Why Is My Golden Barrel Cactus Turning Yellow? How to Save It

Why Is My Golden Barrel Cactus Turning Yellow?

As a cactus lover, I was very sad. Despite the care, my beautiful small golden barrel cacti had turned yellow. But why, oh why?! I have asked myself again and again. It turns out that this is not the first time it happens to me, and I hope this explanation will help anyone who has lost his/her beautiful colorful cactus.

I have always thought of cactus plants as very healthy and sturdy. They have thick, fleshy leaves, so I can imagine many people are surprised when they see a yellow cactus in their garden for the first time. As with all plants, there are several reasons why the cactus plants might change color, some of them harmless and some that might be a danger to the plant itself.

Cacti need less care than other plants because they are desert plants. People can buy cacti and keep them inside, but if they put them in direct sunlight, they may change color inside their trunks or on the leaves.

 Cacti are a type of plant that lives in the desert where it’s sunny all the time. In the desert, the cacti can grow with no problem. When they are moved to a new place, like a house or a classroom, then they might change color.

 If your cactus has too little water, it will turn yellow. If it has too much water, it will turn yellow.

If you don’t water them, or if you have poor drainage in your pots, they won’t have enough water, which will make them get sick.

In my case, my plant began to turn yellow due to poor drainage in the pot. 


 A barrel cactus is not a demanding plant but requires a little maintenance to keep it in good health.

A barrel cactus requires only minimal watering. Water your cactus once a month in the summer and once every two months in the rainy season. Water your cactus until water comes out from underneath the pot. 

The leaves of a barrel cactus are the main organs for storing water, and those who grow the plant indoors should take care to over-water the plant.

If you notice that your cactus turns yellow from the trunk up, this may indicate that the environment is very humid and your plant is suffering from stress because it cannot stand the soil so wet.


Nothing good is gained without labor, this is the reason why you need to be conscious of caring for your barrel cactus. As it doesn’t have a deep root system, soil moisture is just not enough. It needs extra water to survive. Start watering your plants every time you water your potted plants with plain clean water.

 If you see that the water is leaving white stuff on your cactus, it means that it has salt in it. Be careful because salt is bad for barrel cacti.


First, you’ll want to research proper lighting for your golden barrel cactus and make sure the lights you choose have the correct color temperature (the degree to which they are yellow/orange or blue/purple). These lights should be able to provide some heat as well—in fact, if your plant doesn’t receive enough heat, leaves will turn yellow,  brown, and fall off.

Lighting for golden barrel cacti is not something you can just purchase at the store. For example, if it’s summertime and your plant is getting a lot of sunlight through the windows, you might want more intense lighting; after all, plants grow better when

Too Much Sun Exposure

As any cactus owner can tell you, these plants need a lot of light to thrive. Not only do they come from arid deserts, but the spines on their trunks are photosynthetic—which means they use sunlight to grow.

 Cacti need so much light that they can get fried and turn yellow if they’re in direct sunlight all day long.

To prevent this, reposition your plant several times a day so that it isn’t directly in the sun all the time. You can also set up a screen or move your plant to a place where it gets morning sun and afternoon shade.

If your cactus is used to getting less light than it needs, exposure to too much sun will cause damage (even if it doesn’t turn yellow).

 However, your cactus should eventually be able to acclimate to the new conditions! If you gradually expose it to more and more sunlight over time, its natural defenses will increase and prevent further damage.


As soon as the barrel cactus reaches home, it undergoes an environmental shock.

The reason for this is that golden barrel cactus is native to hot, dry, and arid places where they have adapted to the scarce presence of water.

Now it is in a different environment and it is necessary to adapt it to its new conditions.

If you just bought a barrel cactus and overnight it changes color, this may be due to the environmental shock it is going through.

Take care of your plant as recommended and you will notice that its color changes and will turn green, but if it turns brown or more yellow, the ideal is to transplant the plant to another pot.

The best way to do it is to use a container with drainage holes that allow stagnant water to flow freely, and with soil composed of peat and perlite since sand can be too abrasive.

Poor Soil With Lack of Nutrients

If your barrel cactus is growing in poor soil, it could be yellowing. Golden barrel  Cacti require porous, high-quality soil that will not only hold water but also have the nutrients necessary for healthy growth. Succulent or cactus potting soil is often recommended, as these special mixes typically include additional nutrients like iron and calcium needed to keep the plant healthy.

If your cactus is growing in a container with low-quality soil, it may need repotting into new soil to increase its chances of survival.

Cacti can be grown as houseplants or outdoors in the garden, but wherever they’re growing, they need a very specific environment. If you’re growing your cactus plant in a pot with poor soil and low nutrient content, it will turn yellow.

