10 Best Winter Succulents

Top 10 Cold Hardy Succulents

As much as we all love our tender succulents, I want to share with you my picks for the finest cold hardy succulents to be grown. I’m not just talking plants that won’t die when they freeze, but those that truly thrive even where the winters are fierce. To make my list of the 10 best winter succulents, each plant had to be hardy at least to zone 5, (-15°F / -26° C)  a stellar performer year round, with exquisite form. You will find them to be a colorful bunch, with blooms that attract and support the local pollinators. 


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Cold Hardy Sempervivum

photo courtesy of Mountain Crest Gardens

Any list of cold hardy succulents will star the lovely sempervivum.  Also known as hens and chicks, these are rosette-forming succulents that produce abundant offspring. These winter succulents form attractive, dense mats of large rosettes (“hens”) surrounded by many smaller ones (“chicks”) in a wide array of colors. Throughout the year, they open their form, close it and develop more or less coloring in response to environmental stressors.  Highly effective in rock gardens. Sempervivum blooms are monocarpic and highly attractive to butterflies. This Sempervivum Royanum is hardy to zone 5 (-15°F / -26° C), though some sempervivum varieties are hardy to zone 3!

Winter Succulent Stonecrop Sedums

Among the hundreds of species of sedum, are some of the very best and most colorful of all winter succulents. They are known as stonecrop sedums. These are vigorous, carefree plants that grow from a couple inches to a couple feet tall, and perform well in containers, rock gardens and garden beds. Stonecrop sedum blooms heavily, beckoning to bees and butterflies. This Sedum Angelina develops soft, needlelike foliage that ranges in color from chartreuse to lemon yellow to a gold brushed with rosy blush.  Angelina is a cold hardy succulent that thrives in zone 3 (-45°F / -40° C) and tops out at just 5 inches tall.

Winter Hardy Agave

All agave make a handsome, sculptural addition to the garden. But most cannot take the cold and continue to thrive like Agave parryi, or Parry’s century plant. Hardy to zone 5 (-15°F / -26° C), Agave parryi forms stately, silver rosettes with serrated leaves. Enormous, towering blooms develop in 12-15 years, calling in all hummingbirds and stunning the neighbors. The mother plant dies out, but has produced several offspring before blooming.

Cobweb Sempervivum Arachnoideum Winter Succulent

Another intriguing variety of winter succulent is the sempervivum arachnoideum. Like all other semps, these are cold hardy succulents that tolerate zone 5 (-15°F / -26° C) climates or colder. But these cobweb sempervivums form many prominent trichomes, or hair-like filaments, that criss-cross all the leaves of the rosette, making a spider web effect. In sempervivum, these hairs are adaptations to the harsh conditions in which they live. The trichomes break up the airflow around the leaves, protecting them from drying out. They prevent ice crystals from forming directly on the surface of the leaf, and collect dew to funnel additional moisture to the plant. A dramatic and cold hardy succulent.

Winter Succulent Delosperma

Delosperma, aka ice plant,  is a winter succulent very popular with commercial plantings. It is an incredibly low maintenance succulent ground cover that creates blankets of dazzling blooms that attract butterflies and honeybees in droves. Delosperma cooperi also has a trailing habit that is so pretty spilling out of containers or hanging baskets, or weaving through rock gardens. Hardy to zone 5 (-15°F / -26° C)

Border Stonecrop Sedums

Another stellar stonecrop sedum is Sedum Autumn Joy. It grows 24″ tall, and performs beautifully in the perennial border, where its long-lasting blooms are a prized source of color for the gardener, and nectar for butterflies from summer through fall. The dazzling display varies from pale pink to vivid red, depending upon the climate.  Dried blooms maintain their color well into winter. Sedum Autumn Joy is hardy to zone 5 (-15°F / -26° C). 

Cold Hardy Succulent Cactus

Some varieties of prickly pear cactus are quite cold hardy. I chose to share Opuntia Pinta Rita because of its extraordinary coloring. The leaf pads are a wonderful turquoise that blushes a vivid, amethyst purple/magenta with the slightest stress. Extravagant lemon yellow blooms are plentiful and long-lasting, spring through fall, and highly attractive to hummingbirds. Opuntia Pinta Rita is cold hardy to zone 4 (-30°F / -34° C).

Cold Hardy Jovibarba / Sempervivum Heuffelii

photo credit Mountain Crest Gardens

Sometimes considered a subset of sempervivum,  and sometimes classified a distinct genus Jovibarba, sempervivum heuffelii is similar in form and habit to the classic hens and chicks. The rosettes are typically richly colored, and maintain their vivid hue year round, rather than intensifying and fading with the seasons. Rather than forming offsets around the rosettes, sempervivum heuffelii develop baby rosettes between the leaves of the mother plant, for an intriguing appearance. All are exceptional winter succulents and strong performers. Sempervivum heuffelii Bros is an outstanding variety, hardy to zone 4 (-30°F / -34° C).

Winter Succulent Orostachys

Orostachys is a charming winter succulent that deserves to be more widely grown. Silver or green rosettes are reminiscent of echeveria, but cold hardy to zone 5 (-15°F / -26° C). Orostachys iwarenge forms low mats of rosettes that soon begin to elongate into conical forms with a pink blush that reach 6″ tall. In late summer, frothy pink and white flowers open and beckon to honey bees. Perfect for rock gardens and containers.

Stonecrop Sedum Winter Succulents

It was a challenge keeping this list of top cold hardy succulents to just 10. The colors and forms are spectacular! But I had to include the stonecrop Sedum Fuldaglut, or Fireglow. In full sun, bronzey green leaves turn coppery then a deep burgundy in the fall, Pink starry blooms in late summer are a favorite with bees and butterflies. This stonecrop sedum tops out at just 5″ tall, and is cold hardy to zone 4 (-30°F / -34° C). A stellar performer ideal for rock gardens and containers.

There you have it, my choices for the top 10 winter succulents for your garden. Each is easy to grow, exceptionally beautiful and an outstanding garden plant. If you have any questions or want to nominate another top cold hardy succulent, please leave me a comment! I love hearing from you!

Kat McCarthy, The Succulent Eclectic

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