Desert cactus is a wonderful houseplant and requires little upkeep. They are renowned for being low-maintenance plants but that doesn’t mean they don’t need a little TLC. If your cactus is starting to look limp and droopy, you may be wondering ‘why is my cactus floppy?’. This article aims to guide you through all the common reasons why you may have a floppy, limp, droopy or squishy cactus.
We have written a number of cactus care tips so that you can work on bringing your beautiful houseplant back to life.
So, why is my cactus floppy? Drooping, limp, or floppy cacti is usually a sign of stress. There can be a number of different causes including overwatering / underwatering, pests, temperature, container size, and lighting. Although on the outside your cactus may look healthy and happy, if it is beginning to look a bit floppy then it will be down to one of the listed underlying causes.
Why has my cactus gone floppy?
As mentioned above, there are a number of things that will make your cactus look floppy. This includes overwatering/underwatering, bugs, temperature, container size, and light. Let’s get onto the first reason why you are asking ‘why has my cactus gone floppy?’.
As we all know, cactuses are renowned for being low maintenance and not needing too much attention. The desert plant does not need to be watered too often! Overwatering can cause major issues including root rot, pests, and growth stumps (learn more on how to make a cactus grow faster!).
Cacti enjoy fast draining and airy soil. Keeping the soil soggy or waterlogged will cause your cactus to fall over, go floppy and droop.
As a rule of thumb, you should be letting the soil of your cactus completely dry out before you consider rewatering. More often than not, an underwatered cactus will be easier to save than an overwatered cactus.
This is especially true for the colder seasons when temperatures drop below freezing. In winter, your cacti may only need watering once every 5 – 6 weeks!
As mentioned above, overwatering can cause root rot and the desert cacti are especially prone to this, as well as other indoor plants.
If you are wondering why your cactus has gone floppy and think it might be root rot due to overwatering, then there are some ways you can check. An overwatered cactus will go mushy, soft, and maybe even brighter in color. To check for root rot you should carefully lift the plant out of its container. The roots will have turned brown and will have a sludgy or slimy consistency to it.
If you are certain you have root rot then you may be able to save your cactus if it is in the early stages. To do this you should gently remove the cactus from its container. Cutaway the damaged roots and clean the remaining roots so that there is no brown slime.
You can then leave in a light, warm room overnight to let the roots dry out. In the morning you can repot and replenish with fresh, nutrient-rich soil.
Another reason you might have a floppy or droopy cactus could be down to underwatering! As we briefly touched upon, underwatering has far less drastic effects than overwatering.
If underwatered, your cacti plant will become dry and floppy. You may also notice the color change to a purplish color. The reason why an underwatered cactus may become floppy and droopy is that it will not be getting enough nutrients and energy. This will cause the stems to become weak, causing them to fall or lean over.
Although a cactus plant doesn’t need to be watered as much in the winter months like summer, you should never cease watering altogether. If you do, it will lose some of its roots and will become shocked when you start to water with larger amounts in the summer.
If you are reducing watering in the winter, then make sure that it is in cooler living conditions. Remember, the more you underwater, the more roots it will begin to lose, therefore making it weaker and will lead you to ask ‘why is my cactus floppy?’.
Pests and bugs, especially mealybugs, can often be another cause of a floppy or droopy cactus. A common pest for indoor plants, mealybugs are tiny insects that suck the sap from the stems or leaves and grow as they mature.
Mealybugs appear to have a white cotton look and leave you wondering why your cactus is turning white, but they can also appear brown or cream. They can often go unnoticed as they are so small. However, if your cactus looks weak, floppy, and droopy then you should take a closer inspection to see if you can spot any pests!
If you think you do have mealybugs, then you should immediately remove your cactus away from any other indoor plants you have as they spread like wildfire.
You will want to get rid of your infestation as quickly as possible and there are a number of ways you can do this. The easiest and most efficient way to get rid of mealybugs for good is by using a mix of 70% or less solution of isopropyl (rubbing alcohol).
Always ensure that you dilute the alcohol with water to avoid burning your cactus and use a spray bottle to treat the infestation. If caught early, then one treatment will do the trick, if not you will notice the bugs come back in a day or two, in which case you should do the same treatment over again. You can continue this until the Mealybugs disappear forever!
Mealybugs are an annoying pest for houseplants and may be the reason you’re wondering ‘why is my cactus floppy?’.
