How To Tell if a Cactus Is Dead (11 Signs of Concern)


If you have cacti at home, it is essential to know how to tell if a cactus is dead.

Cacti are popular house plants because they can grow in dry climates without needing much care.

However, sometimes even the most well-cared-for cactus will die.

You can watch out for some signs that may indicate your plant has died or is dying.

If your cactus plant doesn’t seem happy anymore, read on below to find out what might be wrong!

11 Signs Your Cactus Is Dead

Cacti are one of the toughest plants around, but even they can’t take abuse forever.

If your cactus is not looking its best or starting to die off, there are specific signs you need to look for that will tell whether it’s time to part with it or not.

Cacti won’t typically show any signs of death until shortly before they die.

When you first notice your cactus starting to exhibit signs, it’s time to take action and try reviving it.

The most common signs that a cactus is dead are:

1) The Cactus Feels Light or Hollow

When you pick up your cactus and give it a shake, if all of the segments feel light or hollow, then it’s starting to die.

The plant is no longer taking in nutrients through its roots and leaves, so there isn’t much left for them to continue living on.

If your cactus plant looks a little light or hollow, it might be time to water it more frequently.

Also, check to see if the potting mix is dry. If it is, then water your cactus until the soil is wet all the way through.

Be careful not to overwater, though, as this can also be harmful to a cactus.

If you’ve already been watering it, you should check for signs of root rot. Take a look at the roots and see if they’re browning or slimy.

If so, remove them from the soil and trim off any rotten pieces with some clean kitchen shears that have been disinfected with alcohol.

If there is a lot of rot, then the cactus might not be saved.

2) The Cactus Is Wilting

If your cactus is wilting, it’s a sign that it isn’t getting enough water. Check the soil to see if it’s dry, and then water your cactus until the soil is wet all the way through.

If you’ve been watering your cactus regularly and it’s still wilting, then there might be another issue going on.

Check the roots to see if they’re browning or rotting away, as this can cause a cactus to wilt even when it’s getting enough water.

If there is root rot, you might have to cut off all of the soil and start with a fresh potting soil mix.

3) The Cactus Has Lost Its Color

A cactus may change or lose its color as it reaches the end of its life.

This may be a natural process that should not be seen as a cause for alarm. Cactus plants can even change color dramatically during their lifetime due to environmental conditions such as sunlight exposure and temperature.

However, if you observe this happening with your own eyes or see other signs of a dying cactus, it’s time to consider if your plant is dead.

The most obvious sign of a dead cactus is that the entire plant will be brown or gray and have lost its bright green pigment.

This happens because when a part of the body dies, the chlorophyll inside leaves with it.

In some cases, the stem or pads will be damaged so severely that they appear to have been burnt.

Again, not every brown or gray-looking plant means the end for your cactus. However, if you see these signs in conjunction with other indicators such as shriveling stems and dried-up stems, then there is a high likelihood that your cactus is dead and beyond saving.

4) The Cactus Has Stopped Growing

One of the most obvious signs that a cactus is dying is if it stops growing.

If you notice your cactus plant isn’t getting any taller, or its growth has slowed down significantly, then it might be time to start worrying.

If your cactus has stopped growing, there’s a good chance that it’s dead or dying. However, there are a few exceptions.

For example, some cacti plants can take a long time to grow, so don’t panic just yet if your cactus is still small.

But if you’ve had your cactus for a while and it’s not gotten any bigger, then it might be time to start worrying.

In most cases, if a cactus has stopped growing, it’s a sign that something is wrong.

So if you’re concerned about your cactus, the best thing to do is take a closer look and see if you can find any other signs of distress.

5) The Cactus Is Shriveled Up

Another sign that a cactus might be dying is if it starts to shrivel up.

If the leaves start to turn brown and dry up, or the stem becomes brittle and starts to crack, then there’s a good chance your cactus is in trouble.

If the soil is too dry, then this could be a sign that your cactus plant has been dehydrated and it’s dying.

If you notice any of these signs, then it’s time to take action and try to save your cactus.

Bring it inside and give it some water. If the cactus is in a pot, then make sure the pot has a drainage hole so that the water can drain out.

Place the cactus in a sunny spot and wait for it to perk up. If it doesn’t improve after a few days, it might be time to say goodbye.

6) The Cactus Is Losing Its Spines

When a cactus is dead, it will begin to lose its spines.

