Most plants have a growing season which is generally spring and summer and are then dormant during winter. The dormant months give the plant time to rest and gather strength for the growing season.
Why do I need to know when a succulents growing season is?
It is handy to know when a growing season is so that if your succulent is ‘not’ growing and looking a bit different then you know it is in its dormant season. (I am mainly referring to Aeoniums here! – see below) The growing season can give you an idea of when you should expect your succulent to produce new growth. If you like to fertilise your succulents, the beginning of the growing season is the time to do so. If you are transplanting it is best to do so at the right time of year. Also, watering requirements may be different during the growing season compared to the dormant season.
However, saying that, some succulents actually seem to grow all year round!
What if my succulent grows during the expected dormant season?
Plants do not have an ‘internal clock’ but rather grow due to their environment. They determine when the appropriate time to grow or be dormant is. A vast majority of succulents are ‘opportunistic growers’, even if they are classified as “winter or summer growers” it really depends on the local climate and growing conditions. Opportunistic growers will grow any time of the year that the conditions are right. Mostly this depends on temperature. If the succulent has a summer growing season and temperatures stay elevated through autumn then the succulent will continue to grow. It will only slow its growth when the temperatures start to drop. Even when a succulent is in its dormant season it may still grow; just at a slower rate.
It is impossible to list when all succulents have their growing or dormant season. A rule of thumb is to determine where their origins are.
Autumn-Winter Growing/Summer Dormant
Succulents from a Mediterranean climate ie The Canary Islands receive the majority or all of their water during the winter. Therefore most of these plants are dormant in the summer. Some autumn/winter growers are: most Aeoniums, a few Euphorbias, Haworthia and Kalanchoe.
Summer Growing/Winter Dormant
Succulents from the central American region, South Africa and Madagascar are summer growers and dormant in winter. Such as Echeveria, Crassula, some Euphorbia. Graptoveria, Graptopetulam, Pachyveria and Sempervivum to name a few.
What are watering requirements during the dormant season?
Generally when a succulent is in its dormant season it is best to water sparingly. However, if you are like me, and have your succulents growing in the ground make sure that they are planted in a rockery, on a slope or if on flat ground; grow them in a mound so that rain will drain away quickly.
The Aeonium species is one particular succulent that has its growing season in the winter and is dormant in the summer. When dormant the rosettes close up very tightly so it looks different in the summer compared to winter. (see below). Most Aeonium also flower during the winter months as well.
Agave’s have their main growing season during the summer months. It is reported that they do require some moisture during the summer months, however, I do not water any of my Agave Attenuata during the summer, they survive on summer rainfall only. Agave do have a dormant season in the winter if you live in the colder parts of the world. In Australia, however, they may still grow at a reduced rate depending on how cold the winter is.
Most echeveria have their growing season during summer but for some varieties it is during spring. However, if winter and autumn months are fairly mild they will continue to grow slowly during their dormant period.
This echeveria agavoides has been merrily growing (and flowering) through autumn to the beginning of winter.
Some Aloes have their growing season in the winter and some are in the summer. It is on a species by species basis. Most, however, have their growing season in summer and flower in the winter.