Why Is My Bunny Ear Cactus Turning White?

Why Is My Bunny Ear Cactus Turning White

Bunny ear cacti are popular houseplants for their looks and low maintenance. Owners may worry when the green cactus turns white. It’s puzzling and leaves them wondering what caused the change.

Bunny ear cactus turning white could indicate several factors, including overwatering, underwatering, or a nutrient deficiency. Check the soil moisture levels and fertilize appropriately to identify the cause.

In this article, I will explore the reasons behind this phenomenon and provide solutions to help revive your cactus back to its vibrant green color. So, stay till the end.

Possible Causes of Bunny Ear Cactus Turning White

A Bunny Ear Cactus (Opuntia microdasys) turning white can be caused by various factors and environmental stressors. Some of the possible causes of a Bunny Ear Cactus turning white include:

Insufficient Sunlight

If your bunny ear cactus is not getting adequate sunlight, it may start to fade and become pale or white. This lack of color indicates poor light, as your plant needs sunlight for photosynthesis. It may also start to grow sideways or elongate towards the light source, a phenomenon known as etiolation.

Overexposure to Sunlight

Just as insufficient sunlight can cause issues, so can too much. The cactus can get sunburned, leading to dry, white, or yellow patches on the surface that face intense sun.

Disease and Fungal Infections

Your cactus can turn white due to disease or fungal infections. Fungi will cause white, cotton-like growths on the cactus plant or cause the entire plant to discolor. It may also have a rotten smell or look wilted.


This natural process makes the cactus turn white, brown, or tan. This is the plant’s way of forming a bark like protection, usually starting from the base and moving upward. It typically impacts older plants and is not a cause of concern unless accompanied by softness or rot.


Too much fertilizer can cause a salt build-up in the soil, which can cause the cactus to turn yellow and then white. The plant may also display stunted growth and deformed new growth.

Poor Soil Drainage

If the soil does not drain properly, excess moisture will cause the roots to rot, eventually causing the cactus to turn white or brown. The plant may also become soft and mushy.


Overwatering is a common issue with cactus. Overwatered plants may turn pale and white, and they can also appear bloated or fall over. In severe cases, overwatering can cause the plant to rot.

Nutrient Deficiency

Lack of essential nutrients can lead to discoloration, including a whitish appearance, poor growth, and wilted leaves.

Powdery Mildew

This fungal disease presents as a white powdery growth on your cactus. It usually affects parts of the cactus that are shaded and have poor air circulation.


These tiny pests have a waxy, white coat that gives them a dusty look. They appear as white, cotton-like clusters and leave the plant with a sticky substance called honeydew, which can lead to black sooty mold.

Pests Infestations

Pests like aphids, spider mites, and scale insects can cause your cactus to turn white. Any signs of pests, such as small moving spots, cobweb-like substance, or curling and yellowing of leaves, should be inspected if the plant is white.

Signs to Identify the Cause of White Bunny Ear Cactus

Identifying the cause of a Bunny Ear Cactus turning white involves closely examining and considering the plant’s environment. Here are steps you can take to help pinpoint the problem:


Check the location of the plant. Has it been exposed to intense, direct sunlight? Are the white areas predominantly on the side of the cactus facing the sun? Sunburned cacti usually have white or yellow discoloration or might turn brown and cork-like over time because of cell death.

Unusual Spots or Patches

Closely examine the cactus for unusual spots or patches. A white, cotton-like presence on the cactus might point to an infestation by the cochineal scale insect. These pests are small, round, and sometimes slightly fuzzy.

Fungal Diseases

Is there a white, powdery substance on the cactus surface? It could indicate a fungal disease such as powdery mildew. This often happens due to overwatering or conditions of high humidity.

Mineral Deposits

If you’re using hard water to water your Bunny Ear Cactus, you may observe a white, gritty texture on its surface. This is usually a buildup of mineral salt from the water.

Nutrient Deficiency

If the cactus turns pale or white uniformly, it could be due to nutrient deficiency. This can happen due to insufficient iron or magnesium. The cactus needs these nutrients to produce chlorophyll, giving plants a green color.

How to Revive Bunny Ear Cactus that Turned White?

Reviving a white Bunny Ear Cactus is possible with the proper care and attention. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you bring your beloved cactus back to life:

Assess the Situation

Begin by closely inspecting your Bunny Ear Cactus. Understanding the extent of the damage is crucial. Look for signs of rot, pests, or diseases. Identifying the problem will guide your subsequent actions.

