En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
1 rating

Sunday - September 09, 2012

From: Bethlehem, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Cacti and Succulents
Title: Winter care of succulents from Bethlehem PA
Answered by: Barbara Medford


We live in the northeast and we used succulents on our deck this summer because nothing else would survive the intense heat. How can I save these beautiful plants through a cold winter? Thank you.


Bring them in the house. Actually, that answer can vary according to the type of succulent and the amount of outside protection you can give the plant. There are literally hundreds of types of succulents, so you need to follow some links we are going to give you and plan accordingly. This particular member of the Mr. Smarty Plants Team also has only succulents, in pots, but they are all on a 6 x 12 concrete porch which gets a lot of sun in the winter and mostly late afternoon sun in the summer. Of course, this in Central Texas, Zone 8b, where succulents truly belong. But we would always recommend that you stay with plant size that can be grown in a container that you can move into a sunny window or even a garage, if that's the best you can do. The succulents can get along with less sun than you would think they could, but they can't tolerate hard freezes. Please read our How-To Article on Container Gardening with Native Plants. You will probably not find many succulents native to Pennsylvania, but the general principles still apply.

Now for some resources on succulents in a cold climate:

Danny Lipford Expert Advice on Home Improvement, "Ask Julie," Winter Care of Succulents.

eHow.Home How to Care for Succulent Plants in the Winter

gardenguides.com How to Care for Succulent Plants in the Winter

The Succulent Garden Succulent Cultivation

Ordinarily, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Smarty Plants recommends not only plants native to North America, but to the area where they are being grown, so we searched on our Native Plant Database for succulents native to Pennsylvania and found exactly two:

Opuntia humifusa (Devil's-tongue)

Yucca filamentosa (Adam's needle)

Probably the succulents you have are not only not native to Pennsylvania but not native to North America, so we can't help you with specific plants very much. Some may not be worth the extra trouble; if some are too big to get into the house, you will just have to let them take their chances outside. If they live, great. If they die, write it off to experience and don't get that one again.


From the Image Gallery

Low prickly pear
Opuntia humifusa

Adam's needle
Yucca filamentosa

More Cacti and Succulents Questions

How to prune Opuntia ellisiana in Decatur, GA.
August 20, 2009 - Hi Mr SP--How do I go about pruning an Opuntia ellisiana? I have saws, newspaper, heavy leather gloves, goggles, etc. But my question is more about what section of the plant to cut. The base has de...
view the full question and answer

Will the blooming stalk of my century plant eventually tip over? Yes
June 24, 2009 - I have a century plant in bloom. Will the stalk eventually tip over? Would appreciate any Internet references on the subject.
view the full question and answer

Removal of pups from Century Plant after blooming in Prairieville LA
October 03, 2009 - Will the main part of the century plant always die after it grows a stalk? I have babies coming off the base and need to know if I should separate them to keep them alive.
view the full question and answer

Information about ice plant (Carpobrotus edulis)
May 06, 2008 - I recently planted some Carpobrotus edulis, Ice plant, and wanted to know if I can mulch or put stones around the entire garden and plants. They are a ground cover plant.
view the full question and answer

Plants for erosion control in Pittsburgh, PA
August 22, 2009 - I have a terraced high side lot(front of house). I currently have Yuccas growing, but they are too invasive. Can you suggest plants, shrubs, or ground covers that are not as invasive and will still ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center