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How to save dying cacti

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How to save dying cacti


Cacti are known to be remarkably tough plants. They require minimal care and attention, which also makes them great as a container specimen or houseplant. But no matter how low their watering and maintenance needs, they are not immune to problems that may even be caused by their death.

Luckily, with these simple tips, you will be able to identify what’s causing your cactus to die and be able to save it before it’s too late.

Overwatered or Rot

Overwatered cactus will show a sign of browning or blackening leaves or stems, browning or blackening at the base of the plant, and will eventually lead to root rot. The stems will feel soft and mushy when touched.


If you see these signs from your cactus, check its roots right away. If you see that the roots appear black and mushy, then immediate actions need to be performed to save your cactus. 


Step 1: Unpot the cactus by wrapping newspaper around it and tipping it out.

Step 2: Check the stem and root condition. If most of the roots are still white, cut away the black and brown roots. If brown or black rot areas are extensive, you will need to reroot the cactus by cutting away all the rot using a sharp, clean knife.

Step 3: Allow the cactus to dry for several days until thick scab forms on the cut sections. 

Step 4: Repot the cactus using cactus or succulent soil.

After repotting, correct watering is necessary to prevent new problems. Remember to only water your cactus when the top 1 to 2-inches of the soil is completely dry and to throw away any excess water from the saucer. 


Identifying an underwatered cactus is quite easy compared to an overwatered one. Some of the common signs of underwatered cactus include:


- Discoloration. You'll notice that they'll start to turn brown or paler than their actual color. 

- They become dry or will start wilting and their leaves sagging. This is because they’ve already used up all their reserve water from the leaves and stems

- The weight of the pot becomes lighter.

If these signs start to show on your cactus, perform the steps below to prevent any further damage to occur. 


Step 1: Give it a good soak of water. Do this early in the morning to increase the success rate of saving your cactus. 

Step 2: Transfer your cactus in a different spot. Supposedly in an area where it can avoid intense sunlight.Water them in the early morning, avoid when sunlight is intense

Step 3: Your cactus should bounce back after a few days. But if you see no progress with its recovery, perform water therapy as a last resort.

Cold damage

Softened or whitening of tissue is the initial sign of cold damage to cactus and will turn to black and decay. If you fail to notice these signs, the damaged parts of your cactus will soon fall off.


Though this kind of damage is quite hard to treat, reviving it is still possible. All you need is patience and follow the instructions below.


Step 1: Wait until the softened areas turn black. Chances are that the cactus can still heal itself. 

Step 2: Wait until a sunny day later in the spring season to be sure that the cold weather has passed. Then snip off the black parts to prevent killing the entire cactus.

After doing this, the cut section will sprout new growth in a few months. Though it won’t look exactly the same, the parts of the cactus damaged by cold will be gone.


An etiolated cactus means that it is not getting enough light to properly grow. You will notice that it will become overly tall and skinny as it searches for sunlight, and may start to look paler than its natural color.



When your cactus started to grow abnormally, the only way to fix it is by moving the cactus to a place where it can get better, more direct light. Preferably, a south-facing window. Though this would not actually fix the etiolated form, it will help your cactus grow correctly again.


Yellow or white marks on your cactus skin mean that it is beginning to get sunburned, and may turn to brown and leave permanent damage if not prevented. 

Once you start to notice these signs start to show on your cactus, treat it right away to avoid spreading the damage.


Step 1. Move your cactus to a more shaded area

Step 2. Don’t be tempted to remove the sunburned part. Just leave it alone. As there’s a high chance that your cactus will eventually heal itself and cover up the damaged parts. Unless the burn is pretty bad, then the damage is permanent.

Step 3. Reduce watering, as your cactus might go into dormancy due to sun-stressed and overwatering it during its dormancy period is a big NO-NO.

Step 4: Frequent grooming and checking for any pests or diseases is vital to determine if your cactus is healing just fine, as they become weaker and more vulnerable due to sunburned damage.

Overwatered vs Underwatered Succulent

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Click here to learn Succulent Watering Tips!

In addition, there are many common problems you may run into: succulent etiolation, mealy bugs,... Just make sure you get a diagnosis as soon as possible so you have a better chance of helping your succulent recover.

Enjoy your gardening with our collection of beautiful cacti. They are easy to grow, incredibly adaptable, relatively pest-free, and are low maintenance - ideal for any home, office, or garden to make a perfect green space.

Please see more Cactus Care Guide 101 to ensure years of enjoyment.

Cactus Care Guide 101, How to care for cactus succulent

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