Cactus and Succulent 101: Common Problems and Their Solutions

March 13,  2019 • Information

It’s finally here! The article you’ve been asking us about. We have developed this article especially for you and have identified top seven issues in plant parenthood based on the most popular questions we received. 

Cacti and succulents are relatively free of insects and diseases. Most issues are triggered by poor growing practices, such as excessive or insufficient lighting, over-watering or under-watering. Fortunately they speak to us in the silent language of touch and appearance. Talk to them, pay attention to the symptoms, and apply a remedy they need.

1. PESTS

Source of Photo: Taman Hayat 

Typical Damage

Mealy bugs, known as the suckers of plant’s juices, are probably the most common pests that most of succulent collectors are facing. You will identify them easily as they are easy to recognize, appearing as white spots or a mass of sticky cotton wool. They weaken the plants and cause disfiguration of the new growth. 

Remedy

They are not harmful if they are treated at an early stage before a heavy infestation. You can remove them easily by touching the suspects with a paintbrush or a piece of cotton dipped in alcohol. However, if the colony has formed a heavy plague, you must destroy them with a pesticide and clean out these areas with a strong spray from a hose or a toothbrush. You can use any brand of pesticide (our preferred brands are Curacron and Dursban) and follow the instructions on the packaging.

2. BURNING/ SUNBURN

Typical Damage

This case is a bit tricky. Most succulents love direct sunlight, however, if a plant receives too much sun or being exposed to sun without being slowly conditioned to, it will sunburn. The harm appears as yellowing the stems or leaves which later will turn into brown scars. However, avoid watering your plants in direct sunlight. Many experts believe the water droplets can have the effect of a magnifying glass in strong sunlight. Although there are experts who also question this belief, there is nothing wrong to be preventive, right?

Remedy

Remove plant from strong sunlight. Move your plant into indirect sun or light shade to prevent further harm. Furthermore, it is suggested to water your succulents at night. While most plants open up their stomata during the day, succulents open up their pores at night, which allows transpiration and water intake. “The cacti evolved a whole suite of adaptations to survive living in the desert,” said plant evolutionary biologist Erika Edwards.

3. LACK OF LIGHT

Source of Photo: Taman Hayat

Typical Damage

Insufficient light affects the growth habit of succulents. When they receive too little light, they will grow in strange patterns. For instance, succulents with rosettes shapes may suddenly start growing tall reaching for more light. Or new growth of a cactus will be much smaller or skinnier than the rest of the body.

Remedy

Move succulents to a more brightly lit area, adjusting it slowly to the increased light. Remember to adjust it slowly.

4. OVER-WATERING 

Typical Damage

An overwatered succulent is most likely to rot, with the base becoming discoloured and later soft and mushy. Indications of overwatering include wilting or mushy roots and stems, with healthy leaves yellowing and dropping off.

Remedy

Cut off the rotted sections back to green healthy parts. Set the cactus cutting aside for one or two weeks, keep them dry and apply some Root Stimulating Hormones (such as Clonex or Root Up) to promote root growth. Once there is a sign of root initiation, you can repot your plants in a fresh pack of potting soil mix.

5. UNDER-WATERING

Source of Photo: Taman Hayat 

Typical Damage

An under-watered succulent will shrink and shrivel when its water supply is low. Other symptoms are the leaves turn crispy and your plant seems to be shedding a lot of leaves.

Remedy

Give your plants enough water!

6. NO GROWTH – ROOT BOUND

Source of Photo: Taman Hayat

Typical Damage

If you have had a plant for a while and have noticed no signs of growth, this could be caused by a number of things. Yet there are two causes we want to highlight. Firstly, you haven’t repotted your plant for a long time, and they become root-bound with roots coming out through a drainage hole of the container. Roots packed tightly in a pot don’t take up nutrients efficiently.

Remedy

When you see the sign of a pot bound where the container is full of circling roots, you should repot your plant immediately. Loosen up the root ball and cut off the outer layer of the roots to promote nutrient absorption.

7. NO GROWTH – LACK OF NUTRIENT INTAKE

Typical Damage

Secondly, you underestimate the nutrient needs of your succulent plants, as their growth is affected significantly by the nutrient content of the soil.

Remedy

Meet the nutrient needs of your plants by considering fertilizer application. The time and the amount of fertilizer application are crucial, hence it is important to follow instructions stated on the label. There are many fertilizers commercially available; our favourites are Grow More, Formulex, Dynamite, and Dekastar. However, use the one that meets your plants’ needs and requirements with the composition you require. Find out here if you want to know what it means by having the right composition while applying fertilizer to a plant.

Again and again, talk to your plants and they will show you. What we have shared here were based on our personal experience. Yet you are the one who knows your plants better. Thank you for reading, we hope this article helps and drop us a message anytime if you have any question regarding the health of your succulent plants! Good luck!

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