Why Is My Cactus Turning Purple

A cactus turning purple is an indication of stress. As the concept of stress is rather wide, in this post, we will look at the different kinds of pressures that a cactus may experience and how we reduce those stresses.

Fortunately, cacti don’t experience emotional tension. They typically become purple when faced with a stressful environment.

There are several potential reasons for a cactus to experience stress in the U.S. climate. These include excessive sunshine, root rot, nutrient deficits, temperature issues, crowded roots, and cactus cysts.

What Causes the Purple Color of Cactus?

Plants produce a wide variety of pigments for various uses. Anthocyanin, betacyanin, and related pigment production are typical signs of stress in cacti.

These are the pigments that give plants their pinkish-red hue. The plant can defend itself in challenging circumstances due to its purple hue.

Succulents are, more often than not, water-stressed; despite using water-efficient CAM photosynthesis, they need to reduce further the amount of light reaching the chloroplasts, which anthocyanin pigments can do.

This is why anthocyanins are produced in succulents to play a photoprotective role. As a result, a plant exposed to light stress and water will frequently turn purple in hue. 

Sun Burn

Fortunately, treating a sunburn is not too difficult in a cactus plant. Your cactus should be moved to a location that receives less direct sunlight.

Nevertheless, before you move it to your basement, remember that cacti still require a ton of sunlight. Direct sunlight is light that shines directly on a plant, such as via a south-facing window.

The indirect sunlight from the other windows in your home will be more evenly distributed and kinder to the plant. To avoid sunburning:

  • Move your plant to a window facing any other way.
  • Make a homemade screen to shield your plant from the sun if all your windows are on the south side.
  • Just place a paper towel over your cactus to provide some much-needed shade.

Overcrowded Roots

Your cactus’s root system may enlarge over time and may eventually become too large to fit inside the pot it was originally in.

It’s time to repot your cactus to a larger container if some of the roots attempt to escape through the drainage hole. Generally, every 3 to 4 years, you should think about repotting the cactus.

Your cactus must be relocated to a larger location if its roots have grown congested. Cactus should often be repotted once the roots are visible through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.

This normally takes two to three years for cactus to have a quicker growth rate. Repotting slower-growing cacti should only be done every three to four years.

Researching the perfect settings for your cactus is vital since not all cactus species have the same requirements. For instance, some cacti, including Christmas cacti, thrive when their roots are packed.

Hence, until it has lived in the same pot for at least a few years, a Christmas cactus shouldn’t be repotted. Add gravel to the pot’s base to aid drainage and sprinkle a thin coating over the soil’s surface.

Make sure you use thick gloves to protect your skin from the plant’s sharp spines before repotting your cactus.

Too Much Sun

Your Christmas Cactus may also turn purple or crimson because of poor lighting. That is a shortage of light in this instance.

This typically occurs in the fall or winter as the weather turns cooler and there is significantly less sunshine.

Thankfully, it may be quickly fixed by moving the plant to a more sunny area. But, take care not to place it in areas that receive a lot of bright or direct sunlight.

It is important to note that the plant leaves will burn if there is too much light. Choose a location that has medium to bright indirect light instead.

Nutritional Deficiency

When the cactus’s nutritional needs are not met, it can lead to discoloration of its leaves. Cactus receive nutrition from the earth, typically in fertilizer, much like other plants.

Compost and other organic materials can also be used to give nutrients to the soil. The gorgeous green leaves of your cactus will turn purple if it does not receive enough nutrients or essential minerals.

As a result, if you don’t apply fertilizer, this is probably what others will assume. It’s also important to remember that the plant needs magnesium. Hence, check to see if this mineral is included in your fertilizer.

Some Cactus Turn Purple Naturally

It is important to remember that some (not all) cacti do turn purple, depending on the season. The purple Santa Rita cactus, sometimes known as a prickly pear, gives off an appealing appearance all year.

Also known as Opuntia macro centra, it marks the seasons as exquisitely as the aspen trees up north, with purple pads in the winter, yellow blooms in the spring, and magenta fruit in the summer.

The purple prickly pear requires very little care and can withstand drought. It draws desert animals, birds, and insects as native species by offering food and refuge.

The Cochineal scale is the only pest issue with purple prickly pears. Insects left these white spots, readily removed by hosing off the pads. It displays its greatest appearance when planted in full sun and well-drained soil.

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Ending Note

Certain cactus species are naturally purple, while others turn purplish or completely purple when under stress from cold and drought.

After flowering, water less often and only enough to keep the plant from withering. Christmas cactus needs strong light in the fall and winter, but too direct light in the summer may cause the leaves to become purple on the edges.

Also, seasonal hue change is to be anticipated. Cooler winters are more likely to cause cacti to become purple, whereas milder, warmer winters may not induce any color change. A landscape can be planned and designed to use seasonal colors.

Every living thing has its limits and can withstand a certain amount of severe circumstances. Consider frost protection where temperatures tend to dip below the plant’s hardiness.