How To Provide Shade For Succulents

Don’t allow the hot, harsh sun hurt your succulents! Unlike frost (temperatures of 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower), heat normally poses no threat to succulents. The majority of plants can tolerate temperatures higher than you’re comfortable with, as shown by greenhouse temperatures that rise into the triple digits on hot days, despite the fact that some don’t seem to thrive in temperatures above 80 or 90 degrees F. Succulents, though, can succumb to heat and sunlight. All smooth-leaved succulents, excluding desert cacti and agaves, require sun protection in the summer, especially when the temperature rises beyond 80 degrees.

If you live in an arid climate ~

  • Identify the sun’s position relative to your property. In North America, plants growing on the north side of your house will receive the least solar exposure while those growing on the south will receive the most. My garden, which faces east, receives early sunlight and midday shade. West-facing gardens receive early shade and afternoon sun.
  • When temperatures are at their highest in the middle of the day, “bright shade” (no direct sun but not deep shade) is great for non-desert succulents. For low-light succulents like haworthias, bright shade is needed. Visit our website’s Shade Succulents page to learn more. View my video about Shade Succulents.

Above: Although robust, the echeverias on the left in the brilliant shade have lost their colour. The borders of those exposed to more sun are red, but they are smaller due to some stress.

  • Keep track of where each new plant you purchase was situated in the nursery. Was it in the open or covered by a tarp? It will need to be “hardened off” (shaded, especially in the afternoon) until it acclimates, even if it is a “full sun” succulent like an agave. This kind of exposure is like tanning: Start with 30 minutes of sun, then gradually increase it by about an hour per day.
  • Aloes and crassulas need at least a half-worth day’s of sun to turn red and orange, but not so much that the tips of the leaves shrivel or burn. (Read “How to Stress Succulents and Why You Should. “).

Above: Dryness and heat stress this jade (Crassula ovata). To maintain its life, the plant is gently draining its leaves. However, leaves will be plump and greener after irrigation or rain (which could take months).

  • Cover exposed, horizontal stems of trailing succulents (aloes, senecios, othonna, and the like) with dry leaves or mulch to prevent burnt stems from impairing the ability of the plants to transfer moisture from roots to leaves.
  • Use floating row covers (preferably), shade cloth, old sheets, or temporary shade structures to protect newly installed plants and in-ground succulents prone to sunburn. I employ rusty window screens. In an emergency, place upright leafy tree trimmings next to a plant you wish to preserve, on the side that receives the most sunlight. Or, in keeping with the sun’s movement throughout the day, use outside furniture.

Above: Aloe brevifolia, a stunning but stressed plant, has closed its rosettes and changed colour from blue to pink.

  • Learn how plants defend themselves. When the sun becomes unpleasant, succulents can’t flee to the shade, so some species create their own. Succulents with rosettes, such dudleyas, aeoniums, and some types of aloe, close their rosettes to save their critical cores. Lower leaves that become dry but don’t drop off serve a service by protecting flimsy stems from the sun in the summer and the cold in the winter.
  • Where shade will be needed during the long, hot summer afternoons, plant trees and plants. (The Companion Plants chapter in Designing with Succulents, 2nd ed., has information on low-water cultivars suitable for succulent gardens.)

What sunburn looks like

The floppy leaves of this agave stretch (and weaken) the cells in those areas that are most exposed to sunlight.

Succulents with white, beige, or black patches have been sunburned, which causes irreparable cell damage comparable to frost. The plant is alright, but scars will endure just as long as the leaf.

These aeoniums generally have sunburn on the underside of their lowest leaves, which they will shed in a few months anyhow. Very effective, wouldn’t you say?

Several months later, the same aeoniums. Only a few scorched leaves are still visible.

It is preferable if the damaged parts are on the outer leaves because fresh growth from the rosette’s centre will eventually cover up burnt spots. In any event, lower leaves naturally wither and fall off, damage or not. Recovery from a sunburn could take several months to a year, depending on the succulent and the time of year.

Related Info:

Summertime Succulent Watering. Okay, everyone is aware that succulents require little water. They aren’t “no-water plants,” though. Even though they might make it through the summer without irrigation… [Read more…]

A heat wave shouldn’t ruin your succulents. Succulents that are exposed to the scorching sun may burn when a heat wave follows cool weather. The beige or brown patches that develop as a result of sunburn cannot be removed. [Read more…]

Succulent Stress Management (and Why You Should). Some succulents exhibit beautiful reds and yellows when exposed to lots of sunlight, but how much “stress” the plants need depends on… [Read more…]

Is shade cloth necessary for succulents?

Protecting your plants from sunburn is the first aspect of summer care for succulents. Even if your succulents are able to tolerate full light in the spring, there is no guarantee that they won’t fry in the same spot in the summer. In addition, you should learn to spot dormancy indications, alter how and when you water, prevent pest damage, be cautious when making new purchases, and apply top treatments.

