Is My Cactus Overwatered Or Underwatered?: A Deep Discussion

Is My Cactus Overwatered Or Underwatered

Although cacti are easy to maintain, many cactus owners will overwater or underwater their plants. And so, people keep asking, “Is my cactus overwatered or underwatered?” Also, what are the signs of over or underwatered cactus and can they be revived?

So, how do you know if your cactus is suffering from too much or too little water? An overwatered cactus will have mushy leaves or stems and roots that appear brown or slimy.

On the other hand, an underwatered cactus will have shriveled leaves or stems and may even appear wilted.

You must know these signs of overwatering and underwatering cactus to help them grow better. So, we will discuss these signs in details and show you the ways to prevent overwatering and underwatering cactus in today’s write-up.

Is My Cactus Overwatered or Underwatered?

You need to know about the specific cactus and its care history to determine whether it is overwatered or underwatered. Only then you can save it from dying due to less or excess watering.

How Do You Know a Overwatered Cactus?

Most new plant owners make the mistake of overwatering their cactus. But how do you know if your cactus has been overwatered? The easiest way to tell is by checking the soil moisture level.

If the soil feels wet or moist to the touch, then it’s likely that your cactus has been overwatered. Another sign of overwatering is yellowing or softening of the leaves and stems. Over time, this can lead to root rot and eventually kill your cactus.

Another way to check for overwatering is by looking at any drainage holes in the pot. If water flows out when you water your cactus, then it’s properly draining excess water away from its roots. However, if there’s still standing water after a few hours, then it’s being over-watered.

You should try planting your cacti in well-draining soils such as sandy loam mixes with perlite or sand added into it. Additionally, adjust watering schedules based on environmental factors like humidity levels and temperature changes rather than sticking with an inflexible schedule.

The Signs of an Overwatered Cactus:

Overwatering is one of the most common reasons why cacti die. It’s essential to water your cactus correctly, or its roots will rot, and it won’t be able to absorb nutrients from the soil. Here are some signs that indicate your cactus may be overwatered.

The Signs of an Overwatered Cactus:
  • Wilting or soggy appearance: When a cactus is overwatered, its leaves, stem, or branches may appear to be soft and mushy. The plant may also look wilted or have a limp appearance, as if it is struggling to stay upright.
  • Yellowing or dropping of leaves: Overwatering can cause the cactus to lose its leaves or turn yellow. This is because too much water can lead to root rot, which prevents the plant from absorbing nutrients and oxygen properly. As a result, the cactus may start shedding its leaves to conserve energy.
  • Soft or mushy stem: An overwatered cactus may have a soft or mushy stem that feels spongy to the touch. This is a sign that the plant is suffering from root rot, which is caused by excess moisture in the soil.
  • Foul smell coming from soil or plant: Another sign of an overwatered cactus is a foul odor emanating from the soil or the plant itself. This is often an indication of bacterial or fungal growth in the soil due to excess water.

If you notice any of these signs, it may be best to reduce watering and allow the soil to dry out between watering. Always ensure proper drainage for potted plants so excess moisture doesn’t sit at their roots which ultimately leads to damage!

Tips to Fix an Overwatered Cactus:

Tips to Fix an Overwatered Cactus:

If you have overwatered your cactus, there are several steps you can take to fix the problem. Stop watering it for a while and allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again. Be sure not to water the cactus too frequently as this could lead to further problems.

Next, carefully remove any rotted or damaged roots using sterilized scissors or shears. Repotting may be necessary if there is extensive root damage or if the soil cannot drain properly. Also, ensure that your cactus is in a well-draining pot with plenty of drainage holes. This will prevent water from sitting at the bottom of the pot and causing root rot.

You should consider providing some extra support to help revive an overwatered cactus. So, you can add stakes around its base until it has recovered fully. Also, you may place it close to direct sunlight or an artificial light to help the moisture go away. Alternatively, you can put some tissue paper around the cactus to soak the moisture and revive the cactus faster.

You should also monitor your cactus closely for any signs of improvement such as new growth or increased firmness in its stem. Patience is key when fixing an overwatered cactus – don’t rush things!

Tips to Prevent Overwatering a Cactus:

Although it’s important to give cactus enough water, overwatering can lead to root rot. It may even eventually kill the plant. You can consider the following steps to prevent cactus from overwatering:

  • Use well-draining soil: Cacti need soil that drains well to prevent water from sitting around their roots. A good soil mixture for cacti should contain a high percentage of sand or perlite to improve drainage.
  • Water sparingly: It’s important to be mindful of how often you water your cactus. Only water it when the soil is completely dry to the touch. In general, cacti need less water in winter than in summer.
  • Choose an appropriate container: Make sure the container you choose has drainage holes to allow excess water to escape. If there are no drainage holes, the water will accumulate in the bottom of the pot and create a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus.
  • Don’t mist your cactus: Misting your cactus may seem like a good way to add moisture, but it can actually lead to overwatering. The water droplets can collect on spines and in crevices, leading to rot and fungal growth.
  • Avoid fertilizer during dormancy: Cacti go through a dormant period in winter when they don’t actively grow. During this time, they don’t need any fertilizer. Over-fertilizing during dormancy can lead to salt buildup in the soil, which can harm your cactus.

