How to Save a Rotting Golden Barrel Cactus? (The Best Guide)

Rot can appear on any part of a cactus, from the roots to the tip, although crown rot — the one that begins where the stem meets the ground — is perhaps the most common. . Look for soft, slightly sunken black or brown tissue, sometimes surrounded by pale green or yellow.

How to know if my barrel cactus is dead or sick – signs

When certain environmental factors are not sufficient like humidity or heat or when we are home with them and we fail to meet their needs. Cacti may become dry, swollen and rot, then become full of pests, weaken because of the inadequate sunlight, or even burn. By excess in addition to other elements that could kill the plant. If this occurs, you must be aware to identify the symptom you are experiencing and the best way to deal with the problem. Here are some of the causes and symptoms of sick barrel cacti, along with some ideas to treat them:

Signs of a Wilted  Cactus

If your barrel cactus is wilting, it is not a good sign. It means that it requires water. When you see that the soil in the pot is completely dry and can be manipulated with your fingers, it will require water. A dry cactus, which changes its hue to brown, will require good hydration.

How to tell if a cactus is rotten

As you’re probably aware, cacti are a bit of an anomaly among plants. They can survive in very dry environments, letting their roots drink from the moisture that’s already in the soil and the occasional rain shower or dew.

“Green, healthy cactus plants are easy to identify—they’re green, and they look healthy.”

But what if you catch sight of your beloved barrel cactus plant turning black or brown? Is it rotting? Or is it simply turning color for the season? 

First, figure out whether there’s actually something wrong with your barrel cacti. You might just be looking at a section of it that’s turned brown as it normally does as part of its normal cycle. This can happen in summer (when it naturally turns green) or in winter (when it naturally turns brown).

 If you have a barrel cactus, pay attention to how long the brown or black parts have been sitting there—if they haven’t changed since this morning, they’re probably fine. But if they started turning black last night…well, that could be rotting.

“Excess moisture could also cause your cacti to rot.”

Problems with Sunlight

Sunlight is a crucial element for the growth and development of your barrel cactus. But, excess or lack of sunlight will cause problems to its health, shape, and its color.

Although heat may seem like a good thing for plants, damage from heat can be just as damaging as a lack of light. Avoid placing your barrel cactus in direct sunlight during hot days or near heating vents or doorways where the temperature could become dangerously high.

 If it lacks lighting, you will see it narrower, with some pointed parts, while it has had abuse of sunlight, when you see yellow parts. 

Plagues and diseases

Moisture in the soil leads to rotting of the roots and in worst cases death. The same happens if you water your barre; cactus too much.

-The cochineal is a very common pest of succulent plants, which will almost always eat the barrel cactus if given the opportunity.

-The aphid could also appear on your barrel cacti, but it is much less common than the cochineal.

How to revive a cactus

There are two ways to cut out a rot section, depending on whether the flesh around it is healthy. If the flesh is green and firm, use a sharp knife or scalpel to carefully cut the rotten part out of your cactus while leaving as much of the healthy tissue in place as possible. Then, remove any discolored or dead skin from around the wound and spray with a light mist of water. Repeat this process daily for about a week until you see new growth.

If the flesh around the wound is brown and soft and you can’t get a clean cut with a knife, you’ll need to use a tool that will leave you with clean edges: scissors or clippers with a sharp blade (not blunt ones). Spray with a light mist of water after cutting and repeat daily for about a week until new growth appears.

This is why “surgical intervention” is recommended. Luckily, you don’t need eight years of training in surgical medicine to complete it.

Sterile tools

When performing surgery on a cactus, it is extremely important to keep your tools sterile. If you do not perform the operation under sterile conditions, the risk of infection is much greater. Any surgeon will tell you that sterility in the operating room is vital. 

Stem rot

If there is rot above the ground, close to the top, or near the middle of the stem, just remove the top part using a sharp knife or pruning shears, and dispose of it later. Take a look at the wound that remains from the plant to be sure there aren’t any signs of decay (dark tissue, or perhaps an orange tinge). If you notice the signs of rot, cut lower until the tissue is healthy.

The wound can be treated by using sulfur powder, a natural fungicide that can keep unwanted microbes away from settling there.

