Recently one of my cacti seemed to be shriveling from the bottom and working its way up. First I thought my cactus was rotting, this wasn't the case and it turned out the be something completely different. Let's have look at what caused the shriveling of my cactus and what to do with yours!
Your cacti may start to shrivel because they lack enough water or they basically show the same symptoms when you overwater them and they are dying. There are potentially much more causes of your cactus shriveling. In my case, it was just lack of water and it needed a good soak. Let's look at what might be the case for you!
Why is your cactus shriveling
Your cactus may be shriveling because of various reasons but the two most common causes are that your cacti are either sunburned or they have a watering problem. Generally, cacti have the reputation of being easy to grow, but many of us have proven that completely wrong. The number one reason why cacti die is overwatering, let's take a look at the various reasons your cactus may be shriveling and what to do about it.
It's a misconception that cacti grow in deserts. Nothing can grow in a true desert, but many cacti do grow in very dry areas. Cacti can grow in a wide variety of growth habitats, even tropical rain forests.
Unless you are a long time cactus hoarder, a good chance that you may not be aware of the region and conditions that your cactus would ordinarily thrive in. The yellowing of your cactus plant is telling you that it isn't happy with its current conditions. And that you should try something different.
To much water or not enough?
When your cactus is shriveling, this can indicate that your cactus lacks water or gets too much of it. Yes, your cactus can lack water, despite t
he fact most people think cacti don't need much water this isn't always the case. For instance, in summer months you will need to water your cactus ones every 2 weeks in order to fulfill your cactus watering needs.
Otherwise, if your cactus gets to much water it will start to develop root rot. Eventually, your cactus roots will die off and will leave your cactus unable to absorb new water. This will also result in your cactus shriveling over time.
The correct way to water your cactus
The amount of water your cactus needs depends on the season. Ideally, you should water your cacti whenever the compost dries out fully from your last watering. When this happens, water again and don’t give any more until the compost has dried out once again. The more sun your cactus gets the more water it needs! In the summer months, you will experience times you will have to water once every 2 weeks depending on how hot your area is.
Give less water if the plants are growing in a colder or shady position. Also, in winter times you should water your cacti less, giving just enough to keep the soil almost dry. Just remember, cacti only need sufficient water to prevent them from shriveling.
Besides giving your cactus the right amount of water, a cactus plant also requires the proper type of soil. If your soil stays moist, this will cause problems. Your soil mixture should be rather sandy with plenty of drainage. I personally aim to have a mixture of about 1/3 washed sand, 1/3 soil and 1/3 gritty amendment such as pumice (volcanic rock).
In addition to planting your cactus in the correct soil, making sure your cactus has enough nutrients is even more important. Fertilizing your cactus will help them adapt, actively grow and stay healthy. Cactus fertilizer requirements are very easy. Any good houseplant food (diluted to half) that’s higher in phosphorus than nitrogen is a good choice.
You should at least fertilize your cactus plants once a year. But if you’re really organized and can set up a schedule, feeding them 2-3 times per year in the spring, summer and fall will easily satisfy your cacti fertilizer requirements.
Keeping your cactus plants fed with nutrients and giving them the correct soil will prevent your cactus from shriveling.
Diseases and pests
You will not always see pests and diseases from the outside. If you are at the point that you are going to repot your cactus and want to make sure you don't transfer any possible diseases.
I would recommend that you repot the cactus but wash all the old soil away from around the roots before repotting. This will also give you the opportunity to inspect the roots and base of your cactus properly to see if it has root rot.
Like most other plants, cacti won't grow at the same pace all year round. With fluctuations in environmental influences, most cacti will go through growth phases where they grow less (dormancy) or grow more (actively growing).
Even with the best care, some species of cactus will shrivel once per year as they go into a dormant state for several months. This typically happens during the winter months when temperatures drop. If an otherwise healthy cactus that normally does well on the amount of water received begins to shrivel, it is probably going into a dormant period. When the weather warms up, it will return to its normal state and start to actively grow again.
How to distinguish rot from shriveling
It can be really frustrating to find out if your cactus is rotting or shriveling because of other reasons. To distinguish rot from shriveling you can do a few things. First carefully poke your cacti, How does the body itself feel? if squishy a good chance you have got a rot problem and you need to check if you can still do something about it.
When you poke your cactus it shouldn't be able to move. Do they seem firmly rooted in the soil or are they like a loose tooth? Healthy roots don't allow the plant to wiggle. If your cactus seems pretty well stable in your planter pot, this means that your root system is fine. Otherwise, your cactus might be rotting and needs further investigation.