Reviving A Frozen Cactus Plant – How To Care For A Frozen Cactus

Cactus Plant Covered In Snow
frozen cactus
(Image credit: joeygil)

Cacti are among the best-known warm-weather plants, so you may be surprised to hear about freeze damage to cacti. Even in summer toasty regions of Arizona though, temperatures can dip down to below 32 degrees F. (0 C.) in winter. This can result in freeze damage to cacti. If you find your cactus damaged after a cold snap, you’ll want to know how to care for a frozen cactus. Can a frozen cactus be saved? How do you start reviving a frozen cactus? Read on for tips in assisting a cactus damaged by cold.

Recognizing a Cactus Damaged by Cold

When you have a cactus damaged by cold, how can you tell? The first sign of freeze damage to cactus plants is softened tissue. This tissue often turns white initially. However, in time, the damaged areas of the plant turn black and decay. Finally, the freeze-damaged parts of the succulent will fall off.

How to Care for a Frozen Cactus

Can a frozen cactus be saved? Usually, it can, and the gardener’s first task is to exercise patience. That means that you should not jump in and snip off soft limb tips when you see freeze damage to the cacti. Reviving a frozen cactus is entirely possible, but the clean-up should not start the day after the cold snap. Wait until the softened areas turn black. When you see your cactus tips or trunks turn from green to white to purple, don’t take any action. The odds are good that the cactus will heal itself. However, when those tips turn from green to white to black, you will need to prune. Wait until a sunny day later in the spring season to be sure that the cold weather has passed. Then snip off the black parts. This means that you cut off the arm tips or even remove the “head” of the cactus if it is black. Cut at a joint if the cactus is jointed. Don’t hesitate to act once the cactus parts have blackened. The black portions are dead and rotting. Failure to remove them can spread decay and kill the entire cactus. Assuming things go according to plan, your pruning will help in reviving a frozen cactus. In a few months, the chopped section will sprout some new growth. It won’t look exactly the same, but the parts of the cactus damaged by cold will be gone.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.