As we all know, most cacti species are from the desert and thrive in warmer temperatures. They are not accustomed to growing in cold climates, so if you live in an environment with extremely low temperatures, your cacti are likely to suffer from freeze damage and you could even end up seeing your cactus turning black!
If your cactus is exposed to freezing temperatures, even just for a few hours, you will notice black spots. Within a few days or weeks, these black areas will dry out and your cactus will begin to look floppy. If your cacti plant was exposed to freezing temperatures for only a few hours, then the damage will be mainly cosmetic and it will go back to being healthy and happy in no time!
If you have a damaged and floppy cactus due to freezing temperatures, then sunlight, warmth, and proper watering will help your houseplant overcome the problem very easily. If you live in an extremely cold environment, then you should cover your cactus with a cotton sheet for additional warmth. This can also protect them from frost damage.
Container is too big
The roots of a cactus plant like to be cozy! So if you have potted your cactus in a container that is too big then it might start to fall over or look floppy. As a rule of thumb, the container for your cactus should only allow a small bit of extra space from both sides and an additional 1-2 inches at the bottom to allow for growth.
Cacti don’t need to be repotted often, usually every 2 years and once a year if you water with tap water. This is because tap water has a high concentration level of minerals so can be hard and accumulate in the soil.
If you can’t remember the last time you repotted your cactus, then you should take a look at the bottom of the container. If the roots are coming out of the drainage holes, then it could be time to repot and replenish the soil.
However, if you plant your cactus in a container that is too big it will start to fall over – giving it that ‘floppy’ look you are wondering about. Using a container or planter that is too large also means that your cactus won’t be able to absorb water properly and this will cause damage in the long run.
When you do repot your cactus, you should make sure you only go one pot size up! Any more and the container will probably be too big. You should repot before the growing season and avoid repotting when your plant is flowering.
Find out more information on how often cactus bloom.
Lack of sunlight
If you have read through the above topics and are still wondering ‘why is my cactus floppy?’, then it could be due to lack of sufficient sunlight. As mentioned above, cacti are native to the desert and extremely hot climates so thrive in a lot of sunlight. To enable photosynthesis, cactuses – just like any other plant or succulent – require sunlight.
If you keep your cactus in a dark room and it doesn’t receive enough sunlight, then it will be unable to manufacture enough food. This leads to an imbalance of the metabolic process and over time, the plant will appear floppy. This is because of a lack of nutrients and minerals.
Each cacti plant requires a different amount of sunlight however in general, desert cactuses require a lot of sunlight so should be placed in a south-facing window. Tropical cacti plants require less sunlight so should be placed in a north-facing window. Make sure you know the type of cactus you have before you find a home for it.
Differences in light and temperature can also cause a dramatic effect and will make your cactus look droopy and floppy. For example, if you keep your cactus in a dark room all hours of the day, it will ‘stretch’, looking for sunlight. This is called etiolation and is irreversible. An etiolated cactus will look stretched, elongated, and sometimes floppy.
How do you fix a droopy cactus?
Fixing a droopy cactus depends on the cause. For example, if you have a floppy, droopy cactus due to etiolation the effects are irreversible. However if you have a droopy or wilting cactus due to root rot and overwatering, you can follow the steps we discussed above in regards to cutting away damaged roots and repotting.
There are lots of different reasons why your cactus is droopy or falling over, and we have discussed these above.
In general, you should always be able to fix a droopy cactus. If however, you can’t – for example your cactus may have root rot that is in the late stages – then propagation is always an option!
Propagation is the process of taking cuttings from your cactus and planting them to create a new, baby plant!
Why is my cactus floppy? Concluded
I hope you have enjoyed this article and you are now no longer asking yourself ‘why is my cactus floppy?’. We have discussed a lot of topics and I really hope that you are well on your way to fixing your droopy or limp cacti plant. To recap, your cactus may be falling over or floppy due to the following reasons:
- Cactus bugs
- Temperature trauma
- Container is too big
- Lack of sunlight
These are the most common reasons for a floppy, limp or wilted cactus plant. If you have read this article and are certain that it is nothing mentioned above, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you!
Thank you for reading this post, if you want to learn more about cacti plants, then we have related posts below. Alternatively, you can browse through the cactus care category page, where you will find lots of relevant information, tips and tricks on cactus care such as how to stop a shrinking cactus. Or you can read up on how to take care of small cactus if you are in need of some mini cactus tips.