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5 Simple Ways to Save a Dying Cactus

5 Simple Ways to Save a Dying Cactus

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The cactus is one of the most resilient and incredibly durable plants found in the world today.

You must have heard about this plant’s ability to grow in the deserts, and its unique ability to store water for months, or its ability to access it from deep within the ground.

The cactus belongs to a family of plants known as the Cactacae, and it contains roughly 1,750 species.

Needless to say, the image that comes to most people’s minds is one of a long, spiny cactus standing in an open desert, but this is just one of the many kinds of cacti that you are probably going to see.

5 Simple Ways To Save A Dying Cactus

Unlike most other plants, cacti do not really have leaves. Instead, for protection, the plant has prickles growing all over it, making it painful to touch.

In fact, this defense mechanism is what allows the cactus to save itself and continue living for years to come. Herbivores generally avoid going near the plant, primarily due to the fact that it can hurt them.

Now, there are quite a few varieties of the cactus, and you can grow whichever one you like.

There are some varieties that also give off flowers, so if you are looking for a stylish cactus that is also going to look good, you might want to consider one of those.

Many of the succulent plants that you find across the globe bear a close resemblance to the cactus, and that’s due to a number of reasons.

But, despite the fact that the cacti is actually quite durable and long-lasting, you should know that the plant is not immortal.

If you do not provide adequate care to the plant, it is going to succumb to its death.

The cactus has achieved somewhat of a cult status for people who want to grow plants at home. Almost every passionate gardener usually has at least one cactus growing in their garden, and that’s just because it’s so different.

The plant can either be placed in a pot, or you can just grow it in your garden and plant it in the soil.

Regardless of where you plant your cactus, you need to understand that proper care is very important. If you do not properly care for the plant, it’s going to die.

There are quite a few signs that you need to look out for, and as a gardener, you need to be wary of these.

Now, before we talk about a dying cactus, it’s important to focus on a few signs that indicate that your plant is dying. If you are able to spot these signs at an early stage, you can then take remedial action that could ultimately mean the difference between life and death of your plant.

Signs Your Cactus Is Dying

There are quite a few signs that indicate serious issues with your plant.

If you take no action to fix the problem, it’s only going to get worse over the passage of time, until eventually the plant ends up dying.

Here are some clear indicators that your plant is suffering.


Most cactus plants generally have a green color.

It’s a given across the world, so you will hardly ever come across cacti with different colors. However, when a cactus begins to lose its original color, it is probably due to the fact that the plant is under a considerable amount of stress or being strained.

The discoloration isn’t going to happen at just one spot; it primarily depends on where the problem is emanating from.

In most cases, the discoloration begins from the top end of the stem segments. In others, it begins from the base of the plant.

Remember, excessive discoloration is not good for your plant, and if you do not take immediate action (talked about ahead), your plant is soon going to die.

The Plant Begins to Wobble

The cactus plant is incredibly resolute, and as you already know, it stretches its roots firmly into the ground.

The plant doesn’t wobble or move around, even when there’s a lot of wind. So, it should obviously be a point of concern for you when the plant starts wobbling.

You need to understand that the cactus is generally a slow-developing plant. As a result, the symptoms of problems that exist are not going to show up immediately; they will also materialize slowly.

Therefore, a strong risk exists that by the time you actually notice the plant wobbling, the roots might already have succumbed to excessive damage, and can no longer be saved.

The reason why the plant begins to wobble is due to root rot, which generally occurs when the plant gets too much water. You need to understand that the number one cause of death of cactus plants is root rot.

Along with that, the plant is also going to register a significant drop in firmness.

Soft Segments Begin to Appear

Another sign that your plant is dying is when you notice soft segments appearing on different parts of the cactus.

These soft segments usually occur along with discoloration, so if you notice the plant losing its color, you might also want to check its soft patches.

Because the segments are likely to be squishy, you should know that they are also likely to break off when you apply just a bit of force.

If you want to test for yourself, you should try pulling it a bit on the spine. If you feel that it’s going to come off in your hands with minimal effort, you have a dying cactus on your hands.

If you can easily pull out the specialized leaves, the plant is on its last legs, and requires immediate action.


Finally, one of the clear signs that your plant is dying is if it begins to lean. Remember, there’s a difference between bending and leaning, and you need to look for the latter.

The entire plant would probably be leaning toward one side, which is a clear indication that the plant is in need of help.

Dying cacti usually begin to shake in their potting soil, and it usually gives off the impression as if the plant is about to fall off to one side.

That is one of the reasons why it begins to lean toward one side. This is also a sign that your plant is lacking proper roots, and needs adequate attention.

Now, there could be any number of reasons why your cactus might begin to die, but you should know that there is still time to save the plant.

Considering the fact that the plant is incredibly hardy and is able to protect itself, you should know that with a little bit of effort, you can actually save a dying cactus. Here are a few effective ways of doing so.

How to Save a Dying Cactus

Someone Holding A Rotten Astrophytum Asterias (Or Star Cactus) Cactus

1 – Fixing Root Rot

As mentioned above, overwatering is the number one cause of death for cacti. So, naturally, the first thing that we need to focus on is fixing root rot.

Discoloration, wobbling, and overly moist roots are all signs that the plant is succumbing to root rot and needs to be cared for.

The funny thing is that even cacti that has rotted all the way down to the soil line can be saved, as long as you take action.

