9 Best Cold-Hardy Outdoor Succulents

spikey plant covered in snow

If you know succulents as desert plants or container plants, you may not think they’ll survive in cold climates. We’ve got good news: Many succulent varieties are evergreen and will survive in cold weather, even in sub-zero temperatures. Here are the 9 best cold-hardy outdoor succulents for frigid winter climates.

What is a succulent?

Succulents are a group of plants that store water in their thick, engorged, fleshy leaves. Most succulents have deep root systems. Some succulent plants have no leaves but will store water in their stems. Succulents usually thrive in dry climates with very little humidity.

These plants, due to their penchant for water storage, are often used in xeriscaping, rock gardens, and other water-challenged climates. There are more than 60 succulent families, and some have recently become quite popular as houseplants.

9 best cold-hardy outdoor succulents

The following succulents are some of the most cold-hardy, evergreen plants out there for anyone living in northern climates who still wants to conserve water or create the perfect xeriscape.

1. Agave

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A member of the Asparagaceae family, the Agave genus, or “century plant,” has 300 species available in a wide range of colors, sizes, and shapes. These plants form rosettes with thick, fleshy leaves and spiny edges. They prefer Mediterranean climates, but they are cold-hardy, surviving in Zones 5 to 9.

Here are the most cold-hardy Agave species:

  • Queen Victoria agave (agave victoriae-reginae)
  • Artichoke agave (agave parryi)
  • Whale’s tongue agave (agave ovatifolia)
  • Variegated butterfly agave
  • Mountain agave (agave montana)
  • Harvard agave (agave havardiana)
  • King of the agaves (agave nickelsiae)

However, despite their tolerance to cold temperatures, they require dry soil with good drainage to survive the winter. Agave have shallow roots, so they need loose soil. The best mulch for them tends to be gravel, chicken grit, or pebbles. They should usually be placed on top of a mound so that water runs away from the roots.

Agave is monocarpic, dying after it flowers once but producing offsets to replace the plant.

2. Delosperma

Pink Hardy ice plant (Delosperma cooperi)
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If you’re in the market for a cold-hardy, evergreen groundcover, several species in the Delosperma genus are cold-hardy down to Zones 4 to 6. 

Delosperma produce purple and yellow daisy-like flowers in summer, respectively, and are popular in rock gardens and xeriscaped spaces. They are also a high-value plant for wildlife and pollinators. Even though some Delosperma species will tolerate low temps, they need dry, well-drained soils to survive outdoors year-round. 

Here are the most cold-hardy Delosperma species:

Check state publications before you buy your ice plant. In California, for example, hardy ice plant grows so well in its dry soils that it is considered an invasive species. Just north, in the Pacific Northwest, areas of wet soils contain this plant (it stays in the areas with dry soil), so it is not an invasive species there.

3. Opuntia

Prickly Pear (Cactus)
Prickly pear | MonikaP | Pixabay

Cacti from the Opuntia genus, also known as prickly pear cactus, are some of the easiest and most hardy succulents to grow outdoors. They are grown for their sweet, edible fruit and are generally cold-hardy, handling temperatures as low as -22 degrees Fahrenheit. Opuntia thrive in hardiness zones 4-9 and will grow in all of the lower 48 states except the northernmost regions of the Central U.S.

The prickly pear cacti are a great choice for a security border around your home or underneath windows. They grow from 3 to 20 feet tall and from 3 to 15 feet wide. Also known as “paddle cacti,” these plants grow flat, oval, paddle-shaped sections atop each other. Also, propagation is so easy that they are considered invasive in some areas. 

For best results, make sure this drought-tolerant cactus has full sun and well-drained soil. It will tolerate alkaline soils, has good salt tolerance, and grows well along the oceanside or among rocks. 

4. Orostachys

green colored plant of orostachys
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Orostachys plants are native to the mountains of Japan. The name Orostachys means “mountain” (oros), referring to its native environment, and “spike” (stachys), referring to its cone-shaped flower stalks. Orostachys will generally put out many offsets and then flower and die, so you’ll need to replace them with their chicks periodically.

Here are the most cold-hardy orostachys species:

  • Japanese dunce cap (orostachys furusei)
  • Rock pine (orostachys japonica)
  • Spiny pennywort (orostachys spinosa)
  • Dunce’s cap (orostachys fimbriata)

Species in this genus survive in temps as low as Zone 4 but more often in Zones 5 and 6. These cold-hardy species, like all succulents, prefer well-drained soil with partial to full sun. This genus is commonly called “dunce cap” because of the cone-shaped flower stalks that appear after two or three years.

