Cactus Survival!
February 25, 2004 12:10 AM   Subscribe

Can I keep this cactus from dying? [more inside]

The bottom part is now an ugly brownish color, and it feels leathery. I'm pretty sure it's suffering from a lack of water. So is there any way it could be saved? If I keep watering it, will it perk up, or will I mess up the root system? Should I just give up gardening altogether, if I can't keep a cactus alive?
posted by emmling to Home & Garden (3 answers total)
I'm not certain, but I think you're killing it with that watering.

The only cactus to die on me, ever, died after nearly ten years of ownership because someone thought it should sit in the bathroom. The higher humidity in there was enough to start its downhill slide, and then someone decided to water it. Within a week, it was toast.
posted by majick at 1:53 AM on February 25, 2004

Overwatering a cactus rots its roots. Then the rot rises into the stalk. I killed a couple that way before I figured out what was going on. It's tough because you feel like you want to do something to help it, but all you can do is add more water and make things worse. It takes a lot of restraint to leave a plant alone when it's not feeling well.

I can't tell from the photos if it's too late for yours or not. Transplant it immediately into a new pot filled with cactus earth (not normal potting soil). Give it a tiny tiny bit of water when you transplant it, and then don't water it for at least a month. If the roots look moldy, you might be better off cutting off the really ugly parts.

If the rot keeps extending upwards, then you can try cutting it off just below the pink top and replanting it.
posted by fuzz at 4:58 AM on February 25, 2004

You only water those like once every six-seven weeks. The red part has been grafted on to a regular cactus, and they are sold really as "novelty" cacti - not really meant to last more than a year or so. If you've watered it recently, transplant it immediately to dry cactus soil and follow fuzz's directions from there.

I used to work at a cactus store, but I was a kiddo so that's really all I remember.
posted by pomegranate at 7:22 AM on February 25, 2004

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