06 July, 2018
We are very fortunate here in Perth to not experience frequent frosts during winter. But that doesn't mean they can't happen - This photo above was taken in July 2015 when the temperatures dipped to below freezing just after the sun rose. It was only for a very short period of time, and it only dipped a little below 0, but still, you can see the effect it had on my poor oregano plant!
Very pretty, but also pretty devastating if you have succulents. Why is that? Succulents retain water in their foliage, which is what gives them their fleshy look. This is what freezes when the temperatures dip. Some succulents are more prone than others - The more 'fleshy' the foliage, the more susceptible they are. Species of Sempervivum, for example, have thinner, tougher leaves. They originate from Alpine regions and can tolerate frosts easier than say, species of Echeveria, with their juicy, plump foliage.
How can you protect your succulents from frost damage?
It is relatively easy to protect your succulent babies from being damaged by frosts, all it takes is a little planning and forward thinking. Like I said, we are lucky to not have below freezing temperatures for very long, and at worse, we generally only see temperatures of -1 or -2, so little changes can make a big difference.
Succulents in Pots:
Pick them up off the ground. Frosts tend to rise from the ground no more than say half a meter, so simply by placing your pots on a table or plant stand, you may have done enough to protect them already.
Minimise their exposure. This can be done by placing them under a verandah or patio instead of outside in the elements. Placing your pots near the walls of your house is also great.
Insulation. Mulch your pots with pebbles and/or gravel. Whilst it may seem like this will only protect the soil and roots of your succulent and not the foliage, stones will retain heat from the day longer than just bare soil. Having your foliage in close proximity to this 'insulation' will help prevent the immediate air around your pot plant from dipping that one degree below zero and generating icicles on your foliage.
Succulents in the Garden:
Gardens are a little trickier to protect, as you cant just 'relocate' them until the weather improves like you can with pots. However the same sort of principles do apply.
Mulch your gardens. As mentioned above, mulching will help keep the immediate air around your plants that little bit warmer than just bare soil.
Plant in mass. A singular plant on its own is exposed in all directions to the cold. Plant in mass and they will create a little eco-system of their own and help keep each other warm. Like you see the penguins do when a blizzard comes!
Use masonry in your landscape design. Sculptures, statues and even large rocks are all perfect at absorbing the sun during the day and cooling down slowly at night. Plant your more susceptible species near these features and it will provide them with protection from the cold.
I hope these tips help you protect your succulent collection from the frosts this winter and get them through to the warmer weather in spring.