Why Is My Cactus Soft And Wrinkly? [Causes & Solutions]

Cactus plants are a great way for beginners to get into gardening since they are easy to maintain. However, a cactus plant might get soft and wrinkly in some cases, indicating it isn’t getting sufficient care.

The main reason your cactus has become soft and wrinkly is because of water issues. Other reasons might include fertilizer problems, insufficient sunlight, bacterial damage, or pest problems. Fortunately, you might be able to save your wrinkly cactus.

Here are the most common reasons cactus gets wrinkly and ways to fix them:

Insufficient Sunlight

Cacti require sufficient sunlight to grow optimally. If your cactus is becoming wrinkly and soft, it might not be getting adequate sunlight. When a cactus plant doesn’t receive proper sunlight for a long period, it starts thinning and softening.

It is also important to note that excessive sunlight can also damage your cactus. It can result in the cacti losing their mechanism of water retention, which makes them dehydrated, causing a wrinkly appearance.


  • Ensure your cactus plant is getting at least 10 hours of bright indirect lighting.
  • Change the lighting conditions of your cactus gradually, like increasing the intensity and time in the sun, to help the plant adjust and recover.
  • When placing the plant under the sunlight, cover it with a semi-transparent cloth to protect it from the high intensity.
  • Put the plant on a south-facing window so it enjoys indirect sunlight.


While cacti don’t need too much water, it doesn’t mean you completely neglect to water them. The main cause of a wrinkled and soft cactus can be underwatering. Cactus plants must be watered after every 10 to 14 days to help them survive and avoid getting soft.


  • Soak the plant in a container filled with lukewarm water. The pot must have a drainage hole to allow the cactus to remove excess water. Keep the plant in water for around 45 minutes so that the water reaches the roots.
  • Avoid watering the cactus for at least two weeks after dipping it in the container. After that, continue watering it once a week during the hot season and once every two to three weeks during the cold season.
  • You can also check if your cactus needs watering by inserting a wooden stick in the pot to see if the soil is dry. If the first two to three inches of the soil is dry, water the cactus.
  • Keep the cactus moisturized by misting it with a water spray bottle

Bacterial and Fungal Diseases

Fungus and bacteria attack plants through some opening that might be caused due to physical injuries or animal or insect activity. Moist and warm conditions worsen the problem by encouraging the growth of bacteria and fungi spores.

When the bacteria or fungus enters the cactus, it starts becoming soft and wrinkly. If your cactus is also exhibiting sunken spots, soft or blackened areas, discolored scabs, and colored dots, the plant is suffering from bacterial and fungal issues.


  • Immediately apply a good quality fungicide every three to four hours to prevent the spread and treat the disease.
  • Cut lesions and apply colloidal sulfur and coal nystatin for soft rots treatment if the disease is caught during the early stage.
  • Cut areas of the cactus plant that have been infected
  • Apply green grease, colloidal sulfur, or activated charcoal to the wounds
  • Remove the affected areas of the cactus and repot the plant in a new pot with fresh soil


Cactus plants can’t thrive in poorly drained and wet soil as it causes water to fill the air spaces, preventing root aeration. Overwatering also creates an ideal environment for harmful bacteria to attack the plant and grow.

If left untreated, the roots of the cactus will get affected, and the plant will start dying. It is essential to immediately stop watering the plant and wait till the soil is completely dried before watering again.


  • Create a watering schedule to avoid overwatering your cactus, and always check the potting mixture to check if the plant needs watering.
  • Repot the plant in fresh well-draining soil so that the roots get time to establish themselves.
  • Use a wooden stick to create small holes in the potting mixture, as this will enhance the air circulation to the roots.
  • Put the plant on a south-facing window so it gets sufficient sunlight to absorb the excess water faster.
  • Create a gap between the planter and the saucer to allow excess water to flow easily out of the drainage holes.
  • Put the cactus in a place that has lower humidity and away from washrooms, kitchens, and humidifiers.
  • Add a peat-based potting mixture to enhance water retention, or use a free-draining mixture to ensure sufficient drainage along with essential nutrients.
  • Make sure the pot of the cactus has a sufficient drainage system.

Insect Damage

Another major reason a cactus becomes wrinkly and soft is because of insect problems. This is particularly more common in warmer regions as insects and pests lurk in the gardens. Insects like longhorn beetles can become extremely dangerous for plants as they consume the new growth of certain cacti, leaving them soft and wrinkly.

These pests can also lead to severe rot while also attracting other diseases. Longhorn beetles and other such insects and pests focus on the base of the cactus. If you notice your cactus getting soft at the base of the plant before spreading upward, your cactus might be suffering from insect damage.

It is crucial to treat the plant immediately, as this can cause extensive damage to the cactus.


  • Spray insecticides, like acetate or imidacloprid, on the plant to eliminate the insects and pests. You can also use horticulture or neem oil.
  • Cut all the affected leaves and stems of the cactus to prevent the spread. Use a strong water spray to wash away pests and insects like spider mites and mealybugs.
  • Mix one part each of rubbing alcohol and water to spray on all the affected areas of the cactus.

Poor Quality or Amount of Fertilizer

A sufficient amount and good quality fertilizers ensure your cactus grows faster and healthier. It provides the plant with the right amount of macro and micronutrients it needs to grow. Without these nutrients, your cactus can start becoming soft and wrinkling.

Summer is the growing season for cacti, and the plants need more amount of fertilizer than any other month. Without sufficient fertilizer, your cactus can suffer. The best cactus fertilizer is the one with a greater amount of phosphorus.


  • Provide the cactus with a fertilizer that offers a balanced mixture of vital nutrients to encourage root development and encourage stem growth, and color vibrancy.
  • Use a fertilizer with low concentration for healthier growth of the cactus.
  • Add probiotics to the potting mix to aid hydration and prevent wrinkling.
  • Use potassium dihydrogen phosphate, acetic acid, and citric acid to treat the cactus with deficiency-related problems that result in a wrinkly appearance and soft texture.

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Wrapping Up

The major reason many prefer to grow cactus plants is that they require less maintenance and can stay alive with little effort. However, a wrinkly and soft cactus is a cause of concern and requires immediate attention.

There are multiple ways to treat the common reasons a cactus becomes soft and wrinkly. Make sure to identify the root cause, commonly watering issues, to restore the health of your cactus. Remember to keep the plant separate from others if it has been infected by pests or bacterial disease until it is completely treated and healed.

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