How to Revive a Dying Cactus

Cactus death is typically caused by root rot brought on by over watering and poorly draining potting soils. Between waterings, cacti require the soil surrounding their roots to dry out. The cactus turns yellow, brown, or black with a spongy texture if the soil is persistently moist.

If a cactus receives too much shade, the stem will droop or lean over, but if it is shifted from shade to full sun without first being exposed to more intense light, the cactus will turn white and appear burnt.

When a cactus is living in conditions that are drastically different from those of its natural environment, it will eventually die.

By placing the cactus in at least six hours of direct sunlight, only watering when the soil has completely dried out, and planting or repotting the cactus in specially formulated well-draining gritty succulent and cacti soil to improve drainage so the cactus can recover, you can revive a dying cactus.

Find out how to revive your cactus plant by reading on.

Cactus Turning Yellow, Brown or Black

  • Symptoms. Cactus stems frequently start to turn yellow at the plant’s base. The stems may start to lean or feel a little spongy.
  • Causes. Overwatering, poorly draining soil, excess water collecting on saucers or trays beneath the pot, and fancy outside pots without drainage holes are all causes of damp soil. Root rot can be brought on by repotting cactus in large pots that contain too much moisture or by using the incorrect potting soil. Underwatering is the cause of the cactus’ yellowing and shriveling.

The most frequent cause of cactus yellowing is excessive soil moisture brought on by overwatering or poorly draining soils. Cacti are drought-tolerant, so only provide water once the soil has totally dried out. The cactus will turn yellow if the soil is too wet because the roots cannot absorb nutrients and water as effectively.

Desert cacti, which are frequently available in garden centers, are drought-tolerant plants that have evolved specifically to flourish in hot, dry climates with well-draining, rocky soil and sparse but significant rainfall.

A cactus needs to be planted in a gritty, well-draining potting soil, then watered when the soil around the roots has dried out in order to properly grow and prevent the stem from becoming yellow. This helps to mimic some of the normal circumstances of the cactus’ native environment.

Cacti cannot withstand excessive moisture around their roots caused by frequent watering or growing them in potting soil that maintains moisture for an excessively long time.

The stem might turn yellow from too much moisture around the roots and become floppy in texture.

The presence of a yellow cactus and a stem that feels squishy may be signs of root rot.

The majority of cacti need the soil to fully dry out around their roots in between watering sessions, simulating the typical watering cycle in their natural habitat, which has drought-like circumstances followed by a shower of rain.

Additionally, it’s essential to put cacti in containers with drainage holes at the bottom so that extra water can drain after watering.

Saucers, trays, and ornamental outer pots can also cause too much water to collect at the bottom of the pot, soggy soil leads to root rot and a yellowing cactus.

How to Revive a Dying Cactus Turning Yellow Brown or Black

  • Restrict the irrigation. Your cactus is turning yellow because you are watering it more frequently than once a week. When the soil around the roots has dried out, which usually happens about every 14 days, desert cactus should only be watered. However, this can change depending on the pot’s size and the soil’s ability to hold moisture (test to see if the soil is moist by feeling the soil through the drainage holes in the base).
  • Your cactus needs a new pot and fresh dirt. Even if you water your cactus after the soil has dried up, if the potting soil retains moisture for an excessive amount of time (like a sponge), your cactus could still turn yellow and become squishy (which are the soil conditions of a cactus in its native environment). If your cactus was originally planted in regular potting soil, remove it from the container and replace it with specially formulated succulent and cacti soil (available at garden centers and on Amazon), which mimics the grittier, porous, well-draining soil qualities of the cacti’s native environment and lowers the risk of root rot, which turns the cactus yellow.
  • Cacti should always be planted in pots with drainage holes at the bottom. In order to prevent water from pooling around the roots and causing root rot, it is crucial that extra water can drain out of the pot effectively. The finest pots are made of terracotta or clay because they have a porous structure that promotes more equal drying of the potting soil, which is what cacti enjoy.
  • Cacti should be grown in pots that are appropriate for their size. The risk of root rot and your cactus turning yellow increases if the pot is too large since it includes more soil that takes longer to dry up after watering.
  • Regularly remove the trays and saucers from under the cacti pots. Decorative outer pots, trays, and saucers can all obstruct normal water evaporation, leading the soil to get soggy. Avoid allowing water to collect at the pot’s bottom.
  • To counteract the effects of overwatering and to replicate the cactus’ ideal natural conditions of at least 6 hours of sun, give it additional sun exposure.

Feel the dirt at the bottom of the container via the drainage hole in the base to determine when to water your cactus. Delay watering the cactus for a few days if the soil seems wet. This is the ideal time to water your cactus if the soil seems dry.

