By Kate Karam for Monrovia Photos courtesy of Monrovia
Let’s face it, even in more temperate zones (not looking at you Hawaii), winter is still winter and the garden can be a bit bleak after a long season of riotous, happy color. Colder zones? You’re pretty much left looking forward to spring. Don’t give up and just wait for the tulips. Succulents to the rescue! Here are eight stunners that color up when the temps go down.
Succulents have become stars of the summer garden world over the past few years, and it’s easy to see why. Water-wise, fuss-free, sculptural, colorful and just plain cool, they’re one of this decade’s must-have plants.
But many succulents rock it all winter, too. In zones 7-10, many flower or turn shades of orange and red providing color and excitement. (Succulents blossom because winter is the rainy season in warmer zones, when these water-thrifty plants can afford the great energy expenditure needed for flowers; their leaves turn color as a defense against the cold.) In colder zones (4-7) under all that snow, some of the more cold-hardy succulents, having become tinged with red or purple after frost, are biding their time waiting to put on a show at the first opportunity.
From the large leaves and colorful blooms of echeveria to cold-hardy stonecrop and the spectacular flowers of South African agave-like aloes, there’s a succulent to brighten most winter gardens. Plant them now so they’ll root in. Choose carefully by zone as not all succulents stand up to frost or a hard freeze.
Stonecrops are exceptionally cold hardy--is this case down to zone 3 which pretty much covers the lower 48. Angelina has brilliant chartreuse-yellow, needle-like foliage that forms a quick groundcover, adds cheery color to containers, dry slopes, flowering borders, and is a good cover for bulbs. In winter, foliage turns orange in northern climates. Perennial. Zones 3-11
This one blooms in summer but hold on! In winter its small, fleshy leaves-- coral when new, maturing to green--become a deep, rich reddish-bronze. A tough customer, use this where you need a vigorous groundcover or a spiller to sprawl over a rock garden. Even tolerates light shade. Perennial. Zones 4-8
Aloes are best suited to warmer zones. They look great year round, but really put on a show in fall and winter when they bloom. This one’s a clumping aloe, growing to just over a foot tall; its leaves change from lime green to bright orange-red with white spotting in cooler temps. Look for a slender spike of dark flower buds that open to reveal greenish-yellow petals mid to late winter. Mass in water-wise garden beds, as an accent or small container specimen. Evergreen. Zones 9-11
Such a drama queen! Selected for its ability to flower at a young age, this exceptional Aloe produces a spectacular display of deep red flowers from fall to winter. A favorite of hummingbirds! Tough and drought tolerant, it forms sturdy clumps well-suited for mass planting in low-maintenance areas, or in a large pot or trough. Evergreen. Zones 9-11
Sempervivum are another group of cold tolerant succulents. ‘Rubikon’ is one that goes from red to really red in winter, its bright ruby ground-hugging rosettes spreading into clumps. Three year old rosettes flower and die, as colorful younger rosettes take their place. Rock garden and trough favorite, thrives in highly porous soil. Architectural form for the modern garden. Evergreen. Zones 4-8
Plant it for the name alone! Add exotic texture to containers or plant in mass for a unique, colorful groundcover; this clumping evergreen succulent thrives with little care in lean, well- drained soil. Deep green leaves are brushed with accents of burgundy. Drought tolerant once established. Can be brought inside if located near a source of bright light. Evergreen. Zones 4-10
Symmetrical rosettes of silvery mint green leaves have deep red-purple centers. Foliage color intensifies in cold weather, contrasting boldly with frost and snow. Offsets form to create a dense richly textured mat. In summer the older rosettes produce clusters of pink blooms on erect stems. Evergreen. Zones 4-9
In late winter when nothing much is happening, this aeonium rockets into bloom. We love the red-tipped, fuzzy foliage of this lime green specimen which spreads up to 3 feet wide. Mature plants produce masses of yellow blooms on long stems in late winter, attracting butterflies. Monocarpic rosettes die after flowering but are replaced by young offsets. Evergreen. Zones 9-11
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