Why is My Cactus Shriveling Up

The members of the Cactaceae family are excellent houseplants for people who do not have the time or desire to look after their plants every day.

Unlike many other house plants that are susceptible to their care routines and external environments, a potted or planted cacti is extremely tolerant and resistant and can display remarkable endurance when left in unideal living conditions.

However, although the globally popular desert plant thrives on deprivation and requires very little watering, it needs some moisture to fill up its reserves, carry out photosynthesis, and survive.

When an inexperienced or uninformed plant parent continues to underwater their cactus for an extended period, the green plant will eventually shrivel up from dehydration and die.

Keep reading to learn what you need to know about why your cactus plant is shriveling up and what you can do to save it from dying from dehydration.

What is Causing My Cactus to Shrivel Up?

It is not common for a cactus to shrivel up quickly. If you pay any attention to your desert plant, your cactus will likely thrive and retain its deep green color for an incredibly long time.

However, if your cactus is wrinkly and dried up despite your efforts, it is best that you either reevaluate your care practices or examine the external atmospheric conditions that the cactus is being kept in.

Pay attention to the information listed below to learn about what might be causing your indoor potted or outdoor planted cactus to shrivel up.


As mentioned above, the cactus is known and globally sought-after for its endurance and resistance. This is why cactuses in the wild can live for longer than a hundred years even when the conditions are extremely dry and hot.

However, if your cactus is wrinkly or shriveled up, your desert plant may be in dire need of a drink.

While cactuses need to be watered only once every two weeks or months, they must be watered on time. If you skip watering your desert plant for multiple months, it will eventually exhaust its natural water reserves and become dehydrated.

When this happens, the cactus is eventually forced to use the moisture from the outer layer of tissues, and the thick leathery plant skin shrinks and dries up.


Although the information provided says that underwatering may be the reason behind your shriveled-up cactus, it is interesting how overwatering can lead to the same results too.

When you overwater this drought-tolerant desert plant, you create excessively moist conditions in its potting soil, which attracts fungal growth.

If nothing is done to kill the growing fungus on time, it will spread across the cactus until it fully engulfs its roots and causes them to rot away.

As more roots die from fungal decay, less water is carried up the desert plant. Eventually, the cactus is forced to use up its stored water reserve until it dehydrates and shrivels up.

Broken or Cracked Potting Container

If you are watering your indoor potted cactus on time and are still struggling with maintaining its healthy and hydrated appearance, you must check the condition of its potting container.

If the container is cracked or broken from the bottom, chances are the water might be leaking out of the container before the roots get the chance to absorb it. As a result, the desert plant will dehydrate, shrivel, and die.

Overgrown Cactus Plant

Cactuses are stunning plants that can grow quite tall and wide. If you have a cactus growing inside a pot, you must ensure you report it when the plant is grown enough.

If repotting is delayed and the overgrown cactus plant is forced to live inside a tiny container, its long and overgrown roots will get smashed against the inner walls of the container.

This can damage the sensitive root tips and can affect their ability to absorb water. As a result, your cactus will suffer from dehydration and will lose its thick and firm appearance.

Too Much Direct Sunlight

Although desert plants like the cactus are well adapted to living in high external temperatures and harsh sunlight, you need to watch for the amount of moisture in their soil.

For instance, assume that you live near the equator and you have planted your cactus under direct sunlight. Although such a condition will not directly affect your cactus, its potting soil might lose all its moisture.

If too much water evaporates from the soil before it is absorbed by the cactus’ roots, the entire desert plant will dehydrate and shrivel up.

Extremely Dry Weather Conditions

Finally, if the air around your potted cactus is too dry, water from its soil might diffuse into its surroundings, down a concentration gradient.

Once again, this will strip the plant’s potting soil of all its moisture and directly impact the cactus’ hydration, freshness, and appearance.

How to Treat a Dry and Shriveled-Up Cactus Plant?

One of the benefits of owning a cactus over other plant species is that saving this desert plant from premature death is usually not as difficult.

While reviving a dying succulent may require immense plant knowledge and experience, most new plant parents can easily rehydrate their shriveled-up cactus.

If your potted or planted cactus is also wrinkly and dry, try the tips below to restore its hydration and youthful appearance.

  • If your cactus is underwatered, set an alarm or mark the calendar on your phone to never miss watering it again.
  • However, since excess moisture will lead to root and stem rot, only use a controllable spray bottle.
  • Moreover, if the container is broken or your cactus has overgrown its pot, take a garden shovel and dig out your cactus plant.
  • While doing so, ensure that its roots remain undamaged and its root ball is intact in the process.
  • Fill up a larger pot with a fresh batch of potting mix and repot your cactus plant.
  • Furthermore, although direct sunlight is good for the desert plant, it is important that you monitor the moisture in the soil.
  • If the soil is too dry, water it even when the watering date has not yet arrived.
  • Finally, if your indoor air is too dry, invest in a small-sized humidifier and turn it on for a few hours only.

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Final Thoughts – Bring Home a Potted Cactus Now!

If your indoor potted or outdoor planted cactus is all shriveled up and wrinkly, it is best to water your desert plant before it dies of dehydration. However, if you have been watering it properly, it is best that you either inspect its roots for a fungal infection or report the cacti into a more suitable pot and mix.