Succulent News

Succulents in Florida – My experience and tips for you

I am one of many who started collecting succulents in the last two years and I have gotten into it deeply.  With a lot of work and money invested , I have tried to learn what it takes to have healthy succulents in Florida year-round.  Succulents generally come from hot, dry climates and they have evolved to store water through periods of drought in the leaves, stems, or roots.  Did you know that all cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti?

     Florida has temperatures that range easily from 95 F in the summer to 30 F occasionally in the winter.  We have a lot of rain mostly in the summer months. We can not assume that all succulents need the same conditions because they come from many different environments. Some such as hens and chicks are used to cold dry climates, so they are harder to maintain here in hot, humid, rainy Florida. Most of the thirty plus types I have collected grow well in Florida.  I keep many of them in a carport which is like a porch, lanai or windowsill in terms of lighting. They get indirect light most of the day. Some types such as ghost plant, kalanchoe, and

echeveria get leggy under those conditions. When I have put these same plants out in full sunlight, they have suffered sunburn at first, but then adapt and grow fuller, stronger and bigger with time.

  Just as porous soil is important for pots, it is also important when we want to plant succulents in the garden.  The same goes for good drainage which help prevent root and leaf rot.  My garden succulents did not even mind the days of rain that we had this last summer because the excess water quickly drained away.  For my outdoor potted plants, I watered them once a week if it hadn’t rained and  I gave them a shade cloth during the hottest months and took it off in October. 

Winter has presented a different set of concerns. Most succulents can tolerate temperatures down to 35 F for an evening or two, but freezing temperatures can kill many very quickly. When we had a cold snap in early December with expected temperatures of 40, I wrapped my desert rose in tablecloths, covered some planters with sheets, and put tarps which I had cut to size over outdoors bookshelves. I have read that the plastic should not touch the plants and cloth is a better insulator. I brought inside a lot of baby plants and my kalanchoe and hoya.  I used to water all my carport succulents except the cacti and hens and chicks once a week with the hose.  For these winter months, I have cut back to about every 10 days.    

After that first cold snap, I also changed part of my carport into a green room with clear plastic tarps and plastic, magnetic closure doors which are sold for construction projects. I have a 120 sq. ft area 90% enclosed so there is still air flow, but the wind and cold are kept out well.  I compared temperature readings on cold nights and it seems my green room stays about 10 F warmer than the outdoors.  It was an easy DIY project. I have moved many of my plants inside on plastic shelves and when a cold night is forecast, I can bring many more inside on the floor. They are receiving a little less light with the clear plastic walls and winter days are shorter also, so I set up two garage LED lights that I shine on the shelves about 10 hrs. a day.  My plants might survive a few cold nights without my intervention.  For the small amount of time and money I put into this project, I have more peace of mind and hopefully will lose fewer plants. 

I meet a lot of people at my sales that seem very nervous about caring for their succulents.  I have learned that succulents are tough, forgiving, and communicative. If the leaves are shriveling, they need water. If the stems are leggy, they need more light. If leaves are turning brown and soggy, they need help fast to get their roots out of wet soil and dry off.  If they change colors, they are responding to lighting conditions and temperature changes which is a natural process for them. Enjoy the reds and purples winter weather causes and the richer colors that summer sunlight produces. If ever part of the plant dies, cut that off and replant what is healthy. When you buy succulents, make note of the conditions that they were used to and make changes gradually. Check that the pot has drain holes and that the soil is light and loose. Succulents can be repotted, divided, trimmed, and beheaded and they will grow back. Just be patient. They are not in a hurry, but they are experts at survival.

