Cacti are very popular indoor houseplants because they’re low-maintenance and easy to grow. Unfortunately, this also makes them vulnerable to the dangers of being an indoor plant.
Many cactus plants end up dying from neglect because their owners don’t give them the care they need. Other times, a cactus may die from natural causes or simply be a victim of bad luck.
When your cactus starts losing its needles and appears to be on its last leg, you have to take action right away before it’s too late.
In this brief guide we will explain the most common reasons for why a cactus might die, and we’ll go over a few steps you can try to revive your cactus before it’s too late.
How Does a Cactus Die?
A cactus is a succulent, so it stores water in its stems and leaves to survive periods of drought and extreme heat. This makes them hardy, but they are not invincible plants.
A cactus that is dying from lack of water will show signs of wilting and wrinkling. The cactus may also turn yellow and its leaves may drop off.
Likewise, if a cactus is dying of too much water, it will look soggy and have dark patches on its leaves. In both cases, the cactus is slowly losing water from its leaves and stems.
Be sure to watch out for these signs of dying cacti, and if you notice any of them take action right away to save your plant.
Why is Your Cactus Dying?
If your cactus plant is wilting and shedding its leaves, it may be dying from lack of water. If it’s not getting enough water, its soil will become dried out and its roots will shrivel. Once the roots shrivel, the plant can no longer take in water and it will eventually die.
The same thing can happen if you over-water a cactus. If you water a cactus too much, the soil will get soggy and its roots will become waterlogged. Eventually, the roots and cactus will die.
Another possible cause of dying cactus plants is too much sunlight. Some cacti need a lot of sunlight and others need very little. If your cactus is in the right environment but still dying, it may be getting too much sunlight.
How to Save It
If your cactus is wilting, it may be on the verge of death. If you see this sign, you should give your cactus a quick check.
Make sure its roots are moist (not wet!) and check the soil to make sure it’s not too dry or too wet. If the soil is too dry, water the cactus as soon as you can. If the soil is too wet, let the plant dry out a little bit before watering again.
If your cactus plant is wilting, but not yet dying, it’s possible to save it. Place it in a well-lit but not too sunny spot. Keep the soil moist but not soggy and water it regularly.
It may take a few weeks for the plant to come back to life, but it can happen. If your cactus is dying from too much sunlight, try moving it to a shadier spot.
How To Repot a Dying Cactus
Repotting is easy and in many cases it’s the best thing you can do for a dying cactus. Follow the simple steps below and with any luck your cactus will bounce back better than ever.
1) Check the soil. If it's hard and dry, or if you can see roots poking out of the bottom of the pot, it's probably time for a repot. Even if your cactus is healthy it’s a good idea to repot it every few years, but if you notice the above-mentioned symptoms then it’s definitely time to give your beloved cactus a new home.
2) Choose a new pot with at least one drainage hole in the bottom, the more holes, the better! This is because cacti need adequate drainage. Without sufficient drainage the water can pool in the bottom of the pit which can cause the roots to rot, ultimately leading to you cactus’ untimely demise.
3) Fill your new pot with fresh cactus soil. You can buy special cactus soil at most garden centers or hardware stores. Or you can make your own by mixing together equal parts peat moss and coarse sand with perlite. Mix well until all of the ingredients are completely combined and no large clumps remain visible.
4) Place your plant in its new pot and add enough water to soak through all layers of soil; let sit for about 15 minutes before watering again if necessary.
You’ll need to give it a little time, but with any luck your cactus will bounce back within a few weeks. Be extra careful not to give the plant too much or too little water during this delicate time.
Remember, the soil should be moist but not wet, and the cactus should be placed near a window where it will get plenty of indirect sunlight.
How to Care for a Dying Cactus
If your cactus has been dying for a while, there’s not much you can do. If the plant is rootbound, you may be able to save it by repotting it. However, if the cactus is dying from lack of water or too much sunlight, then unfortunately it may already be too late to save it.
Therefore, it’s best to take action before it’s too late. Make sure to water your cactus regularly, especially during hot summer months. Cacti need less water in the winter and very little, if any water, in the spring and fall.
Remember, different cacti need different amounts of sunlight. Some cacti need a lot of sunlight while others need very little. It's important to know the needs of your specific cactus, as there's no one-size-fits-all approach to caring for cacti.
Cacti are popular houseplants, but they’re also very finicky. You’ll have to be careful to avoid killing your cactus by over or under-watering it. If your cactus starts to die, you’ll want to act fast to save it.
You’ll also want to repot your cactus every few years, depending on how quickly it grows. You may also want to try moving your cactus to a brighter area if it’s not getting enough light.
Generally speaking, cacti are hardy plants that require very little care and maintenance, however, if for whatever reason your cactus isn’t thriving and you notice that it’s starting to die, you can follow the tips in this article and hopefully bring it back to life.
Good luck and happy gardening!