Succulent Dormancy

Succulent Dormancy: Nature’s Way of Survival

Unlock the secrets of succulent dormancy in this comprehensive guide. Learn how these hardy plants adapt and thrive in harsh conditions.

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Succulents, with their captivating beauty and resilience, have become a favorite among plant enthusiasts. Among their remarkable features is the phenomenon of “Succulent Dormancy.” In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of succulent dormancy, exploring what it is, why it happens, and how to care for succulents during this phase. Let’s embark on a journey through the fascinating world of these water-storing wonders.

Succulent Dormancy

Succulent Dormancy

Succulent dormancy refers to a natural phase in the life cycle of succulent plants, during which they enter a period of rest. This rest period is a survival strategy that allows these plants to conserve energy and water when conditions become unfavorable.

The Science Behind Succulent Dormancy

Succulents store water in their leaves, stems, or roots, making them well-equipped to thrive in arid environments. However, even these hardy plants can face challenging conditions. During droughts, extreme temperatures, or limited sunlight, succulents activate their dormancy mechanism.

In this state, succulents reduce their metabolic activities, such as growth and flowering, to a minimum. This conserves vital resources, ensuring their survival until conditions improve.

The Role of Light and Temperature

Succulent dormancy is a fascinating aspect of these unique plants, and understanding the pivotal role that light and temperature play in this process is essential for successfully caring for them.

The Influence of Light

Shorter Daylight Hours: One of the primary triggers for succulent dormancy is the change in daylight hours. As the days grow shorter during the fall and winter months, succulents receive reduced sunlight. This decrease in available light signals to the plant that it’s time to enter a period of rest.

Succulents are highly adapted to their native environments, which often experience fluctuating light conditions. They have developed the ability to respond to these changes by adjusting their metabolic activities. When daylight hours decrease, photosynthesis—the process by which plants convert light into energy—is less efficient. To compensate for this reduced energy production, succulents enter dormancy, where they conserve energy and resources until conditions become more favorable.

The Impact of Temperature

Cooler Temperatures: Alongside changes in light, cooler temperatures also contribute to the initiation of succulent dormancy. Succulents are particularly sensitive to temperature fluctuations, and as temperatures drop during the fall and winter, they perceive this as a signal to slow down their growth.

Cooler temperatures impact several aspects of succulent physiology. They influence the rate of transpiration, which is the loss of water vapor from the plant through small openings called stomata. Reduced transpiration helps succulents conserve precious moisture during times when water may be less available. Additionally, cooler temperatures can affect the enzymes involved in photosynthesis, causing them to function less efficiently. This further supports the decision to enter dormancy and reduce metabolic activities.

Species-Specific Responses

It’s important to note that the exact triggers and responses to light and temperature can vary among succulent species. While most succulents share a common strategy of entering dormancy during adverse conditions, the timing and intensity of this response may differ.

Some succulents may enter dormancy earlier or later in the season, depending on their native habitat and specific adaptations. Certain species may also be more tolerant of temperature fluctuations than others. Therefore, it’s crucial to research the specific requirements of the succulent species in your care to provide the best possible environment during dormancy.

Providing Optimal Conditions

As a succulent enthusiast or gardener, you can harness your understanding of the role of light and temperature in succulent dormancy to provide optimal conditions for your plants. Here are some key considerations:

  • Light: While succulents require bright, indirect sunlight for much of the year, it’s important to reduce their light exposure as daylight hours decrease. Placing them in a location with filtered or indirect sunlight during the fall and winter will help simulate the natural reduction in light and initiate dormancy.
  • Temperature: Maintaining a slightly cooler environment for your succulents during their dormant phase is beneficial. Indoor temperatures that mimic those found in their native habitats during winter can encourage dormancy. However, be cautious not to expose them to freezing temperatures, as this can damage the plants.
Succulent Dormancy

Caring for Succulents During Dormancy

Understanding how to care for your succulents during dormancy is crucial to ensure their health and longevity. Here are some essential tips:

Reduced Watering

As succulents enter dormancy, their water requirements decrease significantly. It’s essential to reduce your watering frequency during this period. Water sparingly, allowing the soil to dry out completely between watering sessions.