How Succulents Respond to Summer

Some succulents, such as the Crassula capitella ‘Campfire’ pictured above, respond to the summer sun’s increased heat and intensity with a vibrant display of colour. For the purpose of preventing its succulent leaves from burning, they produce pigments of vivid colour. However, some succulents have developed a variety of additional defences against the suffocating summer heat. Even during the hottest months, some succulents go dormant. Others use epicuticular wax, a form of sunscreen, on their skin. Others have created a unique type of photosynthesis. Plants use a process called photosynthesis (FO-to-SIN-thuh-sis), which involves opening the stomata on their leaves to allow for respiration during the hotter parts of the day. Living things, including both animals and humans, breathe exclusively at night. They could appear a little wilted during the day as a result, but by nightfall they plump and firm back up.

These modifications may be unclear. Succulent growers who are on the lookout could be frightened by a sharp change in colour. Some people will think the plant is dying because of its lost leaves and sluggish dormant reaction. Sadly, the majority of people react by giving their succulent additional water, which might kill the plant, especially while it is dormant.

It’s critical to comprehend how your succulents might adapt to the obstacles of the summer. Check out my blog post on 9 succulents that can survive the summer. Let’s then examine how to modify your succulent care during the summer.

Shade Cloth Protects Succulents from Sunburn

In the full heat of the summer, many succulents that flourish in full sun from fall through spring will suffer or even die. Summer is when the sun’s UV radiation is at its highest. Summer sun exposure is substantially more harmful for both individuals and plants due to increased radiation and higher temperatures. Succulent maintenance throughout the summer may involve relocating some potted plants to partial shade or erecting a shade structure to offer shelter.

Not only is a succulent sunburn ugly, but it can also be fatal. Burned leaves produce a lasting scar that never heals. Because the damaged leaf tissues are unable to photosynthesize, the plant is unable to convert sunlight into energy. If the plant has a sufficient number of unharmed leaves, it will gradually outgrow the sunburn scars. However, a plant may struggle to live if more than 50% of it is burned.

Using shade cloth is a crucial component of summertime succulent care. It’s a terrific way to protect your plants from the powerful UV rays and summer heat while providing them with the abundant light they require. Plants are shielded from sun harm by shade cloth, which also allows some light to pass through. Shade cloth comes in a range of colours and has UV protection ratings ranging from 5 to 90%. Don’t mix the intensity of the shade cast with the colour. Depending on your climate, you’ll need something that offers 35 to 70 percent shade for growing succulents. The larger the percentage of shade you should choose, the hotter and more intense your summers are.

How to Water Succulents in Summer

Succulent care in the heat necessitates extra caution when watering your succulents. Still, only water succulents when the soil is completely dry. But in the summer, be mindful of how and when you water. In the middle of the day, watering cans and garden hoses pail get extremely warm. Be careful not to spray your plants with burning hot water!

Observe how quickly your plants use the water in the soil as well. It makes sense if plants use water more quickly in the summer. Plants that are actively developing could require extra water to make up for the water lost through higher evaporation and transpiration. The process of water moving through plants is known as transpiration.

However, some succulents dorm throughout the summer and don’t require watering. In actuality, it is best to keep dormant plants dry. So how does this impact summertime succulent care?

Caring for Summer Dormant Succulents

Some succulents go dormant in response to the intense summer heat and lack of summer rain in their natural habitat. They virtually went to sleep during the tough season by largely shutting down their biological functions, consuming very little water. Dormancy should be understood in order to properly care for succulents over the summer. Some succulents are rather evident when they go dormant. Aeonium arboreum, shown above, has a striking appearance. A succulent lover should be quite concerned if it loses its leaves. However, many summer-dormant succulents don’t alter significantly from their year-round appearance. They keep their foliage and just halt. They cease to develop, and their drinking slows to the point where it appears to halt. Patient observation of minute changes is essential for summertime succulent care.

The majority of succulents that lay dormant in the summer only do so when necessary, which makes this topic increasingly tougher. They can opt to go dormant if the circumstances call for it because they are thought to be “opportunistic in their dormancy. I’ve made a list of summer-dormant succulents for you, although I don’t suggest you try to memorise it. As an alternative, be aware that certain succulents do well in the summer and others in the winter. After that, keep a watchful eye on your plants, and if you notice anything seems strange after ruling out any immediately obvious causes, check the season and my chart of succulent dormancy. The peculiar situations that worried you might be explained by dormancy.

Stop watering your succulents once you recognise that they are dormant. It isn’t awake and using the water right now. Due to the lack of moisture in their natural habitat throughout the summer, the plants go dormant. They have gotten used to the dry summer weather. Aeonium and Sempervivum, I’m looking at you!) you can move them into shade and leave them dry until the cooler fall temperatures arrive if you have succulents that tend to collapse in the summer. For the minimal amount of water they require while inactive, plants will draw from the water reserves in their leaves, stems, and roots. When you notice either wrinkled leaf or new growth, you’ll know a dormant plant is waking up and needs extra water!

