Why Is My Cactus Turning Yellow? Here Are Five Possible Reasons!

Last Updated on June 13, 2022 by Gary Stephen

The cactus is a sturdy plant often added to gardens due to its hardiness and low care needs. Although they aren’t the prettiest plant to have in a garden, some cacti do bloom, making the effort to put them in that sunny spot all the more worth it. But when a cactus turns yellow, it means there is a problem. Which can be odd in itself. A cactus is supposed to be this tough little tiger that can survive the desert on little more than a teaspoon of water a week. But this is not entirely the case. Despite being hardy, they still have some care requirements, and ignoring them can put your cactus in some serious distress. So here are five reasons why your cactus might be turning yellow.

5 Potential Reasons Your Cactus Is Turning Yellow

1. You have a yellow cactus species

Free photos of Cactus

Let’s get the most obvious answer out of the way. You may have a species of cactus that turns yellow after a specific amount of time. The Ruby Ball cactus is one such species, it can even turn a bright red if the conditions are right. The Golden Barrel cactus, the Balloon Cactus, and the California Barrel cactus are all species that can start out as green and eventually fade into their natural yellow colors.

If you’re unsure which species you have, hop onto the internet and try and find out. But even if your cactus will naturally turn yellow, keep a close on the cactus to make sure it might not be something else. If it keeps looking healthy otherwise, then your cactus is fine.

2. Bad watering schedule

The two-day per week irrigation schedule is based on the last digit of the street address. (Courtesy city of Georgetown)

Despite needing very little water, a cactus still needs some water in order to survive. It is a plant, after all. But at the same time, overwatering your plant can be just as damaging. You’ll have to find that sweet spot to keep your cactus happy.

Underwatering – if you’re not giving it enough water, your cactus will begin to fade to yellow. Be sure to give it water at least once a week or so. Maybe two weeks, depending on the climate.

Overwatering – Check the pot to make sure the water drains properly. If it’s planted directly into the garden, make sure you have the correct soil for it. A cactus needs a rather dry soil, so if it’s constantly moist, the plant will become stressed and will change color.

3. Poor soil choice can be a reason cactus turning yellow

Poor soil choice turning cactus yellow

One of the biggest problems with cacti is their soil. Unlike your usual plants that need rich soil that soak up the water, a cactus requires high drainage soil. When you water your cactus and the soil remains moist for too long, it means your plant is in the incorrect soil type.

You can get succulent specific soil. Just head on over to the nursery and grab a bag, remove the old soil, add the new, and replant. Keep a close eye on your cactus after replanting. Although a cactus is a tough little guy and can take a lot, any plant can go into shock which will be a whole new problem to deal with.

4. Too much or too little sunlight

A cactus is a desert plant, and as such it requires some serious sunlight. Keep your cactus in a nice sunny spot. Overall, they should get about 6-9 hours of sunlight a day, but this can vary. Depending on the climate and overall weather, you might want to move your cactus to a slightly shadier spot to give it some protection. Sometimes the heat is just too much for these little guys and they will start to burn.

At the same time, make sure it gets enough. You don’t want it to burn, but a cactus still loves the sun. Try to find that sweet spot that will work in both your climate and for your species of cactus.

5. Pests can make cactus turn yellow

Pests turn cactus yellow

If everything is in order; your water regime, the soil, and sun, then the last thing you need to check for are pests. Nothing can ruin a plant faster than an infestation, and a cactus is no exception.

Common problems will be mealybugs, spider mites, and scale. You’ll have to check for pests, white spots bites out of the cactus, honeydew around the plant, or just tiny insects crawling all over it. Once you’ve figured out the problem, you’ll have to treat it, and then make sure you keep the plant strong and healthy to prevent another infestation.

  • Mealybugs

They show up as small white spots on your cactus but prefer to hide in the nooks and crannies of a cactus where you usually can’t spot them until they’re a problem. If you see white cotton spots on the plant, you have found their home and the place where they reproduce.

Getting rid of them is quite simple. Simply grab a hose, or take the plant to the faucet and give it a good shower. You can also use rubbing alcohol on the mealybugs if they’re stubborn.

  • Scale

They are just second to the mealybugs in how common they are for a cactus. Scales are small bugs with armor-like shells which drain the life out of your plants. They cling a little harder to the plant, so you’ll have to remove them by hand, either with some rubbing alcohol, or a brush and some elbow grease. They can be quite damaging, so spotting them early is the best way to stop them from killing your plant.

  • Spider-mites 

If you spot brown-like patches and a sudden decline in the health of your plant, you might have mites. Much like the scale, they suck the life out of your plant and are just as deadly. Problem is, these critters are so small you won’t see them until they’ve started causing some damage. To top it off, they love warm-dry climates, precisely what your cactus likes. You can spray your plant down with a thorough shower and then spray an insecticide over it to stop them from coming back.

But keep an eye on the rest of your plants. Spider-mites spread quickly, so it’s best to clean out your whole bedding and spray the plants at least nearest to the cactus to ensure they don’t turn into an epidemic in your garden.

Conclusion about Why Cactus Turning Yellow

Many people think that getting a cactus is an easy plant to drop into a garden, and in many ways, they are. But it doesn’t mean they don’t need some consideration and care to ensure they survive. Take the time to read up on the species you’re getting (so that you don’t needlessly worry about a yellowing plant that is supposed to be yellow), make sure the soil is correct and of course that your watering schedule is what it needs. Otherwise, your tough-as-nails cactus will have to be dropped in the trash.  

Gary Stephen
Gary Stephen

Hi, I am Gary Stephen. I have been gardening for a long time. Gardening gives us much benefits and pleasure. Many of us desire to have a garden, but it cannot fulfill the desire for the proper guide or instruction of gardening. So, I am eager to help them. For this purpose, I have developed the MyGardenPlant.com website to make a garden with the proper guide. So, you will get me beside you if you want to know anything about gardening.