Why Is My Cactus Drooping

When it comes to naming plants that are easy to grow and care for, cacti take one of the top spots. However, this doesn’t mean these succulents do not ever develop any issues. You might experience some problems with cacti, too, especially if you’re new to growing them.

One of them is a dropping cactus, and today, we will only talk about that. From what causes a cactus to sag and fall over to finding ways to prevent and fix it, we’ll talk about everything related to a drooping cactus. So let’s get right into it without any delay!

Why Does a Cactus Droop?

Droopy branches are a sign of a stressed cactus. And several factors can lead to it. Let’s look at them, one by one, to develop a better understanding of how they impact this hardy succulent.

What Causes a Cactus to Fall Over? Potential Causes of a Drooping Cactus

When the branches of a cactus plant start to get droopy or begin to fall over, it is often due to one or more of the following reasons:

1. Overwatering

Overwatering is one of the most common causes behind a drooping cactus.

Cacti are succulents. They store water in their stems and are naturalized to grow in deserts or very dry environments. Too much water and wet soil can stress the plant, making it droopy and prone to developing root rot, fungus, bacteria, and pest infestations.

To avoid overwatering your cactus, avoid watering too frequently. A cactus should only be watered when the plant needs it, which is when its soil is completely dry.

Depending on the weather, this could take anywhere from a week to two or even longer in extremely cold weather.

The watering frequency also depends on how much sunlight it gets. Those planted outdoors under direct sunlight need more water than those grown indoors.

How to Know If Your Cactus Is Overwatered?

To know if this is the reason behind your dropping cactus, look for the common signs of an overwatered cactus. These include:

  • Softness
  • Wrinkling
  • Mushy, puckered, splitting skin
  • Brown or black spots on the base
  • Leaves turning black or brown
  • Mold growing on the top of the soil
  • The rotten smell from the soil

Certain cacti species may also develop tiny bumps or blisters when they consistently get more water than they need. These bumps often leave permanent scars on the plant.

How to Save an Overwatered Cactus?

Cacti are known to be one of the most forgiving plants. However, there are certain factors that make an exception to the rule and can affect a healthy plant pretty badly. Overwatering is one of them. But don’t despair. In most cases, an overwatered cactus can be saved. Here are some tips for doing that:

  • Place in a more sunny spot
  • If grown indoors, move the pot to a drier (less humid) and more ventilated area
  • Make more drainage holes in the pot so the excess water can seep out
  • Repot in dry soil

No matter which of these suggestions you follow, remove any damaged tissues, leaves, and stems. Also, remove rotten roots before repotting.

2. Underwatering

The fact that cacti need little water can sometimes also lead to many not watering the plants enough, causing dehydration. When that happens, the stems can shrink, become very dry, and begin to droop as they become too weak to stand upright.

Consistent underwatering can also force a cactus to go into dormancy to conserve whatever amount of water it has stored in its stems for as long as possible.

Underwatering a cactus in winter can also cause the roots to fall off, making it harder to save the plant.

How to Know If Your Cactus Is Underwatered?

Signs of an underwatered cactus, apart from droopy leaves and stems, include:

  • Shriveling
  • Color loss or yellowing
  • Curled-up leaves and stems
  • Dry, brown edges or spots
  • Spines turning light brown
  • Spines falling off easily
  • Brittle roots
  • No new growth or weak new growth

As opposed to overwatering, which makes your cactus mushier, underwatering dries it out.

How to Revive an Underwatered Cactus?

Saving an underwatered cactus is usually easier than rescuing an overwatered one. Here are a few tips for how you can do it:

  • Remove the parts that are severely affected
  • If the plant is under direct sunlight, move it to an area with indirect sunlight
  • Move an indoor cactus away from the heater or dry environments
  • Water the soil thoroughly. Avoid watering the plant above the soil

You may also water a dehydrated cactus from below by placing the pot into a container with enough water to cover the bottom 2 inches of the pot. Keep it in it until the top of the soil gets moist.

