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Agave flower spike in the wind

Wind and Your Succulents

Succulents by and large withstand high winds. However, those with delicate leaves, thin skins, and leaves that pop off easily are at risk of impact damage.

Dasylirion longissimum

Dasylirion longissimum. See the video. 

Wind lovers

Certain succulents seem made for wind. Dasylirion longissimum, for example, becomes a kinetic sculpture when a breeze moves through it. (What makes dasylirions succulent are their water-storing trunks.) Long, thin, slender leaves form a fountain shape that ripples, sways and plays with shadow and light.

See my dasylirion video. 

Santa Ana Winds

Possibly the biggest threat to succulents during California's hot, dry Santa Ana winds is desiccation. Humidity drops so low that static electricity may zap you. Give your succulents a good soaking whenever a Santa Ana is forecast. It'll hydrate plant tissues, and potted succulents will benefit from the extra ballast.

Hanging pot of succulents

Hanging pot of succulents by Potted Arts. See the design video.

Prepare for Gusts and Breakage

Hanging pots and baskets are especially vulnerable to wind gusts. And wind-borne grains of coarse sand can pit foliage, causing damage similar to hail. Tall, top-heavy containers and those on outdoor shelves or tables may fall over. The best place for anything at risk is on the ground or indoors.

Evaluate Trees at Risk

However, woody succulent companion plants---especially acacias---shouldn't be watered. Their roots are shallow, and wet soil makes them more prone to uprooting. Moreover, any plant that grows fast---like Acacia longifolia---has soft wood, so limbs split easily. The good news is that if an acacia limb breaks or the tree falls over, it's easy to cut apart with garden clippers.

If you have a tree that's leaning, especially if it's on a slope, take pre-emptive action and stake it. Just make sure that the rope you use to secure it won't abrade the trunk when winds make it sway. I use rubber-coated wire and protect small-diameter trunks with cylindrical pipe insulation made of closed cell foam. It's easy to use because it's slit lengthwise. No doubt there are other ways of padding trunks, but this one is cheap and easy, and it takes a long time to deteriorate.

Tree trunk protection

I protect young trees with pipe insulation

See more of my must-have tools. 

Seasonal maintenance

Annually, ideally at the end of summer, trim trees away from gutters, windows or anything else that you don't want choked with leaves or damaged by swaying branches---also a must-do if you live in a wildfire-prone area. Thin trees so wind moves through them. A dense tree, even one with fine-textured foliage, is more vulnerable to wind gusts and flying embers than a lacy one.

Walk around your garden and notice anything floppy or hanging---tree branches, palm fronds, sun catchers---and imagine it swaying wildly. Wind will fling things. It gets under glass patio tables and overturns them. Outdoor cushions land in pools, and bird houses crash. I tuck lightweight tables and chairs into a sheltered corner.

Do you have a wind story? Suggestions or cautions to add? Tell us in the comments!

Wind info, Greg Rubin

Southern CA landscape designer Greg Rubin authored "The California Native Landscape."

Tools, Books and Products for Succulent Gardeners

Tools & Must-Haves for Succulent Gardeners My personal favorites The tools, books and products for succulent gardeners shown here are among my personal favorites. I update this list when I run across something I’m excited about and want to share. If there’s an item you’re looking for or would like to recommend, or a link that’s…

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9 Comments

  1. Mike Zander on October 11, 2019 at 12:01 pm

    As well as succulents I also grow cacti.One item in my tool kit that I find invaluable is a sheet of foam rubber( a child’s cot mattress).It is used to wrap around the cactus to save damage to both the plant and the gardener when trans planting and re-potting.

  2. Marilyn Chaffee (Rancho Bernardo) on October 11, 2019 at 12:53 pm

    Great reminders to prep for the Santa Ana winds, thanks!
    I have to say, Debra, my favorite tool ((and you suggested it years ago. . .)) is using a chopstick. I use them *all the time* when I’m potting my succulents. I also really appreciate your suggestion to combat mealy bugs with alcohol in a spray bottle. Right now they are targeting our Rosary Vines, and I am waging WAR!!
    Many thanks for all you do to keep our succulent gardens healthy and beautiful!

  3. Bonnie E. Smith on October 11, 2019 at 12:55 pm

    You have the most informative Blog! Always the right answers at the right time!

  4. Alex Smith on October 11, 2019 at 2:48 pm

    You might not want to ‘over-water’ a newly planted palm, large succulent or cactus. Although you think it might dry out during the winds, they have a shallow root system, especially when newly planted, ie, young. They could fly over, or out. We had winds in Phoenix up to 20 mph.

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on October 11, 2019 at 3:22 pm

      Hi Alex. Yes, good point. I was thinking mainly of potted succulents, but anything shallow-rooted that could catch the wind is at risk.

  5. Tanner Davidson on October 11, 2019 at 3:16 pm

    Thank you for the reminder. Here in Keizer, Oregon we dont have much of the super dry winds but we have been having a lot of wind lately, it was enough to blow my frost cloth off. Luckily we havnt gotten frost yet so i was able to just replace the frost cloth more securely.

  6. Betty on October 11, 2019 at 8:29 pm

    Debra,
    As always, love the tips you provide us!!
    Have been firescaping my landscaping and wind is a factor we have to consider. Thank you for the suggestions and ideas during windy periods.

    • Elspeth Flo on October 16, 2019 at 12:16 am

      Lucky you to have water for your plants. Portugal is in extreme drought, with rain not forecast until November. The succulents which seem to have survived best, even looking good, are Aeoniums. As for wind, it always dessicates more than sun., but my succulents survive it and our very high U.V.
      Acacias are banned in Portugal because they do too well and are smothering out native wild plants. How do you control them? They are so beautiful, but, like Eucalyptus, should have been left in Australia.
      Thanks for you blog.
      Elspeth Flood.

      • Debra Lee Baldwin on October 16, 2019 at 11:53 am

        Good to know, Betty. I was unaware of the drought in Portugal or the ban on acacias. Just goes to show: What’s native to one part of the world and is tame in landscapes may be an invasive weed elsewhere. As to how to control acacias, no one has yet to ask me that, but it makes sense to trim the trees before seed pods form (right after blooming), and pull any volunteers that sprout.

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