Limited Fertilization

Succulents also require less fertilization during dormancy. High-nitrogen fertilizers should be avoided, as they can promote unnecessary growth. Instead, opt for a balanced, low-nitrogen fertilizer.

Adequate Light

While succulents reduce their growth during dormancy, they still need adequate light to maintain their health. Place them in a bright location with indirect sunlight to ensure they receive the necessary energy for survival.

Succulent Dormancy


What is Succulent Dormancy?

Succulent dormancy is a natural phase in the life cycle of succulent plants where they enter a period of rest. During this phase, succulents slow down their metabolic activities, including growth and flowering, to conserve energy and water. It’s a survival strategy that helps these plants endure unfavorable conditions, such as drought or extreme temperatures.

Why Do Succulents Go Dormant?

Succulents go dormant in response to environmental cues, primarily changes in light and temperature. Shorter daylight hours and cooler temperatures signal to the plant that it’s time to slow down and conserve resources. Dormancy ensures their survival during adverse conditions by reducing water loss and energy expenditure.

When Does Succulent Dormancy Occur?

The timing of succulent dormancy varies depending on the species and environmental factors. In general, it often occurs during the fall and winter months when daylight hours are shorter and temperatures drop. However, some succulents might enter dormancy during other seasons, depending on their native habitat and specific adaptations.

How Long Does Succulent Dormancy Last?

The duration of succulent dormancy can vary widely. Some succulents may go dormant for several weeks, while others might remain dormant for several months. It depends on the species, environmental conditions, and the specific triggers for dormancy.

What Happens to Succulents During Dormancy?

During dormancy, succulents undergo several physiological changes. They reduce the rate of photosynthesis and water uptake, resulting in slowed growth. Some succulents may drop leaves or appear less vibrant. These adaptations help them conserve energy and water until conditions become more favorable.

Is Succulent Dormancy the Same for All Species?

No, succulent dormancy can differ between species. Some succulents may experience a more pronounced dormancy, while others might have a milder or shorter dormant phase. It’s essential to research the specific needs of your succulent species to provide appropriate care during dormancy.

How Should I Water My Succulents During Dormancy?

During dormancy, succulents require less water than during their active growth phases. It’s crucial to water sparingly and allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings. Overwatering during dormancy can lead to root rot and other issues.

Can I Fertilize My Succulents While They’re Dormant?

Succulents typically need less fertilizer during dormancy. High-nitrogen fertilizers should be avoided, as they can stimulate unnecessary growth. Instead, use a balanced, low-nitrogen fertilizer sparingly, if at all.

Should I Repot My Succulents During Dormancy?

It’s generally best to avoid repotting succulents during dormancy. Wait until the plant resumes active growth in the spring, as disturbing the roots during dormancy can stress the plant.

Can I Propagate Succulents During Dormancy?

Propagation is generally more successful during the growing season when the plant is actively producing new growth. Attempting propagation during dormancy may result in slower root development and lower success rates.

Is It Normal for Succulents to Lose Leaves During Dormancy?

Yes, it’s normal for many succulent species to shed some leaves during dormancy. This shedding is a natural part of their life cycle and helps conserve resources. However, excessive leaf loss may indicate other issues, such as overwatering or inadequate light.

How Can I Tell If My Succulent Is Dormant or Unhealthy?

Healthy succulents in dormancy will exhibit signs such as reduced growth, fewer flowers, and occasional leaf shedding. Unhealthy succulents may show signs of stress, such as yellowing or wilting leaves, mold growth, or unusual discoloration.

What Are Some Common Mistakes to Avoid During Succulent Dormancy?