Adjust Lighting Conditions

Bunny Ear Cacti require bright, indirect sunlight. If your cactus has turned white, it might get too much direct sunlight, leading to sunburn. Move it to a location with filtered or indirect sunlight to prevent further damage.

Move the Cactus to a Shaded Area

If the white coloration is due to sunburn, relocate the cactus to a shaded area temporarily. Protect it from harsh afternoon sun, especially during the hottest months, to allow it to recover.

Adjust Watering Schedule

Overwatering is a common cause of cactus distress, leading to root rot and a white appearance. Ensure your Bunny Ear Cactus is planted in well-draining soil. Adjust your watering schedule to allow the soil to dry out completely between watering. Water sparingly, especially in colder months.

Use Proper Fertilization

Proper fertilization can aid in the cactus’s recovery. Use a balanced, diluted cactus fertilizer during the growing season (spring and summer). Follow the recommended dosage to avoid over-fertilizing, which can harm the plant.

Prune the Damaged Part

If the white part of the cactus is severely damaged or rotting, it’s essential to prune it. Use sterilized pruning shears to remove the affected paddles or parts of the cactus. This prevents further spread of disease and encourages healthy growth.

Treat for Pests or Diseases

Take immediate action if you find signs of pests or diseases during your assessment. Treat the cactus with appropriate organic or chemical remedies, following the instructions carefully. Quarantine the affected cactus to prevent the issue from spreading to other plants.

Preventing Bunny Ear Cactus White Issues

Bunny Ear Cacti require proper care to thrive and avoid the dreaded white discoloration. Following these essential guidelines can prevent white issues and keep your bunny ear cactus vibrant and healthy.

Regular Care and Maintenance

Consistent care is vital for the well-being of your bunny ear cactus. Regularly check the plant’s overall health, inspecting for any abnormalities in color or texture. Provide routine care, including pruning, cleaning, and repotting as needed.

Proper Sun Exposure

Ensure your bunny ear cactus receives the right amount of sunlight. These cacti love bright, indirect sunlight. Place them near a sunny window, but shield them from direct sunlight, especially during the hottest parts of the day. Proper sun exposure prevents sunburn, a common cause of white discoloration.

Watering and Humidity Control

Establish a consistent watering routine for your cactus. Overwatering can lead to root rot and stress, while underwatering can cause dehydration. Strike a balance and allow the soil to dry out between watering sessions.

Additionally, control the humidity around the plant, especially in indoor environments, as overly humid conditions can encourage fungal issues.

Monitor for Signs of Trouble

Regularly inspect your bunny ear cactus for any signs of stress or disease. Catching issues early can prevent them from escalating. Look out for discolored or wilting pads, pests, or unusual spots on the cactus surface.

Soil and Potting Considerations

Plant your bunny ear cactus in a well-draining cactus soil mix. Good drainage is essential to prevent waterlogged roots, which can lead to various problems. Choose a pot with drainage holes to allow excess water to escape, ensuring the roots stay healthy and the plant doesn’t suffer from water-related stress.


Fertilize your bunny ear cactus sparingly and during its active growing season. Use a balanced cactus fertilizer diluted to half-strength. Applying fertilizer too frequently or excessively can stress the plant, leading to white discoloration and other issues.

Regularly Inspecting for Pests or Diseases

Pests and diseases can quickly harm your cactus if left unchecked. Regularly inspect your plant for pests like mealybugs or scale insects. If you notice any signs of infestation or disease, immediately isolate the affected plant and treat it with appropriate measures.


If you notice your bunny ear cactus turning white, assessing the plant’s environment and making any necessary adjustments is important. This can include providing more sunlight, adjusting watering frequency, and checking for pests.

With proper care and attention, your bunny ear cactus can return to its vibrant green color and thrive.

Remember, prevention is key to maintaining healthy plants, so keep an eye on your cactus and address any issues as soon as they arise. With patience and proper care, you can enjoy the unique beauty of your bunny ear cactus.


  • https://www.southernliving.com/garden/plants/cactus-care-tips
  • https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens-gardening/your-garden/help-for-the-home-gardener/advice-tips-resources/pests-and-problems/insects/mealybugs/mealybugs-indoors

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