Blog Cactus Why Is My Cactus Turning Yellow

Why is My Cactus Turning Yellow?

Wondering why your cactus is turning yellow? Keep reading to discover the most common cacti issues and how to resolve them.

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Kiersten Rankel
Jan 04, 2022

Plants can’t use words to speak or tell you when something’s wrong, but you can still tell when something is amiss by assessing their appearance. Cacti will sometimes look yellowed and even at times shriveled when they are struggling and need your help. 

While cacti are typically very hardy, adaptable plants, they do sometimes need a little extra TLC to live their best life. If you notice your cactus plant looking a bit yellow, it could be due to one of several reasons. Keep reading as we explore those reasons below with tips on how to fix the problem. 

Limited Sunlight Exposure

Do cacti need sun? All the different types of cacti need daily access to bright light in order to flourish and create enough food for healthy growth. The minimum recommendations for many types of cacti is at least four hours of indirect sunlight per day. 

The maximum amount of indirect sunlight recommended is 14 hours per day. However, if you aim for 12 hours, that should be plenty! If you aren’t sure how much light your type of cactus plant needs, consult our app for recommendations on how to take care of a cactus. 

Photo by Alannahoc

Too Much Sunlight Exposure

Despite their hardy nature and adaptability, some types of tropical cactus plants don’t do as well in direct sunlight. Direct sunlight can create too much heat and cause sunburn or even abnormal growth patterns. If you notice your cactus looking a little yellow, consider how much direct sunlight it’s getting and place it somewhere that lighting is less intense. 

Too Much Water

Sometimes cacti may turn yellow due to overwatering them. Though they do need water, their water needs are less than most other types of plants. Typically watering a cactus plant a little less than once a week is best, although if you aren’t sure, our plant care app can help guide you and create an appropriate watering schedule.

Too Little Water

Surprisingly, your succulent plant can also turn yellow if you don’t water it enough. This can happen easily in hot, arid weather and drought-like conditions, or if you forget to water it a little too long. When this happens, you’ll have to give it some extra water. Monitor and if necessary, continue to provide water and moisten the potting soil until your cactus plant perks up. 

Water Quality

Another issue that can cause a cactus to turn yellow is the quality of water you provide it. Who knew a cactus could be so picky, right? However, if you’re using tap water, sometimes the water might contain too many chemicals or too much fluoride, which doesn’t always make a cactus plant happy. One way to counteract this problem is to change your cactus plant’s soil or potting mix on a regular basis. However, a simpler solution that often works is to water your cactus using distilled water.

Soil Quality

Wondering what soil is best for a Christmas Cactus? Since cactus plants don’t need a ton of water to meet their needs, its important to choose a well-draining soil to keep them healthy. If the potting soil is too dense and heavy and retains too much water, it can lead to root rot. 

Root rot can inhibit your cactus plant’s ability to gain the nutrients it needs, which in turn can cause yellowing. Sometimes adding sand or fish gravel can help increase a soil’s drainage abilities. It’s also important that whatever container you have your cacti potted in, it’s designed to also drain well. 

Photo by Ihaveapigplant

Pest Infestations

Occasionally your cactus could be yellow due to an infestation of pests. Depending on the type of bug, they can proliferate quickly and cause damage before you even realize they’re a problem. 

Some types of bugs that enjoy cacti are snails, slugs, spider mites, scale insects, and mealy bugs. If you discover your cactus is infested with one of these pests, you may have to use an insecticide to treat the succulent plant.

Nutrient Deficiency

Sometimes a cactus could have a nutrient deficiency. It’s not always easy to diagnose what nutrients a plant is deficient in, but if you suspect this is why your cactus looks yellow, try feeding it with a little fertilizer and see if things improve. If the fertilizer doesn’t help, your cactus might have a different problem. 

Figuring out why a cactus looks yellow isn’t an exact science. There are other reasons cacti can turn yellow as well, such as bacterial, viral diseases, or fungal disease. However, this short list are some of the most common suspects. For more on how to properly care for your cactus plant, be sure to check out our app for helpful tips.