Australia is a vast continent with varying climate. Some parts are tropical and subtropical, some desert and dry, some temperate and some cold temperate with freezing temperatures and snow in winter. Succulents can survive in the great majority of Australia without much care, though in some regions they will need a little bit of help to stay alive.
In the tropical and equatorial parts of Australia such (Northern QLD, Northern NT & Northern WA), not much needs to be done in terms of special care as the temperatures over winter are pretty much ideal for succulents. The only problem may be humidity and too much rain. You can help your succulents along by planting them in a free-draining potting mix, not planting them in parts of the garden that is prone to flooding/ sits in water after too much rain and keeping some sensitive varieties under cover or in greenhouses (the greenhouse will need good ventilation) when too much rain is predicted.
If you live in the dry/desert parts of Australia you might need to protect succulents from frosts. Most succulents are not frost hardy and will turn into mush if exposed to temperatures below 2 Celcius. We find the best way to protect succulents from frost is to cover them with a frost cloth (available from Bunnings or online shipped to your door). If the plants are shrivelling, they will also need water.
Temperate parts of Australia are quite ideal for succulents and unless frosts are a regular occurrence in your area over winter, you don't need to treat your succulents in any special way. Maybe ease on the water a bit as succulents do not need much over winter. If there is danger of frost, it is best to cover your succulents with frost cloth.
In Cold Temperate and Alpine regions where the snow can settle on the ground for over a day, you will need either a frost cloth, a greenhouse or if your plants are in pots, they can be brought indoors for the worst parts of winter (keep them by the brightest window). Succulents in these regions should not be watered too much. Once a month will be enough unless your plant is asking for a drink by shrivelling
Tips for happy winter succulents
- Succulents can take a lot more sun over winter, even varieties that are prone to burning in summer. Most succulent will prefer lots of sun and extra light over the cold months.
- For best colour, keep your sun-loving succulents in as much sun as possible. The colour also depends on how cold it is (colder it gets, more colourful your succulents).
- Only water your succulents if the soil/potting mix is all dried up and the plant looks like its shrivelling a bit.
- Lots of succulents will flower in winter and many Echeverias will produce pups, but all this tender growth is going to attract aphids. Keep an eye out for these tiny black/green/brown bugs and eliminate at first sight as they can cause a bit of damage on your plants and kill off baby plants/pups.
- As hard as it can be, restrain from propagating. Some plants will still propagate well (aeoniums, majority of sedums, sempervivums and some crassulas), but it is generally best to wait until spring.
- In our experience, the great majority of succulents will happily survive outside over winter without any help down to 0 C. When the temperature drops below 0 succulents are likely to freeze and collapse.
- Sempervivums, some Agaves and some Sedums should survive deep frosts and snow on the ground without any protection. Plants in the ground grow better and are more likely to survive frosts than those in pots.
Here are some links for great accessories that will help you protect your succulents in freezing conditions.
Greenhouse Polytunnel 6x3 - we actually have a couple of these exact greenhouses for our shade-loving succulents and cacti and the frame is superbly strong and easy to assemble. The plastic lasts a few years but is prone to tearing after about year 2. We just replaced ours with a stronger, nursery grade one or 30% shadecloth. We don't use anything more than 30% as it seems to be too much shade for succulents.
Mini Greenhouse - great for temporary protection against frost if you only have a few plants.
Portable Greenhouse Tunnel 3x1x1 - can be pitched over your succulent gardens
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