Why Is My Cactus Turning Yellow? 8 Common Causes And Solutions

Why Is My Cactus Turning Yellow

Cacti are low-maintenance plants but can still face issues like yellowing leaves or stems. This can be concerning, especially for those who have invested time and effort into caring for their cactus.

Your cactus might turn yellow due to overwatering, insufficient sunlight, or poor drainage. Yellowing could also indicate root rot; inspect roots for signs of decay. Adjust care accordingly to restore its health.

To ensure the health and longevity of your cactus, it’s crucial to identify the root cause of yellowing and take immediate action. Here, I’ll explore the possible reasons behind your cactus turning yellow and provide practical tips on reviving your beloved plant.

Possible Reasons: Why is Your Cactus Turning Yellow?

Cacti are generally hardy plants but can turn yellow for various reasons. Here are some common causes of a yellowing cactus and what you can do to address the issue:


One of the most common reasons for yellowing in cacti is overwatering. Cacti are adapted to arid conditions and don’t need frequent watering. Too much water can lead to root rot and other issues.

Ensure your cactus is planted in well-draining soil and allow the soil to dry out completely between watering.


On the flip side, underwatering can also result in a cactus turning yellow. When a cactus doesn’t receive enough water, it may lose its vibrant green color as it conserves water by reducing its metabolic processes.

To prevent this, monitoring your cactus’s moisture needs and providing adequate hydration without overdoing it is essential.

Poor Drainage

Inadequate drainage in the pot or container can lead to waterlogged soil, which can cause root rot and yellowing. Ensure that the pot has drainage holes and that the cactus is in well-draining soil mix, such as cactus or succulent potting mix.

Inadequate Sunlight

Cacti require bright, indirect sunlight to thrive. If your cactus is not getting enough light, it may become yellow or pale. Move it to a location with more sunlight, such as near a south-facing window, to improve its color and overall health.

Nutrient Deficiency

A lack of essential nutrients, particularly nitrogen, can cause yellowing in cacti. You can fertilize your cactus with a balanced, diluted cactus or succulent fertilizer during the growing season (usually spring and summer). Follow the package instructions for proper application.

Pests and Diseases

Cacti can be susceptible to pests like mealybugs, scale insects, or fungal diseases. Inspect your cactus regularly for signs of pests or disease and treat them promptly with appropriate methods, such as neem oil or insecticidal soap for pests.

Old Age

Sometimes, older segments or pads of a cactus naturally turn yellow and die off as part of their growth cycle. This is normal and not a cause for concern unless the entire plant is affected.

Temperature Stress

Exposure to extreme cold or heat can lead to yellowing or discoloration in cacti. Protect your cactus from temperature extremes, especially during the winter months.

Pot Size

If the pot is too small for your cactus, it may become root-bound, which can restrict its growth and cause yellowing. Transplant your cactus into a larger pot if you notice this issue.

Identify the Main Cause of Cactus Turning Yellow

One common issue faced by cactus enthusiasts is the plant turning yellow. Several factors can cause this, ranging from environmental stress to pests and diseases. Identifying the leading cause is crucial for nursing your cactus back to health.

Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you pinpoint the reason behind your cactus’s yellowing:

Visual Signs

Observing the visual cues is the first step in diagnosing the problem. When a cactus turns yellow, it’s usually a sign that something is amiss. Look for the following signs:

  • Yellow Pads or Segments: If you notice yellowing on specific pads or segments of your cactus, it could be due to localized stress or damage.
  • Yellow Spots or Patches: Small yellow spots or patches might indicate a pest infestation or a fungal/bacterial infection.
  • Yellowing from the Base: Yellowing starting from the base could be a sign of root rot or overwatering.

Checking Soil Moisture

Cacti are adapted to arid environments and require well-draining soil. Improper watering is a common cause of yellowing. To check soil moisture for a cactus plant, follow these steps.

Insert a finger into the soil about an inch deep. If it feels dry, it’s time to water. Alternatively, you can use a moisture meter readily available at garden stores, which provides an accurate reading of the soil’s moisture level.

Remember, cacti prefer slightly dry conditions, so avoid overwatering. Regularly monitoring soil moisture ensures your cactus thrives in the ideal environment.

Inspecting for Pests and Diseases

Pests and diseases can cause yellow spots, deformities, and overall discoloration. Common culprits include spider mites, aphids, mealybugs, and fungal infections. To inspect for pests and diseases:

  • Spider Mites: Check for fine webbing between the cactus spines and tiny moving dots (mites) on the plant’s surface.
  • Aphids and Mealybugs: Look for clusters of small, soft-bodied insects, often found on new growth and in leaf joints.
  • Fungal Infections: Fungal issues often manifest as yellow or brown spots. Look for any fuzzy or powdery growth on the cactus surface.

Assessing Sunlight

Cacti need plenty of sunlight to thrive, but too much or too little can cause problems. Assessing sunlight for cactus plants is crucial for their health. To check sunlight levels, place your cactus in its desired location and monitor for a few weeks.

Ensure it receives at least 6 hours of indirect sunlight daily, preferably in the morning sun. Watch for signs of stress like yellowing or stretching.