The appropriate kind of porous, well-draining succulent and cacti potting soil is necessary in addition to watering your cactus after the soil has become dry in order to replicate the natural conditions of intermittent rainfall followed by a period of drought.

If the soil is overly compacted or dense, the roots’ ability to absorb moisture and nutrients will be hampered because there won’t be enough oxygen for root respiration.

The cactus displays stress by becoming yellow if it is unable to absorb moisture or nutrients.

The cactus can begin to recover even if the stem seems yellow as long as you allow the soil dry out once you have addressed the reasons why it is turning yellow and mushy (changed how often you water and replaced the soil) and put into practice the best watering techniques.

How soon your cactus recovers will depend on how long it has been under stress, but over the coming weeks, it should start to show signs of improvement.

How to Prevent Severe Root Rot in a Cactus

The cactus probably has root rot if it keeps turning yellow and becoming progressively spongy. It is quite difficult to salvage the entire cactus if it has root rot, but you can still save the plant by taking cuttings from healthy tissue.

Offshoots, pads, and cutting propagation are all relatively simple methods of cactus reproduction.

For information on how to quickly reproduce cacti of all species, see this excellent YouTube video.

Dying Cactus Turning Soft, Squishy and Drooping

  • Symptoms. Cactus can turn yellow, brown, or black and feels soft to the touch. Additionally, the cactus may begin to sag and tilt to one side.
  • Causes. temperatures below 40°F (5.0°C), excessive irrigation, and compacted soil.

A cactus becomes squishy when there is too much moisture around the roots, which can be brought on by overwatering, poorly draining soil, or pots with no drainage holes at the bottom. Root rot is indicated if the cactus are turning yellow and spongy. Cacti also become floppy and soft at lower temperatures than 40°F.

In their natural home, where they thrive in stony soil with intermittent rainfall, the majority of houseplant cactus are adapted to survive dry and hot circumstances.

The cactus’ strong stem acts as a water reservoir, allowing it to survive on relatively little water while enduring drought, scorching sun, and high temperatures.

Because of its drought-resistant adaptations, the cactus is extremely vulnerable to overwatering, which can make the stem mushy, soft, and squishy in texture and give it a drooping appearance.

By delaying the rate of soil drying, cold temperatures can also contribute to a mushy texture.

The cactus gets root rot and becomes squishy if the soil dries out too slowly (as a result of the cold weather).

While a room indoors is frequently well within the 55°F to 85°F (12°C to 30°C) optimum temperature range for the majority of cactus species, the glass of a window is typically significantly colder than the indoor air temperature.

If a cactus is placed up against a chilly glass window at night, it may become squishy.

Cacti become mushy and black at subfreezing conditions.

Compacted or slowly draining soils, as well as saucers, trays, and pots with poor drainage all cause the soil to remain too wet for the cactus to tolerate, leading to root rot and a squishy stem.

If a cactus is spongy, which is indicative of poor health, it may begin to sag under its own weight.

How to Revive a Squishy, Drooping Cactus

How to Revive a Squishy, Drooping Cactus

How long the cactus has been exposed to overwatering and subfreezing conditions often determines whether it will survive.

A cactus can recover in the coming weeks with the appropriate watering schedule, potting soil, temperature, and plenty of sunlight.

The only option to save the cactus is to propagate it from any healthy remaining tissue or offshoots if a significant portion of it has become squishy and may have become yellow, brown, or black (see YouTube video further up the article for a guide on how to do this).

Cactus Leaning, Drooping or Falling Over

  • Symptoms. The cactus is slanting to one side. There might also be mushy and soft areas of the cactus.
  • Causes. Perhaps the cactus is moving toward the brightest source of light. Leaning, drooping, or falling cacti can also be brought on by overwatering, compacted soil, freezing temperatures, and underwatering.

Lack of sunlight is the most frequent cause of a drooping cactus.Find a clight at all times. Cacti need at least six hours of direct sunshine each day because they are used to growing in full sun. The cactus becomes stressed and weakens as a result of not getting enough sunlight, drooping or bending over as a symptom of stress.

A drooping cactus can happen at any time of year if it is in the shade rather than direct sunshine, although it is more typical in the Winter when there are less daylight hours, especially in Northern latitudes when daylight can be reduced to a few hours.

A cactus, however, can easily sag to one side toward the light if it is not periodically turned.

Cacti naturally lean toward windows to get the most sunlight since they develop toward the brightest sources of light.

The ideal method to get a more uniform appearance is to rotate the cactus by 45 degrees every time you water it, ensuring that each side receives an equal amount of direct sunshine.

