Choosing the Right Succulent

As someone who has lived all over the world,  I know that choosing the right plants for your climate can be a challenge, especially if you’re new to the neighborhood. So what do you do if you live in a foggy, overcast region like the Northwestern United States? Or if you just moved to an area with annual heavy rain seasons like Southeastern Asia? Should this prevent you from starting that succulent and cactus garden that you’ve always wanted? Absolutely not!

First, let’s start by figuring out which “hardiness zone” you live in. This will help you find information about climate and the plants that thrive best in your area. If you’re located in the United States, I recommend using the U.S. Department of Agriculture Hardiness Map.

homepage_map
Photo from: planthardiness.ars.usda.gov

Once you’ve located your hardiness zone, you can go into depth with your research about the climate and which plants will thrive in that area. Hardiness zones allow gardeners to know the maximum and minimum temperatures of their region, so they can determine if they need to protect their plants from frost or overbearing sunlight depending on the season. I’ve searched the ends of the Internet to find that most succulents survive in hardiness zones 3 through 9. Luckily, these zones make up the majority of the United States with the exception of Alaska and Puerto Rico.

Here are a few succulents that do well virtually anywhere in America:

  • Sempervivum “Hen and Chicks”
  • Sempervivum arachnoideum
  • Sedum
  • Jovibarba (Hirta) “Rollers”
  • Jovibarba heuffeli “King of Hen and Chicks”
  • Agave

If you live in warmer, tropical climates like in Hawaii or Florida (Zones 10 and 11) these succulents are better options:

  • Kalanchoe thyrsiflora “Paddle Plant”
  • Aeonium arboreum “Tree Aeonium”
  • Sedum morganianum “Donkey Tail”/”Burro’s Tail”
  • Euphorbia tirucalli “Firesticks”

However, keep in mind that even though these succulents are ideal for your climate that succulents do not like heavy rain or frost and should be moved indoors during wet and/or cold seasons.

I’ve learned that growing indoors is best during winter, especially if your area tends to get a lot of rain or heavy winds during the colder season. I purchased a grow lamp and have kept my garden thriving in my kitchen window all winter. I’ve even managed to propagate under artificial light, which was quite a happy surprise!

leafclip
Photo by: Selina Quick

If you choose to plant your succulents in containers, I recommend unglazed terracotta pots (like those pictured below) for most climate regions. Terracotta clay is porous which makes it easier for water to pass through it. This improves the drainage of soil and helps prevent over-watering as the extra water will pass through the clay and evaporate into the air.

 

terracotta
Photo by: Selina Quick

Many garden centers also sell planters and flower pots that are glazed or “frost-resistant.” These are ideal for colder climates or plants that may require more moisture. For succulents, make sure your pots have large drainage holes so extra water can drain out instead of flooding your plant’s roots. If you find a container that you absolutely love and it doesn’t have drainage holes, fret not! The Succulents and Sunshine is to the rescue with their guide on watering in closed containers. I currently use the S&S method for my little glazed cups (pictured below).

glazed pots
Photo by: Selina Quick

Once you figure out which hardiness zone you are in, finding succulents best suited for you becomes much easier! Keep in mind there are numerous “common” succulents that are very resilient and will survive in most conditions, so even if you’re having a hard time finding information, there are still plants out there meant just for you. If you’re worried that the weather isn’t ideal for your succulents, you can always start your garden indoors and slowly move outside as you gain more confidence with your green babies. There are also several build-your-own green house options out there! Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty or ask questions, most fellow gardeners are more than happy to help others nurture nature!

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