Succulents have been a huge landscaping and home decorating trend the last two years -- and for good reason. They are easy to care for, drought-tolerant and intricately stunning. While the term "succulents" likely brings to mind images of cacti under a sizzling sun somewhere in the Southwest, this diverse category of plants includes all kinds of species, many of which are fit for more moderate and even colder weather. If you want a fall and winter landscape that's not your average batch of snowdrops and holly bushes, here are some succulents to consider incorporating.
*Hens and Chicks
Although their genus is called Sempervivum, they are more widely known by their endearing nickname, hens and chicks. The main plant (the hen) grows buds (the chicks), which then grow their own roots and become smaller plants clustered around the mother. These little green rosettes are hardy plants and "can withstand temperatures well below freezing," says Susannah Phillips, who runs the succulent-themed blog at http://susannahssucculents.tumblr.com. "They make great groundcover all year." Hens and chicks are graded down to USDA hardiness zone 5 -- about minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit. What will kill them is prolonged wetness, so consider covering them with plastic if your area experiences a lot of rain. Extended snow cover is fine, though; in fact, the snow acts as insulation against extreme cold temperatures and gusts of wind.
"Autumn Joy" is a fitting moniker for Sedum telephium. These evergreen plants reach their peak in the fall with flowers that bloom a beautiful pink color and then turn a dusky bronze as the season progresses. Their long stalks add height and interest to your winter landscape. Horticulture resource Heritage Perennials reports that Autumn Joy keep their heads even after they are done blooming, creating a pale purple, romantic, dried-flower effect. These succulents can survive in USDA hardiness zones 2 through 9, which include regions with temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Don't water them during winter months.
*Purple Ice Plants
Also known as Delosperma cooperi, purple ice plants form dense beds of grassy green leaves topped off with bright fuchsia flowers. "Ice plants love dry heat, but they also do well in winter," says Jacqueline Tranter of Photosynthesis Floral Design. "(Delosperma cooperi) are tough." Tranter adds that while these evergreen plants can tolerate winter temperatures that hover around zero, they aren't ideal for regions with extremely cold winters. Water sparingly.
Tranter also recommends October Daphne (scientifically, Sedum sieboldii). Like the Autumn Joy, October Daphne flower in the fall, providing a stark, saturated contrast to browning landscapes. The plant deepens in color the colder it gets. These fleshy plants make for great groundcover. October Daphne tolerates temperatures down through USDA hardiness zone 3 (negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit).
Phillips picks yuccas as another favorite for winter, but be careful which species of yucca you select, since many are more suited for mild climates. Yucca glauca (or soapweed yucca) are a safe bet. These extremely cold-hardy plants are native to the Midwestern United States and can survive temperatures as low as negative 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Charlie McDonald of the USDA Forest Service notes that yucca make good barrier plants because the tips of their leaves are needle sharp. They also make great accent pieces, as their unique, spikey aesthetic complements softer lawns and gardens. An added bonus: Once mature, they bloom beautiful milky white flowers in the spring. Water sparingly.
Not only will these plants thrive through the winter, but also they will continue blooming through the spring and summer, year after year. Whichever succulents you decide to incorporate, be sure to check out planting and hardiness guidelines from the USDA. Be aware that most of the succulents on this list are mildly toxic when ingested -- something to consider if you've got nosy pets.
If you're already growing succulents in your yard, but they aren't cold-hardy varieties, don't despair. Stop any supplemental watering, try to maximize drainage and use plastic or fabric covering as insulation (without allowing the covering to touch the leaves).