3. Inadequate Light

Cacti like bright light. And if it doesn’t get that for a considerable period of time, it may start to sag. This happens because, without adequate sunlight, the plant cannot photosynthesize.

This, in turn, disrupts its metabolic processes, eventually making it so weak that it becomes unable to stand upright and begins to droop.

If your cactus has no other problem but still exhibits droopiness, an inadequate amount of sunlight may cause it.

4. Soil with Poor Drainage

Cacti require soil with excellent drainage and aeration to ensure it doesn’t retain too much water for too long. If it’s missing, there is a high chance that the soil will become waterlogged. If the condition isn’t changed, the roots will suffocate due to reduced oxygen supply and rot.

The suffocated, decaying roots cannot supply the plant with water and nutrients, causing it to gradually get weak and droopy.

Always use soil with good drainage and aeration for cactus plants.

5. Freeze Damage

The majority of cactus species are indigenous to warm environments. Therefore, their cold weather tolerance is low.

When the temperature drops below freezing point, your cactus may suffer from freeze damage that usually exhibits blackening of the exposed parts. If not rescued immediately, the blackened areas dry out, and the plant eventually droops.

How to Treat Freeze Damage on a Cactus Plant?

Unless your cactus is severely damaged, it can overcome freeze damage on its own. However, this recovery can take quite a long time; it may even take years.

Place the plant in a warm spot with adequate sunlight and water it (as required) to help it overcome freeze damage quickly.

6. Pests

The most common cacti pests are mealybugs and spider mites.

Mealybugs are tiny white-colored insects, whereas spider mites are yellowish-green or red. Both suck the juice out of a cactus plant. A small mealybug attack appears as tiny blemishes on the leaves and stems. Spider mites cause the plant to get dry ad rusty brown.

But a serious pest infestation will leave the plant weak, dried out, and droopy.

How to Know Your Cactus Has Pest Infestation?

Spider mites are hard to see. The most significant sign of them is tiny webs that they create around the plant and rusty brown spots on leaves and stems, most likely on the top.

Mealybugs can be seen upon closer inspection. They also leave white, fluffy-looking spots or residue.

 How to Get Rid of Pests on Cactus?

Spray the plant with a liquid insecticide soap or a mixture of water and dish soap. Leave it for a day, and then wash off the plant with clean water. You may follow up with a pesticide spray.

Depending on how severe the problem is, you may have to do it a few times to eliminate the pests completely.

Avoid exposing the affected plant to direct sunlight until it’s fully recovered to avoid burning. But keep it in an area where there is plenty of fresh air.

7. Frequent Temperature Fluctuations

Do you bring your cactus plant(s) inside at night time?

If yes, they may be at risk of getting droopy with significant temperature fluctuations.

If it’s hot outside and you have ac on full blast indoors, or the weather is cold, and you have the heater turned on inside, the sudden temperature changes that your plant experiences can stress it out and lead to droopiness.

Cacti grown indoors may also droop when exposed to high or low temperatures (due to heat or air conditioner) without adequate sunlight.

8. Failure to Go Into Dormancy

Cacti go dormant in winter. It’s a natural process to ensure the plants’ survival. However, when grown as a houseplant, certain factors may sometimes disrupt this natural mechanism, resulting in a plant failing to go into dormancy during the cold weather.

To help a cactus go into dormancy when the weather starts to get too cold, you should keep it in a cool spot where the average temperature remains around 59 degrees Fahrenheit and water it once every 4 to 6 weeks.

If you keep the plant at a warm spot or stop watering it completely, it won’t go into dormancy. Instead, it will begin to thin out from the base. The new growth will be long and thin. Eventually, the roots will weaken, causing the cactus to fall over.

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Summing Up

There is no single reason behind a dropping cactus; there can be many. Therefore, it’s important to consider all possible causes to determine what’s making it droopy. There may be more than one underlying reason.

Cacti are generally hardy and forgiving. However, you should still be careful and keep an eye on your plant(s) to make sure you can spot problems quickly if and when they arise.

Failure to notice the issues until they become too severe may lead to plant death.