What Are The Common Cactus Problems?

Common Cactus Problems

Fighting common cactus problems is one of the few challenges gardeners face when growing this plant. Often you don’t know how to solve the problem because you don’t know what the problem is. 

The problems start when people believe it can grow independently without care because it is a desert plant. That might be true if it was in a desert, but now it’s at home in a completely different environment and weather conditions. When planting it at home, you mix it with other plants, which makes it vulnerable to attack by pests and diseases. 

For instance, if you have a plant in an area with high humidity or in an indoor garden with plants that like water, it is prone to attack by insects and diseases. Other than that, some causes are a result of neglecting the plant. 

In this guide, we will highlight common cactus problems and the different ways you can solve them without searching for a professional. 

Common Cactus Problems

The common cactus problems

So, what are these cactus common problems? They include pests and diseases, yellowing of cactus, rotting cactus, sunburn, and corking. Some problems result from nature, and others from human neglect. 

Thus, if you know what the problem is and what is causing it, you can find a solution faster.

Human neglect 

Gardeners are to blame for most problems that affect plants. It can be hard to accept, but you must know that your cactus plant will probably die without proper care. So, here are the common causes of cactus problems: 


For cactus plants, too much water makes them vulnerable. Overwatering is the act of giving the plant more water than required. Extra water in the soil leads to root rot and fungal infections. 

You need to remove the cactus and dry the soil to treat this problem. Wash the roots with a warm bath to kill bacteria, then hang them vertically for 3 to 4 days. Before you repot them, cut off any affected roots. Use fresh soil and a clean pot if the roots are affected severely. Plant them back and give them 1 to 2 inches of water per week. Or after every watering day, leave the soil to dry, then water again. 

Under watering

It can result from neglecting the plant for a long time. Even though the plant can survive for a week without water, it doesn’t mean you should leave it for 2 to 3 weeks without water. Without water, it goes dormant, and it won’t flower.  

Using non-organic fertilizer

Non-organic fertilizers contain metals like copper and zinc that harm some plants, like cacti. Continuous use of this fertilizer can cause damage to the plant, making it vulnerable to diseases. 

Natural factors

Natural factors are things we can’t control, such as weather changes, soil compositions, and humidity levels. They include: 


The rise and fall of temperatures throughout the year can cause stress to your cactus plant. For instance, if you have your plant in the summer growing well, the winter comes, and the changes in temperatures will cause stress that can lead to other problems. 


Humidity is the amount of water in the atmosphere. It affects cactus differently depending on the species. High humid areas can cause some cacti to grow faster and others to become vulnerable. 

Soil composition 

What the soil contains can affect your cactus plant. It is another cause of common cactus problems. Soil with sand cannot absorb water, which prevents the plant from absorbing nutrients and water from the ground. You should consider the mix in your soil. 

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Cactus problems

Rotting cactus

In a cactus, two areas rot; the roots and the stem. It begins with water exceeding the required amount and causes stress to the roots when they don’t get enough air—lack of fresh air results in a fungal infection that causes roots to rot. The stem will swell and become mushy if this happens.

Fungi or bacteria cause stem rot. For a bacterial attack, the stem will have a dark liquid oozing from it. If this happens, you have to treat the plant immediately before it dies. 


The first thing you should do is remove the affected parts of the plant. That is, roots and stem. Then treat it with a fungicide or hydrogen peroxide. You can also treat it with ant-fungal spray to kill the fungi in the plant. 

To prevent root and stem rot, stop overwatering your plant. The best way to water your cactus plant is to leave a period between watering for the soil to dry. Also, ensure the soil has proper air circulation. 

Yellowing of a cactus

When your plant becomes yellow, it can result from improper fertilizing or watering. These cactus common problems result from overwatering and little fertilizer (Nitrogen). 

Excess water in the plant leads to root rot. When the roots rot, they stop giving food to the plant, which leads to the yellowing of leaves. If it continues, they wilt and die. 

When no nitrogen is in the fertilizer, the plant leaves become yellow because of the lack of chlorophyll. Young leaves become pale yellow, and older leaves become fully yellow due to nitrogen deficiency. 


Stop giving the plant and leave the soil to dry completely before you start watering again. To avoid overwatering the plant, purchase a moisture meter to check whether your soil is wet. Also, add fertilizer to the plant to give it extra nitrogen to ensure it is sufficient for its growth.

Don’t forget to cut off the affected parts to avoid spreading to other regions.  

Frost damage

Frost can kill your plant if you don’t act in its early stages. This is damage that occurs to the plant because of frost. You can see it when the flowers, stems and leaves start to turn white.


During winter, you should move the plant to a warmer location to avoid getting affected by cold temperatures. You can give them a grow light to speed up the recovery process so they can start growing again. 


Sunburn is a cactus problem caused by excess sunlight. Placing the plant in an area with direct sunlight makes it vulnerable to the sun, especially during days when the sun has high intensity. 

You can notice this when it starts having brown spots and the stems lose their green color. 


Remove the cactus plant from the area and move it to a shade. Keep it hydrated if it is outdoors. 

Attack by pests

Pests are a major contributor to the common cactus problems. Some of the pests include; 

  • Red spider mites
  • Fungus gnats
  • Snails and slugs
  • Root mealybugs
  • Beetles
  • Scales
  • Aphids 
  • Nematodes
  • Thrips 

Most pests attack the leaves and stems of the cacti. You can find them in groups on the plant or in singles. It is easy to identify pests, especially when you notice spots on the leaves and stems. 


Start solving this problem by quarantining affected plants to avoid spreading. Then, if you don’t want to use chemicals, spray pressure water on the affected parts to remove all the bugs. If it doesn’t work, you can mix a soap solution with water or neem oil to kill the pests. Neem oil is organic

On the other hand, you can purchase pesticides or herbicides and use them to kill insects completely. 


Cactus plants are good plants to have in your home because they are easy to care for and won’t cause you so many problems. However, for this to happen, you must do your part and care for them to avoid the cactus common problems. 

Since it can be hard to identify a problem, consult a professional arborist to help you find and treat it. 

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