I bought a cactus from my local big chain DIY store a few years back. It was in a tiny pot and all was well. It's really grown over the years so I decided to re-pot it. I used your everyday compost but it looks like my cactus is not well:

My unwell cactus

I'm not green fingered so it's highly likely I've used the wrong compost or done the Worst Possible Thing for the plant.

What can I do to help my cactus recover?

  • Please read my answer to this question, then examine your plant and see if that has answered your question. You did use far too large a pot. – J. Musser Dec 8 '14 at 20:46
  • For the potting mix needs, see gardening.stackexchange.com/questions/14675/…. You get the best results from the proper stuff. Does that bucket have drainage holes? – J. Musser Dec 8 '14 at 20:49

The problems are

  • pot too big, succulents like to be pot bound
  • soil does not drain fast enough, use a sandy mix, with sharp grit
  • not enough light


  • repot in a smaller pot with a free draining mix
  • 1
    He should check for root rot, as there are symptoms. – J. Musser Dec 8 '14 at 21:43
  • Thanks - seems like a re-pot and a soil more suited to the plant. – Harvey Dec 10 '14 at 18:50

You can still save the plant. If you are indeed not green-thumbed as you claim you are, the easier choice might be buying soil meant for cacti. Most hardy varieties of plants will survive basic mistakes. I believe I have this particular plant and from what I know it is hardy, so the soil/compost does look suspect. Your other problems could be: over-watering, and improper drainage as indicated before.

Cactus plants need to be planted with gravels or gravely soil at the top, so that water does not stagnate around the roots, which more often than not are shallow and will rot from over-watering or stagnation of water. A pot with hole(s) at the bottom is ideal, and if you use a saucer, make sure that water doesn't collect and stay in the saucer.

Before repotting, I would carefully remove the soil/compost you have currently used, scrubbing with a wet paper towel to remove all traces.

  • Welcome to the site! As I said under kevinsky's answer, the op should really check for root rot, because there are symptoms here. Also, I'm curious - what is your reasoning behind scrubbing off the roots with a wet paper towel? Wouldn't simply brushing off the original rootball be sufficient? – J. Musser Dec 9 '14 at 2:45
  • Thank you. I hadn't noticed your earlier comment, sorry. I think root rot seems to be the issue, and I am worried the questioner might have used compost that either has something - fungus, maybe? Or, it could be the soil/compost is very alkaline. It is really hard to say for sure, so I thought a good clean wipe without damaging the roots could help. – Srihari Yamanoor Dec 9 '14 at 9:02
  • I'll try this later tonight and post a response if it bucks up in the next day or two. Thanks! – Harvey Dec 10 '14 at 18:49

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