Why Is My Cactus Brown

Cacti can change color from yellow to brown. This process, known as corking, is most frequently caused by aging. When a cactus reaches maturity, corking occurs spontaneously.

It starts at the plant’s base where the soil is in contact and might gently progress upward or remain stationary. The plant looks woody after corking. The plant is solid to the touch and generally healthy.

You have a distinct problem if the plant becomes brown and feels mushy or soft to the touch. This typically indicates either rotting, sickness, or both. Rot can develop at the roots of a cactus that has been exposed to constant moisture and progress up the plant.

A cactus can also turn brown from diseases like fungus or from pest infestation. The browning frequently affects various plant components, and when touched, it will feel soft and mushy rather than hard.

How is Browning cactus fixed?

Look to check if the brown spot and the vicinity are mushy and soft. If so, your cactus has probably started to rot from the inside out and is now displaying symptoms on the outside.

After noticing soft brown areas, the best technique to fix your cactus is to cut off healthy stems (without any signs of rot) and start a new plant.

Before cutting, disinfect a razor blade or a pair of extremely sharp sheers. Cut the cactus above the area of rot, allow it to dry, callus over, and then plant it again.

Use fresh soil, and thoroughly clean and dry the pot if you’re using the same one. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to save your cactus as is once it has begun to decay.

In other words, the only method to revive a cactus that has developed rot is to cut off the healthy stems—those portions of the plant that are still green—and repot them in fresh soil.

Can a brown cactus be revived?

Cactus death is typically caused by root rot brought on by over watering and poorly draining potting soils. Between waterings, cacti require the soil surrounding their roots to dry out. The cactus turns yellow, brown, or black with a spongy texture if the soil is persistently moist.

If a cactus receives too much shade, the stem will droop or lean over, but if it is shifted from shade to full sun without first being exposed to more intense light, the cactus will turn white and appear burnt.

When a cactus is living in conditions that are drastically different from those of its natural environment, it will eventually die.

By placing the cactus in at least six hours of direct sunlight, only watering when the soil has completely dried out, and planting or repotting the cactus in specially formulated well-draining gritty succulent and cacti soil to improve drainage so the cactus can recover, you can revive a dying cactus.

Is a brown bottom on a cactus normal?

A cactus plant may develop a dry form of rot if water in the soil surrounding its base does not evaporate. Over time, some cacti can develop brown dry areas (known as corking) along their columns. When you water, make sure the soil is actually dry. To aid in separating the stem from the wet soil, add stones, pebbles, and coarse sand grains to the soil.

Desert cacti go through a period of inactive growth in the fall and winter, so it’s crucial to modify your care to keep your cactus healthy. Water less frequently and always before noon to allow for complete absorption or evaporation of the water over the day. Water the plant just enough to prevent it from withering, erring on the side of too little water.

Cacti must be grown in a pot with a drain hole and prefer a nutrient-rich, rocky soil with excellent drainage. Too much peat is used in many commercial cactus and potting soil mixtures, which keeps moisture in the soil longer than is ideal. After watering, cactus soil should properly drain in less than a minute. Cacti, like other succulents, require soil to dry out between waterings in order to prevent its tender roots from rotting.

In our guide Cacti Indoors, you may learn more about taking care of your indoor cactus plant.

Must I remove the brown cactus?

Knowing some of the reasons why cactus trimming is necessary, you now need to know when to carry it out. The top five indications that it’s time to prune your plant are covered in this section.

The plant has become too large

There are a few exceptions to the rule that most cacti species grow slowly and seldom reach destructive heights. When the correct conditions are present, members of the family of jungle cacti can grow too quickly.

As a result, if you want your plant to be asymmetrical but it is getting too big or one side is growing significantly quicker than the other, you may want to prune it back.

Normally, if you are pruning a plant to make it smaller, you should think about trimming the plant back by at least a third every year. A plant with regular trimming will eventually become slightly bushier and have more areas for blossoms to grow.

It’s a little simpler to maintain smaller plants because you may put them anyplace in your home. They can fit on your window sills without taking up too much of the small interior area.

Pest infestation

Some pests can still get to your plant even if the majority of cacti species have sharp spines that keep them away. Cactus bugs, mealy bugs, spider mites, cactus longhorn beetles, scale insects, and other common pests may attack your cactus.

Some of these insects reproduce quickly, and the results can be disastrous if you don’t move quickly to stop them. While the majority of them target the stems, some may also target the roots.

You must take the necessary steps to stop pest infestations as soon as you see them on your cactus. You may easily eliminate huge bugs by hand if they are an issue. You might have to hire a professional pest exterminator if they are little, like spider mites.

The bad news is that some bugs that affect cactus are so resilient and chemically resistant that not even the most seasoned pest exterminator can eradicate them. Pruning the damaged area is the sole option if you have tried hiring an exterminator but have not seen any effects.

Determine the area of the stem that was bugged, then carefully prune it back. To prevent re-infestation, be sure to prune the entire stem that is afflicted.

Top-bottom rotting

You must act quickly to address the frequent cactus problem of rotting if you want to keep your plant. Rotting may begin at the base (roots) and progress to the stem. It may also begin at the top and descend.