  • Overwatering: One of the most common mistakes is watering too frequently during dormancy. Always let the soil dry out between waterings.
  • Inadequate Light: Providing insufficient light during dormancy can lead to leggy, weak growth. Place your succulents in a bright location with indirect sunlight.
  • High-Nitrogen Fertilizers: Avoid using fertilizers high in nitrogen during dormancy, as they promote unnecessary growth.
  • Repotting: Refrain from repotting during dormancy to avoid stressing the plant’s roots.

Can Succulents Die During Dormancy?

While succulents are highly resilient, improper care during dormancy can lead to health issues. Overwatering, inadequate light, or other neglect can stress the plant and, in extreme cases, lead to its demise. Proper care during dormancy is crucial for their long-term health.

How Can I Encourage Healthy Dormancy in My Succulents?

To promote healthy dormancy in your succulents, mimic their natural habitat conditions as closely as possible. Provide reduced water, adequate but indirect sunlight, and avoid disturbances like repotting or excessive fertilization. Monitoring your plants and adjusting care accordingly is key to their well-being.

Are There Exceptions to Succulent Dormancy?

While most succulents undergo some form of dormancy, there may be exceptions in rare cases or with certain hybrid varieties. Always research the specific needs of your succulent species to provide appropriate care.

Can Succulents Resume Growth After Dormancy?

Yes, once dormancy ends and conditions become more favorable, succulents will typically resume active growth. You may notice new leaves, shoots, or flowers as signs that the plant is emerging from its dormant phase.

How Can I Prepare My Succulents for Dormancy?

To prepare succulents for dormancy, gradually reduce watering as daylight hours shorten and temperatures drop. Ensure they have adequate light, and avoid fertilizing. Monitoring your plants closely during this transition is essential.

What Should I Do If My Succulent Isn’t Coming Out of Dormancy?

If your succulent isn’t emerging from dormancy as expected, review your care routine to ensure you’re providing the necessary conditions. Check for signs of stress or disease, and adjust care accordingly. In some cases, it may take longer for a succulent to break dormancy, so patience is key.

Can I Move My Dormant Succulents Indoors?

You can move dormant succulents indoors if you live in an area with harsh winter conditions. Place them near a window with indirect sunlight and continue to water sparingly. Make the transition gradual to minimize shock to the plants.

Are There Any Warning Signs of Dormancy-Related Problems?

Warning signs of dormancy-related problems include leaf discoloration, wilting, mold growth, or unusual changes in appearance. These may indicate that the succulent is not adjusting well to its dormant phase or is experiencing stress.

Should I Prune My Succulents During Dormancy?

Pruning during dormancy is generally unnecessary and can stress the plant. It’s best to wait until the succulent resumes active growth in the spring before considering any pruning.

Can I Change the Light Conditions for Dormant Succulents?

While you should provide adequate light during dormancy, it’s crucial to maintain consistency. Sudden changes in light conditions can stress the plant. If you need to adjust lighting, do so gradually.

How Can I Identify When My Succulent Is Ready to Exit Dormancy?

You can identify when your succulent is ready to exit dormancy by observing new growth, increased leaf production, or the emergence of flower buds. These signs indicate that the plant is preparing to resume its active phase.

Are There Any Diseases or Pests That Succulents Are Prone to During Dormancy?

Succulents can be vulnerable to certain diseases and pests during dormancy, such as fungal infections or mealybugs. Regularly inspect your plants for signs of trouble, and take appropriate measures to address any issues promptly.

How Can I Safeguard My Dormant Succulents from Pests and Diseases?

Protecting your dormant succulents from pests and diseases is essential to their well-being. Here are some preventive measures you can take:

  • Regular Inspection: Periodically examine your succulents for any signs of pests or diseases. Look for unusual spots, discolored patches, or the presence of insects.
  • Isolation: If you suspect a pest or disease issue, isolate the affected succulent to prevent it from spreading to others.
  • Proper Ventilation: Ensure good air circulation around your succulents. Proper ventilation can help prevent fungal issues.
  • Avoid Overwatering: Overwatering can create a conducive environment for fungal growth. Stick to a strict watering schedule to prevent excess moisture in the soil.
  • Quarantine New Additions: When adding new succulents to your collection, quarantine them for a few weeks to ensure they are pest and disease-free before integrating them with your existing plants.

