Why Did My Cactus Deflate? 10 Reasons and Tips for Preventing Cactus Deflation

Have you ever looked at your cactus and wondered, “Why did my cactus deflate?” While cacti are known for their hardiness, they can still suffer from a variety of problems that cause them to lose their plump, healthy appearance. If you’re dealing with a deflated cactus, it’s important to understand the potential causes and how to address them.

In this article, we’ll explore some common reasons why cacti deflate and provide tips for bringing your plant back to life.

Also Read: What Does It Mean If Someone Gives You A Cactus?

Symptoms of deflating Cactus

When a cactus deflates, it can be a sign of different problems. Cacti are 90% water, so it’s hard not to notice when they start to deflate.

Wrinkling

It is usually the first sign, and you can spot it easily in species with leathery surfaces and rare spines grouped in clusters. Some species are the San Pedro cactus, Star cactus, or Triangle cactus.

Shrinking and thining

This symptom is most recognizable in cacti species with elongated and thick stems, such as Blue Myrtle, Mexican fence post cactus, Saguaro, Organ pipe, or Rat tail cactus. Cactus can actually shrink equally in the whole length or in spots. 

Central collapse

It often happens with round species, such as the Golden barrel cactus, Baloon cactus, and Spiny pincushion cactus. The upper part of the cactus decays, and then its usually too late to save the plant.

Color change

A deflating cactus may also change color. The green color may fade or turn yellow or brown. In some cases, the cactus may also develop dark spots or patches.

Loss of spines

In severe cases, a deflating cactus may lose its spines or other unique features because it uses all its energy to survive.

Leaking

Sometimes, plant cells are severely damaged and lose water rapidly. It can lead to open cracks and manifest as leaking.

Top 10 Reasons why Cactus deflates

Why Did My Cactus Deflate?

1. Lack of Water

It’s not common, but that doesn’t mean it never happens. Sometimes, we don’t water our cactuses out of fear of overwatering, so they start to dry. The first symptoms are wrinkled stems and often a yellow or light brown base. 

2. Overwatering

One of the main reasons for cacti’ deflate is overwatering. Many people mistakenly believe that cacti that appear droopy needs more water, which is usually not the case and it’s quite the opposite. 

Overwatering can cause the cactus’s roots to rot and die as moisture gets trapped in the soil. It is the most common cause of death of houseplant cacti. Overwatered cacti usually droop and wilt, and roots rot, preventing plants from absorbing water and nutrients.

If you want to prevent overwatering, it is important to regularly check soil moisture before watering. Wait till it’s completely dry before you soak your plant.

Also Read: How To Save Overwatered Succulents

3. Insufficient Light

Along with overwatering, too little light is the most common cause of cacti deflating.

Cacti plants grow best in spots with a lot of sunlight. You should expose your plant to bright indirect sunlight. You can use artificial grow lights if you don’t have a place with enough sunlight.

During the spring, if you don’t live in a desert area, it’s important to take your cacti outside during the day and bring them back inside before sunset. In the summer, place your cacti in an area with at least six hours of bright indirect light daily. If you grow your cacti indoors, position them near a window with a lot of natural light.

4. Low Temperatures

Cacti are plants native to hot and arid areas, and low temperatures can easily kill them. Exposing your cactus to low temperatures will cause cell damage, weakness, and deflation.

Ideal temperatures for cacti are between 60-90°F (15-32°C). 

If you live in colder areas, you must protect your cacti from frost and low temperatures. Bring them indoors before expected low temperatures, or protect them with coverings like Frost Cloth or Frost Blanket. Cacti are also sensitive to drafts and fluctuating temperatures, so avoid places near doors or windows that open frequently.

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5. Overfertilizing

Cacti need food to grow properly, but giving them nitrogen-rich fertilizer too often in generous amounts will cause your cactus to deflate. At first, it will encourage rapid growth; later, the plant will drop and become prone to diseases and pests like aphids and gnats.

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6. Lack of Nutrients

Cacti might look like they thrive on neglect, but the lack of nutrients can cause discolored spots on stems and later lead to deflating.

You should feed your indoor cactus early in the spring. If you live in an area where you can grow cacti outdoors, plants should get specialized fertilizer for cacti and succulents once every three months to ensure the nutrients they need for healthy growth.

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7. Inadequate Soil

Cacti plants usually need a specific potting mix designed for cacti and succulent plants to thrive. Soil should be well-drained, porous, and with enough oxygen.

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If you use inadequate soil, such as heavy soils or rich in organic matter, the roots will become waterlogged, leading to root rot, deflating, and plant death.

8. Diseases and Pests

Cacti are pests and disease-hardy plants, but they might suffer from root rot or pest infestation, especially if they live in poor conditions.

Common pests are mealybugs, spider mites, fungus gnats, and scale insects. If they infest cacti in large numbers, it can lead to deflation.

To prevent these issues, keep your cacti in a healthy environment with low humidity, good aeration, and enough light, and check them regularly.

9. Pots 

Cacti can start to deflate when they are in pots that are too small or don’t have proper drainage. Even growing in too big pots can harm plants. 

The cactus’ roots usually spread on the surface so if the pot is too small, the roots will become constricted, and they won’t be able to absorb water and nutrients. On the other hand, If the pot is too big for the plant, the soil will take too long to dry out. Therefore you should choose the right size of pot for your cacti.

10. Planting Cacti With Other Plants

Mixing plants might sound like a good idea and look very appealing, but it can cause problems for cacti and other plants.

Other plants might have different needs in light, water, and soil. If you adjust conditions to another plant, the cactus will suffer. There will also be competition for water and nutrients. If other plants grow more vigorously, they might suffocate cacti or shadow them and cause deflation.

The best solution is to grow cacti in separate containers. If you plant them with other species, choose those with similar needs and check them regularly.

Conclusion

In summary, a deflated cactus can be a sign of water loss or overwatering, overexposure to sunlight, or underwatering. By providing appropriate care, such as adjusting watering frequency and sunlight exposure, a deflated cactus can be restored to its normal shape and health.

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