Can Potted Plants Be Left in the Rain? [Plus 3 Flowers You Can]
It’s raining, and you’ve forgotten all about your potted plants outside. It happens sometimes. Most plants won’t be harmed by rainwater, but is it a concern to leave them out during the rain? It could be.
On average, it is not harmful for potted plants to be left out in the rain and be given rainwater. In some cases, it has proven to be beneficial for their growth. However, if left out in heavy downpours unprotected, plants could potentially drown and be damaged by harsh weather.
Rain can be delightfully soothing, it’s usually quite comforting. But is it the same for your plants? Almost all the time, it is a yes! I do leave my potted plants outside often! Here I am to tell you what I do.
Is It Bad to Leave Potted Plants in the Rain?
It is not ideal to leave potted plants outside in the rain if they can easily be overwatered. It is not damaging to leave container plants out, but it is best to follow the plants’ needs accordingly in order for them to survive.
Leaving plants out in the rain usually isn’t harmful. Too much rain, however, can become an issue. For optimum plant care, it’s best to examine things first before making a decision.
Depending on your plant, they may be happy outside. I know some people who leave all their plants outdoors in the rain. But if your plants are sensitive to being overwatered, they’ll need extra care and must be watched closely.
Will Rain Drown Potted Plants?
Potted plants are very likely to drown if they are left out in heavy rain. Additionally, planters of a smaller size that are made of nonporous materials such as plastic could potentially raise the chances of drowning and can pose a serious concern.
A majority of plants out there require at least some amount of water to survive. Not all of them, but many. But if rain is too heavy, the chance of a plant drowning goes up greatly.
If the pot is without drainage holes, as captured rainwater will simply flood inside your pot and maybe even harm it beyond repair causing the plant to “suffocate” because of lack of oxygen (also triggering root rot as well). Storms or even regular rain can quickly become a serious problem.
If the weather is bad, keep in mind potted plants left outside are now at a higher risk of drowning. For heavy rain, consider temporarily bringing your plants inside or setting up protection for the ones you cannot move. Better to be safe than sorry.
Is Rainwater Good for Potted Plants?
Rainwater may be beneficial for potted plants because of its natural softness, but this depends greatly on the location of precipitation. If rainwater is polluted, this may eventually become detrimental to any receiving plants, and it is advised to perform a water test.
Studies have shown rainwater is not harmful for plants at all, and can sometimes be better due to its natural softness and lack of chemical treatments.
If the tap water in your city is especially hard, then the softened water from rain may be of help to your plants. But this can be wildly different depending on where you live—rainwater in a large and polluted city might actually be damaging over time.
Unless you live in New York, the rainwater probably won’t be harmful for your plants. But to be safe, I suggest getting a water test if you’re contemplating using rainwater to water with.
7 Pros and Cons of Leaving Potted Plants in the Rain
Now that we’ve gone over a few basic concepts behind the effect of rainwater on plants and leaving them in the rain, let’s discuss the pros and cons of doing so in detail. As always, only do what is best for you and your plants.
There are many advantages to leaving potted plants in the rain. Some of these would include less watering sessions, dust washing off of foliage, and the plants receiving softer water and more nitrogen, which can lead to better growth.
1. You Can Water Less
This may be simple. If you only own a few precious plants, this might not be a big deal.
But if you have even 5 or more or have a busy life, it can easily become hectic just trying to maintain the watering schedules of every individual plant. When it rains, you can relax knowing you don’t have to worry about watering the plants left out that day.
2. Dust Washes Off
Some people choose to bring their potted plants in the bathroom to give them a quick hose. But if you have too many or if the plant is too heavy, this can become a cumbersome task.
Leaving them out in the rain instead can easily solve this. As raindrops land on your plants’ leaves and fall off, so will the dust, allowing foliage to breathe.
3. Plants Receive Softer Water
As mentioned earlier, rainwater is much softer compared to tap water. Tap water isn’t necessarily harmful, many folks use their regular house water and have no problems.
If you’ve checked that your tap water is hard, leaving your container plants out in the rain might be what they need. A telltale sign that your water is hard is when white residue can be found inside of pots and kettles, leaving crusty patches of deposits on the bottom. With little effort and little money, switching to soft rainwater can help your plants in the long run.
4. Plants Receive More Nitrogen
Rainwater contains nitrogen. The percentage of nitrogen found in rainwater isn’t significantly high when compared to fertilizers, but it’s there.
Since it is directly inside the water itself, your plants can readily absorb this and begin to use it. Over time, you might find this extra nitrogen given to your plants promotes growth and may lead to better foliage.
Potted plants left out in the rain may face several alarming issues. These issues may involve potential drowning of plants in heavy rain, attraction of invasive slugs and snails, and the increased risk of plants taking physical damage while outdoors.
Those are the benefits, but what about the dangers? Here are the following cons I’ve experienced.
1. Plants Could Drown if Left in Heavy Rain
The rain itself is not an issue, but if it rains too often, your plants can very easily become waterlogged. Strict monitoring can help make sure your plants do not get overwatered by rain, but this can be inconvenient.
Even if water leaves the pots quickly, roots may be much more susceptible to root rot. If the soil is left constantly wet, the plant could potentially die of root rot or just die from drowning.
2. Slugs and Snails Could Be Attracted
Slugs and snails might look pretty (at least to me crazy gardeners) but they are not a welcome sight. After the rain, these pests are much more likely to appear hungry to feed and eager to lay eggs in the soil.
Being very fond of wet and moist environments, the snails and slugs may visit and consume whatever is in their way. If left uncontrolled, slugs and snails can become a serious issue.
