Why Is My Cactus Turning Yellow?

Last Updated on September 1, 2021 by Emma W. Thomas

If you love succulents in your space, then you most probably own a cactus. A cactus is best for busy people who love plants since it’s low- maintenance. Sometimes, a cactus can turn yellow, and it’s disheartening to watch, but you don’t need to worry. A cactus turns yellow due to overwatering or low light.

There are also other reasons such as insect or bug infestation, the wrong type of soil, and lack of proper nutrients. The good thing is that yellowing can be corrected with proper care for your cactus. When you notice your cactus is turning yellow, make some small adjustments to help your plant survive. Let’s look at five reasons why cacti turn yellow and how you can correct each.

1. Overwatering or underwatering

2. Lack of sufficient light

3. Heavy soil type

4. Insect and bug infestation

5. Lacking adequate nutrient

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1. Overwatering Or Underwatering

Even though the cactus is a desert plant, it needs water to survive and thrive. You need to water your cactus at least once per week for it to stay healthy. When a cactus plant gets enough water, it reserves some and swells. Lack of adequate water causes your plant to use up the water it has reserved, causing it to look shriveled. Your cactus also begins to turn yellow from the soil going upwards. To correct this, water your plant often. You could use a stick or your finger to check whether the plant needs more water. Insert a wooden stick, and when it comes out dry, you need to re-water your plant. Sometimes overwatering is harmful to your cactus because it prevents proper aeration.  When air doesn’t get to the roots, your cactus turns yellow and might die due to bacteria. Overwatering also causes your cactus to rot from the roots. It is advisable to water your cactus according to demand but at least twice weekly.

2. Lack Of Sufficient Light

Light is essential to the growth and survival of a cactus plant. Inadequate light causes your plant to start growing towards the source of light, and some parts turn yellow. Ensure you put your plant where there is sufficient sunlight, such as a window. If your cactus is an outdoor plant, place it where it will get sufficient sunlight while preventing scorching. Sunburns on the cactus cause yellowing from the top going downwards. It is unimaginable that cactus can be scorched, yet they are dessert plants. Not all cactus thrive in bright light, and some need partial light to remain healthy. Store-bought cactus that have never grown in the desert shy away from bright light and are mostly indoor plants. When a cactus turns yellow from the top, you can easily correct it by providing partial shade to your plant.

3. Heavy Soil Type

Cactus plants are meant to grow in the desert where the soil is sandy and properly draining. When purchasing a potted cactus, always ensure you look at the type of soil used. Some florists use clay soil, which tends to retain much water. Too much water in the soil causes cactus roots to rot, thus being unable to transport nutrients from the soil. When this happens, your cactus starts to turn evenly yellow. To correct this, you can mix sandy soil to your pot and improve the soil’s drainage. If your plant is in a very big vase, it might retain more water. It would help if you made holes at the bottom of the vase to help in drainage.

4. Bug And Insect Infestation

Cactus plants are so prone to insect and bug infestation because these insects love to suck the sap out of succulent plants. When these insects attack, they leave scars and blemishes that might cause yellowing. You need to take proper care of your plant to keep the infestation from spreading. If you notice insects on your plants, get an insecticide from a pest control store. We advise against trying random insecticides as some might be harmful to your plant and the environment. You might need to consult a professional gardener in case the infestation persists.

5. Lacking Adequate Nutrients

Another reason why your cactus might be turning yellow is the lack of adequate nutrients. When a cactus cannot absorb nutrients by the roots, it becomes malnourished and changes color. This could be a result of rotting roots or harmful bacteria in the soil. Inspect the root of your plants first to see if you can salvage them. You can save your cactus by scrapping off the rotten roots and replanting them in different soil. You can also boost nutrients in your soil by adding some manure. If you are not sure of the quantities to use depending on plant size, consult a professional.

Green Cactus To Yellow

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can A Dead Cactus Be Revived?

Once already dead, you cannot revive your cactus. However, a dying cactus can be salvaged when it’s still mushy by cutting the stem and giving them time to root. Once they have roots, you can plant a new cactus.

2. How Long Does Cactus Live?

The lifespan of your cactus will depend on how you maintain it. Some outdoor species have a lifespan of 10- 100 years. Frequent watering and placing your plant where there’s adequate sunlight guarantees you a decade of enjoying your succulent plant.

3. Does A Cactus Have A Spiritual Meaning?

Some people believe that the cactus symbolizes strength and endurance. This plant’s ability to survive new environments reminds you to stay strong and endure hardships while focusing on your beauty within. Feng Shui and Vaastu experts believe that a cactus carries bad energy because of the thorns. They believe that having cactus in your home causes anxiety and stress within the family. The final decision on how a cactus will impact your spirituality depends on you and your beliefs.


Plants bring life to any space, and Cactus do that best with minimum effort. When your cactus turns yellow, you need to act fast before you lose it. We hope this information helps you to restore color to your cactus and keep it healthy.

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