Why Is My Cactus Changing Shape?

Cactus comes in different shapes and sizes, however, if your cactus has started to thin at the base and grow taller than it is supposed to grow, chances are that it is suffering from some form of stress. Your cactus has attempted to adapt and has undergone a process called etiolation.

When do cacti etiolate?

Etiolation is very common in plants grown in shade, especially cacti. The primary reason for the cactus to have undergone this process is the lack of required sunlight.

Cactus need around six hours of bright light to be able to survive. All plants tend to grow towards the light . So, if the cactus is deprived of the required amount of sunlight, it starts to grow continuously in the search for light. It is a form of stress growth that happens due to a lack of nutrients. Thus, the base starts to thin out as the cactus elongates, causing a change in the shape of the cactus.

Etiolation is also frequent in cacti that don’t achieve dormancy during winter. Lack of a dormancy period means that the plant continues to grow during winter and has limited time to retain the required sunlight. Thus, causing a deficiency in sunlight and forcing the cactus to etiolate.

What are the symptoms of an etiolated plant?

Some of the common symptoms of an etiolated plant are as follows –

  • Pale and weakened growth of the cactus in an elongated form.
  • The cactus tends to start bending towards the source of light.
  • Due to a lack of sunlight, the leaves produced are smaller than the existing ones.
  • The growth is faster than the general growth, and there is severe loss of leaves and reduced blooming of flowers.
  • The cactus may break off at the base in case of severe etiolation.

Preventive measures

The general preventive measure is to place the plant in a location of partial shade where it receives at least six hours of indirect sunlight every day. However, excessive sunlight can cause damage to the cactus.

In the case of indoor cactus, place it near a south-facing window to ensure that it receives adequate light. Ensure that the cactus enters dormancy during winter by lowering the temperature to sub ten degrees Celsius if the cactus is located in an area with a tropical climate.

Avoid watering your cactus regularly and only do so when the soil is dry and requires moisture.

What to do if your cactus is already etiolated?

Etiolation is an irreversible process. So, if your cactus is already etiolated, it will never regain its shape and stay the same for the rest of its life.

Eventually, it will form an hourglass shape as normal growth continues at the bottom. Thus, there is only one solution to correct your irregularly shaped cactus, and that is to chop it off below the part where it has become thin and let the plant produce a new stem that is of normal shape. However, this must be done when the plant is healthy and can heal itself.

Thus, we can see that etiolation is an irreversible process, so the best way to save your cactus is to ensure that it doesn’t etiolate in the first place to ensure that your cactus remains healthy.

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