3. Plants Could Get Damaged
If rainfall gets heavy and is accompanied by particularly strong winds, plants left outside can possibly be damaged by the storm. In violent winds, stems can snap, or entire pots can be toppled over and drenched by excessive rain. It’s not impossible for plants to die this way, so keep this in mind.
What to Do With Potted Plants When it Rains
In the cases the downpour is intense, it would be best for potted plants to be brought indoors during rain. For lighter and less damaging rain, these plants can be left outside and will face fewer issues.
If it’s only a light drizzle, consider leaving them outside. But if rain is heavy, it might be ideal to bring it indoors and wait out the storm.
In situations you’re unable to access them or cannot move the pots in, simply sliding them in more guarded areas or placing rain covers will help you greatly to prevent them from getting drenched. But what if you live somewhere especially rainy?
How to Protect Potted Plants From Too Much Rain
As a general rule, it is crucial that potted plants left out in the rain have adequate drainage. Unclogged drainage holes must be present, and should be created if there are none available. It is recommended that stakes are placed in each corner, for rain covers to be easily used for full protection.
For some readers, you might live someplace rainy. (Hi, UK!) Regardless of the situation, it’d be best to set your potted plants up for success against rain. Good drainage is key for potted plants to withstand heavy rainfall.
Your plant may not live long in heavy storms or even regular rain if your pot does not have drainage holes, so consider drilling some. Saucers are helpful indoors, but here, it may only fill up with water, drowning your plants. To prevent this, try removing the saucer during rain.
Additionally, you can prop your plant up raised off the ground to make sure no water pools on the bottom. With some good plant support, you can place 4 wooden or metal stakes in each corner in the pot and easily slip on a plastic bag over this. It may not be pretty, but it provides quick and easy protection for your plants.
3 Water Resistant Flower Plants
For wet areas and rainy seasons, there are 3 different flowers you can leave in the rain. These would be known as the Spider Lily, the Japanese Water Iris, and the Hardy Hibiscus, all of which are tolerant of wet conditions. Blooming can be seen in either summer or autumn if properly cared for.
Rainy days may be cozy, but a home without plants is not. To help provide some cheer, here are 3 colorful flowering plants you can leave outside as potted plants in the rain!
1. Spider Lily
As the name suggests, this interesting plant blooms flowers that look similar to spiders with long, outspreading petals like spider legs. It’s been said that this plant is very tolerant of wet environments, so this may be a good choice of plant to leave in the rain.
Spider Lilies can be placed in either full sun or in partly shady conditions with moist yet well-drained soils. You can expect to see its white or red flowers towards late summer or even autumn, but be certain to give the spider lily extra care during the winter, as it cannot stand frosty temperatures.
2. Japanese Water Iris
This perennial is a favorite in rain gardens and ponds because of how well it grows in high moisture. The Japanese Iris probably won’t mind if left out in the rain, but its delicate beauty can get easily damaged in extreme weathers such as hot temperatures or heavy storms.
If you choose this plant, be sure to provide it with protection during storms and be wary of touching its roots, seeds, or sap. Although brief, touching this can actually be quite irritating to the skin. But with the right care, you can enjoy its prominent, elegant flowers mid-summer.
3. Hardy Hibiscus
After growing up with vibrant, potted hardy hibiscus in my house, I’ve become very fond of this flower. With care, this tropical hibiscus can bloom in eye-catching hues of pinks, reds and whites, and can grow to be the size of a hand.
I can personally say this plant is usually quite tolerant to many soil conditions, and its flowers often thrived whenever the soil was at a high moisture level. It flourishes in bright, sunny spots, but it can handle a good rain shower occasionally. Guard its soft flowers from strong winds or storms, and you can enjoy its lovely display all throughout those summer rains.
Can I fertilize my plant in the rain?
If you can predict the next precipitation, you can add granular-based fertilizer and let the next rainfall help in activating it. But if rain is especially heavy, hold on to the fertilizer, as this could simply be washed away.
After heavy rain, even liquid fertilizer can be given. The extra liquid in liquid fertilizer shouldn’t be too bad for your plant even if it was soaked, and it should even appreciate the extra nutrients.
Can I collect rainwater for my plants?
Some states in the US encourage collecting rainwater. But as this can be frowned upon in some areas, I suggest first looking into your local state and country’s laws regarding this.
With something as common as a 55-gallon plastic drum, like the one below, you can easily gather rainwater at home. For safety measures, try making sure it is food-grade and that it is well-protected to keep mosquitoes and debris out.
If you plan to use water collected from your roof for vegetable gardening, minimize any risks of contamination. Treat a 55-gallon barrel of water with 1 ounce (37.8 g) of unscented chlorine bleach monthly and let it sit for 24 hours, taking care to water only the soil. Risks may be low, but to be safe, make sure the water does not touch anything to be consumed directly.
Summary of Leaving Potted Plants in the Rain
The rain itself is not harmful to potted plants, but rather the violent and unpredictable weather. In extreme rain, potted plants can potentially drown, be damaged, and possibly attract moisture-loving snails and slugs. To prevent this, plants can be brought in during storms.
However, if outdoor container plants are watched over, given proper drainage and kept protected with the use of rain covers, these risks can be lowered significantly. Due to the soft rainwater containing nitrogen, plants may potentially benefit from being left out in the rain, and if properly cared for, thrive.
- “Managing Sodic Soils – 0.504” by J.G. Davis, R.M. Waskom, and T.A. Bauder in Colorado State University Extension
- “The quality and effect on plant growth of tap water and rainwater in Davao City” by Renan P. Limjuco in University of the Immaculate Conception
- “Heavy rain and plant damage” by n/a in University of Florida-Friendly Landscaping