You may be dealing with tip rot, often referred to as cactus stem rot, if the tip of your cactus begins to turn brown and squishy. If you don’t move quickly to save the plant, your cactus will eventually die since once it begins to rot from the top, it won’t stop.

A fungus and pest infestation, as well as water infiltrating through an open wound on the plant, are the main causes of stem rot. Your cactus may be prone to stem rot if it has sustained any kind of harm.

The most crucial action you must take to save the remainder of the plant is to prune or cut down all compromised stem parts as soon as you see stem rot symptoms on your plant. If the rot isn’t removed by pruning, it will eventually kill your plant if you don’t.

Remember that rot spreads quickly, so there might not be much time left to preserve the cactus. To prune the stem’s impacted areas, use pruning shears or a sharp knife.

The appearance of dead stalks after blooming season

Another indication that you need to prune your cactus is the presence of dead flower stalks soon after the flowering season. This is especially true of the profusely flowering Christmas cacti.

To prevent losing the priceless blooms, don’t prune before the flowering season. But when the flowering season is done, you might see that the flower stems that are still there look unsightly. To give your cactus a fresh look, take your time and carefully prune them back.

In addition to getting rid of the dead stalks, pruning your cactus after the flowering period will also make it bushier, which will inevitably result in the formation of additional blooms the following year. Make sure to remove all of the diseased branches and dead stalks.

Cactus is getting too tall for its pot

When you notice that your cactus plant is growing too tall for its pot, you should also take pruning into consideration. Every two to three years is the ideal time to repot your cactus, although this is not always the case.

As a result, if you see that your plant is growing too tall for its container, you should think about cutting it to prevent it from falling over. Plants cultivated in light plastic containers typically develop into taller, more slender plants. The plant can grow thicker and healthier if its height is appropriately reduced.

Why is the top of my cactus brown?

Cactus tip rot, which is evident when the top of the plant begins to become dark and mushy, is most likely the cause (aka cactus stem rot).

That basically signifies that your cactus is starting to rot. If nothing is done, cactus stem rot will quickly become a serious problem.

A cactus will continue to deteriorate from the top down once it begins. The plant will finally perish as it continues to spread down the entire stem.

Therefore, it’s critical to take quick action as soon as you see cactus tip rot in order to save the plant.

How frequently do cacti need to be watered?

The most frequent reason for cacti failure is improper watering, whether it is done too much or too little. Cacti have evolved to store water for extended periods of time and can maintain moisture through droughts because they are endemic to arid regions and dry temperatures. They have a limited capacity, which is why over-watering can result in a variety of issues.

When it comes to regularity, watering your cacti will largely depend on the season but also on the variety. Checking the soil is the easiest technique to determine whether your cactus needs water: It’s time for a drink if the top inch is dry. That entails applying the “soak and dry procedure” on cactus.

What is the soak and dry method?

The soak and dry technique is thoroughly wetting the soil until part of it begins to flow out the drainage hole, then waiting until the mixture is nearly dry before wetting it once more. If done properly, this strategy will help them endure a period of under-watering should you need to travel or leave the house because it takes use of their natural tendency to store water (or if you just get busy and watering falls to the wayside, as happens to all of us now and again).

Watering during the growing season versus the inactive season

Like with many houseplants, the season affects how frequently you need water. It becomes more crucial that you get in the habit of examining the soil to determine whether your cacti are thirsty. A healthy cactus needs watering every one to two weeks during the growing season, according to general wisdom. The frequency changes to once every three to four weeks during the off-season.

Even then, it’s crucial to examine the soil. The same way that not all interior spaces and not all cacti are alike. The only way to be certain that your cactus require watering is to carefully examine the soil to determine how dry it is because there are so many different factors.

What kind of plant are overwatered cactus?

The obvious indicators of an overwatered cactus caused by a fungus in the soil include black or brown blotches and mushy stems. It’s time to carefully chop them off with a knife if you experience any of these bodily symptoms. Use a sterilized knife while handling a rotting plant to prevent the spread of the infection.

You will have to exert more effort if the damage is severe. Essentially, what you’ll be doing is multiplying the portions of your plant that are still alive. Wear nitrile gloves to protect your hands from the cactus’ spines while you chop off the rotting sections, and exercise extreme caution when handling the plant. After cutting out the damaged areas, let your cuttings air dry for a few days, or around a week.

What does a cactus that is dying look like?

Possible dead cactus symptoms include: Cacti topple over or are exceedingly flimsy in the ground. Spikes could come off. These two symptoms point to both root rot and overwatering. Yellow turns brown in color.

What does a cactus that is rotting look like?

Openings in the flesh allow bacteria and fungi to enter the plant. The exposed sections may have been damaged by inanimate things, insects, or animals, or by severe weather, such hail. Injury’s physical manifestation is unimportant; what matters is fungal or bacterial damage.

Fungi and bacteria both produce more spores more quickly in warm, damp environments. When the organism establishes itself in your plant, the cactus will become mushy and soft. Small sunken places, discolored scabs, spherical soft areas encircled by fruiting bodies, and black or other colored specks on the cacti’s skin are signs to look out for. You might even see your cactus plants oozing a little bit.

