Why Is My Cactus Drying Out?

Cacti are succulent house plants popular for their minimal moisture requirements. However, sometimes you may notice your cactus shriveling up and drying out. It generally happens if the plant is undergoing severe stress. Thus, if immediate steps are not taken to nurture your cactus back to health , it may be severely damaged.

Why Is My Cactus Drying Out?

Some of the reasons which cause the cactus to shrivel up and dry out are –

  • Lack of Moisture
  • Temperature Stress
  • Diseases
  • Pests

1. Lack of Moisture

One of the main reasons for a drying cactus is the lack of moisture. Although the cactus needs a little amount of water to survive, it still needs water. So, if you have not watered your cactus in a long time, the plant may start to shrivel up and dry out.


An underwatered cactus needs to be adequately watered in regular intervals to ensure that it becomes healthy. You must also ensure that the soil is not too porous and retains the ideal amount of water. However, you must be careful to not overwater the plant as it can cause severe problems such as rotting.

2. Temperature Stress

A cactus essentially needs six hours of bright, direct sunlight to ensure that the growth is healthy. However, if it is subject to direct heat or sunlight for long hours, it can be prone to sunburn. Similarly, if the cactus is subject to freezing temperatures for a long duration, it may be prone to frost damage. Both the cases can cause tissue damage which in turn renders the cactus unable to carry out photosynthesis. Thus, causing the plant to starve and start drying out.


If there is severe temperature change, such as extreme heat or cold, keep the plant indoors. Remove the plant from direct access to heat or frost. You should not keep the plant near open windows or doors during winters. Also, remove the plant from sources of heat or cold such as air conditioners and refrigerators.

3. Diseases

Fungal infections such as Fusarium wilt, crown rot, and root rot can cause severe damage to the roots and stems of the cactus. Thus, rendering the root unable to absorb nutrients required to carry out the essential functions of photosynthesis. This causes the plant to shrivel up and dry out.


Since fungal infections can cause severe damage to the cactus, it is important to keep checking the plant. If detected, immediately isolate the infected plant to contain further spread. Cut off any infected roots of the plant and treat the plant with an effective fungicide before re-potting it with fresh, sterile soil.

4. Pests

Some pests such as scales, mites, and nematodes attack the plant, sucking out the sap of the plant or affecting its roots. It causes the plant to weaken and eventually start to shrivel up and dry out. If not treated immediately, the plant may be severely damaged and die.


If you detect any pest infestations, immediately isolate the affected plant. You can use an effective insecticide or diluted rubbing alcohol solution to spray the affected plant. Spray the plant regularly until the infestation is completely removed before reintroducing the cactus to other plants.

Thus, these are the solutions to help save a drying cactus and nurture it back to health.

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