Summer Care for Mixed Succulents

I adore exquisite ceramics like this pot made by Susan Aach. And I enjoy growing a variety of succulents in a single planter. However, some succulents dorm in the summer and others in the winter. And while a succulent should stay dry when dormant, it need water when it is actively growing. Eek! Does that imply that you can only combine summer- and winter-dormant species, such as succulents, in a garden? What happens, though, to those who don’t “decide to go dormant this season?

The good news is that you shouldn’t worry—the succulents know just what to do! By placing succulents so closely together, you can benefit from the plants’ resource-scarce adaptations. Active, awake plants will absorb any water that is not being utilised by surrounding dormant plants in the same manner as succulents make the most of but do not outgrow the available resources, such as water, nutrients, and space. There are several roots in the same soil, utilising the available water, which is actually a benefit to densely planted mixed succulents. It would be harder for any one plant to absorb all the water left behind by a dormant neighbour if this dish had only three little plants with plenty of spare soil and space between them. Summertime succulent maintenance is made simpler by crowded containers!

To Groom or Not to Groom?

We keep an eye out for warning signals that our succulents need assistance. But it is expected that there will be some dry, dead leaves. The centre of each rosette of the Echeveria and several other kinds regularly produces new, fresh growth, whereas the base of the rosette sheds old, dried leaves. It’s natural for us to slough off dried-out, dead skin cells, and the same is true here. You may easily get rid of these leaves when you manicure your plants to maintain them neat.

But remember, there’s a reason for those dried, dead leaves. Those leaves, if kept in place, shade the stem of the plant in the summer, shielding it from the heat and keeping it cool to prevent excessive water loss from transpiration. These leaves act as insulation for the stem in the winter, keeping it warmer. Be prepared to give the care required to replace the protection you remove if you choose to remove the leaves to give the plant a neater appearance. Summer succulent care may involve keeping your plants in their untidy, natural state.

Summer Pests and Succulents

Drought and the heat of summer are difficult for both plants and animals. And eating the juicy, sensitive flesh of your favourite succulents is an essential way for mammals, birds, and insects to fend off the summer heat. Worm castings are the best way to stop mealybugs and other insects from causing harm, yet they have no impact on animals or birds. Summer succulent care necessitates protecting your plants from frightened birds and mammals, but fundamental human decency demands that we do it with compassion.

Despite the fact that you can use netting, I am concerned about animals or birds getting hurt because of the netting. My first line of defence is to give the animals and birds a few authorised water sources. It is much simpler to protect the plants if they are not in extreme need of water. I have no more issues with squirrels or birds in the summer thanks to a variety of water features and a pair of vivacious cats.

If anyone still needs help, I’ve heard that using a rubber snake that looks authentic works wonders. To deter birds and mammals, place it on the ground close to the plants you want to preserve. To make it practical and efficient, moving it around every few days is generally preferable.

Conserve Water and Repel Pests with Top Dressing

Using inorganic top pressing for succulents in any season has several benefits. However, there are three main advantages that make it a crucial component of summertime succulent care.

Inorganic top dressing prevents soil water from evaporating and ensures that it reaches the roots, where your plant needs it. Additionally, top dressing insulates the soil, keeping it warm in the winter and cool in the summer. This shields the roots from abrupt temperature changes. It is a crucial protection against insects that eat the moisture that is held in the leaves of your succulents. These insects are unable to lay their eggs on the inorganic top dressing, and their young are unable to tunnel through the pebbles and reach the soil’s surface. The pests’ life cycle is broken by top dressing. Include inorganic top dressing in your summertime succulent care regimen.

Adding New Succulents in Summer

Although the summer can be difficult, that doesn’t mean you should stop getting fresh succulents! Just be mindful of the following matters:

First of all, under the summer sun, those black plastic nursery pots really heat up. The heat is absorbed by the black plastic, which then transfers it to the plant’s soil and roots. (Metal containers in direct sunlight are considerably worse and can result in roots that are fried.) Examining the containers your succulents are in to prevent them from baking in the heat of the season is an essential element of summertime succulent maintenance. Place fresh succulents in the pot you want them to reside in and some nice succulent soil.

Next, consider the succulents’ most recent growing circumstances. If you purchase your plants from a nursery, take a look around and note the environment the plant is growing in. Is there a strong sun? Is there enough shade there? Does the plant have shade cloth over it? These were the circumstances that led you to decide to include the plant in your collection. Make sure the circumstances in your garden are comparable. If you purchased the plant online, keep in mind that it spent a few days enclosed in a dark box. It should be given time to gradually adjust to the lighting in the area where you want it to flourish.

I hope you and your family are ready for a wonderful summer now that you know how to provide succulents summer care. Right now, it seems like most of the globe is upside down. For your own safety and well-being, grow succulents.

P.P.S. Would you consider joining my Facebook group for cactus lovers? We discuss design, identification, propagation, and care of succulents. They’re a friendly bunch who would love to meet you!