Life hack

How to save a dying cactus

A cactus (Cactaceae spp.) is similar to a house cat. Although it requires very little from you, it is not completely self-sufficient. A plant that is wilting or turning brown is begging for attention. You can revive the plant by finding and correcting the problem. Although the exact method you use to resuscitate your plant will vary based upon its exact species and specific problem, you can save it by checking for — and fixing — a few common cactus-growing mistakes.

Water, Water Everywhere

Cacti do not like wet feet, and giving your cactus too much water causes root rot. Gently lift your cactus out of the soil and inspect the roots. Healthy roots look white and fleshy. If the roots are brown and mushy, root rot is the culprit. Cut off the damaged roots with a sharp knife. To prevent the problem from recurring, repot the cactus in fresh soil. Choose a slightly larger pot with multiple drainage holes. Fill it with a well-draining potting mix specifically made for succulents. If you don’t have succulent mix, you can combine 1 part sand with 2 parts traditional potting soil instead.

Prevent future problems by waiting to water until the soil in the cactus feels bone dry. Most cacti need water about once a week when grown indoors. When you do water, soak the soil so that it is moist but not soggy at a depth of 1 inch. You can also watch your plant for watering cues. Too little water makes the leaves shrivel up. Too much makes the plant go limp.

When growing a Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii), mist the area around the cactus in between waterings to increase humidity. Unlike other cacti, Christmas cactus is native to humid areas like the jungle.

Avoid Too Much Sun

Cacti live in the desert, so you may be tempted to set yours in direct sunlight. Too much sun, however, may burn your cactus, especially if the sun is amplified through a window pane. Move your cactus to a location that receives bright but indirect sunlight. Keep your plant away from heating vents, too, as hot air drafts can dry out cacti too much. Like excessive heat, too much cold can harm a cactus too. Position plants away from drafts.

A Healthy Diet

Just like other plants, cacti need nutrients to grow. Proper nutrition makes a plant stronger and better able to resist diseases and other problems. Potted plants need more fertilizing than outdoor plants as the soil they grow in is a closed system that is never refreshed. Choose a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer for your cactus and dilute it to 1/4 strength. At this strength you can water and fertilize your plant in one step once a week during the growing season. When fall weather returns, reduce the frequency of your watering and fertilizing. The plant will need less food during this time as it is not actively growing or flowering.

Things You’ll Need

How to Save a Dying Cactus

Cacti are generally problem-free plants. Give them a spot of sunlight and a minimal amount of care, and they will grow healthily and happily. In fact, one of the cacti’s only real enemies is too much water. Overwatering is the primary cause of cactus rot in the home garden. If you notice that your plant has begun to get mushy, act quickly and you may be able to remedy the problem. Even cacti rotted all the way down to the soil line can bounce back with proper care.

Cacti Rotting from the Base Up

Step 1

Cut the top of the cacti off with a sharp knife. Make the cut at least 2 inches above the rotted plant material.

Step 2

Leave the cut cacti piece on its side indoors in a cool, dry spot for 24 to 72 hours or until the cut bottom of the cacti piece dries and callouses over.

Step 3

Change the cacti’s soil. Over-watering is a common cause of rot, but fungal problems in the soil may also be the root of the cause. Empty the old pot, wash it with soapy water, rinse and dry. Place a disposable coffee filter in the bottom of the pot to prevent soil escaping through the drainage holes. Re-fill the pot with fresh cacti soil, available at most home garden centers. Do not use regular potting soil. It retains too much water and may eventually cause your cacti to rot again. If the cacti is growing in the landscape, consider moving it indoors where you can better control its exposure to water. Or, plant it in a drier spot that contains sandy well-drained soil.

Step 4

Re-plant the piece of cacti you cut off in the new soil. Sit it just deep enough to keep it from toppling over.

Step 5

Water the soil once weekly during the cacti’s first two weeks of growth, while it is putting down new roots.

Cacti Rotting from the Top Down

Step 1

Cut the rotted portion of the cacti away with a sharp knife. Make the pruning cut at least one inch into healthy tissue to make sure that you prune away all of the rotted tissue.

Step 2

Dispose of the rotted portion of the cacti. It cannot be saved or re-potted.

Step 3

Make sure that your potted cacti is growing in a cacti-succulent mixture. If it is not, you will need to re-pot the plant in an appropriate mixture. Potting or garden soil retains too much moisture and will likely lead to more rotting problems. If your cacti is growing in the landscape in an area where water pools after a hard rain, consider potting it with cacti soil mixture.

Make sure your cacti is growing in a pot with growing holes in the bottom.

Water your cacti correctly to prevent further rotting. Landscape cacti generally only need watering twice monthly when temperatures are above 90 degrees Fahrenheit if there has been no rain during the period. Cut back to once monthly when temperatures are low with little raid. Water potted cacti once weekly, twice weekly if the cacti is outdoors and the weather is 90 dgrees or higher. Water until water drips out of the drainage holes in the pot. A pot tray will catch the dripping water. Empty the tray of collected water after 15 minutes. Try not to wet the body of the cacti when you water.

Not all changes in your cacti’s tissue are rot. Hard, woody cactus material is a sign of aging rather than. Make sure that your cacti is mushy and rotten before you cut.

How to Save a Dying Cactus

Succulents are among the easiest plants to grow. They are perfect for new gardeners and require little special attention. Occasional problems do arise though, so knowing how to revive succulents that have been neglected is an important part of their care. The method of reviving succulents will depend upon what the issue was that made them unhealthy.

If you are wondering “how to fix my dying succulent,” you are in the right place.

Can You Save a Dying Succulent?

Succulents (including cacti) have so many fascinating forms, sizes, and colors that make them a perfect plant for almost any taste. Sudden decline in their health is usually due to water concerns but occasionally can be from pest or disease issues. Saving dying succulents starts with figuring out what started their deterioration so you can remedy the problem.

Does your aloe or cactus look a bit sad? The good news is that succulents are very hardy and versatile. While the plant’s diminish may have you a bit panicked, in most cases, reviving succulents is quite easy and the plant will turn around quickly. They are adapted to living in very specific, and often harsh, conditions.

First off, what type of succulent do you own? Is it a desert plant or tropical succulent? Since watering is the usual cause for their decay, you should determine if the plant has been over or under watered. If the stem is mushy or rotting, it’s probably overwatered. If the leaves are puckered, the plant needs more water. Don’t worry if there are dry, dying leaves at the base. This is normal as the plant produces new leaves.

How to Fix My Dying Succulent

Make sure the plant is in a well-draining medium. If in a container, it should have drainage holes. Insert a finger into the soil up to the second knuckle. If the soil is moist or cool, the plant is adequately watered. If it is super wet, the succulent needs to dry out and should probably be removed from the soil and repotted or planted in a dryer situation.

Excess water ommonly causes decay in succulents. They are known for drought tolerance but still need water, like any other plant. Use a moisture meter to get it just right. If the plant’s medium is bone dry due to neglect or forgetfulness, soak it in a larger container of water to get soil moist.

How to Revive Succulents from Other Causes

Succulents can be moved outdoors in summer in most climates. However, they can get sunburned, frozen, or attacked by insects. If you see insects, use an organic horticultural soap to remove the pests.

If your plant experienced a freeze, remove any collapsed or mushy leaves. If the plant leaves are scorched, remove the worst ones and change the lighting for the plant.

In most cases, saving dying succulents is rather simple. Provide good care after they experience an “event” that created their weakness. If all else fails, preserve a good leaf or stem fragment, allow it to callus, then plant in succulent mix. This part of the plant will take off quickly, allowing you to preserve the species.

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Easter cactus (Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri) is a type of leaf cacti, a group of plants recognized by their flat stems. The plant sets buds at the notches or tips of the stems after Christmas, with long-lasting blooms appearing in spring. Although Easter cactus is usually grown indoors, it is suitable for growing outdoors in the warm climates of U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 12. Easter cactus is a hardy, low-maintenance plant but it is sometimes affected by improper care or pests.

Plant Easter cactus in a pot filled with well-drained potting soil. Use a good quality commercial potting mixture or a mixture formulated for cactus and succulents. Always use a pot with a drainage hole in the bottom. Poorly drained or compacted soil may result in limp, shriveled leaves.

Water the plant carefully, as overwatering is the primary cause of problems for Easter cactus. Water the plant thoroughly, and then don’t water again until the top half of the soil feels dry. Always let the pot drain after watering, and then discard the excess water. Never allow the pot to stand in water.

Keep Easter cactus in a room where temperatures are relatively consistent. Avoid high temperatures and don’t place the plant on a warm appliance or near a heat source. Similarly, don’t place Easter cactus near an air conditioner or drafty window.

Remove mealybugs by hand with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. Mealybugs are small insects that are easily recognized by their powdery white covering. Removing mealybugs by hand usually isn’t practical for a heavy infestation. Instead, apply an insecticidal soap spray formulated for indoor plants. Apply enough spray to wet both sides of the leaves, and then repeat every one to two weeks until the pests are under control.

Remove scale with an old toothbrush or a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. Scale, which feeds on the juices of the plant, is a tiny organism covered by a waxy, disc-shaped covering. Affected plants display stunted, distorted growth and yellow leaves. If the infestation is severe, spray scale with an insecticidal soap formulated for indoor plants.

Prickly pear cacti that grow on a vast territory from Canada to Chile represent one of the cactus subfamilies. It includes many various types that differ from each other, but nevertheless they have common distinctive features that set them apart from the other cactus species. All prickly pears have a segmented stalk structure – flat stalks are globe-, disc-, table-shaped, oval or cylindrical. They are covered with the smallest serrated spikes named glochidiae, which easily stick into the skin when you touch the cactus. Sometimes it’s very hard to take them out, besides it’s painful. Maybe it was the reason why my neighbors decided to get rid of a “dangerous” Opuntia azurea.

Unfortunately the most of prickly pear representatives are too large and not so lovely as other houseplants. A lot of cacti never flower in the flat because their flowering is possible only when they reach a certain size. But still there are some small and undemanding types of cactus plants.

Just like saguaro prickly pear cactus needs much sun. When the plant is short of light it becomes high but thin and not fleshy, losing its decorative beauty. In spring I accustom it to the sun and then keep it in the open air till autumn. Some collectors bed them out in summer in the garden. It hardens and strengthens the plants, heightens their decease and vermin resistibility.

Speaking of watering, it’s, of course, connected with the temperature and air humidity: the hotter the weather is, the more you should water your prickly pear. If it’s a cool rainy day, leave it dry. In winter I water my plants once a month, keeping them along with saguaros in a cold place with the temperature about 7-10 C.

