Why is My Cactus Falling Over? [What to Do]

It can be stressful for all plant parents when their cactus in California falls over. To remedy the situation, you have to find out why your cactus is falling over and then find a solution. This may include repotting with a more suitable potting mix and changing the watering schedule.

The goal in all cases is to minimize the trauma induced to the plant. Besides repotting and watering, common solutions include pest-fighting and providing the right temperature. Let’s look at the most common reasons why your cactus is falling over.

The table below summarizes common reasons your cactus may be falling over.

Why My Cactus in California is Falling OverSolution
OverwateringUse the finger test method to see if the soil needs watering
Root rotInspect the root system to see if the plant is affected by a disease.
Soil typeUse an appropriate soil type such as three parts potting soil, three parts gravel, and two parts perlites
Inadequate lightProvide your cactus with at least 8 hours of sunlight per day
Pest infestationUse neem oil to discourage pests
Freezing temperatureBring your cactus indoors, or cover them with a cotton sheet.


Improper watering can also cause cactus plants to fall over. Like most succulents, they have adapted extremely well to arid environments thanks to their intrinsic water management systems. Cacti can collect water through spines and trichomes and store them in the mucilage.

This means that the average cactus plant can go for several weeks without water and grow just fine. Some cactus varieties can go for up to two years without water. Their extreme efficiency means that overzealous plant parents could overwater the cactus plant, especially when grown in a pot.

The good news is that it’s relatively simple to know when it’s time to water your cactus using the finger test method. Insert your index finger into the potting mix (about two inches into the soil).

If dirt clings to your finger, the soil is likely wet, and the plant doesn’t need watering. If not, it’s time to water your cactus.

Besides falling over, some of the most common signs of cactus plants being overwatered include the presence of blisters, yellowing leaves, and squishy stems. If you keep over-watering your cactus plant, falling may be the least of your worries because you could introduce root rot which is much harder to fix.

Root rot

Root rot is the Achilles heel of just about every houseplant out there, including the hardy cactus plant. Getting rid of root rot is complicated and often requires uprooting the entire plant to cleanse it of the decaying organic matter. This is why prevention is always better than cure in the case of root rot.

The most common cause of root rot is overwatering. This is because it creates the perfect conditions for bacteria and fungi to thrive in the soil and feed off your plant. Unfortunately, the root system starts to decay; the only solution is to treat it by uprooting the entire plant. Some cases of root rot may be too late to fix, and you may have to discard the entire cactus plant. Here are a few things you can do to prevent root rot:

  • Choose a good ratio of potting mix (such as three parts potting soil, three parts gravel, and two parts perlite)
  • Don’t overwater
  • Look out for pests
  • Protect the plant from frost damage in the cold months and at night

Here’s how to check the root health of your cactus plant:

  • Gently remove the cactus from its pot to inspect the roots
  • If you see black and mushy roots, you’re dealing with root rot
  • Too many roots indicate that you kept the cactus in a very large pot
  • Too few roots indicate that you should replant the cactus in a smaller pot

Remember, your cactus can recover from root rot if you identify it at an early stage and are able to contain the magnitude of the rot. If a disease caused the root rot, you should look for appropriate ways to eliminate the infection. Unfortunately, the only way to fix a diseased plant is to perform surgery by discarding the affected foliage.

Soil Type and Amount

Some cactus plants fall over because of excessive soil. Too much soil increases the likelihood of over-watering the soil. The finger test method may fail to indicate the soil’s moisture level. For example, the topsoil may be dry, but the bottom layers may be saturated with water. This is why keeping your cactus in a smaller pot is recommended.

A smaller pot encourages the root to grow more uniformly. However, a larger pot introduces complications in the root system resulting in slower growth. The presence of too many roots in the soil indicates that the pot is too big.

The other end of the spectrum is when you haven’t provided enough soil for your cactus. If you keep the cactus in the same pot for several years, its roots will become crowded and quickly use up all available nutrients.

This could cause the cactus to fall over due to a lack of nutrients and overcrowded roots. As a general rule, you should replant your cactus in a pot that is one size larger or about two inches bigger.

Another reason you can’t keep your cactus upright is because of improper soil type. Cactus plants grow well in porous soil because they provide ideal drainage and a lot of aeration. Try to provide a blend of inorganic materials such as pumice, perlite, gravel, and sand.

A good rule of thumb is to use three parts potting soil, two parts perlite, and three parts sand. This tried and tested ratio has shown to be reliable for most cactus species.

Inadequate Light

Like any other plant, cacti need all the light they can get. In fact, cactus plants can thrive in direct sunlight for hours on end. Without adequate sunlight, your cacti will not synthesize, resulting in its gradual decay. Over time, the disrupted metabolic process will create droopy foliage that will fall over.

Every species of cacti has its own light requirements. In general, cacti need anywhere from 10  to 14 hours of indirect sunlight every day. Keep them in bright and sunny locations or a south-facing window.

If you live in an environment that doesn’t provide full sunlight to the cacti, it may be time to invest in a grow light.

Pest Infestation

Finally, cactus plants are vulnerable to pest infestation. They may be hardy, but the onslaught of pests can devastate cacti. The presence of ants, mealybugs, and other pests can cause cacti to look sickly and deformed. Besides competing for resources, some pests may gradually eat your cactus and its roots.

This will introduce stress in the plant and create the perfect conditions for a fungal infection. If you don’t stop the pest infestation at an early stage, your cactus will fall over and eventually die.

If you notice pets around your cactus, it may have reached an advanced stage of infestation. It is time to look for a pest control solution to kill intruders. Always prioritize an organic solution such as neem oil to scare the pests away. If nothing else works, you may have to use drastic measures such as chemical herbicides.

Freezing Temperatures

Cactus plants thrive in arid environments such as deserts. They don’t get along well with the cold, and prolonged exposure to excessive temperature will cause their early demise. Frost, in particular, can devastate your cacti. You should always try to bring your cactus plants indoors when the temperatures drop to prevent freeze damage.

Alternatively, you can also cover your cactus with a cotton sheet to control the temperature.

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Wrapping Up

So there you have it, an in-depth look at why your cactus in California is falling over. You should never panic and try to understand the primary causes that led to your cactus falling over. The most common cause is overwatering, followed by bad soil. Always watch out for a pest infestation because it’s easy to control.

And if you’re unable to provide your cactus with sunlight for at least 8 hours a day, consider investing in a grow light. Finally, protect your cactus from freezing temperatures because they can easily undo years of hard work. Let us know what measures you took to prevent your cactus from falling over.

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