Updated/Fact-Chacked on June 28, 2023 by Gareth James
Most people grow succulents indoors, but adventurous gardeners can plant outdoor succulents; they look great in a rock garden setting and add an exotic feel to an area.
Gardeners with outdoor succulents will often bring them in over winter, but you can find succulent varieties that are winter-hardy. In this article, I will give you the best winter-hardy succulents that will likely survive cold UK winters – unless things get exceptionally cold (-15 to -30 degrees), it can happen. These are great for adding winter interest to a garden, along with evergreen perennials.
Best Hardy Outdoor Succulents for UK Cold weather
The best outdoor succulents for cold UK winters are the following:
Agave (commonly named Century Plant) is a succulent plant native to Mexico, so loves warm climates such as the desert. However, Agave can grow in colder weather and survive the UK winters.
The Agave plant has spiky leaves with sharp edges, which makes it a popular choice for colder climates where temperatures can drop below zero degrees.
Agaves can actually flower too, but this process can take up to 50 years – you may not witness it in your lifetime!
The best types of cold-hardy agave are:
Agave Parryi is a type of succulent with remarkable cold hardiness. They come in several varieties, including greyish blue-green leaves and contrasting edges that often have maroon or dark brown colouration at the tips.
Mature plants grow up to 3ft tall (90 cm) while remaining incredibly resilient; they can even survive below-freezing temperatures!
Agave Palmeri is one of the largest agaves found in this country. Their blue-green leaves can grow up to 4 ft (120cm) long with spiky reddish edges and sharp spikes at their ends that make them look like an assortment box full of oranges.
Usually solitary but may be cultivated for landscaping purposes if grown correctly; it usually keeps its form after cultivation unless it’s cut back often, which results in new growth points along the stem then becoming broomlike because newly formed roots will take over where old ones were pruned off.
Euphorbias are one of the most popular succulents to grow in colder climates. They come in many different shapes, sizes, and colours, making them an excellent choice for landscaping.
Most Euphorbias are extremely hardy plants that can withstand temperatures as low as -20°C. This means that if you live in a colder region, Euphorbias can survive the winter for you while remaining green and beautiful.
The best type of cold, hardy Euphorbias are:
The Euphorbia anoplia plant is a frequently grown ornamental species of the succulents family. This outdoor succulent has bright green columns with prominently variegated banding and grows up to 10 inches tall (23 cm). It forms 5 – 8 vertical ribs on each side; these can reach 11 inches or more in length.
The flowers are maroon/purple colours that appear in the inflorescence axis during springtime from March through May when crossed by frosty weather conditions such as nights below freezing but not freezer levels (-10F/-12C ).
Royle’s Spurge, also known as euphorbia royleanna, is a herb that can be found growing in the Himalayan mountains. The cactus-like plant gets its name from one of its common aliases, “Royle’s spur,” referring to Dublin botanist Dr William Robert “Willy” Roye (1895). They grow mostly between 3 feet tall and 5 ft (1 m) tall with short needles along their stems.
This type of Euphorbias needs full sun but won’t fare well if exposed to too much water or humidity. It uses very little nutrients, so once established, there should never be additional feeding unless planted elsewhere near pollution sources like roadsides that create runoff into lakes and oceans.
Sempervivums are also known as houseleeks, a type of succulents that can grow in colder climates. They form rosettes in various colours: green, silver or red.
Sempervivums are some of the easiest types of succulents to grow because they are extremely hardy. If you live in a colder region, this plant can survive the winter for you.
The best type of cold-hardy Sempervivum are:
Sempervivum Red Lion
Sempervivum Red Lion is a succulent that can be grown in containers and lives well in very cold temperatures. This plant would make an excellent choice for outdoor gardens, as it resists freeze-thaw cycles better than other plants – ensuring you get year-round greenery!
The hardiness rating of this plant is H7 (colder than -20 degrees C), as long as frost does not penetrate more than 2 inches below soil level.
Sempervivum Mahogany is a beautiful and durable evergreen perennial that produces mats of multicoloured rosettes. The leaves at the base produce star-shaped light pink flowers in summer, making this plant perfect for borders or indoor decoration.
The plant is rated H5 hardiness and can withstand temperatures from -15 degrees without harm as long as they have plenty of water during those hot months.
Hardy Sedum or Stonecrop Sedum
Stonecrop sedum is a succulent that can be grown in containers and lives well in very cold temperatures. This plant would make an excellent choice for outdoor gardens, as it resists freeze-thaw cycles better than other plants- ensuring you get year-round greenery. They can also provide valuable nectar for many bee species and other pollinators.
These low-growing succulents come in various colours, making a great ground cover for sunny areas.