All cacti can’t bear water stagnation near their roots, so the drain ports and a drainage layer on the bottom of the pot are necessary. Moreover, the water must be soft, without any mixture and chlorine. It would be ideal to use rainwater, but I water all my plants with warm water settled for some days. If you keep an eye on your plant constantly, you can notice in time the sign of water shortage – the stalk would be shrunken.

How to Save a Dying Cactus

Cacti are remarkably durable and low in maintenance. The succulents need little more than sun, well drained soil and rare moisture. The pests and problems common to the plant group are minimal and usually easy to surmount. Cactus problems may range from sucking pests, like whitefly, to common rots from bacteria or fungal disease. One of the telltale signs of a problem is a soft, mushy cactus.

Why is My Cactus Going Soft?

The arid gardener may ask, “Why is my cactus going soft?” Likely causes are disease, cultivation and improper site and ambient conditions.

Cacti generally have low moisture needs. They thrive in temperatures above 70 to 75 F. (21-24 C.) in sunny locations and require little supplemental nutrients. Potted plants need good drainage holes and a soil mix with plenty of grit. In-ground plants have similar requirements.

As with any plant, cacti can become diseased or damaged. A common problem is soft spots in the flesh of the plant. These may be discolored or corky around the spot and the center is mushy and wet. The reasons for such spots may be disease or simply mechanical injury to the pads and stems of the cacti. Cactus rot issues must be dealt with quickly to prevent spread to the rest of the plant and serious loss of vigor, which may become permanent.

Cactus Problems with Fungal and Bacterial Diseases

Bacteria and fungus are introduced to the plant from openings in the flesh. The open areas may be from insect or animal activity, damage from inanimate objects or heavy weather, such as hail. The action of injury isn’t important, but the damage from fungal spores or bacteria is crucial.

Warm, moist conditions accelerate the production of fungi spores and increase bacterial production. Once the organism takes hold in your plant, you will see soft, mushy cactus. Symptoms to watch for include small sunken spots, discolored scabs, round soft areas surrounded by fruiting bodies, and black or other colored dots on the surface of the cacti skin. You may even notice some oozing of your cactus plants.

Treating Cactus Rot Issues

Cactus problems that have gotten into the root usually result in a slowly dying plant, while topical issues in the upper body can be treated easily. Most cacti respond well to excising the diseased tissue. Use a sharp sterile knife to dig out the damaged flesh and allow the hole to dry out. Don’t water overhead as the wound closes.

If the damage has infected the roots, there is very little you can do. You can try to repot the plant, removing diseased soil and replacing it with sterile soil. You should wash the roots off well before replanting in fresh potting medium.

A soft, mushy cactus can also be saved by taking cuttings and letting them root for a fresh new plant. Allow the cutting to callus over for a few days before you insert it into sand. Rooting the cutting may take several weeks. This method of propagation will produce a healthy cactus that is the same as the parent plant.

My grandma had it for a couple years and gave it to me about 7 months ago. It got too big for it’s pot and started to not look as healthy so I replanted it in April. Ever since then it has started to look more and more unhealthy. It’s wilting and it’s turning brown from the base.

I used to have it sitting outside during the day time but that seemed to not help, so now I have it inside by a window with a plant light on him.. he continues to look worse every day. I don’t know if I should give him more water, take him back outside or what. I really dont know much about plants..

If someone could give me some advice or pointers Id greatly appreciate it.

I replanted it in a soil made for Cactus.. bought it from Wal-Mart.

8 Answers

How to Save a Dying Cactus

Cacti are perennial and grow as trees, shrubs, or vines. Most species are terrestrial.

Cactus will begin to root in anywhere form 2 to 6 weeks. When roots have established, the plant will then start to show new growth. Winter is “dormant” season for cactus. Do not water after October 1st unless plant looks noticeably shriveled. Water held by the cactus pads can freeze, killing the entire plant, and will also cause root rot and fungus problems Keeping cacti dry and cool during winter is essential. Even indoor cactus plants require less water during the winter months.Do not allow water to collect into a saucer beneath the pot, cactus roots do not like continued exposure to moisture. Allow the saucer to collect any water that does drain, and replace the saucer without water in it.

Following these instructions, your cactus should do well and last. 😉

Hope This Helps ;D

How to Save a Dying Cactus

How to Save a Dying Cactus

One day, back when I was married, I heard a thud and my ex shout. She said that a little barrel cactus that she had been given just tried to attack her. After we stop laughing, we determined that she had accidentally knocked the little plant over a few weeks prior and had noticed that it appeared not to be doing well. Not having the benefit of the info contained in this website, she said that she assumed it needed some water. It was midwinter, our climate is semi-arid, so she started watering the cactus when she watered her other plants.

I suspect that she had root rot, the methane gases built up below the soil and projected the little cactus across the kitchen where she was working. Perhaps, the fall into the sink damaged the roots and with the over-watering, disaster.

I recently found an 8″ cactus lying, with its roots exposed, on the sidewalk, I tell people that, “it followed me home”. It had a little “browning” at one spot at its base, otherwise, it looked healthy and brand new. There was still a $20 price sticker on the plastic container besides it. It is mid-winter, I repotted it (per this website, I used the wrong soil, silt/clay with too much (?) nitrogen fertilizer). The brown spot has significantly widen and the plant appears unable to support its weight. Sherlock, me thinks we have a case of herbicide.

A word to the weary, if not the wise, be gentle. Cacti may be tough on top but their roots are delicate. The info in this website may be crucial if you like the plant.

Succulent are not very demanding, and can even grow healthy in sandy soil without too much nutrients in pots, terraria and other containers more or less common. It ever happened to buy amazing plants and to wilt and die in just a few weeks? Yeah, it happens often to me, that’s why I thought to “sell” you some tips from an “experienced” gardener! You know how they say: the more you try the more experience you get! Prevent juicy plants from drying out.

1. Water succulents with moderation
Succulents originate in desert areas, so they are not used with much water. Sure, over time, as they spread throughout the world, succulent plants have begun to adapt to any environment, but still don’t bear excessive watering. Exaggerated watering will cause the leaves to soften and rot and will most likely cause plant’s death.
Therefore, less water can mean a longer life for your succulents.

2. Place them in natural light
Another decisive factor for succulents is natural light. Each indoor plant may have different demands on the amount of light required, but as long as it’s not a lack of light, it will remain vigorous.
So if you don’t want to kill your juicy plants, don’t place them in a dark corner of the room, but as close to the window as possible.

3. “Beautify” them
Like any other plant, succulents need special “dressing”, especially if you notice black spots on the leaves, dry roots, broken roots and leaves with mold stains. These problems usually occur when you don’t care for the plants. Clean the affected areas so that the plant doesn’t get completely wilt and die.

4. Stop fertilization during the cold season
Succulents can be fertilized in the spring and summer (their growing season), but in winter it’s advisable to stop fertilizers, as plants need a rest period. If you continue to fertilize, you overuse plant’s “metabolism” and you can speed their death.

Image Credits: Succulentsandsunshine

I am wondering if you would be able to help me. Please!

I could really use some advice on my sick plant.

I have a Christmas cactus which has been passed down for generations. Two years ago, I received mine from my wonderful aunt who passed away. In addition to raising my child, my live’s work is to keep this cactus alive!

The problem is this;

My cactus has grown and thrived for two years in my kitchen window. From the minute I brought it home it has been happy. The leaves have been full, and year round I see bright green new baby leaves, growning at the bottom of the older leaves.

I know this seems weird, but I water it only once a week, and at the end of that week, if the soil isn’t totally dry at the top, I let it go another week w/ out water.

Up to this point, no problems!

The plant is in a hanging planter about 15″ in diameter. It is in a window which gets indirect sunlight all day. (Our neighbors’ house blocks any direct sun.)

The plant is large, I”m guessing it weigh abut 50lbs.

In the past three weeks however, I have noticed that the leaves at the end of the plant, and now, whole branches, are starting to get thin (no water in them?) and drop off. They are no longer plump and filled w/ water.

Some of the dying leaves are those which face the window, some are those which do not face the window.

In the past week, I gave it more water, but it hasn’t seemed to do any good (the leaves are still thin and shrively).

Please, please can you offer some suggestions? i really can’t let this plant die!

Perhaps you might also have some suggestions of anyone else I could also try.

I would love a house call from someone — but I am in Masachusetts.

i’ve had a cactus for about two years. Im not sure what its called but it has a green stem with a bright red ball on top. But now its color is fading and it is getting really soft to the touch, even the stem. theres a pretty big brown spot on the top part. Is there anything i can do to save it or is it too late?

Believe me, mouth to mouth was the first thing I tried. Im sure its not over watered. i watered it maybe once a month or less. I dont think it got enough sunlight. the whole stem is soft unfortunately. oh well, i guess the other cactus in the bowl is going to be lonely.

4 Answers

How to Save a Dying Cactus

This is a grafted cactus – the red part has been attached to the supporting part. It isn’t what’s generally known as a christmas cactus, which is quite different, though it might have been called that just to sell it a christmas . If it is soft there is nothing you can do. But if the bottom part of the stem is still sound you can try cutting off all the top part with a very sharp knife – you will lose the red ball and the soft part of the stem, which will not recover- and it is just possible that it will send out some new shoots round the edge of the cut area. You have probably been watering it too much and/or not giving it enough direct sunlight. If the soil is wet now you should take the plant out when you cut the top off and repot it in dry cactus compost. Don’t water it for a few weeks. Then you can give it just a little, just enough to stop the skin wrinkling. Cacti are designed to go a long time without water and to live in full sun all day.

Catus plants hold water for ‘years’ of survival. If you have it planted in the earth, then no worries, the roots will naturally find it’s food and water source. If you, however, have it in a pot, then it will die, unless you feed it water once a month or so, depending on the species of cactus plant. (Some cacti only feed once anually) You have to know your plant. It’s kinda like raising snakes, which I have done, and learned a lot about. If you care, you will learn. Ron Couch

How to Save a Dying Cactus

I am afraid its too late to save this plant. Is it possible that you over watered it in the past?

You may have to replace the plant and when you do be sure you pot it in a cactus mix and water it sparingly.

How to Save a Dying Cactus

This is a Christmas cactus. It’s toast. It is actually two cacti. The top cannot photosynthesize, so it is grafted onto a green stalk.

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The Christmas Cactus is one of the most popular houseplants sold during the holidays. You might see a lot of stores selling these brightly colored succulents during the months of October to December.

Taking care of a Christmas Cactus is not difficult. In fact, once you decide to get one and see how easy it is and how beautiful they can be, you might decide to grow them in numbers. Every year, your cactus will get bigger and more impressively beautiful.

Other than choosing the perfect spot to grow your cactus in, watering them, and applying fertilizer, one of the things to keep in mind is solving any possible problems that may arise while taking care of your holiday houseplant.

