How to keep succulents alive and beautiful in the Canadian climate
Updated: Jun 7, 2021
Some people assume that because succulents are plants that come from desert climates that they can't thrive in the Canadian climate. That's definitely not true! It can be a challenge to keep succulents looking great here in the Great White North but it's definitely possible and very rewarding when you get it right!
Here are some factors to consider when building your succulent collection in Canada.
Something most people don't necessarily think about when growing succulents is proper ventilation, but it's very important, especially in the winter when homes and greenhouses are closed against the cold.
I grow my succulents in a greenhouse and most of my plants stay outside in the winter. This means a commitment to heating the greenhouse when the nights start to dip below -5 and through the winter. If this is too much expense or you don't have a greenhouse then an indoor growlight set-up is a great way to overwinter your plants. In this scenario ventilation is also very important
In the first winter I kept my plants outside I was surprised to find that some plants had developed stem rot and mould! I had thought that was more of a summer problem but after some research I realized that it's probably due to a lack of ventilation. Since the leaves on succulents are so close together a lack of ventilation creates the perfect environment for mould to grow. This will appear as a brown fuzzy layer on leaves and can cause them to drop and for the mould to spread to other parts of the plant. To prevent this more ventilation is needed. My solution was to add a rotating fan to my greenhouse. I have the fan on for an hour or two a day and haven't see mould or rot since. This is also very useful in the summer to keep plants from getting sunburn or overheating.
In other situations the solution could be as simple as opening a window and being aware of factors which may block airflow around your plants.
Sunlight is something that can be in short supply in Canada at certain parts of the year. But brilliant sunshine every single day isn't necessarily needed to keep succulents beautiful (though it certainly would be nice). Cloudy days can also have a high UV factor and provide the light needed to keep succulents happy.
Again, this is another reason that keeping succulents outside is the best environment for them. Even if you keep your succulents on a sunny south-facing windowsill they still will not get enough light to produce the compact, colourful growth that collectors desire.
Where you have the most control growing succulents and cacti in Canada is with how much you water. Withholding water can provide the stress necessary to make your succulents look their best.
Since succulents are used to going long periods without water you can feel free to experiment with how long you can go between watering. This can really take some willpower at first but it can be fun and very rewarding when you see how beautiful your plants can be!
By holding back on water this will ensure all new growth is compact, as too much water will result in too much growth which will mean the space between leaves will get larger. If you water infrequently your succulents will know to preserve and retain all that precious water which will also mean leaf loss from knocking your succulents will be lessened. Over-watered succulents lose leaves much more often.
If you follow these tips your succulents will be healthier and look better so give it a try!