Have you ever noticed that after a good rain, succulents look brighter and more vibrant? Contrary to what we would think, rain is hugely beneficial to succulents. Why? It dilutes and flushes away salts and harmful chemicals from tap/irrigation water that may have built up in the soil. It washes away dust from the leaves that inhibits photosynthesis, and it also provides nitrogen that is essential for growth.
On the other side, excessive amounts of rain can cause roots to rot, especially in the soils that don’t drain well and stays wet and soggy – like during the Western Cape Winters. Remember: it is not the water that causes roots to rot, they are drowning from a lack of oxygen in the soil.
How can you ‘waterproof’ your succulents during winter?
- First of all, prepare your soil by putting in coarse compost to help with drainage. If you can get hold of sandy topsoil, that will be great.
- Plant your succulents on a rocky, elevated slope. This will help to enhance drainage.
- If you live in an area where there is an occasional frost, invest in a frost cloth from your local nursery, or even use old bedsheets or newspapers to cover your succulents. Don’t use plastic bags because the material you use should be able to breathe.
- If your succulents are in pots, move them to a space underneath a roof, and let the pots dry out between watering.
- Make sure you have good air circulation between plants – you can lightly prune them to help with this.
What to do when the stems or trunks turn squishy or rots?
- If it is possible to take cuttings from healthy top growth, do it as soon as you see root rot.
- Remove all rotten leaves and stems and remember not to throw these rotten leaves on your compost heap – this will spread the rot.
- Dilute one tablespoon of Jeyes Fluid on 5 litres of water, and drench the soil around the rotting succulents. Jeyes Fluid is a soil cleaner, and as it is a weak solution, it will not affect beneficial life in the soil – be sure not to use more than the recommended amount of Jeyes Fluid per 5L water.
Fortunately, most of your succulents will survive a wet winter. Overwatering or too much rain is the most common reason for the death of succulents, but remember why you plant succulents in the first place:
They are hardy. They are trendy. They are difficult to kill, so are your go-to plants if you don’t have green fingers. They are water-wise and most of all, they look fantastic in our hot and sunny Summers.
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