Can Succulents Be Dormant for Too Long?

Succulents can remain dormant for an extended period if environmental conditions are unfavorable. While this is a natural adaptation for survival, prolonged dormancy may lead to weaker plants over time. To encourage healthy growth, it’s essential to create conditions that mimic their native habitat and provide adequate care when they exit dormancy.

What Should I Do If My Succulent Shows Signs of Stress During Dormancy?

Stress signs in succulents during dormancy can include yellowing leaves, wilting, or unusual discoloration. If you notice these signs, take the following steps:

  • Check Light and Temperature: Ensure your succulent is receiving the appropriate amount of indirect sunlight and is not exposed to extreme cold.
  • Adjust Watering: Evaluate your watering schedule and ensure the soil is drying out between waterings. Adjust if necessary.
  • Inspect for Pests or Disease: Examine your succulent for signs of pests or diseases. If identified, take prompt action to address the issue.
  • Reevaluate Potting Mix: Ensure your succulent is planted in well-draining soil to prevent root rot and other moisture-related problems.

Can I Change the Location of Dormant Succulents?

Moving dormant succulents to a different location should be done cautiously. Sudden changes in lighting conditions or temperature can stress the plant. If you need to relocate your succulent, do so gradually over a few days to allow the plant to acclimate to its new environment.

Is It Necessary to Water Succulents at All During Dormancy?

While succulents require less water during dormancy, they should not be completely deprived of moisture. It’s essential to maintain a minimal watering schedule, allowing the soil to dry out partially between waterings. This prevents the roots from desiccating but avoids the risk of overwatering.

Can I Encourage Blooming During Dormancy?

Succulents typically do not bloom during dormancy, as this phase is primarily focused on conserving energy and resources. Blooming typically occurs during the active growing season when the plant has ample resources for flowering. Attempting to force blooming during dormancy is not advisable and may stress the plant.

How Can I Tell If My Succulent Is in a Deep Dormancy or Struggling?

Distinguishing between a succulent in deep dormancy and one that is struggling can be challenging. Look for the following signs to assess its condition:

  • Deep Dormancy: Reduced growth, limited or no flowering, occasional leaf shedding, and generally healthy appearance.
  • Struggling: Yellowing or wilting leaves, mold growth, significant leaf loss, or unusual discoloration.

If your succulent appears to be struggling, review your care routine and make adjustments as needed to provide the proper conditions.

Can I Apply Any Treatments or Supplements During Dormancy to Boost Succulent Health?

During dormancy, succulents primarily rely on their stored resources, and their metabolic activities are reduced. Applying treatments or supplements during this phase is generally unnecessary and can even be detrimental. It’s best to provide a stable and appropriate environment for your succulents to ensure their well-being.

What Are Some Signs That My Succulent Is Exiting Dormancy?

As succulents transition out of dormancy and into their active growth phase, you may observe the following signs:

  • New Growth: Fresh leaves or shoots emerging from the center of the plant.
  • Increased Vibrancy: The plant’s color becoming more vibrant and leaves appearing plumper.
  • Flower Buds: The development of flower buds in species that bloom.
  • Increased Water Needs: A noticeable uptick in water requirements as the plant’s metabolic activity increases.

These signs indicate that your succulent is preparing to thrive once again.

Should I Adjust My Care Routine as My Succulent Exits Dormancy?

Yes, as your succulent exits dormancy, you should gradually adjust your care routine to accommodate its increased needs. This includes providing more frequent watering, increasing exposure to indirect sunlight, and resuming a balanced fertilization schedule. Carefully monitor your succulent’s response to these adjustments to ensure it thrives.

Can I Encourage Dormancy in My Succulents if They Are Not Naturally Dormant?

