thrives in full sun with light shade. They produce florets of plump leaves and are extremely drought tolerant. Well-draining soil is a must for these showstoppers.

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Succulents with text '6 tips outdoor succulents'
A hanging pot with succulents

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