We all know that water is very essential to every plant, and also to our own survival. When there’s rain outside, it is reason for celebration and gratitude, not for worries and for being upset. In most cases we’ll be thankful for the rain, because it means we don’t have to water the outdoor plants in our garden. And if you have a BIG garden like me, you know that watering it can easily take an hour or more.
When growing succulents, however, the rainy season, or even a succession of a few rainy days, can be alarming. Such a rain brings too much water which may cause some issues to the succulent plants, and limit their healthy growth. So, can succulents survive a heavy rain, or a rainy season?
Too much moisture will kill soft succulents
Succulents, especially the soft ones, will suffer a lot in a rainy season or a succession of days with heavy rain, and in most cases they won’t survive such an experience (unless we protect them, more on that later on in this post).
Right amount of rain can nurture and actually help a succulent to grow, and to flourish with all the beautiful colors. To the benefits succulents get from an occasional heavy or prolonged rain belong:
- Rain cleans the dirt out of the plants, and since the dirt is restraining photosynthesis, it has a positive effect on the entire pant;
- Rain can also wash away salts and damaging chemicals that came from the soil;
- Last but not least, slightly acidic rain provides nitrogen that is important to the growth of any succulent plant.
Succulents are said to be better in regions where yearly rainfall doesn’t exceed 25 inches. It’s okay to let the succulent under the pouring rain, unless it repeats few days in succession, which may easily destroy your succulents.
Things you can do during a rainy season
In my experience, you can do variety of things to protect your plants from damage during the rainy season:
- Place your succulents under your home’s eaves.
- Make sure to have patio umbrellas that have strong bases to protect the succulent plants from heavy rain. This will also help to keep the soil from draining.
- You can also put pumice around the soil of the plant. Pumice can absorb excess moisture and save succulents from root rot.
After the rainy season, you can cover your succulent plants with fabric or frost cloth to protect them from scourging sun. Do not use a plastic cover because it may only damage the plant by restricting light and air, and it traps moisture as well–another minus for plastic. Plus it isn’t ecological so simply forget it altogether :).
You should always remember that it is important to keep the soil just as wet as a wet sponge–not more! The fatter the plant is, the more capable it is to store water in its tissues. And the more water it can store, the less it needs. Keep it on your mind when deciding what to do with your succulents in a rainy season, or after a very heavy rain.
Although a succulent may grow new roots after suffering from root rot as a result of over-watering, keep in mind that the old or dead roots may damage the plant as they often harbor pathogens or bacteria and viruses that can spread across the healthy tissues of the plant.
Opuntia and ribbed cacti actually like heavy rain
Opuntia cacti (the round and flat cacti that actually bears fruit you can eat) rapidly grows new pads in the rainy season. In a matter of weeks these plant can double their size. The same is true for the ribbed cacti (the long that shapes like an oblong), it pops and stretches out whenever it has lot of water. So while most succulents do not like prolonged rain and you have to protect them, keep in mind that certain cacti plants do not mind even a two weeks long rainy period.
Best way to protect succulents from heavy rain
To protect your succulents from heavy rain, it is better to have a tent or shelter that can protect your plant. Tents from fiberglass panels are ideal, but the supporting bars should be from metal, just to make sure the tent won’t fall on your succulents in a heavy wind–which often accompanies heavy rain… The tent should be tall enough to allow aeration for the succulents.
Pot choice also impacts how the plants deal with the rain. Succulent plants prefer pots in which the soil drains quickly. This keeps the succulents safe, especially during extremely long rainy season. Using a right pot (with a drainage hole or other drainage system) and a right soil mix (and that does not retain too much moisture) is a recipe for success.
Keep in mind that when you add sand into the soil, the succulents will have difficulty growing, because when the soil becomes wet, it will be heavy and the roots will be deprived of oxygen. To make your succulents happy and in good condition outdoors, always place them to a spot where water drains easily and quickly. Allow your succulents to breathe by proving soil that can supply enough oxygen.
Rain is essential for succulents. But it can also harm these tiny plants. Make sure to take protective measures, just as I described in this post (covering your succulents with a tent, opting for the right pot and soil, making sure you protect them from root rot).
My final word is that you should always treat your succulent plants with care. While they are versatile and can sustain a lot, heavy rain can kill them, and you need to keep it on your mind. Good luck to you, and to learn more about succulents, do not forget to check my complete Succulent Growing guide.