Ask a Question forum: Cactus Dying/Dead

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Jun 6, 2017 5:50 PM CST
Where I work there were a ton of cactus being thrown away....soooo I took them in and repotted them all. I have had no problems with any of them. However, I had one of them leaning so I put a little more soil in the pot and checked a day or two was complete mush. It's brown/yellow, can't stand up or anything, and yet the top seems fine. I realize that the top is grafted on or whatever but I just wanna know what happened. I have 3/4 other same type of cactus and treated them all the same. I mist/water them every 2-4 days very lightly and they've been outside now for a week enjoying the sun. Is there any way to fix this and what should I do differently?
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Name: June
Rosemont, Ont. (Zone 4a)
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Jun 6, 2017 7:25 PM CST
Hi @nate_Smith
Well done, rescuing all those plants! I tip my hat to you. Cactuses do not need to be watered so often. They like to be dry. Let the soil dry out completely, as it would in the desert, then give them a good drench - not mist. Keep them in a place with good air circulation so they dry off quickly. Also, most importantly, make sure all your pots have drainage holes so that water flows through. If water accumulates in the bottom of the pot it will cause root-rot.
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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Jun 6, 2017 10:09 PM CST
Hi Nate,

You are right, that cactus is grafted. Its a natural sport of a Gymnocalcium grafted onto a Hylocereus. The Gymno can't photosynthesize (no chlorophil - that's why its such a bright color red) so relies on the Hylo for its continued existance. As the Hylo is dead, the Gymno will also die.

This is the fate of all these brightly colored cactus grafted to green cactus. The green part (the Hylocereus) does all the work, supporting the red top. The red top steals all the nutrients without any return for the Hylo. This is a doomed (parasitic) relationship - this grafted combination will not survive for more than a couple years.

No, don't mist! And water when the top inch of soil is dry. Plants don't own watches or calendars - they don't do well on schedules.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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Jun 7, 2017 11:57 AM CST
Hello Nate, that plant combo does not exist naturally in nature. And sadly grafting two different cacti with varying growing needs. It is never expected to last long. As pretty as they look, I really hate it when I see it in stores, it just won't last long and will cause a lot of frustration in the end.

If you want to experiment, try to rescue that top gymno cacti and graft it to a regular desert cacti. The lower one is a goner now.

There is this nice video how to do it. Maybe you would want also to start anew, with a new plant. I do not know how far along the decay has set it in your present cacti. Click on this youtube link to understand how proper grafting works:

As to your question what happened and your plant is dying, looking at the set-up, don't know if that container has drainage holes, if it did not have any, then it will rot the roots. Container is also glazed, so every time you water, it is taking much longer to dry out especially grown indoors. Though that lower cacti is more of a tropical growing cacti, it still needs proper dry out time, and did not need too frequent watering. Now with that added graft on top sucking up what it needs from the lower plant, it further weakens it.
[Last edited by tarev - Jun 7, 2017 12:01 PM (+)]
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