Am I Watering My Cactus Too Much: Symptoms Of Overwatering In Cactus

yellowing cactus bella10
yellowing cactus bella10
(Image credit: GKH Q&A via bella10)

Since they need so little maintenance, cacti ought to be some of the easiest plants to grow. Unfortunately, it’s hard to accept just how little maintenance they really need, and plenty of cactus owners accidentally kill them with kindness by watering them too much. Keep reading to learn more about symptoms of overwatering in cactus, and how to avoid overwatered cactus plants.

Symptoms of Overwatering in Cactus

Am I watering my cactus too much? Very possibly. Cacti aren’t just drought tolerant – they need some drought to survive. Their roots rot easily and too much water can kill them. Unfortunately, the symptoms of overwatering in cactus are very misleading. In the beginning, overwatered cactus plants actually show signs of health and happiness. They may plump up and put out new growth. Underground, however, the roots are suffering. As they get waterlogged, the roots will die and rot. As more roots die, the plant aboveground will start to deteriorate, usually turning soft and changing color. By this point, it may be too late to save it. It’s important to catch the symptoms early, when the cactus is plump and growing quickly, and to slow down watering considerably at that point.

How to Prevent Overwatering Of Cactus Plants

The best rule of thumb to avoid having cactus plants with too much water is simply to let the growing medium of your cactus dry out a lot between waterings. In fact, the top few inches (8 cm.) should be completely dried out. All plants need less water in the winter and cacti are no exception. Your cactus may need to be watered only once per month or even less during the winter months. No matter the time of year, it’s essential that your cactus’ roots not be allowed to sit in standing water. Make sure your growing medium drains very well and always empty the saucer of container grown cacti if any water pools in it.

Liz Baessler
Senior Editor

The only child of a horticulturist and an English teacher, Liz Baessler was destined to become a gardening editor. She has been with Gardening Know how since 2015, and a Senior Editor since 2020. She holds a BA in English from Brandeis University and an MA in English from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. After years of gardening in containers and community garden plots, she finally has a backyard of her own, which she is systematically filling with vegetables and flowers.