Growing Succulents Outdoors In Pots: How To Care For Them

Have you ever thought about keeping your succulents outside in pots? No neither did I until a few years ago when I decided to give it a try. At the time I only had a small patio area in my backyard (with no lawn at all) so had to keep them in pots. There was a bit of trial and error but it wasn’t long until my succulents were thriving.

Succulents can live happily outdoors in pots as long as you make sure they have plenty of light and enough room to grow and that the pots have holes for drainage. Hardy succulents are happy outside all year round while tender succulents will need to be brought inside when the weather gets colder.

The advantage of potted succulents is that they can be moved around whenever you feel like rearranging them or if the weather gets bad. On top of that, they can also brighten up and improve any outdoor space, whether it’s adding a touch of color to your decking or bringing life to your patio or balcony. This doesn’t mean that they can be left to their own devices though, they still need to be cared for which is exactly what this article’s about. Over the years I’ve learned a lot about growing succulents outdoors (both in pots and in the ground) and wanted to pass on what I’ve discovered so you won’t have to make the same mistakes I did. 

Where is the best place to put succulents outside?

One of the best things about plating outdoors succulents in pots is that you can move them around whenever you need to but that doesn’t mean you can just plonk them anywhere. 

Just like their indoor counterparts, outdoor succulents still need plenty of natural sunlight (although not direct) so you should put them in places where they’ll get between four and seven hours of sun a day. If they get more it’s not an issue as long as they also get some shade. Too much sun can burn the leaves and stress the plant.

As well as making sure they’re getting enough light and shade you also need to consider what will happen to them if you get a lot of heavy downpours. Of course, you can move them if this happens, but if you don’t want to (or are away) then you should make sure they have some sort of cover too. Under the branches of a palm tree or under the eaves of your house are ideal places, they’ll allow the sun to shine through but will also offer some protection from the rain.

Succulents are perfectly happy living outside

Do potted succulents prefer the sun or shade?

I know it’s going to seem as if I’m avoiding answering this question but it does, to some extent, depend on the plant. Many succulents come from desert-like regions where there’s a lot of bright sunshine all day, but others are used to more shaded areas.

That said though, while some succulents prefer more light than others, as a general rule, they will be happier if they’re getting plenty of natural light that’s not too bright.

How do you care for outdoor succulents in pots?

When it comes to planting outdoor succulents in pots there are a couple of things you need to take into account, the soil, fertilizer, and the pot itself.

Soil

Regardless of whether you’re keeping your potted succulents indoors or outdoors the type of soil you use is vitally important. You want it to be slightly acidic (around 6.0 to 6.5 on the pH scale) but it should also be a potting mix that’s been formulated for succulents and cacti. 

Not sure what makes a good soil mix? What soil your plants really need.

Fertilizer

When it comes to fertilizing outdoor succulents they need just as much food as indoor ones, especially if they’re potted. The reason for this is that the soil isn’t as able to replenish the nutrients as easily as it can if the plant is in the ground. That doesn’t mean to say you need to give it extra fertilizer every few months, once every couple of years is usually sufficient.

Pot

Succulents like nothing more than well-drained soil which is why it’s crucial that, whatever pot you use, it has holes so that any excess water can drain away properly. Terracotta pots are ideal because they’re made from natural materials so are able to quickly wick the water away.

Terracotta pots are perfect for succulents

Should you water a potted outdoor succulent?

There’s a common misconception that outdoor succulents don’t need watering at all but this isn’t true. While it’s true they can get water from the rain and even from morning dew, if the pot has holes to allow the soil to drain they won’t be able to retain the water at all (which is exactly how they like it) so you’ll need to give them some water from time to time.

Just with indoor succulents, it’s important you don’t overwater them but instead give them water when they really need it.

One thing that people often forget about when watering outdoor succulents is watering the leaves. While it can be easy to go around with a hose and sprinkle water over the whole plant this is a definite no-no when it comes to succulents, especially in the summer. Not only can they absorb the water through their leaves but it can sit in the middle of the plant and will end up attracting bugs and causing the plant to rot. Water droplets on the leaves will also help to magnify the sun’s rays which can lead to the leaves burning.

Not sure when to water your succulents? How to water succulents for optimum growth.

Do succulents grow better in pots or in the ground?

There are obvious pros and cons to planting succulents in pots outdoors but there is also an element of ‘it depends on the plant’. For example, hardy succulents will be perfectly happy being planted in the ground, while soft succulents tend to prefer being in pots.

The advantage of planting succulents in pots is that you can move them around your backyard whenever you want to and can also bring them under cover when it rains or if there’s going to be a frost. That said though, if your pots don’t have proper drainage holes then your succulents won’t be happy in them at all.

As an alternative to planting succulents in pots (but still not putting them in the ground) you could plant them on stone walls or in rock gardens. In fact, some succulents, such as sempervivums and sedums, prefer these areas to any other.

Succulents grow well on stone walls

Can succulents stay outside all year?

Succulents are outdoor plants but that doesn’t mean they can stay outside all year round. If you live in a warm area that never gets a frost then there’s no reason why you can’t leave your succulents outside all year round, regardless of the variety. That said though, if you do get frosts and a lot of rain then you might want to consider moving your soft succulents to a greenhouse or give them some protection from the winter elements. Hardy succulents, on the other hand, are generally happy to live outside all year no matter what the weather.

Not sure about whether your succulents can survive winter outside? Check out this article on keeping succulents outdoors in the winter.

Can you move potted garden succulents indoors?

If your plants aren’t suitable for being outside during the winter or if you want to bring them inside permanently then there are a few things you need to do first. To start with it’s crucial you check your plants for mealybugs, if you don’t you run the risk of infecting all of your other indoor plants.

Want to know more about pests? Everything you need to know about dealing with bugs on succulents.

If you do find signs of mealybugs then you need to remove the affected area(s) first, in most cases, this is as simple as removing just a leaf or two. If, however, the whole plant is infested with mealybugs then I’m afraid it’s a goner and you’re best off disposing of it.

Once you’ve made sure your plant is pest free then you can bring it inside but you need to make sure it’s still getting enough light. Suddenly reducing the amount of light your plant’s getting can have a detrimental effect on it. Ideally, you should place it on a window where it can get a similar amount of light to what it was getting outside. If this isn’t possible though then you can use grow lights to simulate natural light. They’re cheap to run and can give your succulent the full spectrum of light that it needs. 

I don’t use grow lights anymore but before I moved to a house with plenty of big windows I used them all of the time and can vouch for how good they are. Over the years I tried a number of different ones but found these ones from FOXGARDEN (available on Amazon) to be brilliant. They gave my plants plenty of light but were also discreet.

Succulents thrive outdoors

I hope you found this article helpful. If you did I’d be grateful if you could share it please as it would really help me.

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