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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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…