The best type of outdoor cold, hardy Stonecrop Sedum are:
Sedum Dasyphyllum Major
Sedum Dasyphyllum Major, also known as Corsican Stonecrop or Blue Tears Sedum, is a quick-to-grow evergreen succulent.
This low-growing plant has lovely blue/green leaves and will flower from June – July.
The hardiness rating is H5 (Down to -15 Degrees), so fine for most parts of the UK.
Dragon Blood Sedum
A beautiful and colourful plant that thrives in cool weather, the Dragon Blood Sedum has hot pink flowers which bloom from early to late summer. The leaves turn green when warmer but will change colour again for a gorgeous wine-red hue. This sedum also forms a tight carpet like spread which will suppress any weeds.
The hardiness rating is H5, like the sedums above.
One of the best types of succulents for cold seasons is hardy opuntias. Hardy opuntias include Opuntia Cactus, Orchid Cactus and Prickly Pear. These succulents are native to the Mediterranean region and can withstand very hot temperatures.
Opuntia is easy to maintain, making them a great choice for beginner gardeners. They can survive in almost any soil type, which is another advantage.
Opuntia is also a drought-resistant plant with thick roots that store water and can become thicker over time.
Opuntia doesn’t require much attention and is great for outdoor gardens, as they can withstand many natural conditions, including very cold winters.
Hesperaloe Parviflora (Red Yucca)
A great addition to any garden, this type of succulent is very easy to maintain and can tolerate many different climate conditions.
It can adapt to dry and humid environments, although it grows best in well-drained soil.
Hesperaloe parviflora is a perfect choice for your garden if you live in an area with cold winters and long, hot summers. It does well even when it doesn’t get much water, so this is a great plant for people who don’t have time to care for their plants.
This succulent can be planted both indoors and outdoors. Hesperaloe parviflora is very easy to maintain – all you need to do is keep it in a sunny location and water it occasionally.
Tips to Grow Winter Hardy Outdoor Succulents
1. The best time to plant succulents is in the autumn when the weather cools. Try planting them in October or November.
2. Ensure that the soil is draining and not waterlogged. If it does, you need to add sand or perlite into the soil to improve drainage.
3. Plant succulents in a sunny location, but ensure they don’t receive direct sunlight all day long as the heat will burn the succulents.
4. Ensure that you protect your plant from wind and harsh weather by covering them with a blanket during the coldest days of winter.
5. If you live in a colder climate, increase the protection around your succulents by adding mulch.
6. Water your succulents once a month during winter, but only if there is no snow or frost on the ground.
You can create containers with mixed succulents and alpines. Below I have added thyme into this pot – bees are loving this now the sedums are flowering.
@plantsman.io love my alpine pot, first time it’s flowered #plantsoftiktok #alpines #sedum ♬ Last Night
Outdoor Succulent FAQs
Q. What is the best soil for outdoor succulents in the UK?
The best soil for outdoor succulents in the UK is well-draining soil, typically a mixture of potting soil, coarse sand, and perlite or horticultural grit. This mix will drain well and mimic the desert-like soil where succulents are native.
Q. Can I leave my potted succulents outside in the UK?
Yes, you can leave your potted succulents outside in the UK, as long as they are placed in a sheltered location with good drainage and some protection from extreme weather conditions, such as heavy rain or frost.
Q. Do I need to bring my succulents inside for winter?
Some hardier varieties (mentioned above) will tolerate UK winters if placed in a sheltered location and provided with adequate protection from cold and wet conditions.
Q. How long can outdoor succulents go without water in winter?
Outdoor succulents can typically go without water for long periods (12-15 weeks) in the winter compared to the growing season. As a general rule, you should reduce watering frequency during the winter months, allowing the soil to dry out completely between waterings. Check the soil moisture regularly and water only when it completely dries, as overwatering can lead to root rot and other issues.
Q: How do I water succulents in winter?
Water your succulents once a month during winter, but only if there is no snow or frost on the ground.
Q: How do I prune a succulent?
Pruning is not necessary for outdoor succulents. You can cut off any dead or dying leaves to maintain the shape of your plant.
Q: What happens if I overwater my succulent?
Overwatering is the number one reason why succulents die. Succulents need to dry out between watering, so never water it if its soil is still wet from the previous watering.
Q: Can cold-hardy succulents grow in rock gardens?
Yes, they can grow very well in rock gardens. Succulents thrive on rocky terrain and don’t need much space to spread out.
Q: Do I need any expertise to grow succulents in winter?
It is not necessary to have any experience with succulents. All you need to do is ensure that your plant receives enough sunlight and water it once a month during winter.
John Green is a 46-year-old graphic designer living in Durham. John is RHS level 3 certified and owns an allotment in Durham.