Most Christmas Cactus problems arise from the same few issues: too much sunlight, too much water, high temps, and not enough humidity. Getting those things right will go a long way towards keeping your plant happy and healthy.

If you don’t know how to prevent or treat these problems or you’re currently facing one and don’t know the right solution, you are in the right place. Here are the common Christmas Cactus problems and how to fix them.

How to Save a Dying Cactus

Christmas Cactus Problems

Why Is My Christmas Cactus Limp?

When you notice that your Christmas Cactus has become limp, it can mean two things: The soil is too wet or your plant needs to be repotted. Whichever of these two are the case, you’ll need to replace the soil with fresh new soil.

Remove the limp plant from the planter and then gently remove the soil from the roots. Once you’ve done that you can then transplant your plant in the new soil and a slightly larger pot, if need be.

To avoid this problem from arising again in the future or in the first place, mix your own soil for repotting. You can prepare a good quality potting soil by mixing two parts potting soil to one part of vermiculite or sand.

Make sure to repot your plant every two to three years and that will help avoid the issue of them going limp.

How to Save a Dying Cactus

Why Did My Christmas Cactus Leaves Turn Red (Or Pink)?

Your Christmas Cactus can turn red or pink when it’s stressed, specifically if it is exposed to direct sunlight or if it doesn’t get enough water.

Unlike a desert cactus, the Christmas Cactus cannot live in the heat and drought in which desert plants thrive. It performs best when it’s in partial shade in the warm seasons and full sunlight during the middle of the winter.

If the cactus develops red foliage, but it still looks healthy, check the light exposure and move it to a shadier spot if necessary. You can also adjust the moisture level of the soil. Do not allow the plant to dry out for long periods of time as this can also be a cause of the plant becoming stressed and turning pink or red.

Why Is My Christmas Cactus Turning Brown?

Once your Christmas Cactus turns brown, you should be on high alert. Turning brown means that it has developed a disease called root rot, which is caused by poor drainage or excessive watering.

Check the plant for any signs of the roots rotting. Remove the cactus from its pot then begin inspecting the roots. If the roots are brown or black and if they smell of a musty odor or they look musty in appearance, it more than likely means your plant has developed root rot.

You can try to revive the life of the plant by cutting the affected roots, being careful not to destroy the root system but to remove the affected areas. Then move the plant to a clean pot with fresh potting mix.

To prevent this from happening, water your Christmas Cactus until the top two to three inches are moist. Only water the plant when the soil feels dry or if the leaves start to look wrinkly and flat.

Why Do Christmas Cactus Leaves Fall Off?

When the leaves of your Christmas Cactus start to fall off, there are a few possible reasons behind it: Improper watering, poorly draining soil, bright and intense light, too much heat, or the temperature is too cold.

As a rule of thumb, water your Christmas Cactus about once a week or only when the soil feels dry in the top 1 inch of the soil, Use a well-draining soil also by preparing your own mix consisting of 75 percent good quality potting soil and 25 percent perlite.

Maintain the temperature in the spot where your cactus lives. Avoid placing it in an area in your house where it will get direct sunlight, especially during the summer.

Why Is My Christmas Cactus Not Growing?

If your cactus grows slowly or is not growing at all, you might need to stimulate the growth of its roots to encourage the plant’s vitality and health.

You can encourage its growth by repotting the Christmas Cactus in a pot which is at least two to three inches smaller than the current one you’re using. Make sure that the new pot has a number of drainage holes at the bottom and is large enough to hold the width and depth of the cactus roots.

The Christmas Cactus often does better when the pot is a little smaller than you’d think it needs. It flourishes when it’s a little root bound.

Fertilize your plants also by mixing in a gallon of water with a teaspoon of Epsom salt, between the months of early April to early September. This provides the plant much needed Magnesium and will help it add new foliage.

How Do I Know If My Christmas Cactus Is Dying?

If your Christmas Cactus appears limp or wilted, it might be a sign that it is dying.

There are a few reasons why your cactus might die: Too much water, too little water, or too much direct sunlight.

How Do You Revive A Dying Christmas Cactus?

Move your Christmas Cactus to an area that has more shade, instead of too much sunlight. You may also revive your limp cactus by repotting it in a pot filled with fresh potting soil.

How to Save a Dying Cactus

Why Is My Christmas Cactus Not Blooming?

Your Christmas Cactus may stop blooming when it is subject to environmental stress. Once it develops red hues, it might mean that the plant is getting more sun than it needs or it doesn’t get enough water and humidity.

If you notice that it is not blooming, you can force it into dormancy and get it to flower by:

Placing it in an area with 12 to 14 hours of darkness every day. To allow it to bloom, you need to reduce the light that it gets for six to eight weeks.
Cut down on watering your Christmas Cactus to allow the soil to maintain its moisture. If you really need to water it, water the top most part only.
Maintain a temperature of 50 to 65 degrees for the plant at all times.

Taking care of your Christmas Cactus is rewarding once you see those gorgeous blooms. If you know how to deal with the problems that may arise, you can expect to have a healthy and fully blooming Christmas Cactus during the holidays.

Cacti make landscapes more attractive and play an important role in the ecosystem. Nonetheless, these plants can present a variety of serious hazards when they start to die. They have the potential to harm other plants as well as people, pets and structures. A cactus may begin dying when insects or fungi attack it. Other potential causes include excessive sunlight, overwatering and accidental damage.


Rotting cacti benefit various pests, including scale insects. These bugs increase the vulnerability of a plant to disease. They won’t be satisfied to kill one cactus by siphoning juices from its skin. Such insects often spread to neighboring cacti and other plants within days. They are aided by a rapid reproductive cycle. A dying plant could help infest your entire property with these hungry pests.


Some small mollusks also enjoy devouring cacti. Sharp spines don’t deter snails or slugs from feeding on them. These creatures often consume the flower buds first. Cacti may begin to rot as they damage the stems. If they are allowed to infest and kill one cactus, mollusks will move to other plants on the property and cause further harm.


Fungi may infect a cactus and cause it to rot. The severity of a fungal infection is often hidden inside of the plant. Some people don’t notice it until the cactus has been dying for a lengthy period of time. Although it’s impossible to eliminate outdoor fungi, infected cacti increase the risk that nearby plants will suffer the same fate. Fungi release spores that travel through the air.


You could become injured while trying to remove rotten portions of a cactus. This task requires you to cut the plant with a fairly sharp blade. Different portions of the flesh may be soft or hard; this increases the risk of injury. You might need to use potentially hazardous chemicals to shield cacti from fungi or pests. Performing any work on a cactus proves dangerous because of the spines.


Some venomous creatures prefer to live in cacti that have died. One example is the brown spider. This arachnid measures about an inch long, and its brown color ranges from dark to light. The spider contains rather powerful venom. Bites can be fatal, but this is primarily only a concern for young children. Nonetheless, adults may experience serious health effects if they inadvertently come in contact with this creature.


A cactus will often turn brown as it dies. Flowers also disappear in the process. These changes might cause the plant to blend in with its surroundings. It’s not as easy to see dead cacti while walking. This increases the risk that someone will inadvertently come in contact with its spines. Possible consequences range from torn clothing to painful wounds.


A dying cactus could eventually fall over. If a person or pet happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, this might result in severe injuries. Sharp spines have the potential to inflict deep wounds in this situation. A large, rotten cactus could be fairly heavy as well. Falling cacti may also damage nearby structures, such as fences or sheds.

To sum it up, a dying cactus presents several serious dangers. It might make it easier for various pests, fungi and venomous spiders to invade your property. Although this isn’t particularly likely, major injuries could result if it eventually falls over. Homeowners can avoid these dangers by quickly removing such cacti or taking steps to revitalize them.

If you’re interested in tree trimming or stump removal try out Valley Tree Managers. They are a full service cactus, tree, and stump removal company who have been around for years!

Ok, when I first started buying cacti and succulents I would always overwater them. They’re so low maintenance, but I wanted to keep “tending” to them only to continue to kill them by overwatering. I eventually alleviated this problem by buying more plants! But along the way I learned some tips and tricks that you can do to save your plants from dying of root rot.

Eventually you’re going to start learning more about your plants. You’ll be able to tell if they’re happy or sad, if you’ve been forgetting to water them or if you’ve watered them too much. With that being said, it’s definitely a learning process which means you’re going to have to overwater them to learn how to identify if you did, and vice versa.

While cacti and succulents are very forgiving, overwatering is an exception to the rule. So what do you do once you’ve realized you’ve overwatered? Or what if there was a rain storm you weren’t expecting and you just watered your plants the day before (like what just happened to me!)?

If it’s something that you know happened, you could take your plants out of their pots and then re-pot them with dry soil. If you can, you can lay them out to dry for a couple of days, and hopefully your soil has had time to dry as well.

If you start to notice leaves falling off, they’re looking translucent, or there’s black spots on your cacti. you probably overwatered your plant. At this point you should remove all the dying leaves and stems. If you notice a stem is rotted, but the leaves are intact, the survivors can be propagated in multiple ways you can read about here (Succulent Propagation 101). For cacti, you’re going to want to cut and remove infected areas because the rot will just continue to spread.

A rule of thumb when dealing with Cacti or succulents; Changing the soil is the best solution. I know this isn’t ideal. I’m super extra with my plants, and I don’t feel like repotting all my plants at the moment either, so I understand. You’ll want to watch your plants and continue to remove leaves and stems that start to rot. Your plant might look pretty sad and drab after lol, but not to worry! I promise you, it’ll appreciate the extra TLC and before you know it’ll be back to life and healthy again.

How to Save a Dying Cactus

The Spruce / Alonda Baird

The ruby ball cactus, also known as the red cap cactus, is a grafted specimen. The colorful red top (the sicon) is Gymnocalycium mihanovichii) (the name refers to the flower buds bearing no hair or spines). The lower green cactus host portion can be any number of species, but is usually a Hylocereus cactus. The main job of the lower cactus is to display the Gymnocalycium at an advantageous height.

These plants rarely last more than a few years, since the upper sicon and the lower rootstock portions grow at different rates. This can eventually destroy the graft union between the two sections. However, it is not a difficult matter to separate the sicon and graft it onto a new rootstock cactus.

Botanical Name Gymnocalycium mihanovichii
Common Name Ruby red cactus, moon cactus, ruby ball cactus, red top, red cap cactus
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial
Mature Size Varies, depends on rootstock
Sun Exposure High light
Soil Type Rich, fast-draining cactus mix
Soil pH Acidic to neutral
Bloom Time Year-round
Flower Color Red, orange, or yellow
Hardiness Zones 11 to 12; usually grown as a houseplant
Native Area South America

How to Save a Dying Cactus

How to Save a Dying Cactus

How to Grow Red Ball Cactus

If you can grow cacti and succulents successfully, you can likely grow the ruby ball cactus without too much trouble. These plants are popular in cactus dish gardens.

