Why Is My Cactus Turning Yellow

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By Oluwaseun Bamisile


Are you a cactus owner trying to figure out why your precious plant is turning yellow? This article offers valuable information that will ease your stress.

I will start this article by discussing important details about a cactus. Then, we will examine several reasons your cactus might be changing color to yellow.

Following that, I will offer various ways to prevent this unpleasant situation.

Finally, this article includes an FAQ section, answering common questions regarding the yellowing of a cactus.

What Is A Cactus

What Is A Cactus

A cactus is a succulent plant that belongs to the family Cactaceae. It has unique features that help it survive in desert-like environments.

Therefore, the cactus has become an iconic symbol of desert ecosystems.

Cacti have thick stems that store water, allowing them to withstand long periods of drought. This adaptation helps them survive in areas with limited rainfall and water scarcity.

That being said, cacti have specialized structures called areoles. Areoles are small cushion-like areas from which spines, flowers, and new growth emerge.

The spines are modified leaves that serve various purposes, including protecting against predators.

Cacti come in various sizes and shapes, from small spherical species to tall ones. Besides, they are used as indoor and outdoor ornamental plants thanks to their unique shapes and drought tolerance.

Reasons Cactus Change Color To Yellow

Cacti are usually green and require minimal effort to manage. However, they can experience various issues that may cause them to turn yellow.

Below are some possible reasons your cactus might exhibit yellowing.

1. Too Much Water

Cacti are plants meant to survive and adapt in dry environments. Also, their roots cannot handle too much moisture.

Therefore, overwatering your cactus can lead to waterlogged soil, depriving the roots of oxygen. That can cause the roots to rot, leading to the yellowing of the cactus.

Moreover, according to gardenreport.com, cactus often change color to yellow due to overwatering during winter. This is because, during that period, cacti are dormant, significantly reducing their water demand.

2. Underwatering

Watering is an important part of all plants. So, even though cacti are drought-tolerant, they still need to be watered regularly, but not excessively.

Underwatering your cactus plant can cause it to become dehydrated. Therefore, it can lead to stress and yellowing.

As stated by cactusway.com, whenever cacti lack sufficient water, they preserve resources by reducing metabolic activities. The reduction of metabolic activities leads to the yellowing of your cactus.

3. Sunlight

According to gardenhealth.com, cacti are sun-loving plants that thrive in bright places or with good light sources. However, the amount of sunlight a cactus need depends on the species.

Basically, some cactus might need semi-shade, while some might need direct sunlight. So, putting a cactus that needs semi-shade in direct sunlight might result in sunburns, leading to yellowing.

Also, inadequate exposure to sunlight can disrupt the metabolic functions of a sunlight-dependent cactus. Therefore, it can lead to the yellowing of the plant.

So, you must observe the behavior of your cactus to determine the amount of sunlight it needs.

4. Pests And Insects

Cacti can fall victim to several pests and insects as with most plants. The infestations by pests like spider mites or mealybugs can drain the plant’s nutrients.

Hence, it can lead to yellowing. Besides, fungal infections can also cause your cactus to turn yellow.

5. Soil

According to askabiologist.asu.edu, cacti store water within their stems for dry seasons. Thus, their roots are prone to rot if planted in soil with inadequate drainage, such as clay soil.

Basically, the roots can become soggy when water accumulates in the soil without proper drainage. Therefore, they will start to rot, depriving them of the necessary nutrients.

That can result in the yellowing of the cactus.

6. Nutrient Deficiencies

As with all plants, cacti need nutrients to thrive. Some key nutrients for their growth include nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Thus, the absence of any of these nutrients can lead to the yellowing of your cactus. In fact, according to en.wikipedia.org, nitrogen deficiency causes chlorosis in plants, resulting in a pale yellow color.

How To Prevent Your Cactus From Turning Yellow

How To Prevent Your Cactus From Turning Yellow

Proper care and addressing potential issues are vital to prevent your cactus from turning yellow. Luckily, there are numerous ways to ensure that your cactus remains healthy and avoids yellowing.

1. Know Your Cactus Species Needs

Caring for cacti depends on the species, as they all have different requirements. For example, some cacti prefer dry conditions, while others thrive in humid environments.

Thus, research and understand the specific needs of your cactus species. These include watering frequency, sunlight preferences, and temperature range.

