When It Finally Rains, It Pours

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Or, “How to Drown Your Cactus!’’ Keep in mind that we have been in a severe drought for, what, about six years? But today, June 18, the bottom fell out of a cloud, not once, but twice, serving up a quintessential example of the classic gully-washer/turd floater heck of a rain. And while I certainly can’t complain-the yard and trees and pasture were eternally grateful-I suspect the cactus are about ready for it to quit.

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In the last two weeks or so we have seen rain for the first time since last October. Our rain gauge indicated something over five inches, which for those of you reading this on your laptop as you enjoy your lush, green back yard in Houston, where it recently rained six inches in one day!, this is no big deal. But to us out here in dry West Texas where most of the top soil has long blown away to Kansas or somewhere because we had no ground cover, thanks to the drought, this is manna from heaven. I think today we had about three inches and it took a while for it to soak in or run off since the ground was somewhat wet to begin with this time.

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The irony, of course, is that the cactus do well here being the drought-tolerant plants that they are, and right now they are standing in water! Which will be fine, provided all the standing water has time to soak in and let the ground dry out a bit before another deluge hits, if we are so blessed. This is also why you want to put your cactus in a well-drained area with porous soil. Under normal circumstances, my cactus are high and dry. But these aren’t normal circumstances for around here.

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We also had hail, and the cactus, with their protective spines, managed to suffer little damage. My succulents, on the other hand, took some hits that tore off branches on some of the kalanchoes, put holes in jade tree leaves, and knocked lots of leaves off sedums and senecios. They will bounce back, but some, like my very big and very old gasteria, will have scars that heal but don’t go away and will remain for the life of the plant.

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In the long run, the cactus will benefit from this rain just like the trees will; in the short run, I expect to lose a few specimens before it is all over with. And I’ll just have to deal with it. We had to have the rain.

So just remember to consider good drainage for plants both in the ground and in pots, empty any saucers under your plants so they won’t set in water, and make sure you let them completely dry out, maybe wait two weeks to a month, even,  after a big rain before you water by hand.

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And everything will be okay.

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