Succulents can be grown in just about any climate, but you do need to make some adjustments. Find out how to grow succulents in hot and dry climates!
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How do we adjust to climate change here in San Francisco? Hot days with record heat 117° (47° C), 2-3 degree average warmer nights in summer, and a record winter with only 3-4 inches (76 – 102 mm) of rainfall. Climate change is upon us now and I fear it will only get worse.
Dealing with succulents in hot and dry temperatures are something that I am very familiar with, so this is a great question!
Having lived in Utah where summers are very hot and dry and now living in Arizona where summers are extremely hot and extremely dry… I am really good at keeping succulents alive in those conditions.
Here’s some things you’ll want to adjust as temperatures warm up, and water becomes less frequent, at least from Mother Nature.
The first thing you’ll want to adjust is your watering technique. If you haven’t already listened to episode 6, you’ll definitely want to listen to that and learn about my “soak and dry” method.
Since you’re not getting as much rainfall as you’re used to, you’re going to have to make up for the lack of water your succulents aren’t getting.
Using the soak and dry method will help your succulents develop a strong root system, and they’ll be able to withstand the drought periods much longer. You’ll also need to water your succulents a lot more frequently.
Fortunately, if you’re using a well-draining soil, which I talk about in episode 4, you’ll be able to water your succulents quickly, and it doesn’t take a lot of water to penetrate and soak through the soil.
Staying Cool in the Summer
Another thing that will help your succulents stay cool during the heat of the summer is to water in the mornings. This will keep the roots cool and help them stay a little fresher throughout the day. You can also try watering twice a day, and then don’t water again for a few more days.
You mentioned succulents not getting very much water in the winter. This is actually okay!
Succulents are opportunistic growers, so they’ll grow when they get plenty of water and sunlight, but they’ll go through a faux dormancy whenever they’re not getting much water, and if the temperature and climate around them isn’t ideal.
If your winters are cooler and dry, your succulents will go through a dormancy and they really won’t need much water.
You’ll want to make sure they’re getting enough that they don’t dry out completely, but going through that dry period in the winter will allow them to use that water they’ve been storing in their roots, leaves, and stem.
They really don’t need a lot more water to stay alive.
On the other hand, as temperatures get hotter in the summer, you’ll want to find ways to provide more shade for your succulents, or just keep them cooler in general.
Shade is a great way to do this, and there’s a variety of ways you can provide more shade.
One way would be to plant larger plants around your succulents so they get natural shade from the larger plants. Another option is to put up some shade cloth.
You could also use a beach umbrella to provide a bit more shade during the hottest times of year as well.
Providing more shade to succulents is going to be easier if they’re planted in pots. You can always move them closer to your house, or to different areas that are getting more shade during the day.
For those succulents planted in the ground, using an umbrella, adding a shade cloth, or just planting larger plants around them, is going to be the best way to add more shade.
If you have succulents planted in containers, you can also use plant trolleys or carts to move them somewhere with more shade during the hottest parts of the year. Using a plant trolley or cart is also a great way to move your succulents if you’re getting a lot more rain than you’re accustomed to.
When planting new succulents in heat or really dry climates, try to use larger specimens. The smaller 2″ plants will take a lot more water, and also won’t tolerate as much sunlight.
A larger specimen, on the other hand, will tolerate more heat and sunlight, and doesn’t need to be watered as often.
In general, larger and more deeply-rooted succulents aren’t as fickle. They tend to tolerate changes in climate and environment much better.
So, if you’re worried about changes in environment, try to plant larger succulents so you don’t have to worry quite as much.
A big consideration when you’re planting succulents in a really hot climate is whether to plant them in the ground or in pots.
In general, succulents planted in the ground tend to stay a lot cooler, and they’re less prone to sunburn. This is because their roots are staying cooler throughout the day.
Succulents planted in pots can be moved around. If the pot isn’t really deep, the soil will dry out faster, which means the succulent won’t stay as cool, and is more prone to sunburn or dehydration.
Types of plants
It’s important to find succulents that are more tolerant of the conditions you live in.
For example, cacti tend to do better in heat. They can tolerate full sun, and their long spines help to shade them so they can stay cooler in those hot climates. The needles also help to absorb more water as it rains or as you pour water on them.
In my course, Successfully Growing Succulents, I provide a list of over 50 succulents with details about their needs, including what environments they’ll do best in.
It lists each succulent with its requirements, but then it also groups succulents based on where they’ll grow best. It’s a great resource to determine what types of succulents will grow best based on where you live, and what kinds of care (or neglect) you tend to give your plants.
The course will also give you the principals you need to help your succulents thrive, and how to adapt those needs to wherever you live in the world. It’s in an easy to follow format so you don’t get lost or overwhelmed.
Plus, we have a private Facebook group just for course members. You’ll likely find someone growing in a similar area who can provide extra insight.
I also regularly host live demonstrations, as well as Q&A sessions, to make sure you get help with anything giving you a hard time, including how to adjust to the climate you’re living in.