So, according to your research, tailor your care to prevent yellowing and ensure the best conditions for your cactus. You can also consider contacting cactus care guides or seeking advice from experienced growers.

They can give you more insights into the specific needs of your cactus species.

2. Pest Control

It’s crucial to regularly check your cactus for pests like spider mites, mealybugs, or scale insects. Hence, take appropriate measures if you notice signs of infections like sticky residue and webbing.

This involves using insecticides or natural methods like spraying a mix of water and mild soap. By doing that, you can keep your cactus pest-free and prevent yellowing.

3. Well-draining Soil

Cacti need soil that allows water to drain quickly to avoid waterlogged conditions. Thus, using a well-draining soil mix specifically for cacti and succulents is vital.

According to gardeningknowhow.com, those soil mixes usually contain ingredients like manure or coarse sand that promote drainage. So, when water can flow freely through the soil, the risk of your cactus’ roots getting rotten decreases.

That reduces the chances of your cactus turning yellow.

4. Proper Ventilation

Ensuring proper air circulation around your cactus is vital to avoid fungal diseases. Stagnant air and high humidity can provide ideal conditions for fungal growth.

You can ensure adequate ventilation around your cactus by creating space between your plants and opening windows. This helps minimize moisture buildup and decreases the chances of yellowing.

5. Pruning And Maintenance

Getting rid of dead parts regularly is crucial to keep your cactus healthy and looking good. Pruning can also help direct the plant’s resources to the healthier parts, encouraging new growth.

However, using sharp pruning tools to make clean cuts is vital. Doing that can reduce the risk of infection, lowering the chances of your cactus turning yellow.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I Grow A Cactus Indoors?

Yes, you can grow a cactus indoors. However, you must provide it with adequate sunlight, well-draining soil, and proper ventilation.

2. How Do I Know If My Cactus Is Healthy?

A healthy cactus usually has vibrant green color. Also, it normally has firm stems and shows signs of new growth.

That’s not all; a healthy cactus should be free from pests, diseases, or yellowing.

3. What Type Of Soil Is Best For Cacti?

The best soil for cacti is well-draining soil. Those kinds of soil prevent waterlogged conditions, preventing threatening issues.

4. Should I Spray My Cactus With Water?

Spraying water on a cactus is never a good idea. Instead, pour water into its soil.

5. How Long Can A Cactus Go Without Water?

Cacti can adapt and survive in dry environments. Hence, they can withstand long periods without water.

However, the time a cactus can go without water depends on several factors. These include the cactus species, size, environmental conditions, and the plant’s health.

Nonetheless, generally, most cacti can go water-free for many weeks or months.


To sum up, there are several reasons why cacti turn yellow. Furthermore, it’s important to understand these factors to preserve the health of these extraordinary plants.

Occasional yellowing in cacti can be normal. However, persistent and widespread yellowing often indicates an underlying issue that needs attention.

Some major culprits include too much water, pests, and underwatering. Gladly, this article discussed several ways to prevent your cactus from turning yellow.

We believe that you have found this article to be helpful. If you did, we kindly request that you consider sharing it with your friends on social media.

For more articles on related topics, we invite you to explore our Gardening page.

References And Further Reading

  1. microveggy.com – Cactus Turning Yellow: What are the causes?
  2. cactusway.com – Why Is My Cactus Turning Yellow?
  3. succulentalley.com – Why is My Cactus Turning Yellow?
  4. gardeningetc.com – Houseplant clinic: why is my cactus turning yellow?
  5. gardenerreport.com – How to Save a Cactus That is Turning Yellow
  6. succulentplantcare.com – Why Does a Cactus Turn Yellow and Brown? How To Save It
  7. cuttingedgeplants.com – Why is My Cactus Turning Yellow? (8 Things to Check)
  8. gardeningknowhow.com – What Does Well Drained Soil Mean: How To Get A Well-Drained Garden Soil
  9. vedantu.com – What are Cactus?
  10. cs.mcgill.ca – Cactus

About the Author

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Oluwaseun Bamisile

Oluwaseun is the Lead Content Editor at Ilifeguides.com. He holds a National Diploma in Computer Science (currently studying part-time for his Higher National Diploma). An internet geek with a love for automobiles, he writes relationship articles, travel guides, and general life hacks on the site.

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