Why Do Cactus Change Color?

Cactus is a plant like any other. Sure, it has many different adaptations that make it stand out, but it functions as a plant.

The cactus plant has the same requirements as any other plant but in different proportions and measures.

One of the most prominent factors of Cactus plants is how little water they need to survive. All plants have different requirements by which they can grow to their maximum.

Similarly, cactus plants also need a specific set of conditions to thrive. If they don’t receive these conditions, they will exhibit behavior and aesthetics that let you know something is wrong.

In the article below, we will discuss one of these behaviors and try to understand why cactus changes and what you can do to prevent it.

What Are the Requirements for a Cactus Plant?

Succulents like the cactus plant are available in several different colors, and they tend to change color throughout the year depending on the kind of factors that a caretaker or gardener provides for them.

The requirements for a Cactus plant are the same as that of a normal plant. The following are the requirements for a Cactus plant.

  • Sunlight
  • Water
  • Soil
  • Fertilizer
  • Heat

Cactus plants have a different mechanism for photosynthesis. However, they still need all of the pigments like chlorophyll, carotenoid, and Anathycin so they can grow and maintain their color.

Cactus plants and succulents need these pigments for growth and increasing variation.

These pigments and the requirements provided by gardeners for succulents and cactus plants inform their coloring.

This makes sense because chlorophyll is responsible for capturing sunlight. If you keep cactus plants in the shade, they will likely become a darker green.

If you keep them in the sunlight, they will have more chlorophyll and can exhibit more exuberant colors.

Factors Affecting the Color Change in Succulents

We know now that the color change in succulents and cactus plants occurs due to the presence of different pigments in the plant’s body. The pigments are the following:

  1. Chlorophyll (shows the color green)
  2. Carotenoid (responsible for the color yellow to orange)
  3. Anthocyanins (responsible for the color red to purple)

These are some of the colors that can be displayed due to the presence of pigments in the plant. However, other factors may affect how these colors will show up.


Cactus plants are easy to take care of, but it matters where you keep them.

They need about six to nine hours of sunlight in a day, so depending on the season, you have to place them in a position where they can achieve this amount.

If it’s the summer and the days are long, you may want to place them in an area where there’s some shade.

If cactus plants don’t receive sunlight or enough of it, they may start to develop less chlorophyll.

When it develops less chlorophyll, it turns less green, and carotenoid is a more obvious pigment which is why your cactus might be turning yellow in the wrong place.


While we know that less sunlight can cause your cactus plant to look yellow, there are also other ways that the level of sunlight you provide to your plant can affect its coloring.

If your cactus is green and you bought it green, then chances are you’re doing something right.

When you expose your cactus plant to the right amount of sunlight, it will remain brightly green. However, if you’re exposing your cactus plant to a large amount of sunlight, that could cause a color change too.

As there is greater exposure to the sun’s UV rays, anthocyanins start to develop in a higher concentration.

The higher concentration of these anthocyanins makes them less prone to sun damage due to a greater percentage of UV rays.

The presence of anthocyanins makes the cactus plant or the succulent turn more purple or red.

Once you see that your succulents or cactus plants are changing to a much darker color like purple or red, you may want to start positioning it in different places.

You may also want to use a shade cloth with less than 50% UV block.


Temperature and sunlight are generally interrelated. The greater the exposure to sunlight, the greater the temperature surrounding the plant will be.

In extreme temperatures, the cactus plant will go dormant to protect itself. When cactus plants achieve dormancy and do not grow at their initial pace, they start to exhibit more bright colors like red and yellow.

These cactus plants and succulents tend to close up and change colors into darker variations to protect themselves from the extreme cold during winter.

They will turn into darker colors such as purple or dark green. These colors tend to absorb more heat as they’re dark. So, they help with the survival and growth of these succulents and cactus plants.


You may think that since cactus plants are so hardy, they don’t need any care at all. However, this is simply not true.

Your cactus plant needs all the nutrients it can get, so it doesn’t turn red or yellow. Cactus plants changing colors could indicate a lack of nutrition and a lack of growth.

We know when there is a lack of growth, there will be a lack of presence of chlorophyll in the leaves.

As the level of chlorophyll pigments decreases, you will find that the color of the cactus plant is likely to change to either yellow or red.

When your cactus is not given the right kind of feed, it will not grow and can change colors.

Thus, you should take a general color change as something being wrong with your cactus plant. You may try your luck by applying a water-based fertilizer to the plant or the soil once in a couple of months.

If the color of your plant is restored a while after you do this practice, the color change is likely due to a lack of nutrition.

Cactus Color

Some cactus plants are naturally yellow or purple. If you’re not sure what the initial color of your cactus was, you may want to go back to the nursery where you bought your cactus plant and ask them for the initial color.

Another way to know is by ensuring that the color is the only thing changing. If the cactus only has a different color and there’s nothing else that seems a miss, then that might be the color of the cactus rather than something that you must be apprehensive about.

Pest Problem

Sometimes pests may become attracted to your cactus. You may find that they’re slowly feeding your cactus plant, which is why it’s turning yellow or a different color altogether.

One grave indicator of this is that you may have ants frequently visiting your cactus plant or succulent. Ants generally sense the cell sap which exits a plant when they have a pest problem.

Thus, you should inspect your plant for pests as they could be feeding on your plant, which is the reason behind their color.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my Cactus Turning Yellow?

Why does my cactus turn yellow after I water it? Is it because of too much sun or too little water?

Cacti are succulents native to arid regions of North America, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Chile. They are also known as prickly pear cacti. The name comes from their spiny appearance and the shape of their fruit. These plants are very drought tolerant and require minimal care.

Cacti are very sensitive to sunlight. If they receive too much light, they will turn yellow. This is due to chlorophyll degradation. Chlorophyll is a green pigment found in plant cells that absorbs light energy and converts it into chemical energy. When exposed to direct sunlight, the chlorophyll breaks down and turns brownish-yellow.

Why is my Cactus turning White?

Cacti get their name from the Spanish word for “spines”, since they are covered with spiny stems. Their color may change if you water them too much or allow too much direct sun during the day.

What causes your cactus to turn purple?

What causes your cactus to change color?

Cacti are succulents that come in a variety of colors. They are native to North America and Mexico, where they thrive in arid climates. The plants can be found growing wild or cultivated in gardens across the globe.

Cacti are known for their vibrant hues. Some varieties even produce flowers. But why does a cactus turn purple? And what causes its leaves to change color?

Why is my Cactus turning Brown?

Cacti are beautiful desert plants, but they can also get sick or die from too much sun exposure. If you notice your cactus has turned brown, don’t panic! There are ways to revive them.

Cacti are succulents, meaning they store water in their leaves. They thrive in hot climates where temperatures reach above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius).

When exposed to direct sunlight, cacti can turn brown. This happens because the plant uses photosynthesis to convert light into energy. When the temperature rises, the plant cannot produce enough energy to survive.

Final Thoughts

Color change in plants can occur due to several factors. However, it’s important to note that these factors indicate a bigger problem than you must assess and change if you want your cactus plants to be healthy.

Related Articles