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Why Is My Cactus Turning Yellow – 5 Surprising Causes!

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One of the most common questions that cactus owners have is, “Why is my cactus turning yellow?”

If you’ve been keeping a cactus in your home or office and noticed that it is turning yellow, you’re likely wondering what’s going on. Don’t worry – we’re here to help!

Cactus is a striking plant that can add a touch of elegance to any space. They are usually seen in different shapes, sizes, and beautiful colors to make them look like a piece of art.

One of the great things about cactus plants is that they are relatively low maintenance – as long as you know what to look for when it comes to their care and feeding.

However, one thing that can cause concern for cactus owners is when their plant starts to turn yellow.

There can be several reasons for your question – Why is my cactus turning yellow? And we will explore some of the most common reasons for it and provide some solutions to help get your plant back on track.

Why Is My Cactus Turning Yellow
Why Is My Cactus Turning Yellow – via Reddit

5 Causes Why Is Your Cactus Turning Yellow

Let’s discuss those top 5 reasons for your question- Why is my cactus turning yellow? And the possible solutions to get back your beautiful cactus.

Lack of sunlight

If your cactus isn’t getting enough sunlight, it can start to turn yellow. This is because they are desert plants and need full sun to thrive.

To check if the plant is receiving enough light or not, observe the behavior of the cactus. It will gradually turn from a lush green to a pale yellow and then wilted deep yellow.

If you notice that your plant is starting to turn yellow, try moving it to a location that will get more direct sunlight. If you’re not able to move your cactus to a sunnier spot, you can try using a grow light to help supplement the natural light it’s getting. This will help ensure that your cactus gets the light it needs to stay healthy and green.

After placing the cactus in a better light, observe and see if it restores the color to green. If it does, leave it there.

In case of lack of light, you should also be cautious of the changing weather. The intensity and amount of sunlight keep changing throughout the day in some places. You may have to use more artificial lighting when the weather turns cloudy for hours.

Too Much Intense Light

While it might seem counterintuitive, another common reason for yellowing cactus is that it’s getting too much light. There are many types of cacti for which cool temperature is essential to bloom.

As in deserts, the days are hot while nights are freezing. The same is the case here. Not all cacti need lots of sunlight.

A clear symptom of the cactus getting sunburnt due to too much light is the plant turning yellow from top to bottom. It may begin with a few yellow patches over the plant then spread to the entire cactus. Shriveling and yellowing of the cactus at the top indicate over-exposure to light.

Sunburn mostly occurs in outdoor cacti that are placed in direct sunlight. To check for the optimum amount of light, gradually introduce more light to the cactus. If it starts turning yellow, stop there a take the intensity a notch down by giving more shade.

Why Is My Cactus Turning Yellow 2
Golden Barrel Cactus is turning yellow – via Reddit


One of the most common cactus problems, including yellowing, is overwatering. Cacti don’t need a lot of water to thrive, and when it has reserved a sufficient amount of water, it swells as they can store the water. But when the plant is overwatered, it starts turning yellow.

Usually, watering the cactus once a week is fine. But if you want to water it, be sure to wait until the soil has dried out or contains very little moisture before watering again. If you don’t know how to check the moisture of the soil, the following are the three ways you may check:

Using your finger

Use a finger to check the dryness in the soil. If the soil is wet at least 1-2 inches below the ground, there is no need to add more water. Only give water when a few inches of the soil are dry.

Using a moisture meter

A moisture meter can be used instead of the finger. A moisture meter is a technical instrument to tell you the amount of moisture in the soil. It will tell you if the soil is dry, wet, or in the middle.

Using a wooden stick

Push a wooden stick down in the soil. If the cactus is in a big pot, push the stick 1 to 2 inches in the soil. In the case of a small pot, take the stick all the way down. If wet soil is sticking to the wood, there is no need for more water. Dry mud that falls off the stick indicates the need for more water.

Nutrient deficiency

Another common reason for cacti to turn yellow is a nutrient deficiency. If your plant isn’t getting enough of the nutrients it needs, it will start to show signs of stress, including yellowing leaves.

The lack of nutrients is usually due to inadequate nitrogen or potassium in the soil. Sometimes there can be a lack of phosphorous too. In nutrient deficiency, the plants start to turn yellow from the base, and then it becomes woody brown. Soon, the growth of the plants stops.   

Be sure to fertilize regularly with a cactus fertilizer to ensure that your plant gets the nutrients it needs. Test with different nitrogen and potassium fertilizers to see which one suits best.

Pest Attacks

Another typical reason for the yellowing of cactus is a pest attack. Pests can include various bugs such as mealybugs and spider mites that inhabit the cactus and drain out all the succulent juices. This sucking out of nutrients makes the cactus turn yellow.

Check your plant regularly for any signs of pests as it is easier to handle a small amount than a large infestation. Don’t leave any dead matter on the top of the soil as it serves as a feeding ground for the pests.

In a pest attack, spray the cactus with a soap solution or neem oil. You can also use a chemical, store-bought pesticide, or insecticide.


If your cactus is turning yellow, there are several possible reasons. The most common causes are lack of sunlight, overwatering, nutrient deficiency, and pest attack.

Be sure to check the soil moisture and fertilize regularly to ensure that your plant gets the nutrients it needs. Till now, you must have found the right reason why your cactus is turning yellow.

I hope your search may have ended, for why is my cactus turning yellow? This article must have helped you troubleshoot your cactus. If you have any other questions, feel free to leave a comment below, and I’ll do my best to help. Thanks for reading!


Saturday 2nd of December 2023

My mother cactus had 13 pup preventing light, and root bound. Pups already had roots. And are settled in new pots. New soil around root bound mom cacti. Fingers crossed as all are under a timed grow lamp now .

Hoang Quang

Monday 4th of December 2023

It sounds like you’ve done a great job with your cacti!

Repotting can be a delicate process, especially when dealing with pups and root-bound plants.

It’s good to hear that the pups already had roots and are now settled in new pots. The use of new soil and a timed grow lamp should provide a good environment for them to thrive.

Keep monitoring their progress and make sure they’re not getting too much or too little water.

Good luck!