The ruby ball is an albino plant, which means it has no chlorophyll. Therefore, it relies on the rootstock cactus as a food source. There is a parasitic relationship between the upper and lower portions, and if there is an incompatibility between the needs of the host cactus on the bottom and the scion on top, one or both may die.

Like many cacti, these plants prefer a drying period between waterings, even to the point where they slightly wilt. When you water, however, you should water deeply. The plant will noticeably plump up. It is imperative that the cactus is not exposed to prolonged dampness and standing water, which can cause root rot to develop. Make sure to fertilize the cactus during the growing season for the best results.


The red ball tops are tolerant of more shade than many cacti and dislike direct sunlight. By contrast, the stock green cacti on the bottom are often light-lovers. Look for a bright area, but not so bright that the color of the top begins to wash out.

A rich, fast-draining cactus mix with a low pH is ideal. Make sure the soil meets the needs of the host cactus on the bottom.


Allow the soil mix to become nearly dry between waterings, but then water thoroughly. The cactus should not sit in a marshy soil for more than a day or so; good drainage is essential. During the summer months, the plant might need frequent watering, especially if it has been moved outside. Plants in small pots will only need weekly watering. Watering in the winter months is unnecessary, but mist the plant occasionally.

Temperature and Humidity

Ideal conditions for the rootstock and the upper sicon portion may not be the same. The upper ruby ball scion is hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 11 through 12, while some of the rootstock species (such as night-blooming cereus or blue myrtle) are hardy in zones as low as 8 or 9. It is possible for borderline temperatures to cause the ruby red portion to die while the rootstock survives. Generally speaking, these plants will not survive temperatures lower than 30 degrees. Like most cacti, this plant prefers low humidity levels.


You do not need to regularly fertilize your ruby ball cactus plant, but you should dose it with a cactus fertilizer every month during its growing season (April to September). Suspend feeding during the dormant winter period.

Potting and Repotting

Repot as needed, preferably during the warm season. To repot a cactus, make sure the soil is dry before repotting and then gently remove the pot. Knock away the old soil from the roots, making sure to remove any rotted or dead roots in the process. Treat any cuts with a fungicide. Place the plant in its new pot and backfill with cactus-mix potting soil, spreading the roots out as you repot. Leave the plant dry for a week or so to reduce the risk of root rot and then begin to water lightly.

Propagating Ruby Ball Cactus

Because these cacti are grafted, they are not appropriate for propagation. If you are interested in learning how to graft cacti yourself, it is not difficult, and many species can be successfully grafted.

To regraft a ruby ball cactus top:

  1. use a sharp knife sterilized with alcohol, cut the top off a seedling columnar cactus, then cut the scion from the old rootstock. You will see a circle of vascular tissue at the center of the stems of the scion and new rootstock.
  2. Press the plants together so the circles at least partially align.
  3. Put rubber bands over the scion and the bottom of the pot the rootstock is growing in, holding them together until the tissues grow together.

On some older plants, the Gymnocalycium on the top naturally sends out offsets that cluster like satellites around the larger plant. You can remove these and pot them separately as individual Gymnocalycium plants, but it still needs a green cacti host, which supplies the plant its chlorophyll. If the Gymnocalycium does not have that host, it will die.

Varieties of Ruby Ball Cactus

There are many unique varieties of Gymnocalycium mihanovichii cacti, as these are collectors’ plants with a wide following. The appearance can vary widely, depending on what species within the Hylocereus genus has been used as the host, and on the appearance of the upper sicon, which is generally a mutated strain of various Gymnocalycium mihanovichii cultivars. They can be red, orange, purplish, yellow, or even white.

Older plants sometimes flower with pink blooms during the summer, and many people mistake the colored ball on top for a flower, when it is actually the plant itself.


How to Save a Dying Cactus

It’s possible that, being a first time succulent or cactus parent, you have overwatered your cactus/succulent. It’s also possible that you have not overwatered it on purpose and have simply put it in a container without proper drainage or bought it in a pretty terrarium with rocks on the bottom. This mistake does not always have to be fatal to your plant, especially if you know what to look for. In my last post we talked about the signs of an overwatered cactus or succulent that can be fixed with a repotting and an imposed drought, but there are some signs of overwatering that can’t be so easily fixed such as if:

  1. The stem of your succulent becomes soft and it has a hard time supporting itself.
  2. The succulent or cactus begins to smell.
  3. The cactus begins to cave in.

How to Save a Dying CactusThese baby succulents in my room were propagated from healthy succulent leaves and stems.

If your cactus or succulent exhibits these symptoms, you most likely have root rot. Root rot in cacti and succulents is systemic and can very easily kill your plant, so it’s very important to treat it immediately. If the plant is in a container with other plants make sure to remove all plants from that container and isolate the one exhibiting symptoms of root rot. Repot the companion plants in a new container with new soil, get rid of the old soil, and clean the old pot with soap and water so that the bacteria causing the rot can be eliminated and does not spread. It’s possible to save the affected plant if you catch root rot early enough, but surgery is required. Here’s some tricks to try and save your root rotted plant:

If the bottom of the succulent begins to feel soft and it has problems supporting itself or it cannot support itself at all, then you will not be able to save the root system. If the succulent is a kind of gasteria, haworthia, aeonium, echeveria, or opuntia, then you can propagate the healthy part of the plant so that it can grow a new root system. There are two ways to propagate your succulent. You can cut the healthy part of the stem from the soft/dying tissue and place on top of new soil in a new, clean pot. Put the stem into the soil and do not water for one week. After one week water very sparingly. As the new root system is developing the plant does not need a lot of water as it could cause more rot. If there is not a salvageable part of the stem, you can propagate a new succulent from the healthy leaves.

If your succulent or cactus begins to smell, then there is a chance you will not be able to save your plant as a rotting smell indicates that not only have the roots rotted, but that part of the plant itself has rotted. If you are on the look out for rotting cactus smells, t he smell of succulent rot is much like mold and the smell of cactus rot is similar to rancid peanut butter. A rotting succulent can be treated as described above. The following advice is for caring for rotten cacti. If you find your cactus smells off, remove it from the soil and isolate it. In my experience, cacti with spines suffer from rot at their bases where water or wet soil touches their bottom-most spines and skin. The rot often appears light brown in color and you will notice that the spines and hairs are falling off or are withered. If the base of the plant is rotten through and the cactus can’t support itself, then you cannot save it. If the base is still strong, brush off any dirt away from the affected area and clean the base. Here’s what you’ll need to clean it:

  1. 2-3 q-tips (you do not want to use the same q-tip twice)
  2. water
  3. anti-bacterial soap like Dawn or SoftSoap

How to Save a Dying CactusThis is my Mammillaria parkinsonii. I got this cactus from Wal-Mart in one of their pre-made cactus terrariums that had no drainage and glued pebbles on top. It suffered from rot along its base, and, after a good cleaning and repotting, is now very happy!

During this cleaning, it is important not to reuse q-tips and not to contaminate the water you are using to clean the cactus infection. If you do these things you may spread the infection and further endanger the health of your plant. Mix the water with your anti-bacterial soap. Dip 1 side of the q-tip into the water and press out any excess water. Gently scrub the infected area with the q-tip. When you are ready to apply more soapy water, use another q-tip. Repeat these steps as necessary. If you notice that there are roots with mold growing along the bottom, cut them away. Wait for the water around the plant’s base to dry before replanting. Important tip: Do not repot the plant in the same soil, and do not repot the plant in the same container unless it has been thoroughly cleaned with soap and water. When you repot your cactus, do not allow the soil to cover the infected area of the base. As the plant heals this area will need to breathe in order to generate scar tissue. After repotting the plant in a new or clean container with new soil, do not water it for 2 weeks. The cactus will go dormant as it heals itself so it will not need much water after the 2 week imposed drought. After about a month you should notice scar tissue where the rot used to be. This new tissue will be rough and dry to the touch. Once the scarring develops, add more soil to cover the base and continue to water sparingly. This should save your cactus.

I have had this Opuntia microdasys for 2 years and it has survived two instances of overwatering by propagating healthy segments of the plant.

Unfortunately, if your succulent or cactus begins to cave in, then there is little hope of reviving it. If the squishy area of a succulent or cactus is fairly small, then it’s possible to remove the section and the succulent or cactus will scar over and continue growing. In my experience, removing the affected tissue is not effective in saving the plant as the opening often becomes infested with bug larvae such as house flies or gnats.

So, to save your cacti or succulents from root rot make sure to do the following:

  1. Remove the affected plant immediately from its container
  2. Do not repot it in the old soil or the old container if it has not been cleaned.
  3. If the plant cannot support itself, you can propagate new plants from the healthy parts of the stem or healthy leaves.
  4. If the plant has rot on the base and it is still sturdy, you can give your plant a quick q-tip bath and repotting.

In the final post in this series, we’ll talk about how to clean and repurpose your terrarium decorations and containers after root rot.

Like most cacti, the barrel cactus is very resilient and can recover from most problems. Because of the structure of the plant and the very slow growth rate, old injuries tend to remain visible for years. Don’t try to treat an old injury that has calloused over. The following will provide a guide to help you identify and understand warning signs for cactus diseases.

Black Dry Areas on the Plant

The plant has been damaged by frost. The black scar is unsightly but can not be repaired.

White Scars

The plant has been sunburned because of poor orientation after transplanting.

Impact Damage Scars

These scars might be unsightly, but they do not affect the health of the plant.

Soft Waterlogged Areas at the Crown

A cactus that shows soft, dark brown areas at the crown has a fungal infection caused by over watering. The disease can occur when a barrel cactus has been in the rain a long time or is constantly watered from above. There is no cure, so diseased plants should be removed and destroyed before the fungus forms fruiting heads and scatters spores.

Soft Parts to the Body

Plants that have been transplanted can develop an internal fungal rot if they are moved poorly. Barrel cacti should only have their roots in the soil. The barrel itself should be free of soil. Often, unintentional damage to the plant can make the problem worse. This internal rot can not be reversed and can only be prevented by proper management of transplantation.

Black Crusty Deposit

You might spot a dark brown or black deposit on the barrel cactus. If you look closely, you might see a hole in the cactus skin immediately above the encrustation. This damage is done by the larvae of the cactus longhorn beetle which, hatch from eggs injected into the plant. Although the larvae can burrow down to the roots of the plant and eventually kill it, the best way to protect the plant is to remove the beetles by hand to prevent egg laying. The beetle is most active in the early morning or late evenings after rain. Barrel cacti can recover from minor damage quite well and are protected to a great extent by the spines.

