Muleshoe has had rain for the last seven days- August tends to be our monsoon season-and during those times when the water wasn’t falling from the sky, that sky was gray and overcast; no sunshine, which means that all my cactus and succulents, potted and in the ground, are soppy wet.
And that is not necessarily a terrible thing, unless the plants in pots are sitting in water and the plants in the ground have poor drainage.
So I hope you provided good drainage for your outdoor plants in the ground by adding gravel to the soil when you planted them, or planting them on the side of a little berm or in an area that gradually slopes and allows for the runoff to travel away from the plant. Don’t plant in a low spot that will collect water.
Plants in pots without a drain hole will need to be tilted sideways as much as possible to let the excess water run out, and plants sitting in a saucer full of rainwater need to be set out of the saucer so the water can drain on its own and the plant won’t just sit in water for days until it finally evaporates. By the time the water is gone, your plant may have already begun to rot.
These pots were not sitting in a saucer, but the water continues to seep out even after the concrete has dried in between showers. They need the chance to do this so the soil can begin to dry out.
So now that I have you scared to death, let me assure you-all is not lost! Cactus and succulents may be drought-tolerant plants, but that doesn’t mean they don’t like water from time to time. What they don’t like is sitting in water for days on end, roots saturated and soggy, and that’s why you take pains to allow them to dry after the rain. They love the rain and will prove it by putting on growth spurts and looking fleshy and healthy, and blooming, if the timing is right. But when it rains for several days running without sunshine to dry them out, and collecting too much water that they can use effectively, you have to help by not letting them sit in water, and maybe even more importantly, by not watering them yourself before they have had time to dry out completely from all the rain.
Depending on the size of the pot and the soil and the weather and sunshine after the rain, that might take as long as a month, maybe even more. Leave them alone and they will gradually use up that moisture content and be happy as they do. One way to check if they are dry from top to bottom is to insert a bamboo skewer like you would use for shish-kabobs. If it comes out wet and sticky with dirt, don’t water. The pot in the picture below has a skewer inserted into the soil, a clean one for you to compare to a dirty one that I just pulled out of the pot. The one criss-crossing on top has a dirty tip.
It is hard to see that dirty tip, so I took a close-up to show you what it might look like if it is still wet. And those white spots on the astrophytum are not mealy bugs, but natural flocking that decorates the plant.
When the skewer comes out dry, then it would be safe to water again. But after being soaked from the rain, it wouldn’t hurt to wait several days before watering again. The plant will have stored lots of water already and is doing just fine without more for a while, thank you very much. Remember that in the wild, they may go many months without water.
I suppose you could use the skewer technique with your plants in the ground, but because they are in their natural environment and not captured in a pot, they are fine for quite a while without watering. I have no formula for you; I just water after it has been dry and hot for maybe a couple of weeks and it seems the right time to water again. You just kind of know .
We had so much rain the mushrooms flourished along with the cactus. And notice how this pot of agave macrocantha is beginning to dry; you can see the lighter color on the pot where it is gradually drying.
So check your plants, buy some bamboo skewers at the grocery store, let the pots and plants dry out, don’t water too soon yourself, and don’t despair. They will be fine.