If you grow succulents outdoors or live somewhere that gets cold in the winter, your succulents will need some sort of protection for the chilly months. Fortunately, greenhouses are an excellent way to keep your succulents safe over the winter, and they’ve got some other off-season benefits too!
Greenhouses are one of the many ways you can prepare your outdoor succulents for winter. Since most succulents thrive in USDA agricultural zones 8 and onward, they don’t do well in the cold and will wither if temperatures drop too low. Preparing for frost damage is essential to their survival if you grow your succulents outdoors.
Greenhouses vs. Cold Houses
A greenhouse is an excellent solution for helping keep succulents warm over the winter since greenhouses naturally trap heat inside them. Some garden stores sell tiny, pop-up greenhouses that you can set up around more permanent succulent fixtures, while others are much larger, tent-like stations for working. In the wintertime, there are generally two different types of greenhouses: traditional greenhouses and cold houses.
A traditional greenhouse is a walk-in building that features internal heating of some kind, usually through a gas or electric heater. On the other hand, cold houses do not have an internal heating system and are thus colder during the winter months. Cold houses are best used in areas that don’t normally reach below freezing in the winter.
How to Use an Unheated Greenhouse
Since cold houses do not have an internal heating system, they get much colder in the winter, especially when it snows. Large-scale cold houses aren’t ideal for growing succulents all winter, but they are excellent overwintering tools when used in conjunction with other overwintering techniques, like surrounding your succulent with straw to keep warm.
The real benefit of cold houses is that you can keep your outdoor succulents growing far longer than without one. Even when temperatures begin to drop, your space will still get plenty of heat from the sun, so your growing season can extend into the late fall. When things start to warm up, your succulents have plenty of warmth to leave their dormant period early, too, so you can start propagation and repotting as soon as possible.
Benefits of Using a Greenhouse in the Winter
Both greenhouses and cold houses are great solutions for keeping your outdoor succulents nice and toasty during the winter months. With extra shelter and warmth, your succulents will:
Avoid the Dormant Season
In heated greenhouses, you can trick your outdoor succulents into staying active year-round. As long as your succulents have an effective heat source and ample light, expect growth year-round.
Prevent Frost Damage
By far the most important part of overwintering, both heated greenhouses and cold houses help prevent your succulents from frost. Frost burn, desiccation, frost heave, and hail damage are all very dangerous to succulents and if left untreated, can kill the affected plant. That’s why we put so much stress on preparing for winter. With a greenhouse (heated or not), your succulents are guaranteed to avoid major damage during the wintertime.
Start Propagating Early
With both heated and unheated greenhouses, you’ll also have the opportunity to start propagating early. Greenhouses are great spaces for propagating plants since they’re very warm and can trap lots of heat and moisture in the air. Your greenhouse is generally an excellent place to keep your cuttings and baby plants during the springtime.
Keeping Things Cozy for Your Succulents
To keep your succulents toasty warm in the winter, there are a few things you’ll need to do in order for them to remain happy and healthy all season:
Use a Heater
Heaters aren’t always necessary for greenhouses, but if you’ve got power in your greenhouse, use it! Having a small gas or electric space heater can do wonders for your succulents and help them avoid freezing even in the most frigid temperatures. The same goes for using heat lamps and UV lamps– these are great ways to provide extra warmth and supplementary sunlight when nights are long.
Prevent Heat Loss
No matter what, you’ll always need to prepare your greenhouse for the winter. Sealing up cracks, ensuring all windows are sturdy, and repairing any structural damage from last season is essential to keep your space sturdy and warm. Plus, many succulents don’t like cold drafts– sealing up any potential drafty areas is the best way to promote growth over the winter.
Finally, you’ll want to provide your succulents with some extra insulation in your greenhouse. This could be through adding greenhouse insulation material, which is clear and easy for light to pass through, or you could overwinter your succulents as you normally would inside the greenhouse. Using insulating materials like straw and moss can help keep things warm around the individual plants.
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