5. Rosularia

green colored succulent plants
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Some succulents in the Rosularia genera are cold-hardy down to Zones 5 or 6. These rosette-shaped succulents form a dense groundcover via stolons (above-ground stems) and stay under 4 inches tall. They will grow in poor, well-draining soil and bloom multiple times, putting out star-shaped white and yellow flowers.

Here are the most cold-hardy rosularia species:

  • Turkish stonecrop (rosularia platyphylla)
  • Rosularia Prometheum

Species in these genera are not always easy to find commercially, but some online nurseries and brick-and-mortar stores do carry a limited stock. Look online or call your nearest garden center to see if these plants are available in your area.

6. Ruschia pulvinaris

pink colored flowers in a yard
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Ruschia pulvinaris, also called congested ice plant or shrubby ice plant, is a low-maintenance succulent that lives in Zones 6 to 10. Shrubby ice plant is a groundcover that grows up to 4 inches tall and up to 1 foot wide and is a popular addition to xeriscaped gardens and rock gardens. This plant is famous for attracting pollinators and butterflies. 

This succulent puts out purple or pink flowers during summer and needs full sun and well-draining soil. If your soil contains a high level of clay, you may need to plant this succulent on a mound of purchased soil mix or choose another succulent groundcover. 

This plant is better suited for the Western U.S. The concern is to avoid areas where snow stays on the ground for long periods, as often happens in the northern regions of the Eastern U.S.

7. Sedum 

light green colored succulent plant
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Also known as stonecrop, sedum is a well-known and wide-ranging genus with many outdoor and cold-hardy succulents. Most hardy stonecrop species are hardy in zones 3-11 and can handle freezing temperatures down to -20 degrees F, but some can even handle -30 degrees F. 

Here are the most cold-hardy stonecrop species:

  • Corsican stonecrop (sedum dasyphyllum major)
  • Goldmoss stonecrop (sedum acre)
  • Dragon’s blood (sedum spurium)
  • Cape Blanco sedum (sedum spathulifolium)

Often used in pollinator gardens, sedum species offer a wide range of color and size options for a new succulent gardener. Many are groundcovers, but some will cascade out of hanging pots while others shoot up with stems up to 1 ½ feet tall. 

Sedum is also well known for its chameleon-like leaf color changes throughout the seasons, from reds and oranges to greens, purples, and even blue hues. Most species also produce a variety of colorful blooms, making them ideal for pollinator gardens.

Plant these succulents in stony, well-drained soil or even in shallow soils in between rocks or stones. Most sedum plants prefer full sun, but some will tolerate partial shade.

8. Sempervivum

green colored succulent plant
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Sempervivum are tough, rosette-shaped succulents that will live for two to five years and die after they flower. Sempervivum means “ever-living” and may refer either to their hardiness or prolific nature. 

Sempervivum is often called “hens and chicks” because the “mother” plant will grow “chicks” on its stolons. Before long, Sempervivum growers will have a plethora of chicks alongside the original mother plant. The leaves on hens and chicks will change color throughout the year. If you prefer a more consistently colored plant, consider a Sempervivum heuffelii.

Here are the most cold-hardy sempervivum species:

  • Sempervivum red lion 
  • Sempervivum mahogany
  • Houseleek (sempervivum calcareum)
  • Cobweb hens and chicks (sempervivum arachnoideum)

Most of these prolific growers are cold hardy to -30 degrees Fahrenheit (Zone 4 to 9) and thrive on deep but infrequent watering, like most lawns. Like most succulents, hens and chicks prefer well-drained soil such as a cactus mix, sandy loam, or soil with lots of rocks. 

Plant these hardy plants where they will have sun in the morning but shade in the afternoon. Strategically placed larger rocks are great for aesthetics and can provide the afternoon shade they need.

9. Yucca

closeup of red yucca plant in a yard
David J. Stang | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

A genus with over 40 species, Yucca has sword-like leaves and spikes of flowers. This succulent offers a variety of shapes and colors and can find a home in any landscape. 

Some species of yucca are native to colder climates and can withstand freezing temperatures. For example, some cold-hardy yucca species can survive in USDA hardiness Zones 3 to 10, while others prefer Zones 9 to 11. 