The loss of the spines does not necessarily mean that you should throw out your plant right away because sometimes they fall off on their own, and other times it only means that there was some sort of issue with growth or transplanting.

Sometimes if you take care of your cactus plant and it was just recently transplanted, the spines will fall off.

This is a normal process and does not mean that your plant is dying. If there is no growth and the spines are falling off, then it might be time to give up on your cactus.

7) The Cactus Is Covered in Mold or Fungus

One of the most telltale signs that a cactus is dead or dying is if it becomes covered in mold or fungus.

If you see any black, green, or white patches on your cactus’ skin, then it’s likely infected and needs to be treated immediately.

Cactus are very sensitive to any type of mold or fungus, so if you have an infected cactus, then take care of it as soon as possible.

Don’t worry, though – this doesn’t necessarily mean that your plant is dead!

Sometimes a fungal infection can occur when the potting soil has become too moist, so all you may need to do is adjust the watering schedule and make sure the pot has proper drainage.

If you’re not sure whether or not your cactus has a fungus infection, then take a look at the following article for more information: “How To Treat Fungus on Cactus Plants: A Complete Guide”“.

8) The Cactus Has a Black or Brown Spot on It

If you notice a black or brown spot on your cactus, it could be a sign that the plant is dying.

This is because these spots are indicative of rot, which can quickly spread and kill the cactus.

If you see any spots like this on your cactus, you should remove the cactus from its pot and inspect it for any rot or mildew. Then, repot your plant into fresh soil appropriate for a cactus.

If you can’t seem to get the rot or mildew under control, then it might be time to say goodbye to your cactus and plant a new one.

However, if the rest of the cactus looks healthy and there are only a few spots with rot on it, you can try cutting off the wrong parts of the plant and repotting the rest of it.

If your cactus is still alive, you should see new growth within a few weeks to months.

9) The Cactus Is Unstable and Falls Over Easily

If the cactus is unstable and falls over easily, it may be dead.

This is because a healthy cactus has a strong root system that anchors it in place. If the roots are gone or damaged, the cactus will be unable to stand up on its own.

If it has no roots left and easily tips over when you touch it, then it’s probably dead.

However, not all plants will fall over even if their root systems have been severely damaged; some varieties can manage with very little anchoring.

However, if you have a cactus with roots and it’s still tipping over easily, then something else may be going on.

Perhaps there aren’t enough nutrients in the soil, or the pot is too small for your plant to grow properly.

In this case, you should repot your cactus into a larger pot with better soil.

10) The Cactus Has a Foul Smell Coming From It

If you notice a foul smell coming from your cactus, this could be a sign that it is rotting and dying.

Rotting can be caused by overwatering, underwatering, or the plant being infested by insects.

Although rot can sometimes be treated, it is often better to just cut the infected part of the plant off and throw it away.

If you do not catch the rot early enough, it can spread throughout the entire cactus and kill it.

In general, a foul smell coming from a cactus is an indication that the cactus is rotting and dying.

Symptoms of rotten cacti include a foul smell, an infestation by insects, or the plant being too wet or dry.

Rot can sometimes be treated, but it is generally better to simply cut off the infected part of the cactus and throw it away since this will likely spread to the rest of it and kill it.

11) The Cactus Has Mushy, Molding Parts

If you notice that your cactus has mushy or molding parts, this can be another sign that the plant is dying.

This is commonly caused by overwatering or lack of water.

The cactus needs to dry out between watering, and if you leave the cactus in a humid area, it will begin to mold and rot.

You can try to revive a cactus with molding parts by cutting away the bad parts of the plant and letting it dry out for a few days.

If it is too far gone, the molding will continue to spread, and you may want to consider throwing away your cactus.

Final Thoughts

Not always all cacti are going to be in perfect condition.

If you have a sickly-looking plant, it may just need some more love and care before it starts growing again.

Cacti are resilient plants that can survive for many years if they are taken care of properly.

Just because your cactus is not thriving and growing like you think it should, does not mean that the plant is dying.

Cacti are very tough plants with a lot of strength to come back from injury or illness.

However, if you find that your cactus shows several of these signs, it may be time to say goodbye.

If your plant does not improve after a few weeks or months, it is probably best to get a new cactus.

But, if you decide to give your cactus one more chance, be sure to keep a close eye on the plant and provide it with the care it needs to start growing again.

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