Differences Between Hardy & Tender Succulents


While succulents have a reputation for being pretty tough in general, they are not all created equal. In fact, you can put almost any kind of succulent into one of two categories: hardy or tender. The differences between hardy and tender succulents go beyond the way they look. You may find that you prefer one over the other based on their care needs and the climate where you live. Learn the differences so you can choose the right one for you.

What Are Hardy and Tender Succulents?

You can break up succulents into hardy and tender varieties by knowing whether or not they tolerate frost. Hardy succulents tend to come from areas where the weather can get very cold and harsh. They also often come from more mountainous regions. Tender succulents (aka soft succulents) originate in places where the temperature almost never drops below freezing.

Examples of hardy succulents include Sempervivum and the frost hardy subset of Sedum (Stonecrops). Some common types of tender succulents include Crassula, Senecio, Echeveria, and Aeonium.

Important Differences To Consider

Depending on the kind of succulent you’re working with, you may need to change how you take care of them or what kind of environment you place them in. Take a look at some of these differences between hardy and tender succulents so you can take the best care of them.

Temperature Resilience

As the name would suggest, hardy succulents can handle more extreme temperatures when it comes to dealing with the cold and snowy winters. Hardy outdoor succulents can survive below-zero temperatures, some all the way down to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit. They do this by slowing their growth or going completely dormant during the colder months. Frost-hardy succulents tolerate the cold best when they are planted in-ground (as opposed to in a container), kept relatively dry, and insulated under a layer of snow.

Tender succulents will not tolerate temperatures below freezing. Deep or prolonged frost will burst their cells and turn them into a mushy, unsalvageable mess. To grow soft succulents, you’ll need to keep them protected from frost all year.

Where to Grow

Frost hardy succulents should be grown outdoors year-round. They thrive when they get the seasonal cycles of temperature, precipitation, and day length that only the outdoors can provide. They tend to languish indoors and often turn faded, stretched, and prone to rot.

Soft succulents, like all plants, grow best outdoors. Most climates, however, experience below freezing temperatures that would kill frost tender succulents. Fortunately, they can thrive indoors when they’re grown in sufficient sunshine. Another strategy that many succulent growers employ is to keep their soft succulents outdoors for as much of the year as possible and bring them indoors to a sunny, south facing windowsill before there is a chance of frost.

Sunlight Exposure

Both hardy and tender succulents require sunlight to thrive. If you do have to keep a hardy succulent indoors, you’ll need to put it somewhere where it can get lots of sunlight. A grow light can be extremely helpful for both kinds of succulents to ensure that they get enough light to show their best colors and put on healthy growth without stretching.

No matter what kind of succulent you prefer, Mountain Crest Gardens has the widest selection you’ll find online. Take a look through store to find the perfect addition to your home or garden.