/ by Jeffrey Dooley / photograph by Inspiro 8 Studios
Succulents have become incredibly popular these last few years. With the explosion of social media and designers integrating them into their work, they have now become very common to collect and use as decorative or styling elements. As an interior designer, I myself have become fond of this group of plants and have amassed quite a collection.
Before you chuck your end of season plants or allow them to shrivel in severe cold, consider a little TLC keeping them happy and well until warmer temperatures once again prevail. Specifically, I winterize my succulents and prepare them for dormancy. Dormancy is the time during the winter when these plants enter a slow-growing period.
There are a few simple things you can do to ensure your succulents survive inside for winter and thrive. First, clean up any detritus that may be around the plants or attached at the bottom where new growth has taken over. This gives the plants more direction to focus on their central health allowing them to settle into dormancy.
Second, check your plants for any insects that may be hiding in the soil or on the plant itself. Succulents are more prone to infestations when you bring them inside versus when they are outside. It’s crucial to take care of any pest problem before bringing them in. You can use an insecticidal soap or even rubbing alcohol applied on a Qtip to rid the plant of bugs. Regardless if the plant has an infestation or not, I always spray all of my plants with an insecticidal soap about a week before I bring them in, then once every other week when they come inside as a preventative measure.
The next step is light; if you have a smaller collection of succulents, you can easily put them in a sunny window (south facing is the best) and they will do well. In my case, I have far more plants than I do windows with appropriate light, so I have devised a grow light station. My husband built a small riser out of pressure treated wood in our basement. This helps with drainage and allows the plants to have lots of circulation around their roots helping the soil and roots stay dry in dormancy.
I purchased a set of grow lights with what’s called “t5 bulbs.” These bulbs are the best at replicating natural sunlight, though there are LED options available too. The lights I purchased use a simple plug in cord for their power source and have levy pulls so you can adjust the height to your liking. I keep mine about 3 to 4 feet above my plants. The lights are hung from hooks that are screwed into the floor joist above. No matter where you decide to winterize your succulents, simply locate a ceiling joist or stud. We put our lights on a timer that is synced with our EST zone recreating the natural cycle of light they have become accustomed to. Don’t forget to add a dehumidifier and also a heater with sensors which activates when too much moisture starts to gather or temperatures drop too low.
There are many options and configurations available, so have fun experimenting and do what works best for you, your home and your plants. You might want to consider shelving units with grow lights built in or even countertop grow lights for small scale collections.
Last but not least, your plants will not need near as much water in dormancy. In fact, my succulent collection requires very little at all. I water only about once a month over the winter months, but you can tinker with this depending on the moisture level in the air and soil in your space. Succulents bring me a lot of joy and can last a lifetime if you take care of them properly in all four seasons.