Succulents that are not naturally dormant should not be forced into dormancy unless you have a compelling reason to do so. Forcing dormancy can be stressful for these plants and may not be necessary for their overall health and well-being. It’s essential to understand the specific needs of the succulent species you have and provide care accordingly.

What Should I Do If My Succulent Is Dormant but the Season Is Unusually Warm?

If your succulent is in dormancy but experiences unseasonably warm weather, it’s important to monitor its condition closely. During such periods, the plant may require slightly more frequent watering than usual, as higher temperatures can increase water loss through transpiration.

Be cautious not to overwater, but adjust your watering schedule as needed to prevent the soil from becoming bone dry. Providing some shade or protection from intense heat can also help maintain a stable environment for dormant succulents.

Can I Prune My Succulent While It’s Dormant?

Pruning during dormancy should generally be limited to the removal of dead or diseased growth. Avoid extensive pruning or shaping during this phase, as the plant’s reduced metabolic activity may hinder its ability to recover from such interventions. It’s often better to wait until the succulent exits dormancy and begins active growth before undertaking significant pruning.

What If My Succulent Doesn’t Go Dormant at All?

While most succulents experience dormancy, some may exhibit different growth patterns, especially if they are grown indoors under controlled conditions. If your succulent does not go dormant, it may be due to the consistent environment it’s kept in.

While it’s not necessarily a problem if your succulent doesn’t go dormant, it’s essential to continue providing appropriate care, including proper lighting, watering, and fertilization, to ensure its health and longevity.

Are There Any Special Considerations for Outdoor vs. Indoor Succulents During Dormancy?

Succulents grown outdoors will naturally respond to seasonal changes in light and temperature, making it easier for them to enter dormancy when needed. However, indoor succulents may not experience the same environmental cues. To simulate dormancy for indoor succulents, adjust their care routine by reducing watering and providing a cooler, dimmer environment for a short period.

Can Dormant Succulents Be Prone to Sunburn?

Dormant succulents can be more sensitive to intense sunlight. If you live in an area with strong winter sun, be cautious about exposing dormant succulents to direct sunlight for extended periods. Sunburn can damage their leaves and affect their overall health. Providing partial shade or using sheer curtains can help protect them from excessive sun exposure.

Can Succulents in Dormancy Still Be Transplanted?

While it’s generally advisable to avoid transplanting succulents during dormancy, there may be circumstances where it’s necessary, such as if the plant has outgrown its container or if you need to address root issues. If you must transplant a dormant succulent, handle it with care, use well-draining soil, and minimize root disturbance as much as possible to reduce stress.

What Is the Role of Temperature Fluctuations in Dormancy?

Temperature fluctuations play a significant role in signaling dormancy for succulents. As temperatures drop and rise, the plant perceives these changes and adjusts its metabolic activities accordingly. This natural response helps succulents conserve energy and resources when environmental conditions are less favorable.

Can Succulents Skip Dormancy in Favor of Continuous Growth?

In their native habitats, succulents have evolved to undergo dormancy as a survival strategy. While it’s possible to manipulate indoor conditions to minimize or eliminate dormancy, doing so is not recommended for the long-term health of the plant. Succulents benefit from the rest and rejuvenation that dormancy provides, and continuous growth without dormancy can weaken them over time.

What Is the Ideal Temperature Range for Dormant Succulents?

The ideal temperature range for dormant succulents can vary depending on the species. In general, most succulents benefit from temperatures between 45°F to 55°F (7°C to 13°C) during dormancy. However, it’s essential to research the specific temperature preferences of your succulent species to provide optimal conditions.

Can Succulents Experience Partial Dormancy?

Yes, some succulents can undergo partial dormancy, which means that only certain parts of the plant go dormant while others remain active. For example, you may notice reduced growth and leaf shedding in the above-ground portion of the succulent, while the roots remain relatively active. This partial dormancy can be a response to fluctuating environmental conditions.

Can Succulents in Dormancy Survive Frost or Freezing Temperatures?

