Why is My Cactus Rotting

While most indoor plants are notorious for being extremely sensitive to their environments, the cactus has a reputation for being durable and highly tolerant.

Whether you grow your cacti indoors in a pot or out in your garden, all it needs is little hydration, fresh air, and the sun to maintain its health and appearance and last for decades.

However, if you overwater your cactus plant or place it in an excessively humid environment, you might cause its roots to rot. This eventually leads to your plant dying.

To learn what may be causing your cactus plant to die and what you can do to save it, keep reading.

Why is My Cactus Rotting?

The Cactus Plant’s Tolerance

If you have ever had the chance to own or look after a cacti plant, you probably know these plants do not die easily.

While indoor cactus plants can easily retain their appearance and structure for more than a decade, many species of wild cactuses can shockingly survive for more than a century.

If you are wondering what allows the cactus to display such remarkable tolerance, it is their extraordinary and unique build.

While most plants are characterized by their thin stems and wide-open leaves, a cactus is known for its thick leathery trunk and pointy thorns.

Such physical qualities help minimize the cactus plant’s water loss and allow it to remain resistant and highly immune when kept in unideal conditions for a short period.

However, while the cactus plant is one of the very few green plants to be known for its endurance, the prolonged practice of poor care routine will eventually cause the plant to die.

How Does Overwatering Cause Root Rot in a Cactus Plant?

While caring for a cactus plant is extremely easy for all experienced and new plant caretakers, the plant’s health can take a turn for the worse if you overwater it.

Like all plant roots, a cactus’ root cells have a limited water capacity. When you add more water to the plant’s potting soil, its root walls eventually stop absorbing more water once they have reached their limits.

This causes the excess water to accumulate inside the cactus plant’s pot and soil, eventually creating a medium that attracts and harbors fungal growth.

As soon as any fungal spores land on the flooded soil, they multiply and spread to the cactus’s roots. If nothing is done to control the fungal growth, the engulfed roots decay and die.

Since fewer roots can carry water up the cactus plant, the entire plant dehydrates, loses its ability to remain upright, and eventually dies.

How to Treat and Save a Rotting Cactus?

Since severe root decay usually happens within a few days, not many plant caretakers get the chance to act on time and save their dying plants. However, there is still hope if you have a cactus suffering from root rot.

Unlike most indoor plants that are extremely susceptible to their environments, the Cactus is relatively much more tolerant and resistant. Since its thick trunk allows it to save and store water, root death does not immediately impact its hydration and health.

Instead, a cactus can stay hydrated for months before it begins to die. However, if you notice your cactus plant looking dull and dry, attempt to treat and save the rotting cacti by following the tips below:

  1. Begin by digging your cactus plant out of the pot or ground. Ensure that its roots remain intact and the root ball is safe from damage.
  2. Once the plant is out, place its bottom end under running water and use a soft-bristled brush to remove all mud and fungus.
  3. Inspect the condition and health of the roots, and use a pair of pruning shears to cut off all dead and decayed root bits.
  4. Wash the remaining roots one more time and let the plant sit out under the sun while you prepare the repotting.
  5. Fill out the cactus pot with a fresh batch of well-draining potting mix. The best option here is to use Sphagnum peat moss as it is both well-aerated and sufficiently draining.
  6. Use a shovel to repot the cactus plant and pat down the soil around its roots to improve its stability.
  7. Finally, use a spray bottle to add hydration to the soil.

Top Tips for Keeping Your Cactus Healthy and Strong

As mentioned above, species of the Cactaceae family have excellent endurance, which makes them some of the easiest plants to look after. If you want to keep your cactus alive for as long as possible and look green and appealing, pay attention to the care tips listed below. 

  • The primary and most crucial tip is infrequent watering. Unlike other house plants, the cactus is drought-tolerant, which allows it to thrive in deprivation.
  • Only water the plant when its soil has thoroughly dried up, and always use a controllable spray bottle for this purpose.
  • Place your growing cactus plant in a bright and sunny spot that allows it to receive prolonged hours of direct sunlight.
  • If you are growing your cacti indoors, place them on a window sill facing the sun.
  • If the winter season limits the amount of sunlight reaching your plant, it is best to invest in an infrared lamp to offer the plant some artificial light.
  • Moreover, since excessive hydration can cause your cacti to rot and die, it is crucial that you invest in proper indoor ventilation.
  • If installing a new exhaust fan in your house is impossible, simply place the cactus in front of a regular fan during the humid months.
  • During the warmer summer and spring months, add a diluted fertilizer to the pot.
  • Since many micronutrients in most available fertilizers are often too big to be absorbed by young plants, add slightly acidic water to the soil.
  • With the added acidity, the larger nutrients break down into smaller, easily absorbable bits, which positively affects the cactus’ health.
  • Moreover, always use potting soil that is both well-draining and sufficiently aerated.
  • If the growing cactus gets too large for its pot, repot it into a larger container.
  • Furthermore, use this opportunity to examine the quality and condition of the plant’s roots and replace the soil with a batch of fresh potting mix.
  • Finally, always choose a clay or terracotta pot for your indoor cactus plant, as such materials help control and reduce the soil’s moisture, allowing the plant to grow without being infected by root rot.

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Final Thoughts – Get Yourself a Cactus Plant Now!

If you overwater your indoor or outdoor cactus, its roots will eventually rot, and the plant will die. Always check the moisture in the soil before adding water, and ensure that the air around the growing cacti lacks excessive humidity.