How Do You Know A Underwatered Cactus?

Recognizing the signs of an underwatered cactus is essential for maintaining the health and longevity of your plant. Cacti are known for their ability to survive in arid environments, but they still need water to thrive.

How Do You Know A Underwatered Cactus?
  • One indication that your cactus is lacking proper hydration its shriveled or deflated appearance. It can manifest as a wrinkling or puckering of the skin. It will be especially around the base and lower segments of the plant.
  • Another sign to watch out for is discoloration. An underwatered cactus might exhibit a duller hue than its normal vibrant color. In severe cases, you may even notice brown patches on its surface.
  • Additionally, keep an eye out for slow growth rates or lack of new growth altogether. While it’s true that cacti grow slowly in general, a noticeable stagnation could be indicative of insufficient watering.
  • Lastly, you should take note if any buds or flowers prematurely wither away before fully blooming. It too signals inadequate watering conditions for your beloved succulent friend.

Top Signs of an Underwatered Cactus:

Underwatering a cactus is just as bad for it as overwatering. If you’re not giving your cactus enough water, there are some key signs to look out for.

The soil around your cactus will be completely dried out and cracked. It means that the roots of your plant aren’t able to absorb any moisture from the surrounding environment. So, it leaves them parched and thirsty.

You’ll notice that the leaves on your cactus start to shrink and become thinner. This is because they don’t have access to enough water to maintain their plumpness or keep themselves cool in hot weather.

Another sign of an underwatered cactus is shriveled or wrinkled skin. The outer layer of a healthy cactus should be firm and taut – but if it’s looking a little deflated, then this could mean that it’s drying up from lack of hydration.

If you’re not watering your cacti adequately, they may begin to yellow or brown prematurely. Your plant needs regular moisture to stay alive and vibrant. If you see these colors appearing too early, then chances are good that something isn’t quite right with its hydration!

Tips to Fix an Underwatered Cactus:

Are you worried about your underwatered cactus? Fear not, as fixing an underwatered cactus is relatively easier than dealing with an overwatered one. With a bit of care and attention, your parched plant can bounce back to life.

First, assess the severity of the situation by checking for any signs of shriveling or discoloration on the surface. If only slight dehydration is observed, simply increase the frequency of watering; however, remember to avoid sudden excessive water intake as it may shock the plant.

For severely dehydrated plants, soak the pot in water for half an hour. So, it will absorb enough moisture. Ensure proper drainage afterward for optimal results.

Also, keep track of humidity levels around your cactus because low humidity contributes to faster evaporation. Place a tray filled with pebbles and some water beneath your potted plant. It will help maintain adequate moisture levels without overdoing it.

Be patient! Recovery from underwatering can take time depending on how long-lasting or severe its effects were on your beloved succulent friend.

The Best Ways to Prevent Underwatering a Cactus:

Preventing underwatering in cacti is just as important as avoiding overwatering. It’s crucial to keep a consistent watering schedule that works well for your specific type of cactus.

One way to prevent underwatering is to ensure the soil has good drainage. You can achieve it by mixing sand, perlite or similar materials with the potting mix before planting your cactus. Good drainage ensures that excess water doesn’t stay within the pot and cause damage to the roots.

Moreover, you might use a moisture meter or test the soil with a finger frequently. Cacti need water when their soil is completely dry. However, you shouldn’t wait until they are too dehydrated before giving them water.

It’s also essential not to forget about your cactus for extended periods. Or, this can lead to dehydration. If you’re going on vacation, arrange for someone trustworthy who knows how often and how much water your plant needs when you’re away.

Finally, avoid placing your cactus in direct sunlight all day long. Or it will exacerbate its dehydration process. Instead place it near indirect light sources like bright windowsills or under artificial grow lights if possible!

Overwatered Vs. Underwatered Cactus – The Difference

Overwatered Vs. Underwatered Cactus

When taking care of a cactus, you must know the difference between overwatering and underwatering. These two issues can have similar symptoms, but require different solutions.

Points of DiscussionOverwatered CactusUnderwatered Cactus
AppearanceLeaves are swollen and mushyLeaves appear dry and shriveled
TextureSoft to the touchHard or stiff to the touch
ColorPale or yellowishDarker green
Root SystemRoots are rotting and may be black or brownRoots are dry and brittle
GrowthSlow or stunted growthSlow or no growth
RemediesReduce watering frequency and improve drainageGradually increase watering frequency and check soil moisture regularly


It’s crucial to find the right balance when watering your cactus. Overwatering and underwatering can both lead to serious problems for your plant. Thus, pay attention to the signs and adjust the watering frequency accordingly.

As you keep an eye for the symptoms of over or underwatering, you can catch any issues before they become too severe. Always err on the side of caution when watering- it’s better to underwater than overwater in most cases.

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