Most succulents are not adapted to withstand frost or freezing temperatures during dormancy. Exposure to extreme cold can cause cellular damage and lead to the death of the plant. If you live in an area with cold winters, it’s crucial to provide protection or bring your succulents indoors when frost is expected.

Can Dormant Succulents Be Moved to a Greenhouse?

Moving dormant succulents to a greenhouse can be a suitable option, especially if you live in an area with harsh winter conditions. Greenhouses offer controlled environments with stable temperatures and protection from frost. Just ensure that the greenhouse provides adequate light, and monitor your succulents closely to adjust care as needed.

How Do Succulents Benefit from Dormancy?

Dormancy provides succulents with several benefits:

  • Conserving Water: By reducing metabolic activities, succulents lose less water through transpiration during dormancy, helping them survive dry periods.
  • Energy Preservation: Dormancy allows succulents to conserve energy, redirecting it toward essential functions like root maintenance and long-term survival.
  • Protection from Environmental Stress: Succulents use dormancy as a protective measure against harsh environmental conditions, such as extreme temperatures and drought.

Can I Move My Dormant Succulent to a Dark Location to Encourage Dormancy?

While reducing light exposure can help simulate dormancy for indoor succulents, moving them to a completely dark location is not advisable. Even dormant succulents require some light for photosynthesis and to maintain their health. Instead, provide indirect light and maintain a cooler, drier environment to mimic dormancy conditions.

What Should I Do If My Dormant Succulent Starts Growing Unusually Early?

If your succulent begins to show signs of growth earlier than expected, it may be due to a shift in environmental conditions or a response to internal cues. You can adjust its care regimen by reducing water and providing a slightly cooler environment to encourage it to re-enter dormancy. However, some succulents have irregular growth patterns, so monitor their progress and adapt care accordingly.

Can Succulents Experience a Second Dormancy in the Same Year?

In some cases, succulents may experience a second dormancy within the same year. This can happen if they are exposed to erratic or extreme environmental conditions. If your succulent enters a second dormancy, follow the same care guidelines as you would for its initial dormant phase.

Is There a Risk of Overstimulating Dormant Succulents With Too Much Light?

Yes, providing too much light to dormant succulents can potentially overstimulate them and prompt premature growth. It’s essential to balance light exposure by providing indirect sunlight or placing them in a location with filtered light. Avoid exposing dormant succulents to direct, intense sunlight, which can lead to stress and damage.

How Can I Identify If My Succulent Is Experiencing Stress During Dormancy?

Stress signs in dormant succulents can include wilting, discoloration, unusual spotting, or changes in texture. These signs may indicate that the plant is not adapting well to its dormant phase or is facing environmental challenges. Carefully review your care routine and make adjustments as needed.

Can I Encourage Dormancy in My Indoor Succulents for Better Growth?

While you can adjust indoor conditions to encourage dormancy in your succulents, it’s important to consider the overall health and needs of the plant. Forcing dormancy solely for better growth may not be necessary, as succulents can thrive with proper care year-round. Balancing consistent care with their natural growth patterns is often the best approach.

Can I Encourage Blooming Immediately After Dormancy?

Succulents typically require a transition period from dormancy to active growth before they can produce flowers. Attempting to force blooming immediately after dormancy may stress the plant and reduce the likelihood of successful flowering. Allow your succulent to re-acclimate to growth gradually, and it will eventually produce blooms when conditions are favorable.

How Do I Determine the Right Dormancy Schedule for My Succulents?

The dormancy schedule for your succulents will depend on several factors, including the species, environmental conditions, and your geographic location. Research the specific requirements of your succulent species and observe its natural growth patterns. By understanding these factors, you can establish an appropriate dormancy schedule that aligns with your plant’s needs.


Succulent dormancy is a remarkable adaptation that allows these plants to thrive in challenging environments. By understanding and properly caring for your succulents during this phase, you can ensure their long-term health and enjoy their beauty year-round. Embrace the natural rhythms of succulent life, and your garden will flourish with these captivating wonders.