How To Protect Succulents And Cacti From Rain

(Image credit: Sundaemorning)

We like to keep cacti growing in a dry area, planted in well-draining soil to keep them alive and even thriving. But, what can we do about unexpected rain? Make plans for protection, so a rainstorm doesn’t result in the loss of many plants.

Protect Succulents From Rain

The most obvious means of protecting cacti and succulents from rain is to grow them in containers with drainage holes. Container-planted specimens can then be moved to an area of protection whenever heavy or long-lasting rain is expected to fall.

These plants have adapted to survive on limited water. Conditions to which they are native are often hot dry deserts. Succulent leaves have also adapted to storing water for future use. When you see succulent plants with plump, fat leaves, this means they are storing water for their needs later on.

Cacti are even better at storing water than most succulents. They contain water storage cells allowing some desert cacti to store water as long as two years. These plants have evolved into long-lasting water storage units. Consequently, a few days or even weeks of storage out of the rain won’t create a problem for the plants. 

Get the Soil Right for the Plants

Leaving cactus in more than a brief shower, however, presents the possibility of some damage. Even when planted in the appropriate soil, a cactus won’t survive for very long in wet soil. Creating a rain shelter for succulents and cacti is sometimes necessary if they are planted in the ground in an area where rainfall may occur regularly.

Amend cactus soil with coarse sand, pumice chips or small gravel. This helps increase drainage capabilities. Use it in containers and your ground beds.

Building berms or raised beds in conjunction with a rainproof covering and sides might be required to keep cacti alive following rainy days. If you have a slight slope in your yard, take advantage and consider putting a bed there. Of course, you can cover the plants individually with buckets or those milk jugs you might’ve put up for late winter growing. But there’s no guarantee that the soil underneath will remain dry. 

Leaving cactus in the rain can be risky. If you leave them out to get a full rainfall, check the next couple days afterward to make sure the soil has drained well and is drying out. If not, it is sometimes easier to replant in dry soil than to chance the possibility of root rot. If you notice this rot starting to happen, cut out the damaged parts and replant.

Prepare ahead of time, as much as possible, for ways to protect cacti and succulents from heavy rain. An outside building or covered porch is sometimes the best solution. If necessary, bring them into the kitchen or laundry room during heavy rainfall.

Becca Badgett

Becca Badgett was a regular contributor to Gardening Know How for ten years. Co-author of the book How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden, Becca specializes in succulent and cactus gardening.