Adjust placement accordingly, moving it closer to the window for more light or farther away to reduce exposure if needed. Remember, cacti can adapt to different light conditions, but finding the right balance is critical to vibrant and healthy growth.

How to Revive a Yellowing Cactus?

Discovering your once vibrant cactus turning yellow can be alarming, but reviving it back to health is possible with the proper care and attention. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to revive a yellowing cactus using specific techniques and methods:

Adjusting Watering Practices

  • Assess Soil Moisture: Check the moisture level in the soil. If it’s consistently wet, your cactus might be suffering from overwatering. Let the soil dry out completely before watering again.
  • Watering Technique: Water the cactus thoroughly but infrequently. Ensure your pot has drainage holes and allow excess water to escape. Use a watering schedule that suits your cactus species, considering its natural habitat.
  • Consider the Season: Adjust your watering frequency based on the season. Cacti generally need less water during winter when they are in their dormant phase.


  • Inspect Roots: If overwatering is suspected, carefully remove the cactus from its pot and examine the roots. Healthy roots are firm and white while rotting roots are brown and mushy.
  • Choose the Right Pot: Opt for a pot with drainage holes that are slightly larger than the previous one. This provides room for growth and ensures excess water can escape.
  • Use Well-Draining Soil: Repot the cactus using a well-draining cactus mix or add sand or perlite to regular potting soil to improve drainage.

Improving Sunlight

  • Find the Right Spot: Place your cactus in a location with bright, indirect sunlight. If your cactus was previously exposed to too much sun, move it to a spot with filtered sunlight or provide shade during the hottest parts of the day.
  • Rotate the Pot: Rotate the pot periodically to ensure all sides of the cactus receive equal sunlight exposure.

Pest and Disease Control

  • Identify and Treat Pests: If pests are causing the yellowing, identify them correctly and treat your cactus with neem oil or insecticidal soap. Remove severely affected parts cautiously.
  • Fungal and Bacterial Infections: Treat fungal or bacterial infections with appropriate fungicides or bactericides. Prune affected areas and ensure good ventilation to prevent the spread of diseases.


  • Balanced Fertilizer: Use a balanced, water-soluble cactus fertilizer during the growing season. Follow the recommended dosage on the label. Avoid over-fertilizing, as this can harm the cactus.
  • Fertilizing Frequency: Fertilize your cactus sparingly, usually once a month during the growing season (spring and summer). Avoid fertilizing during winter when the cactus is dormant.

How to Prevent Your Cactus from Turning Yellow?

Cacti need proper care to stay healthy and vibrant. Preventing your cactus from turning yellow involves a combination of good practices and regular attention. Here are some effective strategies to keep your cactus in optimal condition:

Maintenance Tips

  • Pruning: Regularly prune dead or damaged parts of the cactus. This not only promotes growth but also removes potential entry points for diseases.
  • Cleaning: Keep your cactus clean from dust. Use a soft brush to remove debris gently. Clean plants allow for better photosynthesis.
  • Optimal Temperature: Cacti prefer a stable environment. Avoid drastic temperature fluctuations, which can stress the plant.

Regular Inspections

  • Visual Checks: Frequently inspect your cactus for any signs of discoloration, spots, or deformities. Early detection of problems can prevent them from escalating.
  • Root Health: If possible, inspect the roots during repotting. Healthy roots are white and firm. Brown, mushy roots indicate overwatering or root rot.

Cactus Selection

  • Choose Suitable Varieties: Different cactus species have varying light and water requirements. Select a cactus variety that matches your ability to provide the right conditions.
  • Consider Mature Size: Understand how large the cactus will grow. This prevents overcrowding and ensures each plant gets sufficient light.

Proper Watering

  • Understand Water Needs: Research your specific cactus species to determine its water requirements. Some cacti need more water than others.
  • Watering Techniques: Water thoroughly but infrequently. Ensure the pot has drainage holes and let excess water escape. Be especially cautious during the dormant winter months.

Proper Soil and Potting

  • Well-Draining Soil: Use a cactus-specific or sandy, well-draining soil mix. This prevents water from pooling around the roots, reducing the risk of root rot.
  • Appropriate Pot Size: Choose a pot allowing proper root growth. It should be slightly larger than the cactus but not excessively big.

Monitoring For Pests or Diseases

  • Regular Pest Checks: Inspect your cactus and its surroundings for spider mites, aphids, or mealybugs. These can quickly damage your plant if not addressed promptly.
  • Fungal and Bacterial Infections: Look for mold, rot, or unusual growth signs. Treat promptly with appropriate fungicides or bactericides.


A yellowing cactus can indicate various issues, ranging from overwatering to pests. Determining the root cause of plant problems is possible by analyzing factors like soil, sunlight, and watering habits.

With proper care and attention, most cacti can recover from yellowing and return to their vibrant, healthy state. Remember always to research the specific needs of your cactus species and consult a professional if you are unsure how to care for your plant.


  • https://www.hunker.com/12003491/why-is-my-cactus-turning-yellow
  • https://www.reddit.com/r/cactus/comments/vjycyw/help_why_is_my_cactus_turning_yellow_and_black/

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