How can you know if your cactus is on its last legs?

When a cactus looks shriveled and husk-like, it is dead. Additionally, dead cacti can become unstable in their soil and topple over. They could start to smell rancid and becoming mushy, both of which are indicators that they are rotting. Cacti that are dead lose their spines and frequently appear brown.

How come my cactus appears burned?

Cacti plants can turn brown for a variety of causes, as was indicated in our introduction. We go over some of the main causes of this issue in this section.

Root rot

The issue may be root rot if your cactus plant’s base is getting brown and the stem is mushy and yellow.

Root rot can unfortunately be quite difficult to save because it typically starts inside the plant before spreading outside. The majority of the time, root rot symptoms don’t appear until the issue has already progressed.

The best course of action is to stop watering the plant as soon as you discover signs of root rot and repot it in soil that drains effectively.

In order to prevent the rot from spreading, you can also try to rescue your plant by removing all of the rotting tissue and some of the healthy tissue surrounding it.

Use a clean, sharp knife, and clean it between each cut with alcohol. When you’re through, make sure to rub sulfur powder on the wounds to aid in the plant’s recovery. The most frequent causes of root rot are soils with poor drainage and overwatering.

Indoor hazards

The same pests and diseases that threaten outdoor cactus can threaten your interior plants. Indoor plants, however, could experience extra issues that are exclusive to them.

Make careful to ensure that your indoor plants are not adjacent to a heat vent if they begin to exhibit indications of browning or drying out.

Despite the plant’s thick layer of waxy protection, the hot stream of air that the vent blows can cause the tissues to dry out. Similar harm can also be done by AC vents, albeit it might take longer for the harm to manifest.

Usually, if your plant is not directly in a window and starts to turn brown and feel brittle on one side, it is time to think about relocating it to another location.


The most frequent and likely reason for your cactus plant to start turning brown from the top is sunburn. Given that the majority of us have a misconception that cactus are sun-loving desert plants, this may sound strange.

Not all cacti species, meanwhile, do well in the intense sunlight. Some of them need only a little sun and some shade to grow successfully. If you don’t give your new cacti plants from the store or nursery enough time to adjust to the harsh outdoor light, they could also get sunburned.

Mild sunburn typically manifests as a pale discoloration on the plant’s sun-facing side. The whitish areas eventually transform into brown scars, which are a sign of severe sunburn. There is nothing you can do to repair severe brown burns on cacti plants because they have been permanently damaged.

Moving your plant to a shaded area, however, will rescue it if it has white patches. It will totally recover if you give it shade on the warmest days of the year. It would also be beneficial if you spend some time learning about the lighting requirements of your plant so that you can create the ideal environment.

Remember that species of cacti that aren’t used to being in direct sunlight need to acclimate by being exposed to full sunlight for a brief period of time every day.

Start gradually increasing the exposure over several weeks. Your plants will quickly become accustomed to the outdoor lighting settings.

It’s also important to note that some cacti plants shouldn’t be left in direct sunlight all day.


Scales refer to tiny insects that commonly appear as brown patches on cacti plants because of their hard brown shell coats. These insects consume plant liquids, weakening the cactus plant and turning it brown or yellow.

If this is the case, you might want to wash your plant with a relatively weak detergent solution or consider spraying it with a stream of water to remove the scales. For extensive infestations, you can use your chosen brand of insecticide.

Using cotton swabs that have been dipped in horticultural oil and applied to both sides will also kill scales. As a result, an oil coating builds on top of the scales, blocking off the insects’ access to oxygen.

Frost damage

Similar to sunburns, cacti plants may become brown where they have been damaged by cold. The only way to distinguish between frost damage and sunburn damage is by checking the temperature because the damage is pretty similar.

Cactus plant tissues that are exposed to cold temperatures experience cell rupture. Even though you might not detect the damage right away, the plant will attempt to self-heal by covering the harmed tissues with calluses.

Although the brittle patches on the plant are typically spotty, this type of self-healing mechanism also takes place after a hailstorm.

Indoor plants that come into direct touch with the window glass might nevertheless sustain frost damage.


A mite infestation may be evident if your plant is becoming brown from the top, where new growth is beginning to form.

Red spider mites are small insects that feed on the liquids your plant produces in its more delicate areas. Because these insects are so tiny, finding their webs may be easier than finding the insects themselves.

Rusty brown stains that emerge on the plant’s top and the appearance of mite webs are signs of a mite infestation.

These pests can destroy your plant if they are not dealt with since they feed entirely on the tissue of the outer layer. Red spider mites are most likely to infest indoor cactus.

The plants may occasionally leave the nursery with these mite infestations already present. Consider watering your plant from above with a reasonably strong stream of water to get rid of bugs.

Another typical sort of mite that could infest your cactus is root lice. For plants produced in greenhouses, root lice can travel from pot to pot, making control difficult.

Root lice are best treated by keeping your new plants separate from the other plants for a few weeks. To control root lice, you should also refrain from recycling and sharing soil.