Yellow Scar Tissue

The agave plant bug, which is only half an inch long, feeds on the skin of several cacti. The scar is formed where the bug has fed and is a natural reaction of the plant. These bugs can reach plague proportions on individual plants in late summer or early fall. Although the scars and damage might appear minor, they can lead to the death of the plant, so treat them early with insecticidal soap.

Holes and Damage at the Base of the Plant

In times of severe water shortage you might see ragged holes at the base of a barrel cactus, often with some of the surrounding spines broken off. This damage is caused by small animals like rats and mice seeking water. The only effective way to protect the plant is to fence it off until the water shortage ends. As long as the damage is minor, the cactus will be scarred but continue to thrive. This damage can allow fungal spores into the cactus, so it needs to be monitored so early action can be taken if necessary.

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Check out these 5 Reasons Your Succulents are Dying and What to Do to learn how to grow succulents with great success!

How to Save a Dying Cactus

5 Reasons Your Succulents are Dying and What to Do

Oh you guys, I love succulents. They are the official flower of my life, now and forever. So now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about why your succulents keep dying, k?

I hear from so many people how they are succulent obsessed too, only to get these little beauties home and have them die within a few weeks.

So let’s dive deeper and talk about the 5 reasons your succulents are dying and how to help them. Chances are a few quick fixes can bring your succulents back to life so you can enjoy them for years (yes years!) to come.

How to Save a Dying Cactus

How to Save a Dying Cactus

5 Reasons Your Succulents are Dying and How to Help Them:

1. You are watering them wayyyyy too much.
Don’t forget that succulents are very much like cacti in the sense that they love dry air, dry soil, and live a dry life.

Sure you want your babies to grow quickly, but drowning them isn’t the way to do it. Put the watering can down and back away. This is often one of the main reasons your succulents are dying.

How to help over watered succulents:
Thoroughly allow the soil to dry out before you water the succulents again. Be sure there are drainage holes in your flower pot so water can run through.

Once the soil is completely dry, start using a spray or misting bottle to spray the soil thoroughly only one time per week. For an extra boost, you can try this easy to use small and shallow succulents pots

How to Save a Dying Cactus

2. Your flower pot is too deep.
Succulents are shallow. No I don’t mean that in the sense of their character, but in the sense of their roots. They have shallow roots and don’t feel so cozy in deep pots.

If your succulents don’t seem to be thriving, pot depth may be an issue. Your water may be running to the bottom of the pot before the roots have a chance to sip what they need.

Want to properly prep your flower pots before planting? Check out my Essential Oil based Flower Pot Spray recipe found here.

How to Save a Dying Cactus

How to help stunted succulents:
Move them to a shallow planting space where the roots can get all cozy. It is better to have succulents planted in a variety of small planters than to try and stuff them all in one huge planter.

Check out this set of small and shallow succulents pots perfect for finding success with.

Want to see some fun succulent crafts we did? See this Simple Succulents Wreath or this DIY Succulents Vertical Wall Hanging.

How to Save a Dying Cactus

3. You are being stingy with the sun.
Succulents are much like cacti, remember? So they love HEAT. This might mean moving your succulents to follow the sun pattern that works its way through your home. A few hours of sun in a window won’t do it.

How to bring the heat:
Watch where the sun comes into your space. Track it and find a spot that gets a good 6 hours or more of sun per day. Keep succulents away from drafty windows and doors or cooling vents.

How to Save a Dying Cactus

4. You stuffed a bunch in a pot so it would look full and cute and now they are dying.
I am so guilty of this. Perhaps you wanted a full and lush pot of succulents so you crammed a dozen of them into a tin and now they are all struggling.

Just like other plants, succulents benefit from room to grow. They will show you how much they hate being crammed into containers by dying on you.

How to properly space succulents:
You should allow at least 2-3 inches between your succulents. Give them time to mature and naturally fill out.

If it bothers you that there is space between your plantings, try sprinkling some stones or sand in between them.

How to Save a Dying Cactus

5. You chose the wrong color.
If you are new to succulent growing, stick to bright green plants. Sure the rainbow of colors is fun, but you will find that the streamline green are easier to grow.

You will also find that the fancier varieties such as the orange, purple, and red hues do better when grown outdoors in dry heat, which is their natural habitat.

How to pick the perfect succulent plant:
Make sure leaves are lush, free from holes or scratches, and feel full to the touch. Look for bright green foliage. Feel the soil the succulents are planted in and make sure it isn’t a swamp.

Look for signs that the greenhouse has properly cared for the succulents (in a warm sunny spot, away from cold, properly watered) so you know you are getting quality plants.

When it comes down to it, there are basically 5 reasons your succulents are dying. Luckily, you now know what to do it about it.

How to Save a Dying Cactus

With a few quick fixes you can be the succulents whisperer and get gorgeous succulents that will make everyone jealous. For an even greener thumb, check out the other gardening posts we have been working on!

For even more information on succulents, check out this book Succulents: The Ultimate Growing Guide available for Kindle for just $10.

What are the Signs of Overwatering? And do you know how to save an overwatered plant? Understand everything in this informative article.

Overwatering is the biggest reason why most of the container plants die. Beginner plant growers often do this mistake, they keep watering their plants out of love until they summon the death for them. They don’t know that watering too much is more damaging than watering too little. Your plant can come back after suffering from a long dry spell, once you water it thoroughly again. However, that’s not the case with the plant suffering from root rot. You can still save it from dying but after some efforts. First, you’ll need to be aware of the signs that you have overwatered the plant.

Signs of Overwatering

How to Save a Dying Cactus

If you see yellowing leaves and soft and limp plant, this could be one of the signs of overwatering.

To save the plant, you’ll need to learn about the signs of overwatering. Usually, the symptoms of excess watering are similar to underwatering, but you can easily observe that you were overwatering by checking out the soil and drainage. Also, the leaves of the affected plant are soft and stems are tender. Whereas, leaves of the underwatered plants are dry and crisp to touch.

  • Leaves turning to a lighter shade of green and yellow and wilting is what happens during the initial stage. Due to this most of us think that the plant is suffering from drought stress and make the situation even worse by watering even more.
  • New shoots becoming brown, leaf drop, slow or no growth and plant becoming floppier are some of the major other symptoms that come later.
  • In some cases, the formation of mold takes place around the base of the stem, leaves, and even on the surface of the soil.
  • Prolonged exposure to soggy soil causes root rot which you can see if you work through the soil, a bit exposing the roots. Roots giving off a foul and musty odor is also a sign of root rot.

Make sure to be on a lookout for these “Signs of Overwatering” so that you can save the plant before it’s too late!

How to Save an Overwatered Plant

How to Save a Dying Cactus

Almost dead bonsai plant due to overwatering. Credit: The Guardian

If you find out at the beginning stage by understanding the initial symptoms, you’ll be able to save the plant just by cutting the water. Locate the plant to a dry spot and stop watering until you see the soil is dry to touch. Also, remove a bit of top growth, flowers, and fruits (if any), this will allow the plant to focus its energy on survival.

If your plant is affected seriously, apply these measures:

  • Move the plant to a spot that is partially or completely shaded. This is not to amuse you but as your plant is already hydrated to the extreme, sudden loss of water due to evaporation will make it even more stressed.
  • Remove all the flowers and fruits and some of the top growth so that plant can focus its energy on survival. As the root system of your plant is compromised due to rot, it’ll not be able to support the growth of its extra leaves, flowers, and fruits.
  • From all the sides pat the container repeatedly so that the roots loosen up. Lift your plant up gradually holding the base of the stem.
  • Let the plant stay out for around five-six hours so that the roots become aerated and dry. If you can put it on a cooling rack, it’d even better as the air will facilitate in the drying process.
  • Carefully get rid of the soil infested with mold that is still sticking to the roots. You can do this by putting the roots under running water. Clean gently but make sure not to damage the healthy roots during this process.
  • Cut the root parts that are rotten with a sharp and sterile pruning tool. The decayed parts will smell bad and turn mushy, slimy and dark. On the other hand, a healthy root will be firm and white.
  • Once the roots are pruned, sterilize your pruning tool again.
  • Now choose a new pot with proper drainage holes or sterilize the old one and fill it with new soil.
  • Now plant the affected plant in that pot as you usually do and water it normal water or with cold chamomile tea. Chamomile tea works as a mild fungicide and prevents damping off due to its antimicrobial properties.
  • Keep the pot in a spot that is bright and receives filtered sunlight or several hours of morning sunlight until the plant is recovering.
  • Afterward, water only and only when the soil becomes dry to the touch.

Post-Reestablishing Care

How to Save a Dying Cactus

  • When your plant is recovering, water always when the topsoil is dry. However, that doesn’t mean to let the soil to become bone dry between watering spells.
  • Avoid fertilization at all cost until the plant shows new growth. Fertilizing can burn the roots, which you wouldn’t want at this initial recovering stage of the plant.
  • Once you see the new growth, you can fertilize it again.
  • After the plant becomes normal again, you can switch back to your regular caring routine depending on the plant. Just don’t overwater this time!

Tip: The best way to avoid overwatering is to water only when the topsoil is dry. You can poke your finger one or two inches deep to feel the moisture level.

Succulents are hardy plants that add a striking appearance to any garden or home. Performing best in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 9, succulents are good plants for the novice and expert gardener alike, as they require little attention. Because succulents are desert plants, they should be watered sparingly. Succulents are typically not susceptible to insect or pest infestation, but overwatering can lead to root or stem rot, a preventable and easily fixable disease. Plants with signs of root or stem rot should be treated immediately.

1. Check the plant for infected areas. These typically appear as dark brown to black spots or areas on the low part of the plant. Other signs of root or stem rot include puckered flesh with a dark tint around the infected area.

2. Stop watering a plant with rot. Remove the plant from its pot. Remove the soil mixture and clean out the pot thoroughly to ensure no remnants of the fungus are left.

3. Cut the infected black stem from the plant with a garden knife. Let the healthy portion of the plant dry naturally for several hours, keeping the succulent out of direct sunlight during this process. If other areas of the plant are showing minimal signs of rot, keep an eye on the plant. Succulents can recover from stem rot if properly watered and placed in a warm, dry location.

How to Save a Dying Cactus

Photo via

4. Using the cleaned out pot or a fresh one, combine two parts soil, one part coarse sand, and one part perlite. Don’t reuse any of the materials used with the infected plant.

5. Pour roughly 2 inches (5 cm) of the mixture into the pot. Place the newly doctored succulent into the pot with the roots lying on top of the soil. Fill the pot with the soil mixture until it reaches the base of the stems. Firmly pat the soil around the plant.

