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Saving Your Succulents

Succulents have been the trendy “it” plant since the drought struck.

If you’re one of the gardeners who have succumbed to the succulent bug and you’re worried about getting them through cold weather, come check out the “Saving Succulents in Winter” presentation at the Windsor Garden Club Meeting Tuesday, Jan. 19 in the Community Room at the Windsor Senior Center, 9231 Foxwood Drive.

For succulent lovers, December and January can be tough months. Windsor's tendency to dip as low as 27 degrees during cold snaps can leave some succulent varieties looking like blobs of gelatin or oozing movie monsters. (Got a great melted succulent photo? Join the (private) Windsor Garden Club group on Facebook and post it and we’ll all commiserate.

Turns out, one of the key parts of saving succulents in cold climates is planting the right kind in the first place. Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum), a name that would be great for an all-girl band, and Blue Chalksticks (Senecio Mandraliscae), another band-worthy name, are two of them. So are sedums (there are hundreds of varieties of this category of succulents).

Windsor Garden Club Succulents Group leaders Vonnie Matthews and Noreen Fenton will outline which succulents to plant in Windsor and surrounding areas, and where to plant them in your gardens so you don’t wind up with browned or melted ones after a freeze.

The club has been working on dividing and growing sedum starts and may have some on hand for fans to take home and watch over.

One thing to know about experienced succulent lovers: they don’t talk about digging and dividing succulents. They talk about succulents having “pups” and “pupping” (twisting) new growth to plant as tiny pups (starts) in their own pots or containers.

No actual, four-footed or flippered hairy pups will be present at the Jan. 19 Windsor Garden Club meeting, or separated from their mothers at said meeting. It’s all just part of the semi-secret language of succulent lovers.

Got questions on succulents or other plants and how to shepherd them through the winter? The club includes a lot of UC-certified Master Gardeners, so you’re welcome to ask about anything after the presentation. Post questions in the WGC Facebook group anytime, or email them to

Wondering what doesn’t fare well in a winter Windsor succulent garden? Aloe vera.

I learned that the hard way with a couple of containers of aloe during the Great Freeze of 2013. Even though the aloe was in pots next to the front door on a well-covered porch, some of it turned to goo.

They were “sentimental” plants – given to us as cuttings from Central Coast relatives’ gardens.

I was sure the aloe would be fine on the front porch. I was wrong. I couldn’t stand to look at the goo after the big freeze, and wiped it all out of the pots and ripped out spikes with gooey sections. I cut off freeze-withered spikes a few weeks later. I’m not a patient gardener. Now I cover the aloe survivors with a dry beach towel on freezing nights. A sheet wasn’t thick enough. They’re still alive –which they wouldn’t be if I brought them in the house. My gardening skills only cover outdoor plants.

PS: For a funny read on succulents, Google Santa Clara garden designer Dawn Engel’s blog on “Succulents that Don’t Suck in Winter.”

Find out more about the club at

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