Either More or  Less Fertilizer

When your barrel cactus turns yellow, it often means there’s a problem with the amount of fertilizer applied to the plant. Barrel Cacti are plants that store their nutrients in the fleshy pads called “pads” (or “caudex”) rather than in their leaves. It can take a while for plants to show signs of stress, but eventually, they start to wilt and turn yellow because they are not getting enough water or nutrients.

The first thing you should do is check whether there is too much or too little fertilizer. If you put too much fertilizer on the plant in one day, the surface leaves may turn brown and peel off as they decompose. This is due to excess salts building up in the soil and blocking moisture from going into the roots.

This can often be fixed by watering your cactus regularly without adding any fertilizer for at least 2 weeks. After this period, you can slowly add fertilizer again until the plant’s leaves look better and have grown new leaves.

Fungal Diseases

Fungal diseases are a common problem for barrel cactus plants. More specifically, the fungi that cause lesions on the flesh of the barrel cactus are like several other kinds of fungi that grow on or in soil, or on plants.

Some types of fungus live in soil and infect plants when their roots come into contact with the fungus. The golden barrel cactus is especially vulnerable to this type of infection, which happens when the soil is too wet or the plant is planted too deeply. Barrel cactus plants should be planted so that the roots are firmly pressed into the soil, but without any soil piled up around the base of the cactus.

Other types of fungus may live on dead tissues of living plants, such as leaves or stems. These fungal infections can make leaves and stems look yellow, brown, or black. Wet, rainy spring weather is a common cause of these fungal infections, and shaded plants are most susceptible to them.

“Fungal diseases — in particular, those caused by members of the Pythium genus — can also destroy the shallow roots of the barrel cactus.”

Barrel cactuses affected by surface fungi aren’t usually killed by these infections, but they may become deformed. These plants should be moved to a sunnier, drier spot if possible. 

Frost Damage

Frost damage can cause irreparable harm to a plant’s cells and tissues, resulting in permanent scarring on the surface of the leaves. While the cactus will still be alive, it won’t be able to absorb nutrients through its leaves, which are responsible for taking in solar energy and converting it into food for the rest of the plant.

This type of injury usually occurs when temperatures drop below freezing overnight or during periods when light freezes happen over several days, as is common in cold climates like New England. Frost damage can also happen if temperatures remain too low for too long—for example if a pot is left outside without protection in conditions that stay below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

In this case, you can try moving your cacti into an area with more sunlight or higher humidity conditions if possible. If this isn’t feasible, try to protect your cacti by covering them with blankets or sheets during the coldest part of the night and early morning hours.

If the cactus was harmed by frost, then you may be able to help it recover over time if it’s left in a place where temperatures are about 50 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. As this area warms up and new growth begins to appear

Exposure to Chemicals

It can be so frustrating to see your barrel cactus turn yellow. When this happens to a plant it’s not that the plant is unhappy and needs to be moved in order for it to get better. It’s actually a sign of a chemical imbalance, which could cause serious damage and even death.

Some chemicals can cause barrel cacti to turn yellow. These include chlorine, fluorine, and other substances that are found in water or fertilizers. If your barrel cactus is turning yellow, it may be because of a nearby chemical spill or the excess use of these products around your barrel cacti.

Chlorine and fluorine are two of the most common culprits. These chemicals are typically found in tap water and fertilizers, but the cacti can also be exposed to them when they’re used on nearby lawns or gardens. Exposing them to these chemicals for an extended period of time can cause them to turn yellow. 

If you suspect this might be why, try moving them elsewhere away from any potential sources for contamination- such as sprinklers used on lawns near where they’re sitting on the ground.

Can You Save an Overwatered  Barrel Cactus?

Overwatering is one of the most common mistakes when it comes to watering plants, including barrel cacti. So it’s no surprise that cactus owners often ask if they can save an overwatered barrel cactus.

The truth is that you can save an overwatered barrel cactus but it depends on the extent of damage caused by the overwatering. The less severe the damage is, the better chance the cactus has of recovering. The first thing you need to do with an overwatered cactus is to stop watering the plant. If you have set a schedule to let’s say water the plant once a week, stop doing so and allow the plant to dry out and recover.

After a couple of days without any water, check how much soil still feels damp or even wet. You may notice some soil still feels moist even after a few days without water. This means that your soil might not be draining well enough and adding some pebbles or gravel to your pot will help improve drainage, especially if you are using a container with holes for drainage. After allowing the soil to dry out for a few days you should notice whether there is any fungus growing on your barrel cactus pads. 

Steps on How to Save an Overwatered Cactus:

  • Clean the roots and remove the cactus plant from the soil.
  • Allow the plant to dry completely for three days to a full week.
  • To avoid drying the roots out completely and burning the plant, place the plant in a bright, dry area.
  • After drying, plant in a well-draining potting mix. Do not water immediately. Allow the soil to dry for at least two days before watering. Make sure to water thoroughly. Do not water again until the soil has dried completely. Avoid overwatering.

Anwar Hossain

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

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