6. Place the succulent in a brightly lit spot with warm temperatures. Succulents prefer dry climates, so don’t place the plant in a humid location.

7. Water the plant with just enough water to moisten the soil one week after repotting. After the soil has completely dried out, you can water more thoroughly.

Succulents grow best in well-drained soils that provide high water-holding capacity. Planting succulents in a clay pot with a drainage hole ensures there is no sitting water and that the soil dries out between waterings. Succulents are dormant during the winter and should only be watered lightly at this time.


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How to Save a Dying Cactus

Your majestic succulent is sunburned; it can happen due to various reasons. Let’s see what you can do.

This is usually the first step most new succulent owners take and it seems reasonable to place the sunburned succulent out of the sunny location to a less sunny place. You are right to make this move as long as you don’t take it indoors!

You might think it can recuperate inside with other indoor plants. Sorry, the sudden shock will stress the succulent further instead of letting it heal. (Sunburned leaves won’t recover, but the plant will).

You can move it to a shadier area outdoors only or provide some kind of shade during the afternoon sun. I have seen succulent lovers propping up umbrellas to give relief from the blazing sun. Anything goes when it comes to the safety of your beloved plants.

How to Save a Dying Cactus

Now, those of you who already had a succulent placed near a window can pull it in after your plant has received its dose of 6 hours of bright indirect sunlight.

Those of you who are considering taking their succulents outdoors in the summer can do that by placing them in a completely shaded area outdoors for a week to acclimatize them. Gradually introduce them to 2 hours of bright morning sun, and then place them back to their shady place. Keep increasing the amount of sunlight every week so the plants can adjust without getting stressed in the process.

Succulents perform gloriously if they can get at least six hours of early sunlight, especially in the summer as the afternoon sun is way too hot for most types of succulents. The same goes for your sunburned succulent; it needs that amount of sunshine to keep it alive. The morning sun is cooler and hence doesn’t burn the succulents the way afternoon sun can because of its intensity.

The strong UV rays combined with the high afternoon temperatures compound the problem, resulting in pale beige color that gives the leaves a shiny kind of appearance, especially at the base. Take this as a warning sign and move the plant away from direct sun. If caution is not taken at this stage, then the succulent can develop permanent brown patches.

If your succulent is sunburned with brown and black patches, then move it to a shady area after the morning dose.

This step is to be done if a leaf is 70% to 80% sunburned as it will just be taking nutrients from the plant. If the leaves are still quite green, then you can leave them as they can still make food for the plant in the day time.

How to Save a Dying Cactus

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The damaged leaves won’t heal once they develop brown and black spots; so, it’s better if you cut them with a sterilized knife or a pair of scissors.

Your succulents can tolerate high temperatures, but after all they are living things and I think I must emphasize again that a combo of intense sun and soaring temperatures have sunburned your beautiful plants.

We know most tropical varieties need at least 50 to 60 degrees to be healthy so we naturally assume that a bit of heat won’t do anything bad. Here we err. You can push it by a few degrees, say 65 or generally for most succulents 70 degrees, but high temperatures pushing 80 degrees and above can sunburn your succulents.

We might think succulents are desert plants and should thrive in sun without any cover. We forget that many succulents are from tropical zones and need indirect sunlight. Moving the plants in and out of sunny and shady areas is quite a hassle.

Rigging up a shade cloth will do the trick. These come in a density of 5%to 95%. Your succulents need a shade cloth that can block 35% to 70% sunlight in the summers, especially if you live in the hottest zones. Also, don’t mistake color for density. Darker color does not guarantee better coverage so carefully read the product specification before you buy a shade cloth.

How to Save a Dying Cactus

Yes, you don’t have to water it every day, but if the plants are outdoors then you can mist the soil lightly as that helps the roots remain cool and sufficient moisture in the leaves helps the plant fight the heat. Check everyday to see whether the medium is dry and add moisture to the soil in early morning to avoid sun-heated water that can potentially harm succulents’ root.

How to Save a Dying Cactus

You don’t want to stress your succulent so any new changes such as exposure to sunlight and increase in water intake should be made gradually.

See more about How to save dying succulents – Part 1 – Overwatered Succulents

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by Joshua Oates February 13, 2020, 10:07 am 176 Views

Plants add a little homeliness to a house, but they require a fair amount of attention. Many people prefer to have succulents and cacti in their homes because these plants are tough, durable and can live with minimal water. However, sometimes even the most durable of plants can wilt and die if they are neglected for long enough.

Succulents (including cacti) are some of the easiest plants to grow, but if they begin to die, knowing how to save them is an important part of caring for them. There are several reasons that may cause a succulent to wilt, which means various remedies to revive them. We’ll touch on the most common reasons below so that you can keep your beloved flora thriving in your home.

Succulents still need water

The most common reason for the death of a household plant is a lack of water. Even succulents and cacti need water. Before watering these plants, you will need to do some research on how much they need per week to remain healthy. Some cacti only need water once a month while other succulents need water every day. Beware of overwatering these plants too, as this can also cause them to wilt and die.

If the stem of the succulent or cactus is soft, squishy and rotting, then it is probably being overwatered. If the plant is looking shriveled and dry, then it will need more water. Don’t worry about dry and drying leaves near the base of the plants – this is natural. If the new leaves or buds at the top of the succulent are also drying out, then the plant needs more water.

How to Save a Dying Cactus

Ensure the pot is well-drained

If your succulents and cacti are growing in a pot, make sure that water can easily drain through the bottom. Water that sits in the soil can rot the roots and this damage is sometimes irreversible. The soil should be sandy – do not use clay or fine particles as this type of soil holds onto water.

To test if the soil is adequately damp, insert your finger up to the second knuckle – the soil should be cool and moist. If it is too hard, dry or warm, then the succulent will need more water. If the soil is too wet, then remove the plants from the pot to dry it out for a bit and refill the pot with new soil.

Other causes of death for succulents

Besides water issues, succulents and cacti can suffer from pests, not enough sun and low temperatures. Remember, these plants grow naturally in hot and sunny climates, so caring for succulents in cold and wintry conditions will require extra care. Ensure that your plants have enough sunlight every day and are kept in a warm room.

If your plants are being eaten by insects, use an organic pesticide or soap to remove the bugs. Remove any dead or chewed leaves – even succulents need pruning to a degree. This will allow all the nutrients and water to be used on the healthy parts of the plant. Just spend a few minutes a week inspecting your succulents and cacti to see what needs to be done to keep them happy and healthy.

Most of the time, caring for succulents is simple. If they are starting to die, find a remedy as soon as you can because there will come a point of no return. If all hope is lost, preserve the healthiest part of the succulent and try to replant it. This will allow a new specimen to grow and could save you a bit of money.

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its a grafted cactus and most of the shaft is severed but its hanging from a thick vein. the roots are still in the dirt and it turned from a powerful bright green to a murky dark green in just 2 days

10 Answers

How to Save a Dying Cactus

The reason that the cactus has changed to murky dark green is because it is suffering from rot. THIS PART WILL NOT SURVIVE NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO. IT IS DEAD. If there is any part which is still it’s original color this part MAY possibly be saved but you will need to act right away because rot spreads quickly, as you have seen.

If any part of the cactus is still alive then cut it off with a sharp knife and let it sit until the cut part “calluses” over or becomes dried out and hard. Do not let any of the rotting portion remain on the cut cactus. After the cut has dried out put the cactus in a pot with a potting soil that is high in sand content. (You could root it in pure sand if you want to. Repot to cactus mix after it’s developed roots.) The pot must have drainage holes and allow all excess water to drain through. After you water it for the first time let it dry out completely before you water it again. NEVER LET A POTTED CACTUS SIT IN STANDING WATER. Never keep the soil of a potted cactus continually wet.

Cactus are, necessarily, very hardy and most species will send out roots from cut portions even though no roots are remaining on that portion. The cutting does need to be in contact with some sort of soil though.

If the cactus survives you will see new growth in a couple of weeks to several months depending on the time of year, the light and other factors.

In the summer it is best if the cactus is kept outside where it can get direct light. In the winter (if your winters are too cold for the particular species you have) bring it inside but keep it in a window with direct light exposure. In the summer watering once a week is sufficient, in the winter once a month is fine.

Why is the cactus grafted? Is the grafted part some other color than green? Has any of the host plant survived? If the graft is red, yellow or some other color besides green, then it does not produce chlorophyll on it’s own and must be attached to a host cactus.

Saving grafted cactus when the host is completely dead can be tricky and require regrafting. You might want to just buy another one and this time DO NOT WATER TOO OFTEN.

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My Cactus is Dying can i save it?

My Cactus is Dying can i save it?

by avrel » October 1st, 2012, 12:59 am

My Cactus is Dying can i save it?

by rygeland82 » October 1st, 2012, 1:11 am

My Cactus is Dying can i save it?

by niles30 » October 1st, 2012, 1:26 am

My Cactus is Dying can i save it?

by acton25 » October 1st, 2012, 1:36 am

My Cactus is Dying can i save it?

by bell11 » October 1st, 2012, 1:42 am

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    by navarre69 » March 20th, 2012, 3:46 am 7 575 by botolph
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  • Does my cactus have root rot & how can I save it?
    by winston17 » November 26th, 2012, 5:24 am 1 1417 by carlton32
    November 26th, 2012, 5:25 am
  • The entire cactus came down what can i do to save it . There is no more roots at the bottom .
    by leighton » October 26th, 2011, 6:17 pm 1 463 by dorran
    October 26th, 2011, 6:27 pm
  • Can you save a half dried cactus w/watering it for a few days?
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    December 3rd, 2012, 3:34 pm

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its a grafted cactus and most of the shaft is severed but its hanging from a thick vein. the roots are still in the dirt and it turned from a powerful bright green to a murky dark green in just 2 days

10 Answers

How to Save a Dying Cactus

The reason that the cactus has changed to murky dark green is because it is suffering from rot. THIS PART WILL NOT SURVIVE NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO. IT IS DEAD. If there is any part which is still it’s original color this part MAY possibly be saved but you will need to act right away because rot spreads quickly, as you have seen.

If any part of the cactus is still alive then cut it off with a sharp knife and let it sit until the cut part “calluses” over or becomes dried out and hard. Do not let any of the rotting portion remain on the cut cactus. After the cut has dried out put the cactus in a pot with a potting soil that is high in sand content. (You could root it in pure sand if you want to. Repot to cactus mix after it’s developed roots.) The pot must have drainage holes and allow all excess water to drain through. After you water it for the first time let it dry out completely before you water it again. NEVER LET A POTTED CACTUS SIT IN STANDING WATER. Never keep the soil of a potted cactus continually wet.