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Summary of Info on Succulents and Cold Weather in Florida

Adenium ex. Desert rose will not tolerate below 45 F;  

Agave – no problem;  

Aloe- brief frost OK;  

Crassula ex Jade -will not tolerate frost;  

Echeveria – no problem;  

Euphorbia ex Christmas cactus- will not tolerate frost;  

Gasteria – will not tolerate frost;  

Gratoveria – brief frost OK;  

Haworthia – will not tolerate frost;  

Hoya – will not tolerate frost;  

Huernia- ex life saver – will not tolerate frost;  

Kalanchoe – damaged at 40 F and below;  

Portulaca- will not tolerate frost;  

Portulacaria ex Elephant bush – will not tolerate frost;  

Sanseviera ex- snake plant -will not tolerate frost;  

Sedum – ex – light frost OK;  

Sempervivum –Ex. hens and chicks – no problem;  

Senecio – Ex strings of bananas etc – will not tolerate frost;  

Stapelia- Ex starfish – will not tolerate frost;  

Yucca- no problem;   

from The Practical Illustrated Guide to Growing Cactus and Succulents by Miles Anderson

Based on this I am bringing in my desert rose and all my kalanchoe tonight. I am also buying plastic clear tarps ( Walmart) to enclose my carport where I can move things in case of colder nights. If it really freezes, most of my plants will have to come inside. I have 300+ so I hope that doesn’t happen. Chris

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Sempervivumcommonly called ” hens and chicks” is another succulent which forms small tight rosettes. They tolerate a wide range of lighting from bright sunlight to indoors but since they  hug the ground ,they are very prone to rot if the soil stays too very prone to rot if the soil stays too wet. They tolerate below freezing temperatures. Cobweb houseleek is an interesting sempervivum. After a few years they flower once and die but they regularly produce many pups or chicks which can be separated.

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Echeveria are usually small tight rosettes with triangular tips on chubby leaves. They grow well indoors in a window sill or in shade outdoors and since they sit very low on the soil are subject to rot if overwatered or if the soil does not drain. They stay small indoors but can grow into mounds of rosettes outdoors. They come in a variety of colors which change according to seasons and conditions. When they are more stressed you will see more colors. They tolerate some frost and can be propogated from pups or leaves. 




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Today’s succulent is Kalanchoe. There are many varieties and they grow well in Florida. Most have clusters of bell-shaped flowers. I have a large variety in my big container of succulents in my yard that has pale gray/green leaves with purple marks. I have others with serrated pale green leaves and of course” mother of thousands” which has many plantlets on each leaf. All of these are easily propagated from leaves, plantlets or stems. One I would like more of is flap jacks which have round light green leaves with red edges. My favorite is Panda or Kitty because both grown rapidly and are very attractive with thick fuzzy leaves with brown tips. Kalanchoes can adjust to bright light and grow well in the ground but they get very leggy in low light. They can not tolerate frost so bring them inside.

Panda kalanchoe
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Today’s succulent is Haworthia. These are small slow growing succulents that are happy indoors with low light. I find them very attractive especially the varieties with very fat leaves such as Fat Albert ( Haworthia comptoniana) and the tiny light green chubby (Haworthia cooperi). Everyone loves the Zebra plant with white stripes ( Haworthia fasciata) I heard it takes almost a year to grow a plant from a leaf but they do produce pups which can be separated from the mother plant. Because they don’t propagate so easily, they are more expensive to buy than other succulents. Be careful not to overwater and bring them in when it gets cold( 40 degrees F) .

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Crassula – Jade and others

9 days til our Giant Plant Sale – Today’s succulent is crassula, the most common being the jade plant. It also has varieties that are very interesting. One is ET jade and another is wavy or curly jade. Jade can be propogated from a leaf quite quickly or by cutting off branches and letting them callus before planting them. I like a tiny variety of crassula which I call watch chain. It grows very easily and is great for filling in arrangements with something delicate and intricate. Another tiny one is pine tree. Crassula usually have stems and thick leaves and they do not tolerate frost.

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Today’s group is the Aloes. A year ago I knew of only one – Aloe vera but now I realize that I have at least 5 types of aloe. They all have pointed leaves but come in different colors and sizes. Some have spiny leaves, many form rosettes. They all produce pups quite quickly which can be separated from the main plant. They flower with a long stem. Aloes are quite easy to grow and the variety makes them much more interesting than I first thought. I prefer Aloe humilis which is very attractive and hardy. Aloes adjust to different lighting and watering situations well but do not tolerate frost.

other Aloes