As time passes the sore will grow tough and calloused, and one or more stems may start to develop under the surface. It’s your decision whether you’d like to keep just one or more stems. In time the plant will completely recover…assuming of course you provide it with the right conditions for growth that meet the requirements of the plant.

Root or crown rot

If the stem’s roots or the bottom of the stem exhibit signs of decay, radical surgery is required. It is true that you need to cut off the plant and then cut a slice from the head!

It’s only possible only if the top portion is well-nourished and healthy. If it’s getting yellow or is already becoming soft, could be advisable to hold a little funeral service.

Let’s suppose that the top of the plant is healthy. Using the pruning shears or a knife remove the top of the plant, above the visible signs of rot. After that, just remove the lower portion.

Then, examine the site of the cut. Does the tissue appear healthy? If you spot any shade of orange or brown place the cut on its side and cut another portion, just as you would cut a carrot. Repeat as needed until the final section is free of tenderness.

There are no signs of the rot. Sometimes, when you decapitate your cactus, although its head appears clean from the outside, the decay had already penetrated into the tissues. In this instance it’s not worth it however, you must be brave! Most of the time the rot is small, which means it is easy to get healthy tissue.

      The wound can be treated by using sulfur powder. (it sale here)

In order to heal the wound, I need the help of a natural fungicide that can keep unwanted microbes away from settling there. I have chosen sulfur powder as my key ingredient for this purpose. Sulfur powder is an all-natural material derived from sulfur rock (elemental sulfur). 

Finally, set the cutting aside until a good callus form.

Cuttings with thick stems that are slow to callus can be left upright. 

Callus formation could be as short as a week in a cactus with a thin stem, but it could take up as long as a few months in a cactus with a thick stem. In most cases, you only need to place the cutting on its side as the callus grows, but when the process is expected to take several months, the top of the stem will begin to straighten out, before getting bent, which could cause a disruption to the symmetry of the Cactus. To avoid this, put the cutting upright.

The cutting will be complete when the callus has dried and is hard to touch.

The cutting is ready when the callus is dry and hard to the touch. 

Once the callus has formed and the cut area is hard and dry put the cut into dry potting soil, using the cactus-based potting soil if it is your preference. Do not water immediately. Instead, allow the cut some time in dry soil, until the roots begin to develop. After that, begin to water moderately. If you notice healthy growth high up on the stem you can begin to water normally.

Clump growing cactus

Cacti are normally very hardy plants, but they are prone to root and crown rot. This is usually not a problem, because the cactus grows new shoots when it is damaged. When you repot your cactus if you notice that it’s starting to rot, take care of it before it spreads.

In the case of cacti that form a clump made up of many stems, when the rot appears on only one or two stems, treatment can be as simple as cutting or pulling out the diseased stems. 

If the rot appears to be more severe such as a crown or root decay occurring on one side where the plant is located, then the best option is likely to be divided. Remove the plant from the pot and split the clump while keeping only the healthy stems. It is likely that they already have roots and if they do it is possible to put them in a new pot, but do not give them water for one or two weeks.

Divide the clump and replant the shards. 

Water the withered cactus

Watering a cactus is not as easy as you might think. The cactus is a xerophytic plant, which means that it does not like wet soil, but it also does not like to dry out completely. In fact, it likes to be in a state of equilibrium, where the roots are neither too wet nor too dry. 

In winter: If the temperature is very low, we recommend that you let the plant rest until the spring. If it is too cold to do so, put it in a cool but well-illuminated place for a few days.

Prepare new soil

You may be wondering about what you will need to prepare new soil if you have a rotten cactus. Depending on the type of cacti, it could be a hard or soft one. In any case, this type of plant is really picky about its water and soil. They are also very sensitive to pests and diseases that can be accumulated in soil over time. That’s why you should mix a new one with garden soil, peat, and coarse or volcanic sand so that the plant has a good drainage system, which will prevent it from drowning.

Check the environmental temperature 

As cold temperatures are not good for barrel cacti since they can deteriorate it. It is convenient to leave it in a ventilated area but one that does not receive cold drafts, especially during the winter.


 During the plant’s busiest months, which are typically spring and summer. It is recommended to use one that is low in nitrogen, due to the needs of cacti.


Anwar Hossain

My name is Anwar Hossain. I am a cactus lover, researcher, and cactus blogger.

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