A cactus might droop and topple over if the soil is overly wet due to overwatering, slow-draining potting soil, or if saucers and trays beneath it are not routinely removed.

Cacti can survive periods of drought between waterings and thrive in sandy, rocky soils with good drainage. A drooping appearance is one of the symptoms of stress if the soil is very wet (other signs of stress are cactus turning yellow, soft and mushy).

Most cactus species require temperatures between 12°C and 30°C (55°F to 85°F) for optimum growth. The cactus can turn dark, mushy, droop, or lean to one side if it is exposed to temperatures lower than 40°F (5°C) or even freezing temperatures.

How to Revive a Leaning or Drooping Cactus

  • Place your cactus in a spot that receives at least six hours every day of direct sunshine. If you are moving your cactus from a fully shaded area, expose it to the sun gradually by exposing it to two hours of direct sun for three to four days, then gradually increasing the hours over the course of two weeks, by which time the cactus can acclimate to full sun (a sudden move from shade to blazing sun can cause the cactus to burn and turn white).
  • Every time you water, turn the cactus 45 degrees. In order to maintain balanced development and prevent the cactus from leaning excessively to one side, rotate it as regularly as you water it (usually once every two weeks).

As long as your cactus hasn’t been in the shade for too long, you can remedy a leaning cactus by rotating it frequently and placing it in more sunlight.

However, I advise propagating the cactus if it has been in the shadow for an excessive amount of time and is leaning noticeably or even toppling over since once it has lost all structural integrity, the cactus is too weak to grow normally again.

If the leaning plant has healthy tissue, it can still be propagated to generate a strong new plant.

Watch the YouTube video linked above to learn how to propagate cacti.

If your cactus is drooping as a result of excessive moisture, cold stress, or wet potting soil…

  • Restrict the irrigation. After the earth has dried out, only water the cactus. The exact amount of time depends on your environment and the season, but generally speaking, watering once every two weeks in the spring and summer and once every three weeks in the fall and winter is sufficient.
  • To increase drainage, repot your cactus with potting soil for succulents and cacti. In order to accurately mimic the usual soil conditions of the cactus’ natural environment, succulent and cacti soil is specially created. The soil is more permeable, has more sand, and does not hold on to moisture as much. As a result, there is a considerably lower chance of root rot and the drooping it causes.
  • To avoid cold stress, keep your cactus in the 55–85°F temperature range. How low the temperature is (below than 40°F can seriously injure a cactus) and how long it has been exposed to cold temperatures truly determine whether your cactus recovers from drooping due to cold stress. A cactus’ cold-damaged portions frequently become mushy and inky. If this has happened, reduce the frequency of watering (such that the soil dries out between bouts of watering) so that the black, gooey region can dry out and eventually callus over, at which time the cactus can start to recover.

The cactus has the best chance of recovering from its drooping appearance after it has a watering schedule that enables the soil to dry between each watering and is planted in the suitable succulent and cacti potting soil within a temperature range of 55°F to 85°F.

Underwatering is another factor that could be causing your cactus to droop or lean over, in which case…

  • Always give a cactus a deep soak when watering it. While cacti don’t require as much watering as other plants do, they do need a thorough watering so that any extra water drips out the bottom of the pot. This makes sure that the water has permeated the soil and gotten to the roots where it is needed, allowing the cactus to absorb hydration. The regular cycle of watering in the cactus’ original environment—a deluge of rainfall followed by a time of drought—is replicated by soaking followed by a dry spell.

The cactus stem shrinks in size and droops if it receives too little water since it depends on storing moisture to keep its structural integrity.

Why is My Cactus Shrinking?

  • Symptoms. The size of the cactus is decreasing, and occasionally the stem has a wrinkled appearance or is leaning to one side.
  • Causes. Using small pots and underwatering.

Underwatering is the cause of a cactus’ shrinkage. A cactus’ stem stores moisture as a drought defense mechanism. The cactus draws on its internal moisture reserves, which causes the stem to appear to be shrinking, if it does not receive enough water.

The cactus’ surface may also appear wrinkled as it draws on its moisture reserves. In order to keep their growth and shape, cacti rely on absorbing moisture to store in the stem.

The cactus’ solid texture and height are maintained by the water pressure in the stem.

In order for cacti to survive in their native desert habitat of high temperatures and intermittent rainfall, the ability to store water is a crucial survival strategy.

When watered too sparingly or in a pot that is too tiny, houseplant cacti are more likely to shrink. The top inch or two of the potting soil only becomes damp when the cactus is watered too little, and the water does not get to the roots where it is needed.

The soil’s capacity to keep moisture is reduced if the pot is too tiny for the size of the cactus, and the pot can dry out too soon even for a cactus, especially in hot weather.

