You may think of cactuses and wonder with as little water as what they receive in the desert, can they even handle rain? Does a cactus know what rain is? Believe it or not, the desert does receive rain with an average of 10 inches per year.
Can cactus survive rain? Cactuses can survive, but it depends on how much rain. Some cactuses even live in tropical regions, and this type handles more rain than what other types of cactuses can. Just because cactuses can tolerate drought doesn’t mean they don’t like rain.
What Happens to Cactuses in the Rain?
Some cactus that come from tropical regions of the planet like those that come from Nicaragua, Brazil and other tropical countries can handle more rain. That said, the species that come from the desert will often rot if they receive too much water.
The biggest danger comes from if the soil sits in water for days on end to where the root system starts to rot. Cactuses aren’t used to this.
In a natural setting, most of them will be equipped to handle the rain, and in fact, they often experience growth spurts as a result of the rain. They look more fleshy, health and bloom better after a good soaking, but that said, the water doesn’t hold in the ground as well, which keeps them from rotting.
A small sprinkling from one day most likely won’t have a negative impact on your cactus, but you don’t want it to experience this all the time, or it could start to cause rot.
How Would Someone Handle This with a Personal Cactus?
Depending on the species, you might even put it out in the rain from time to time because of how this can have a positive impact on the cactus. In the outdoor environment, the circulation of air will dry the soil much faster than in an indoor environment. Your biggest danger from the rain comes from the soil staying moist. That can cause rot that kills your cactus.
In addition, you should be careful which species of cactus you put out in the rain. As stated before, the cactuses that come from more tropical regions will be more inclined to deal with a heavy downpour, and it could even be healthy for them to experience this.
The biggest thing is don’t let it stand in water for a long period of time because that is what is going to kill your cactus more than the rain itself. The other thing is that if you do put a cactus out in the rain, first check to see that you have good drainage for it. You want the soil to let the water out.
How to Get Good Drainage
Especially with any type of cactus, good drainage matters. You can do this through mixing gravel in with the soil, which will keep it from holding the water in, which can cause plant rot.
Cactus That Don’t Do Well in Rain
You have some species of cactus that you shouldn’t put in rain because of how it will most likely cause plant rot. Some of the species that should avoid rain include:
- Espostoopsis species
- Espostoa Species
- Stenocereus Species
In general, you can get too much rain on cactus with some species like this. It is better to keep these types out of the rain. You can protect your cactus from rain through bringing it indoors or putting it in a place where you have a roof over it to keep it from rotting because of too much moisture.
Cactuses Where Rain is Okay
As you will soon learn, you have more cactus where rain is okay over cactuses that don’t do well in rain. Some of the cactus species that love the rain include:
- Disocactus species
- Azureocereus species
- Cereus species
- Ferocactus species
- Echinopsis species
- Echinocereus species
- Ferocactus species
- Stenocactus species
- Gymnocalycium species
More cactuses like to be in the rain over those that don’t like the rain. With that said, you should make sure that your cactus pot has the proper soil and drainage because the soil or a lack of drainage can still cause plant rot and kill your cactus. If you do it correctly, you won’t have much problem.
The Golden Rule
If we had to say one way that you can tell if your cactus will survive in the rain or not, one of the general rules that can be applied is looking at the hairs of the cactus. Are the needles fine and hairy, or does the cactus have firm needles?
With firm needles, they can usually handle the rain better than other types of cactus. The problem with a cactus that has fine hairs is that it tends to hold in the water better than what it should. This equates to plant rot that will slowly kill your cactus. It doesn’t always apply, but in many cases, this rule holds true.
The Astrophytum Myriostygma seems especially prone to rot, and you want to keep the water to a minimum. If you left it out in the rain for more than a day, you can almost guarantee that you will come home to a rotting cactus.
The Beauty of Excess Rain in Cactuses
After a hard rain, cactus can even become better because they take the excess energy, and they put it into blooming. What other plant do you know of that does this?
As the cells in the cactus grow pleasantly plump with rainwater, they exhibit greater elasticity and health. You do have some that don’t handle rain well, but a lot of them like rain. What they dislike is when the rain stays in the soil.
How Cactus Evolved
Especially in the desert when a full on rain would come, it would soak the surrounding soils, but little would hold the water in. Instead, it would dry quickly, and the cactus would learn to survive in this setting. The water soaks in and evaporates in the desert.
For that reason, you want the water to mimic this same trait as what it does in the desert. You will find that you get a similar effect in this way. That’s one of the reasons that the soak-and-dry method works so well with succulents and cactuses. It soaks the plant and dries quickly. The roots know how to absorb the water before it can evaporate completely.
How Much Rain is Too Much Rain?
We’ve talked about how most cactus can survive in rain without a problem. If it rains to the point where the soil remains wet, that can lead to bacteria and fungi that leads to rot in the cactus. The point here isn’t the rain that will kill the cactus. What kills the cactus is when the water stays in the ground for too long. That kills your cactus.
You might also look at the season to determine how much rain is too much. In the summer season, which is the natural rainy and flood season in some deserts, most species of cactus can handle more rain. In other seasons, you may want to drop the water amount to keep your cactus healthy.
How to Identify Plant Rot
One of the ways to keep your cactus safe, knowing how to identify root rot can make a big difference. When left untreated, root rot is fatal. Some of the most common signs of root rot include:
- Yellowed leaves
- Soft brown leaves
- Fungal spores in the soil
If you don’t treat it on time, root rot can kill your plant in 10 to 30 days. You need to act fast and identify it quickly.
How to Deal with Root Rot
After you have identified root rot, you will take a sharp pair of scissors to remove the brown roots. Cut away the damaged areas to leave it healthy. After you have pruned the roots with the scissors, you will sterilize them to keep the scissors from spreading the spores. Cactuses are a hardy plant, and in many cases, they can survive this.
Hopefully this sheds some light on whether or not cactuses can survive in the rain. It isn’t that cactuses can’t survive the rain, but you need to do it in such a way that they can thrive in the rain. In some cases, when you leave your cactus out in the rain, it will even be good for it, but you need to give careful consideration to the species.
If you want to know how to protect cactus from the rain, the biggest thing is to make sure that the soil drains easily. This ensures that the water doesn’t remain in the soil so that it creates root rot.