Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

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?

Share

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
2 ratings

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

QUESTION:

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.

ANSWER:

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

Blue agave with freeze damage in Lockhart TX
March 16, 2011 - I recently planted a blue agave plant, and 4 days after I planted it the temperature dropped to 20 degrees at night. The plants are still alive but 75% of the outer limbs turned brown. What do I do wi...
view the full question and answer

Damage to yucca in San Marcos TX
October 18, 2010 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, thank you for helping me with my buffalo grass is San Marcos TX back in the spring, my lawn is gorgeous thanks to you! I really need your help as someone sabotaged my beauti...
view the full question and answer

Century plant leaves yellowing from Magnolia TX
July 04, 2013 - The leaves on my large Agave/Century plant are turning yellow. The bottom leaves, touching the ground are dying. Plant is 5.5" tall, 6" across & approx 10 yrs old. Recently we put red mulch around t...
view the full question and answer

Problems with claret cup cactus in Austin
April 07, 2012 - I have a claret cup cactus in a terra-cotta pot that bloomed beautifully a few years ago but hasn't since. This year, it set about a dozen buds and looked poised to bloom like crazy, but two weeks la...
view the full question and answer

Ravaged by snails
May 23, 2007 - Our Prickly Pear Cactus is being completely ravaged by snails. Is there something in my yard that could be attracting them? Is there something I can do to keep them off the plant? Also is is safe to...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.