The moment you hear the name cactus being recommended as a house plant, you pause for a minute and say to yourself, “Well, it’s hardy and low maintenance.
Since I am not good with plants, I might as well get a succulent because it will survive for sure under my negligent care.”
While there’s some truth to this line of thought, the cactus does require some care.
The potted plant will be a great conversation starter. Moreover, it will purify your air.
Prickly ol’ cactus might be easygoing but is trouble-prone. Its demanding nature makes it vulnerable to a lot of things.
Some people are too late to the party. The issue with the cactus is that the plant hides its decay signs. This is why finding out what’s wrong with the plant is difficult.
A common problem that cactus owners face is rot. It can be heartbreaking to see a plant die when you have invested your money and time in it.
Rot manifests in many forms, one of which is your cactus going soft. The plant becomes squishy, which ruins its appearance.
The good news is that it doesn’t take much to handle this problem.
An easy solution is to cut off the dying part, clean the dead tissue, and re-pot the plant with fresh soil if the damage is too much.
You might have already guessed the reason behind the mushy texture of your cactus. In most cases, it’s overwatering. Let’s take a look at it and other causes in detail.
What Happens When Cactus Is Squishy?
When your cactus becomes soft, it’s dying for attention. Did you get it?
It’s not healthy!
The plant has too much moisture and less dry air, or the roots are dying due to a lack of water.
When the plant cannot get its fill, the roots start to rot, and the bacteria travel to the leaves, eventually killing it.
In this weak state, your cactus is open to various threats, including a sneak attack from pests, mold, etc.
Now that you know what will happen to your cactus if it becomes squishy, let’s move on to the causes and their solution:
The most common reason behind your cactus’s squishy texture is overwatering. As you know, the cactus is a desert plant.
It is accustomed to dry places and is not designed to hold and absorb too much water. Moreover, it doesn’t need to be watered every day.
If the soil feels like mud due to constant watering, your cactus is in danger.
The roots will absorb water continuously, which will cause the plant tissue cells to burst. As a result, the plant will go limp.
Though a cactus is hard and prickly in nature, overwatering will make it feel squishy on the touch.
Overwatering is not that big of a problem. You can easily fix it by taking a few steps.
First of all, stop watering your plant! To dry out your cactus, you must take at least a 2-week break from watering again.
Let the soil dry out completely, and do not water your cactus until its structure returns to its original state.
Do the soil finger test to find out if your cactus needs watering. Insert your index finger one-half inch deep into the soil.
If your finger comes out dry, water your plant. If it doesn’t, move it to where it can get direct sunlight.
Another way to fix your cactus’s form is to place it on your windowsill. Proper air circulation will do it a world of good.
Poor Soil Drainage
Every plant needs a different kind of soil. It’s the one they thrive on as soil retains water and keeps the plant hydrated and fresh.
However, if the soil is drowning in water, the roots will get damaged and develop diseases.
Some people like to prepare their own potting mix. However, if you don’t know how to make one, you can choose a commercial option.
For drainage, you can either buy a pot with a hole at the bottom or add perlite to the soil.
One of the most common mistakes plant owners make is using a large pot for a small plant, which dries out the soil and doubles your maintenance duties.
If you plan to plant your cactus outdoor, prepare the ground first. Add some pumice and sand to enhance drainage. Check out the surroundings thoroughly for any insects and pests.
Fungus and bacteria usually infect cactus when there’s an opening in the flesh. Such infections are caused by either insects or animals, inanimate objects, and heavy weather like hail.
At first, the injury seems insignificant, but the damage is extensive. Moist and warm conditions increase the number of fungal spores, which boost harmful bacteria production.
When the fungus embeds deep into the plant. Mushy spots appear on the stem close to the base. A few other signs of a fungal infection include sunken spots, discolored scabs, and black dots.
Here’s the step-by-step process on how to treat fungal infection in your cactus:
- Stop watering your cactus. If they are planted outdoor, disable the sprinklers
- Get a sharp knife and disinfectant, like sulfur or charcoal dust
- Take out the plant from the pot and inspect the roots
- Use the knife to remove the rotten roots
- Examine the cuts and look for any red specks or dots. If you see the signs, it means your cactus is infected with phytophthora
- Cut the roots more until you get a clean slate. Now make one final cut to make sure that no spots are left behind
- Remove the thorns and lateral areolae
- You will now have an exposed opening. Sprinkle charcoal powder on it and let the cut dry for a couple of hours
- With the cactus roots now clean, place the plant back into the pot. However, don’t bury it in soil. Create support using a stick and place rocks around it
- Do not water your cactus for at least two weeks. Spray it lightly in extreme heat
We have already established that overwatering turns your cactus squishy.
Let’s say you have taken all the necessary steps to dry out the soil, the cactus hasn’t bounced back to health.
If this is the case, the excess water may have caused the roots to rot.
The roots don’t just drown in water; they die. These dead roots invite opportunistic pathogens that spread the rot more aggressively.
This is how your cactus turns squishy. Since the roots are compromised, the plant cannot absorb nutrients, making it weak and susceptible to bacteria.
Root rot leaves an imprint inside the pot. So, even if you change the soil, your cactus will still be in danger.
The first thing you need to do is wash the roots to remove the infected soil. Be as gentle as possible because rot makes the roots fragile, and a heavy hand might break them.
Check the roots for black and brown sections. Prune off the rotten ones and use a knife to cut them until you get a healthy stem.
Lay down the cactus on a paper towel, and let the roots air-dry for a couple of hours.
Get a new pot and make a few drainage holes in it. Pack it with fresh soil and place your cactus in the middle.
Cover the roots with more soil and press them in so the cactus doesn’t tilt or fall. Once the plant is ready, avoid watering it and place it in a shaded spot.
Root rot damages your cactus from the inside, so it’s possible the plant might not recover.
If the rot was located at the end of the roots, your cactus might have a fighting chance.
However, if you snipped off most of the roots to reach a clean part, it’s better to plant a new one than waste your time on the old.
Cactus is classified into two types: wild cactus and desert cactus. Taking care of them is easy, but there are a few things you need to know.
For indoor cactus, ensure it receives plenty of natural light, especially in winter.
Lighting must be dispersed and bright, much like in a tropical rainforest. However, in summer, you must protect the cactus from direct sunlight.
Provide it with shade so that the plant can cool down. Desert cacti are more suited to humid conditions, between 40% and 50%
In winter, the temperature usually ranges between 15 °C and 18 °C. For cactus, the temperature should not be more than 17 °C
Keeping your cactus healthy is not a difficult feat. You need to take care of certain things, such as watering your plant at room temperature and placing it under shade so that roots don’t dry.
You also need to ensure the soil has the right nutrients so that the cactus grows straight and tall. Trim any infected parts to prevent the bacteria from spending.