Cactus are, necessarily, very hardy and most species will send out roots from cut portions even though no roots are remaining on that portion. The cutting does need to be in contact with some sort of soil though.

If the cactus survives you will see new growth in a couple of weeks to several months depending on the time of year, the light and other factors.

In the summer it is best if the cactus is kept outside where it can get direct light. In the winter (if your winters are too cold for the particular species you have) bring it inside but keep it in a window with direct light exposure. In the summer watering once a week is sufficient, in the winter once a month is fine.

Why is the cactus grafted? Is the grafted part some other color than green? Has any of the host plant survived? If the graft is red, yellow or some other color besides green, then it does not produce chlorophyll on it’s own and must be attached to a host cactus.

Saving grafted cactus when the host is completely dead can be tricky and require regrafting. You might want to just buy another one and this time DO NOT WATER TOO OFTEN.

We’ve planted herbs, brought in house plants, and geared up for spring arrangements, which is all fine and lovely until something starts to wither. That’s where expert advice comes in handy, so we enlisted Tara Heibel, author of Rooted in Design and owner of Sprout Home, to help us plan for the worst—and reverse it.

A freshly planted, tiny pencil cactus in our new porcelain planter from Stuck in the Mud Pottery.

As with all living things, even the hardiest plants require care, and strategies can vary quite a bit. As a new plant parent you have to get to know your plant: how tough it is or isn’t, how much water it really craves, and if it prefers classical music or perhaps an 80s throwback (or maybe that’s just me wondering). A plant will go through various cycles and change shape and form as it grows with you, and sometimes those cycles might look like the end of the line. But if you pay attention, you might be able to pick up on some tell-tale signals that your plant is sending you before it’s too late.

When you first bring a plant home, make sure you understand what it needs in the way of light, water, soil, and other conditions, so that you can provide it the best possible imitation of its natural environment. Then, learn how to read its signals: A plant can go through stress for a multitude of reasons (most of which you have some control over) and it will normally let you know via its leaves. Dropping and/or changing color of leaves is one of the biggest signs that your plant is in stress. When you notice a change of this kind, however, don’t freak out and overcompensate. Take a moment to analyze the scenario and react accordingly.

Planting our windowsill herb garden; bringing oregano back from the brink with the help of a grow light.

What to do if your plant is in crisis:

  • Issue: You’ve instantly killed your plant.Diagnosis: If you’ve recently repotted a plant, it can experience shock, which should subside in 2 to 3 weeks. Treatment: Just wait it out. Don’t try to add fertilizer to perk it up, as the potting mix you used for repotting most likely has food in it. A plant can only take in so much food!
  • Issue: The leaves are dropping off like flies.Diagnosis: If your plant is dropping leaves from the center of the plant (versus dropping leaves on the perimeter), it might not be getting enough light. Treatment: If you’re not giving the plant the light that it needs, move it closer to a sunny window or buy a plant light.
  • Issue: Your plant is paling from green to yellow.Diagnosis: If the leaves are turning yellow—almost jaundice-looking—and the center stalk is turning brown and getting a little soft, chances are you might be overwatering your plant. Treatment: Check to make sure that it’s draining properly (by looking for water in the drain tray), and adjust your watering schedule as needed. If your container has no drainage hole, you can use gravel at the bottom under the soil but that’s just a precaution and won’t guarantee good drainage. Using a good potting soil instead of topsoil for planting also encourages proper grainage. Lastly, remove yellow leaves, as they will not turn vibrant green again—and don’t worry, it’s all for the best.
  • Issue: Your plant is turning brown.Diagnosis: If the leaves are turning crispy brown from the tips, chances are your plant is drying out. Treatment: Determine if your plant needs more water by checking the soil, and adjust your watering schedule accordingly. If you have forced air blowing on your plant, or it is getting too much sun, move it into a more habitable environment.
  • Issue: Your plant has been invaded.Diagnosis: If the leaves are turning colors and you see webbing or new bumps protruding from your plant, check for bugs. There are a multitude of bugs that could be munching on your plant such as mealybugs, spider mites, scale insects, and aphids. Treatment: Determine if there are bugs and which kind they are by comparing with pictures online, then treat your plant with sn appropriate organic insecticide.
  • Issue: Your plant just won’t grow. Diagnosis: If your plant looks lackluster in general and isn’t growing very readily, figure out when you last fertilized it. We’re now getting into the warmer growing season when plants need some food; yours might be hungry! Treatment: If you haven’t fed the plant in a while, you might want to start doing so. I like using a water-soluble fertilizer such as Fox Farm Grow Big or Big Bloom. Instructions come with each concentrated bottle.
  • Issue: Nothing helps!Diagnosis: If your plant still isn’t responding to your care, consider when you last repotted it; maybe it’s time for you to find it a new home. Treatment: Many plants will benefit from being moved into vessels about 10 to 20% larger than their current homes, every year or two. When you get to the point where you’re watering the plant much more often than you used to, or you see active roots popping up through the soil, it might be time. When repotting, massage the plant’s roots to loosen them before you pot it in its new home—that way they understand that there is room to move out and expand.

Have you brought any houseplants back from the brink? Let us know how you saved them in the comments!

First photo by Mark Weinberg; last photo by Amy Pennington

Food52 is a community for people who love food and cooking. Follow them at — and check out their kitchen and home shop, here .

Opuntia microdasys, commonly know as Bunny Ears Cactus, is a clump-forming, Mexican cactus with thornless, flat, elliptical to circular pads, and grows up to 3 feet (90 cm) tall and up to 6 feet (1.8 m) wide outdoors. An interesting bit of Bunny Ears Cactus information is that it does not develop spines. Instead, it grows glochids, which are short whitish brown prickles. These still have the ability to bite, so caution is urged when handling the cactus. If you are lucky, the plant may produce up to 2 inches (5 cm) wide, creamy yellow flowers in summer, followed by globular. purple fruits.

Growing Bunny Ears Cactus is as simple as mimicking its native regional conditions. So if you have a dry, low humidity home and plenty of sunny exposure, Bunny Ears Cactus might be the perfect plant for you.

Light, Temperature and Humidity

A spot near a south-facing, unobstructed window is most likely to meet Bunny Ears Cactus’ need for bright, direct sun. Windows with western or eastern exposure run as second and third choices. While an actively growing Bunny Ears Cactus tolerates indoor summer temperatures as high as 100°F (38°C), don’t expect it to flower unless you also provide winter temperatures between 45 and 55 °F (7 and 13 °C). Regardless of the season, it likes humidity in the 10 to 30 percent range. Finally, if none of your windows provides adequate light, place the plant 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) below a cool white fluorescent tube for 14 to 16 hours each day.

How to Save a Dying Cactus

Pot and Potting Soil

A good Bunny Ears Cactus potting soil must drain quickly. Use a commercial cactus potting mix, or mix your own. The best container for your cactus is a clay pot just slightly larger and deeper than the plant’s root system. It must have drainage holes because a pot without them, or a pot that’s too large, could make proper watering impossible.


As a heat-loving cactus that grows outdoors in USDA plant hardiness zones 9 through 11, Bunny Ears Cactus has shallow roots adapted to capturing the slightest rainfall. When confined to a pot, the roots are susceptible to rot if they’re kept constantly wet. Wait until the top 1 inch (2.5 cm) of soil feels dry before watering Bunny Ears Cactus until water flows from the container’s drainage holes. When it is actively growing between spring and fall, regular watering is essential. Once the plant enters winter dormancy, dampening the medium once every 3 to 4 weeks is enough.


Bunny Ears Cactus benefits from feeding with liquid, 20-20-20 houseplant fertilizer diluted to one-half the label’s recommended strength. An alternative, if you’re encouraging the plant to bloom, is to use 5-10-10 fertilizer. Either way, fertilize the actively growing plant with every other watering. Fertilizing it more frequently may stimulate too-rapid growth or lead to misshapen pads. Don’t fertilize a dormant or newly potted Bunny Ears Cactus.

Pests Control

Cottony, segmented white mealybugs and barnaclelike scale insects attach to a Bunny Ears Cactus’ pads to drain sap. To control the pests without having the bristly glochids attach to your skin, dab the pests with cotton swabs dipped in 70 percent isopropyl rubbing alcohol.


Expect to repot Bunny Ears Cactus in a container one size larger than its current one every one or two years. Its roots need time to recover from the move, so wait a week before watering it lightly and moving it back into direct sun. Withhold fertilizer for at least a month after repotting. When repotting, use rolled-up newspaper or old carpet to handle the plant to avoid touching the irritating glochids on the plant’s pads.


Any fully grown pad from this cactus may be broken off cleanly in the early summer and repotted for propagation purposes. Cuttings work best when grouped in threes or more, and should be buried an inch (2.5 cm) deep in the soil. Remember to water regularly to promote the growth of a healthy root system in the first year after propagation.


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Posted by Alexis Angel on September 24, 2017

If you have recently purchased a succulent, odds are you made the purchase thinking it would be easy to keep alive. Maybe it is starting to look a little sad or just isn’t growing as much as you had hoped. As a succulent amateur, I have definitely killed my fair share of plants and succulents. However, I have slowly learned what it takes to keep these tricky plants alive! Use these 6 tips to help you grow a beautiful succulent!

How to Save a Dying Cactus

1. Water with care.

The easiest way to kill a succulent is from overwatering. Succulents are drought resistant plants and can thrive without regular watering. They only need water every other week to once a month. Make sure the soil has completely dried out before watering again. Some of my succulents have no had water in almost two months and are doing great!

Maybe you’re thinking, “What are the signs of over or under-watering?”


There are a few signs to look for if your plant isn’t receiving enough water. The soil will be completely dried out and the leaves on the succulent (especially near the bottom of the plant) will begin to wrinkle. This means the plant is low on water and rehydrating with the water stored in its leaves. Water modestly and the wrinkling should fix itself in about a day or so!

How to Save a Dying CactusThe leaves on the bottom succulent are beginning to wrinkle.


Unfortunately, over-watering is a lot harder to fix than under-watering. The telltale signs are pretty obvious: If the leaves near the bottom are turning yellow, feel mushy, and fall off the plant very easily, your succulent has had a bit too much water. Also, if the stem of your plant is turning black, it is too late to save unfortunately. If your succulent is just losing leaves, there are few options that COULD save it. Let the soil completely dry out and give it some more time after that before watering. If you have already done this and are still losing leaves, remove the succulent from the soil and any dirt clinging to the roots. Let the succulent sit out of dirt for a day or two before repotting in new soil. This will allow the roots to dry out from any moisture that was stuck in the soil. Once in new soil, do not water for a week or more. A good measure is to hold off watering until your succulent is no longer losing leaves or when the leaves begin to show signs of being under-watered.