Here are the most cold-hardy yucca species:

  • Soapweed yucca (yucca glauca)
  • Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora)
  • Thompson’s Yucca (Yucca thompsoniana)

Yucca is popular as an ornamental plant, typically used in xeriscaping. The plant prefers well-draining soil. Otherwise, it is susceptible to root rot. 

What is my hardiness zone?

Before you look for cold-hardy succulents, know your horticultural zone. 

Go to the USDA’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map and type in your ZIP code to find your USDA horticultural zone. 

Why is this important? 

Most plant tags will list the growing zone for that plant. These zones are based on the “average annual minimum winter temperature” in your area. Plants will only survive in their preferred temperature ranges, so make sure you pay attention before you buy. 

Remember, the most important step before you plant is to know you’ve got the “Right plant in the right place” (or zone, in this case). We’ll list the hardiness zones with each item in this article, but here’s a slice (not the full list) of the USDA Hardiness Zones and their temperature minimums.

USDA Hardiness Zones:

  • 1a (-60 to -55 °F) 
  • 1b (-55 to -50 °F)
  • 2a (-50 to -45 °F)
  • 2b (-45 to -40 °F)
  • 3a (-40 to -35 °F)
  • 3b (-35 to -30 °F)
  • 4a (-30 to -25 °F)
  • 4b (-25 to -20 °F)
  • 5a (-20 to -15 °F)
  • 5b (-15 to -10 °F)
  • 6a (-10 to -5 °F)
  • 6b (-5 to 0 °F)
  • 7a (0 to 5 °F)
  • 7b (5 to 10 °F)
  • 8a (10 to 15 °F)
  • 8b (15 to 20 °F)
  • 9a (20 to 25 °F)
  • 9b (25 to 30 °F)
  • 10a (30 to 35 °F)
  • 10b (35 to 40 °F)
  • 11a (40 to 45 °F)
  • 11b (45 to 50 °F)
  • 12a (50 to 55 °F)
  • 12b (55 to 60 °F)
  • 13a (60 to 65 °F)
  • 13b (65 to 70 °F)

Although local garden centers should stock plants that will survive in your region, some of the succulents you see in local stores will be for growing indoors only. Check the hardiness zone on the plant tag and use this list to ensure you buy one that’s hardy for your winter temperatures.

Although these species are winter-hardy, many will go partially or fully dormant in the winter. This means some may lose leaves or completely die back to the ground. Check your plant tag, look online, or ask the folks at your local garden center for information on your plant.

FAQ about cold-hardy outdoor succulents

How do I learn about what succulents are best for my garden?

Several major and independent online growers sell succulents and will have advanced sort and filter options for their online catalog of plants so you can see plants that meet your criteria. Your state’s Cooperative Extension online publications are also chock-full of state-specific information.

If in-person instruction is more helpful for you, go to a local garden center. If you live in an area where xeriscaping is popular, there should be several stores to choose from. If you’re a beginner, though, go somewhere small or locally owned. These stores often pride themselves on spending more time with customers.

Which succulents do NOT grow well in cold environments?

When you’re out shopping for outdoor, cold-hardy succulents, steer clear of these plants that prefer toastier climates:

  • Aeonium
  • Aloe
  • Echeveria
  • Euphorbia
  • Haworthia
  • Kalanchoe
  • Senecio

How do I care for outdoor succulents in the winter?

Each species is different. Most will enter some type of dormancy, which means they’ll need less or no water and no fertilizer. Some will lose all of their above-ground leaves and stems, others will drop their leaves like a tree, and others will remain evergreen. 

For most species, well-draining soil is essential because most succulents don’t like to stay wet. As we mentioned earlier, some cold-hardy succulents only do well in the West. Cold is not the enemy; wet and cold will kill most succulents, though.

Hire a pro

If there’s any time of the year that you need your succulent garden mowed, edged, and weeded, contact a local lawn care pro. They’ll give your cold-hardy succulent garden and the rest of your lawn the best treatment so that you have more time to do what matters. 

With just a call or click, affordable and efficient service is right at your fingertips.

Main Photo Credit: PxHere

Sarah Bahr

Sarah is a writer who has previously worked in the lawn care industry. In her spare time, she likes to garden, raise chickens, and mow the grass with her battery-powered lawn mower.