How to Revive a Shrinking Cactus

  • Always give a cactus a deep soak when watering it. Water thoroughly, but let the soil dry in between applications to reduce the danger of root rot. To make sure the liquid has seeped into the soil and reached the roots, water generously until excess water drips from the base of the pot.
  • Increase the pot size for the cactus. Repot your cactus into a pot that is one size larger and transplant it with succulent and cacti potting soil to ensure proper drainage if the cactus roots seem to be pot-bound or if it is very huge and the pot appears disproportionately tiny. Always pick a pot that is appropriate for the size of the plant when repotting cacti since too big pots might trap too much moisture and lead to root rot.

After one particularly deep soak, a shrinking cactus should begin to revive, and after two or three watering cycles, it should fully recover. To avoid root rot, make sure to frequently empty any trays or saucers underneath the cactus planter.

(Read my post on how to keep a yellowing cactus alive.)

Cactus Turning Turning White

A cactus turns white because it was transferred from shade to harsh sunlight, which burnt the plant and turned it white. The contrast of being shifted from shade or partial shade to full sun without the chance to acclimate causes the cactus to turn white. Cactus are frequently acclimated to living in full sun.

Cacti are able to thrive in full light and frequently have special adaptations that allow them to survive in these conditions in their natural habitat.

Cacti can adjust to environments with less light, though (although this is likely to affect growth and flowering).

The stem can turn white if you have been growing your cactus in partial shade and then transfer it to a window sill in full sun or outside during the Summer since it cannot survive the sudden change in light conditions.

This may also occur if the cactus has spent an excessive amount of time in transportation from a nursery or in a retail location without full sun.

Return the cactus to the previous lighting settings if you are relocating it to a location with direct sunlight or you realize it is becoming white (partial shade or morning sun followed by afternoon shade should be ideal).

To prevent the cactus from turning white from exposure to the sun, it is vital to progressively expose it to more light each day before relocating it to shade.

Over the course of two weeks, progressively spend more time moving your cactus to a sunny location. The cactus should be able to adapt to the increased light after two weeks and will likely grow more effectively over time than if it were left in the shadow.

– ADJUST DAILY SUNLIGHT. … A cactus that has been underwater is shrinking because of this. In order to survive droughts, cactus stems retain rainwater. The stem will become smaller if the cactus does not receive enough water because it will draw on its stored moisture, giving the appearance that it is shrinking.

It’s possible for the cactus’ surface to seem wrinkled as it relies on its moisture reserves. For the purpose of maintaining their size and shape, cacti rely on absorbing moisture to store in the stem.

The cactus maintains its height and firmness by the water pressure in the stem.

Key Takeaways:

  • So that cacti can withstand the high temperatures and little rainfall in their native desert environment, the ability to conserve water is a crucial survival strategy.
  • Watering cacti inside too sparingly or using a pot that is too tiny both contribute to their propensity to shrivel. Water does not get to the roots where it is needed if the cactus is watered too lightly, merely allowing the top inch or two of the potting soil to become damp.
  • The pot can dry up too soon even for a cactus if it is too tiny for the size of the plant, especially in high temperatures. This can happen if the pot is too large for the size of the cactus.
  • A cactus needs to be given a good, deep soak every time. In order to prevent root rot, water deeply but let the soil dry between applications. To ensure that the moisture has permeated the soil and reached the roots, water liberally until surplus water drips from the base of the pot.
  • Transplant the cactus into a bigger pot. Repot your cactus to a container one size larger and transplant it with succulent and cacti potting soil to guarantee proper drainage if the roots of the cactus seem to be pot-bound or if the cactus is very huge and the pot appears disproportionately tiny. Never repot your cactus in a pot that is too big for it; doing so might lead to root rot. Instead, use a pot that is appropriate to the size of the plant.
  • After one really good soak, a shrinking cactus should begin to revive, and it should fully recover after two or three watering cycles. In order to avoid root rot, make sure to routinely empty any saucers or trays that may be underneath the cactus container.


What does a dying cactus look like?

Symptoms. Whitening and appearing somewhat burnt, cactus changes color.

Why does my cactus look dried out?

Causes. Without allowing the cactus time to adjust, moving it from a low-sun area to full sun. Due to the stronger sunlight throughout the summer, this frequently occurs.

Can you revive a dying cactus?

A cactus turns white when it is exposed to harsh sunlight after having been in the shade. This causes the cactus to become white-scorched. Although cacti are frequently suited to living in full sun, they can become white when relocated from partial shade or shadow to full sun without having a chance to acclimate.

Why did my cactus dry up?

Cacti can grow in direct sunlight and frequently have evolved expressly to do so in their natural habitat.