How to Save a Dying Cactus

2. Use the correct soil

As mentioned, succulents do not like too much water, so the soil they are in plays a big factor in keeping them happy. Succulents need a special soil than is well draining; this soil should have large particles (like perlite or crushed rock) to help absorb any excess water. Succulent and cactus specialty soil is easy to find at any gardening center. If your succulent isn’t look so great or the soil never seems to dry out, you may need to replace it!

3. Choose the right pot.

A succulent won’t reject the pot you put it in, but they do grow better in certain kinds. Terra-cotta pots help to absorb water and dry out the soil. However, they are not mandatory! Any pot will do as long as other conditions are good! It is VERY important to have a pot that has drainage holes. A pot without drainage will hold in excess water and likely rot your succulent.

How to Save a Dying Cactus

Succulents love light! Placing them in a sunny windowsill will help them grow and will also help to dry the soil out between watering. Some succulents thrive in bright light all day, but others will get sunburnt. That’s right! Your succulent can burn if they are not acclimated to getting direct sun all day. Many of the more delicate succulent varieties will do just fine with a few hours of morning light, as it is much less intense than afternoon sun. To prevent sunburn, just slowly acclimate them to getting more light!

How to Save a Dying CactusHow to Save a Dying Cactus

The top photo is a succulent that was getting all day sun. The bottom photo is the SAME succulent 1-month later after being moved into a north-facing window. It is still growing, but has lost some of its vibrancy due to the lack of direct sunlight.

5. Accept what happens

Arguably, succulents can be really tricky to take care of. Don’t let it get to you if they die. I have lost tons of succulents to silly mistakes. It happens. You will learn more with each one!

6. Don’t throw away fallen leaves

Did your succulent lose a leaf that looks healthy? Don’t throw it away! Succulents are masters at propagating and can sprout a whole new plant from fallen leaves. Give it a few days to allow the leaf to callous over where it was attached to the main plant. After that, lay it on top of a layer of dirt and spritz with water when the soil is dry. I usually water mine every 2-3 days. You will begin to see white or hot pink roots form and even a small leaf. In a few months, you’ll have a mini version of the original!

How to Save a Dying Cactus

This blog post could probably drone on for multiple pages but to keep things sweet, I have condensed it down to the bare essentials of caring for succulents. Every plant is different and may react in its own unique way. Hopefully these tips will bring out the master succulent caretaker in you!

It was doing fine, but then you repotted it into a larger pot. Even if your aloe plant is struggling, that doesn’t mean it’s done for.

Aloe vera plants are unique and fascinating houseplants—their succulent-like leaves are actually filled with the gel-like substance you see in sunburn lotion. Like most succulents, they need very well-drained soil and should be planted in pots with drainage holes or pebbles in the bottom. If your aloe plant’s long leaves start to droop and get mushy, you may be having a watering issue.


When an aloe plant is being overwatered, the leaves develop what are called water-soaked spots. They look like what you describe: soggy and soft. It is almost as though the entire leaf becomes saturated and gel-like, then it turns to mush. Eventually, the entire plant dies. This is just one way that aloe plants can become waterlogged.


Your plant can also experience a waterlogged condition because the pot you put it in lacks a drainage hole. Avoid planting in a pot without a drainage hole. Adding a layer of pebbles in the bottom of a pot, although often offered as a simple solution, actually compounds the problem. As moisture moves down through the soil, it forms what is called a perched water table over the pebbles. Not until the soil above is saturated will the water move down into the pebbles. That means your aloe’s roots are constantly saturated. The soil is waterlogged, and the plant’s roots are dying from lack of oxygen.

Solving Watering Problems

Dry It Out

You might be able to save your plant if you dig it up and let it dry out for a day or two. Remove any leaves or tissue that appear to be dead. Then dust the dry base of the plant with rooting powder and replant it in a pot with a drainage hole. Give aloe bright light, and keep it on the dry side.

Add Drainage Holes

If you want to use a beautiful pot that has no drainage hole, drill a hole for drainage, or use it as a cachepot. Tuck your plant into a plain plastic pot that can fit inside the eye-catching container. Elevate the inner pot on 1/2 inch of pea gravel.

Succulents and cactus are the best plants to have at home if you’re a busy person. They don’t need too much care and are very resistant. But they still need you to treat them carefully.

How do you know if your succulent is dying… Well, Soil can also cause problems for succulents, as I explain in this article. If your plant’s leaves are starting to look yellow and transparent, and feel soggy or mushy to the touch, it’s likely suffered from overwatering. An early sign of over-watering is that leaves will start to fall off with just a slight bump.
There are many reasons why plants leaves turn “yellow”.Below are some of the most common reasons and ways that you can help.

  1. Pest Problem
    Signs – Insects lining on and eating leaves.
    How to fix – Spray all over the plant with neem oil or insect killing soap.
  2. Over Watering
    Signs – leaves look yellow and wilted.
    How to fix – Poor soil drainage could result in your plant’s root drowning. Add sand to the soil or repot the plant with new potting mix.
  3. Dehydration
    Signs – Leaves look dry and feel crunchy to touch.
    How to fix – Water your plants regularly. You should water it until it starts draining.
  4. Lack Of Sunlight
    Signs – Leaves look faded and droopy.
    How to fix – The plant is not getting enough sun so you should move your plant to a new position where it gets at least 4 to 6 hours of sunlight.

Iv had my cactus for Ten years and it been fine but over this spring it got a small brown patch on top. I wasn’t overly worried but was keeping an Eye on it. Now an entire 1/3 (almost Half) of the Cactus is Brown on top With Light brown Patches over the dark and is starting to get holes It seems to be rotting..(Y_Y)

I really want to save it but i Haven’t found anything threw Google searches.

Please what Can i do??

5 Answers

Remove the rotting portion asap, even parts that look slightly off. Use a sharp knife. It’s ok, you’re doing the plant good by giving it surgery.

Then, cut the cactus off at the soil line. Yes, you want to basically remove the healthy portion.

Let that healthy portion sit in a dry, stable area for

1 week. You want the cut ends to scab over.

Once they’re scabbed, repot in proper soil. You will need to follow these instructions after that point:

“Once planted do not water for a while. This is highly dependent on species, so if it’s a slow grower that doesn’t like water (Astrophytum, Ariocarpus, Lophophora, Turbinicarpus etc), do not water at all for a month or more. If it is a faster growing specie that can take some over watering (Cereus, Myrtillocactus, Hylocereus, Trichocereus etc) you may water it a *little* bit every few weeks. Once you see root buds forming (leave plants undisturbed for at least a month before checking) you may begin to water the tiniest amounts once in a while.”

How to Save a Dying Cactus

Agave americana is a very drought tolerant plant that rarely shows signs of dehydration. (Photo: Maureen Gilmer)

We stood next to the driveway studying a rather stunted Agave americana. Farmers would call this plant a “poor doer” because it’s never become established in that two-year old landscape. In fact, it may have actually shrunk in size. “I wish there was a book that tells me how to take care of these plants,” the client lamented.

He was right, I do need to help readers with these details.

So now that summer is almost here, with just the yearround residents in town, it’s a perfect time to explore plant diagnostics. I honed my skills by maintaining newly-installed landscapes for Rogers Gardens back in the early ’80s, figuring out why the plants weren’t doing well and either fixing the problem or replacing the plant.

Whenever I see an ailing Agave americana, the first thing I suspect is agave snout weevil. This cousin of the boll weevil loves this species of agave the most. The female weevil punctures the central cone of leaves and releases toxins before laying her eggs there. Toxins alter the plant tissues so the hatching larvae can better consume it. Once the larvae start feeding, they interrupt the moisture channels to the roots, cutting off this connection to the head. It gradually dehydrates until the leaves simply fall flat.

How to Save a Dying Cactus

This variegated Agave shows wrinkled leaves that no longer stand upright plus a sagging central cone, all symptoms of weevils. (Photo: Maureen Gilmer)

This poor doer agave showed signs of dehydration, which are rare. The center of all agaves should have plump firm skin, but when the base of the leaves develop deep wrinkles, you know it’s having a moisture problem. The key is figuring out the cause, not just alleviating the immediate symptoms because unless you solve the original problem, it will come back.

To help narrow down whether it’s a weevil or not, I inspect the central cone of the plant for signs of weevils. They puncture the skin leaving a small wound that may be just 1/8″ or less in diameter. That may be all there is to tell you weevils are inside.

But maybe that tiny nick in the skin of this particular agave was made by something else. Maybe the wrinkles are actually a sign of inadequate irrigation water. However, it’s rare to see agave dehydration at the end of spring because it’s an end of summer kind of problem. So I move the gravel out of the way to see and feel the soil to determine whether it’s getting water from the irrigation system.

How to Save a Dying Cactus

This small female weevil’s sharp snout punctures the central cone of an agave to insert her eggs inside, which hatch into hungry larvae that consume the inner core tissue. (Photo: Maureen Gilmer)

Since this is only a two-year old landscape, I’m always suspicious of inadequate irrigation because sometimes end of the line emitters are shorted pressure or clog with particulate matter that is pushed to the furthest head. With really drought resistant plants, it can take a season or two for symptoms of difficulty to be readily apparent.

Because all container plants grow in a specialized soil mix, it can become very dry and resist absorption, particularly in the very center of the rootball. If the irrigation is right, it will saturate that organic potting soil which is able to hold a great deal of moisture. If it’s not right, the root ball dries out and so do the roots.

When the water delivery is pin pointed through drip irrigation, roots grow there and nowhere else. Roots of container grown plants further from this water delivery point dehydrate and die for lack of moisture. It takes time for those few roots within range of the emitter to grow large enough to support the entire plant, hence a delayed growth rate. But if the emitter is moved closer to the center of the plant where it moistens that nursery soil, then the rest of the roots can benefit as well.

How to Save a Dying Cactus

A weevil afflicted agave showing how larvae have consumed the root crown to prevent moisture from reaching the leaves. (Photo: Maureen Gilmer)

Like a physician, diagnosis often depends on how the patient responds to a certain test action. In this case I instructed the client to flood the entire root zone of that agave with a slow running hose set at the base of the plant. Once the root ball is saturated along with soil immediately adjacent to it, the agave will take in enough water to plump itself up again within just a few days. Those wrinkles at the leaf bases will vanish. But if those furrows remain despite the flooding, you know the plant can’t take it up. The reason is likely weevil larvae have severed root from shoot.

Prognosis is poor; replace this plant with a non-succulent shrub since weevil larvae are now present in the soil and will infest any of its favorite succulent plant food plants installed there.

How to Save a Dying Cactus

Blue Agave americana with its upright leaves is the favorite food plant of the agave snout wevil. (Photo: Maureen Gilmer)