Frostbite is brutal for succulents! And I totally feel your pain. When I was living in Utah, there were a few times I left my tender succulents out too long into the fall and they also suffered frostbite.
It’s really sad to see, but depending on the severity of the frostbite your succulents should survive.
In episode 15 I talk a lot about cold hardy succulents, those that can handle true 4 season climates with frost, snow and ice. If you live somewhere that consistently gets below freezing in the winter, you’ll want to make sure you bring your succulents inside for the winter, or grow cold hardy succulents so you can leave them out all year round.
But, let’s get back to the main question here. Your succulents already suffered from cold exposure. What do you do now?
The first thing is to move them somewhere out of the cold so they don’t get more exposure to that freezing temperature.
Next, let them dry out for several days, and possibly weeks depending on the severity of the frostbite. You want to let all the mushy areas from the frostbite dry out and scab over. Your succulent will be in emergency mode, trying to protect itself from further damage.
If you water too soon after frostbite occurs your succulent is more likely to rot and die.
Once the frostbitten areas have dried out, cut them off if possible. Sometimes this means you’ll be cutting away large chunks of the plant. Other times, you may just be cutting off the ends.
For example, with a tender Aloe or Agave, the ends might dry up. In that case, you can just cut the leaf to look like a normal Aloe or Agave leaf, but cut off all of that dried-out and crispy area.
Usually, frostbite will affect the outer edges of your succulent first, but doesn’t affect the center of the plant. This is what you’d hope for, a sort of “best case scenario.”
If the frostbite gets down into the stem of the succulent it’s likely it won’t be able to be saved. However, you can cut off and clean out any damaged parts of the plant, and your succulent is more likely to survive.
Once you’ve cut off the damaged areas, wait another 2-3 days before watering. You want to give these cuts time to callous over and heal as well.
Then… after everything is dry again, it’s finally time to start watering your succulent. Make sure you’re following the soak and dry method I teach in episode 6 to encourage healthy root growth.
It’s important to know that the damaged areas you’ve removed from your succulents won’t grow back. But, if all goes according to plan, the new growth on your succulent should be healthy and look normal.
It will take some time for the succulent to look amazing again, but, as with most succulent gardening… your patience will pay off. In the next few weeks and months as your succulent grows it will start to look like it’s original happy self again.
Make sure that when you place the succulent back outside (or in the original spot it was growing) that it is protected from cold, and also extreme heat or sunlight. After having been in a protected area, you need to ease your succulent back into the growing conditions that it was used to before.
Shocking your succulent with dramatic changes in temperature or sunlight will cause problems as well.