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May 29, 2015 10:13 AM CST

I really need help with my dying little zebra cactus. I have tried many things, and I don't know what else to do, but it continues to get worse. I don't want it to die!

It all started back in December or January when I noticed some of its lower "leaves" were turning yellow, drying up, and dying/falling off. I learned that the container I bought it in didn't drain and was not the right type of soil. When I pulled it out, the roots all fell off, so I trimmed in back and stuck it in a new pot with more suitable "soil." Through the advice of others, I did not water it because it did not have roots. They told me it would grow roots, THEN I could start watering it. Well, 2 or 3 months later, it still has no roots (see pictures).

I was then told to try giving it tiny amounts of water to encourage root growth. I've tried that for about a month with still no roots growing. It seems to be slowly growing new "leaves" from the center, but the outer ones are turning brownish-yellow, and the rest of it is a dark, redish green. I have it on a south-facing window sill for light (and that's the best I can do as I live in an apartment with only one wall of windows). I have no idea what else to try or to do to save it. Any advice would be appreciated.

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May 29, 2015 10:47 AM CST
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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Hi niknac, just put it back in a very well draining soil and wait. Place in a part shade area. Depending on how warm it is already in your area, it should bounce back. Typically, haws, do not like being too cold or in too direct heat. But they bounce back very well.

I see a lot of green still remaining in your plant, so there is still lots of hope. Give it time. At times, the plant will naturally seem to go on a dormant mode, not growing anything as it experiences extremes in conditions. But it will recover, in a very, very slow pace. I would not water it now, since there are no roots. Just wait, to me it looks the greener leaves are still firm, so it has enough moisture to sustain it.

It is such a slow growing beautiful succulent, so patience and maximum restraint in watering. You will know it is starting to grow roots if you slightly tug the plant later and there is resistance. New leaf growth will come from the center.

Just to add, the plant is happy with temps in the mid to high 70's to mid 80's. In winter, if you say it was not doing anything for 2 to 3 months, it is just like that, on rest mode not happy with the temps or the amount of light, so most succulents, will drop leaves to only maintain what it can sustain in such unfavorable conditions, and will resume active growth, once conditions are better again. That is often the time people accidentally kill succulents, thinking it is withering, it needs water. It is actually the reverse, have to really pay attention to the ambient temperature, light and make sure that soil it is growing in is very well draining soil and in a container with drainage.
Last edited by tarev May 29, 2015 10:53 AM Icon for preview
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Dec 25, 2021 11:44 AM CST
Name: Riley S
Bellingham, WA (Zone 8a)
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hi, if it is dead, sorry, i cant help you, though through research and trial and error, and you will want to leave it out for a few hours to let it callous, it is ready when the stem doesn't look moist, there are little tiny roots on the stem, so just give it a bit of shade, and water a tiny more or less often, when its leaves look crisp, you can water, just water closer to the plant, same with fertilizing. how i know this is i have the same problem, but it lost roots due to transplant shock. I tip my hat to you.
Gardening without Gloves, also thanks Aeonium2003
Avatar for Aeonium2003
Dec 25, 2021 12:03 PM CST

There's only one solution. Give it some water, and it will trigger rooting. It already has a callous, rooting probably won't be an issue.
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Dec 25, 2021 12:17 PM CST
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Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Yes, water deeply, then wait for the soil to go dry at depth (not just at the surface, which goes dry faster) before watering again. That might take a week or two with strong light indoors.
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Dec 25, 2021 1:21 PM CST
Name: Zoë
Albuquerque NM, Elev 5310 ft (Zone 7b)
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Did anyone notice that the question was from 2015? Good general advice but perhaps not so timely for the OP. 🙃

Merry Christmas, y'all. 🎄
For me, gardening is really just an excuse for playing in the dirt. Admittedly, plants are a satisfying by-product.
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Dec 25, 2021 1:30 PM CST

Shrug! Blinking
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Dec 25, 2021 5:58 PM CST
Name: TJOE
Indonesia
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I believe it is now a grown up Zebra, fit nicely in a 5 inch pot Smiling
If they look healthy, do nothing
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