But, before you take action, you need to check carefully to make sure that the plant is actually suffering. You can check the roots underneath to determine whether the plant is suffering, and once you are sure, you can then start to fix the problem.

The first thing to do is remove the plant from the pot, and then take a look at the condition of the roots.

Remove the darkened and mushy roots that you notice using a pair of scissors, and also cut off any of the rotted areas that lie at the base of the cactus plant. It’s incredibly important that you use a clean knife to do so.

All gardeners understand the importance of using sterile equipment when working with damaged plants, so you should always properly sterilize your equipment before using it as well.

Then, allow the plant to dry out properly before you decide to put it in a new pot.

Make sure you use a specialized medium designed for potting cactus when you put it in, as that’s going to considerably boost plant growth.

Because the spines on the cactus can cause injury, you should always consider wearing heavy gloves. This can prevent your hands from getting pierced.

2 – Watch the Amount of Water You Provide

One of the best ways to save a dying cactus is to curtail your watering habits.

Succulents that develop slowly, such as the cactus, do not require a great deal of water at all. Unfortunately, when watering other plants in the garden, most people don’t think twice before adding water to their cacti as well.

Naturally, the roots begin to rot, and the plant starts to suffer. Before you know it, the plant will succumb to its death if you are not careful.

Remember, too much water is equally as harmful to the plant as is a lack of water.

More importantly, you should know that when the cactus is flowering, it’s going to require a considerable amount of water.

There are several things that can go wrong, starting with underwatering.

If you do not provide an adequate amount of water to your cactus, there is a pretty strong risk that it’s going to shrivel up over the passage of time. On top of that, it is also likely to pucker up or you might notice a bit of discoloration developing on the plant as well.

This is a way used by the plant to let you know that it is dehydrated and needs water.

When your plant is thirsty, you need to make sure that you give it an adequate amount of water. It might need less water, but you do need to water it nonetheless.

A proper watering is just what it will take to bring the plant back to its original condition.

On the other hand, overwatering is a prevalent problem for cactus owners.

If overwatering turns into a chronic issue, you need to help the plant lose as much of the water as possible. The first thing that you need to do is take a pot that is just slightly bigger than your cactus, and then fill it up with fresh potting mix that’s designed primarily for cacti.

Then, place the cactus inside the mix and pot it. You need to be very gentle, because the roots are going to be quite delicate.

The clay pot is going to help wick away the excess water from the roots, and the loose cactus mix that you have used is also going to allow all of the excess water to flow away from the plant.

Remember, if you have a large cactus, your only option will be to plant it in the ground. This should only be done for the larger variants, because you won’t have as much control over the drainage when you plant it in the ground, as you would with a pot.

3 – Replace the Potting Soil

Another excellent way to improve the health of your plant, or make a dying cactus recover is by replacing the potting soil.

We have already covered the number one cause of cactus death: root rot. But, what you need to understand is that it isn’t directly water that damages the roots.

It’s a member of the water mold, and you should know that it only begins to rot when an excess amount of water is provided to the plant.

But, why should we change the soil because of that? Well, there are several reasons why you should consider doing so.

The first reason is that the chances of the pathogen still remaining within the soil are going to be quite high, and so, none of your remedial actions are really going to work.

Instead, you should consider changing the soil to a lighter and more porous mixture. There are specific mixtures available that are designed to effectively protect against different kinds of pathogens and will protect your plants.

4 – Repotting

Repotting Pachypodium Cactus To New Pot

This might come as a surprise to most people, but repotting your cactus is also a great way to save it from certain death.

One of the reasons why most people prefer repotting their cactus is because it gives the plant more room to grow. Like most houseplants, the cactus is also going to outgrow the container that you keep it in.

It’s considered by many as a rite of passage, and is bound to happen sooner or later. Because there isn’t enough space for the roots, the growth of the plant is often stunted, and it is likely to die over time.

There are several signs that the cactus has outgrown its container, and is in need of repotting.

For starters, the biggest sign is when the roots start coming out of the drainage holes in the pot. If you notice the roots becoming visibly crowded or the leaves looking unhealthy, you might want to consider repotting it.

However, before you place your cactus in a new pot, you need to make sure that you carefully disinfect the new one.

Also, this goes without saying, but you should choose a bigger pot than the one you took the cactus out of.

5 – Induce Rooting

When the roots of your plant sustain a considerable amount of damage, you might have to induce new growth to allow the plant to survive. It might seem difficult, but when it comes to the cactus, it’s a pretty straightforward process.

To induce rooting, the first thing that you need to do is use a clean knife to cut away all of the rot that is found underneath the plant. This is important, and it is going to save your plant from considerable damage in the future.

Remember, even if there is a small amount of healthy tissue at the base of the plant, it can allow the plant to grow back again. But, if you do not clean up the rot first, the plant is only going to sustain more damage and is going to continue rotting.

You need to let the cactus dry out in the open for several days at the very least so that the roots are completely dried out.

You will notice a scab forming on the sections that have been cut, and when that happens, you can place the plant back into a pot with cactus potting mixture.

You should bury it about an inch deep, and let the plant rest for a while.

Remember, there’s no need to add water for at least the first week; and you need to wait until new growth appears. Even then, just add water sparingly.

These are just a few things that you can do to save your cactus from dying!

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H Hunter

Saturday 10th of July 2021

Great article. Helped me a lot thanks!