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Telltale Signs that Your Cactus is Dying — Oh No!

Telltale Signs that Your Cactus is Dying — Oh No!

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Cacti plants are easy to grow. However, despite their ability to survive in dry conditions or minimal care, the cacti have weaknesses and are prone to death when the conditions are not right.

They are slow-growing plants, and it could take many weeks or even months before you can tell if your cactus is dying.

This article will cover the early signs of dying that are not alarming, signs that show your cactus is dying, and reasons why your cactus is dying.

How Can You Tell If Your Cactus Is Dying?

The plant’s overall condition can easily let you know its state. A dying cactus looks like it wants to fall off and is usually shakier. These are clear signs of rot in the root or another underlying problem. Some cacti develop soft segments around the stem, produce a foul smell, or change color.

Early Signs That Show Your Cactus Is Dying but Shouldn’t Worry You

It’s important to understand the early signs of a dying cactus so that you can address the issue as early as possible. In this section, we will cover some early signs that could result in a dying cactus.

Change In Color

Some cacti plants change their color whenever they experience stress. For example, cacti with a reddish-like tinge signify sunburn and occur if you expose your cactus to too much light.

This change only affects the aesthetics of the cactus and is not a sign of a real health issue. People will mostly find it unattractive when it is sunburnt.

However, there should be cause for concern if the cactus changes the color to brown or yellow.


Withering is another sign people commonly mistake for the death of a cactus. You may notice that some parts of your cactus are drying off, and some pads begin to shed off. It is a natural reaction for most cacti species when they experience prolonged spells of drought.

Shedding off removes the older parts to preserve the younger parts. Withering is not usually lethal. You simply need to water your cactus moderately and regularly to help it recover.

Moreover, cut off the parts that have dried to improve the aesthetic value of your plant.


Corking is a natural process that plants do as they age. They develop a hard brown layer on top of the green layer.

The layer could turn gray-brown. It usually starts near the bottom and spreads to the top of the plant.

People often mistake corking for disease. However, it is only a reflection of age and not a disease.

Signs To Tell That Your Cactus Is Dying

If you miss the early signs, other signs can help you tell if your cactus is dying. It is important to know these signs to take appropriate steps to help your cactus early enough.


Many cacti change their color when they are stressed. It usually starts at the stem or the top of the plant. You need to investigate the cause of the discoloration and address it to avoid things getting worse.

The yellow or brown color is a cause for concern, but red is a sign of sunburn.

Fungal Infections

Fungal infections on cacti are a cause of concern. You can spot a fungal infection on your cactus without much struggle because it will have lacerations in the tissue.

Fungal infections can occur in any part of the plant.

The cactus may also have gray spots around the base, but these do not necessarily mean that the plant is at risk. You only need to be concerned about lacerations that occur directly in your plant. A spray-based fungicide can help to control these lacerations.

You can use a combination of rubbing alcohol to sterilize the area with a fungal infection.

Cacti surgery is another option to help control fungal infections. You perform cacti surgery by simply slicing away the areas of the plant with a fungal infection.

It is always risky to perform “cactus surgery” because you can do more damage than good.

You can end up killing your cactus if you do it wrongly. Ensure you make very minimal slices. Squeeze the area you have sliced to prevent water from leaking out of the plant.

Wobbly Plants

Wobbly plants are usually a sign of root rot. Cacti are succulent plants that grow slowly. Therefore, the symptoms that affect your cactus have a slow onset, and a good example is root rot.

Root rot can kill your cactus. However, you can save it if you catch the rot early. If your cactus turns yellow at the base, it is a sign of a tough challenge to overcome the root rot.

The cactus can lose its firmness because of root rot.

Identify the rotten part of the roots and cut them off. Healthy cactus roots have a white look. Rotten roots, on the other hand, appear brown, red, or black. Also, the spines of a healthy cactus are rigid, while the spines of unhealthy roots easily break off.

Foul smell

A foul smell from your cactus is usually a bad sign. It indicates that a large portion of your plant has succumbed to rot. The best solution is to remove the cactus and start again.

Reasons Why Your Cactus Is Dying

There are various causes of death for your cactus. It helps to know the causes to be able to overcome them in the future.


Cacti are succulent plants which means that they store water. Therefore, overwatering causes them to store more water than necessary, and they implode. Root rot and browning are common signs of overwatering.

Incorrect Plant Depth

A cactus is susceptible to mold or other fungal infections if you plant it deep enough. Also, planting it at a shallow depth causes it to bend. Simply support it with wood or string.

Improper Drainage

Cacti need soil with good drainage. Soil that holds up water causes problems like root rot.

Little Light Exposure

Cacti can also die from the lack of light. You can consider using artificial light supplements if your cactus has little exposure to sunlight.

Read about Gymnocalycium horstii Care next.

Frequently Asked Questions about (dying) Cacti

How Do I Save My Dying Cactus?

Take measures like adjusting sunlight exposure, cut off rutting parts, rinse off dust, control insects and pests, get the cacti to dry, and use low nitrogen fertilizer.

How Do I Tell If My Cactus Is Healthy?

The appearance of the cactus and roots can tell you if your cactus is healthy. Your cactus is healthy if it has white roots. Rotting roots are brown or black and appear mushy. An unhealthy plant also has yellow or brown coloring at the base.

How Long Can Cacti Stay Without Water?

Desert Cacti can stay for up to 2 years without water. However, indoor cacti require frequent watering.


Cactus are relatively easy plants to grow. However, it is important to check on the state of their health. Ensure you water your cactus properly, expose it to enough light, control pests, and cut off the dried parts to preserve the plant.