Plant care & Tips

Why Are My Cactus Spines Turning Brown? 5 Reasons and Solution

Why are my cactus spines turning brown? This question shows that you care for your houseplants and want the best for them.

But, we are carried away by worries, and we forget that these plants are living things. And we owe them nurturing and care.

Cactus is a low-maintenance plant that requires less attention, well-drained soil, and less watering to thrive. They are both indoor and outdoor plants – and thrive on sufficient exposure to light. These succulents are less affected by pests and can withstand harsh conditions.

So, why are your cactus spines turning brown? A cactus spine can be brown, yellow, or black for some reason. Cactus spines most times change color as they age. When you see cactus spines turning brown on top, sunburn could be the cause. But, if your cactus is turning brown at the bottom, the problem could be root rot.

Another reason is cactus corking – where you see a bark-like and brownish tissue a few inches above the soil on a healthy cactus plant.

Please note that color changes do not generally mean that your cactus is dying. The color of your cactus’ spines relates more with the species or age rather than its health.

Why Are My Cactus Spines Turning Brown

In this post, we will focus on the possible reasons why your cactus spines are turning brown. We will also look at the possible solutions to saving your cactus from dying.

Why Are My Cactus Spines Turning Brown?

There are many reasons why your cactus turns brown. In this section, we’re going to dwell on the top causes. Read on to find out the causes why your cactus spines turning brown and the solutions

1. Mite Infestation

Mite infestation is one of the reasons why your cactus is turning brown from the top. The main culprits responsible for this infestation are the red spider mite and root lice.

The Red spider mites cause most cacti to change color. It sucks juices from the tender parts of the plants, resulting in rusty brown spots that appear at the top of the plant.

If left unattended, the mites can kill the plant by feeding on the outer tissue of your plant. Indoor cacti suffer most from the rampage of red spider mites.

Root lice is another kind of mite that causes brown coloration on the top of a cactus plant. They can move from pot to pot, especially for plants grown in a greenhouse. It is hard to control root lice because of their precarious nature.

How to Identify Mites On Cactus Plants?

Mites are so small that it may be relatively difficult to see them. Here is how to identify mites on cacti plants

  • You may see rusty brown spots that appear at the top of the plant.
  • There is the presence of mite webs.

How to Save Cactus plant from Red Spider Mite and Root Lice Mite?

  • Use a relatively strong stream to water your plant from overhead.
  • For Root Lice – separate new plants from the other plants for some weeks.
  • Lastly, avoid soil sharing and recycling.

2. Cactus Corking

Cactus corking could be a sign that your cactus is aging. The most visible sign of corking shows a bark-like brown tissue on the bristle above the soil.

Corking is a natural aging process of most cacti plants that shouldn’t be a cause for worry.

Studies have shown that corking begins from the bottom of the plant and moves progressively to the top.

How to Save Cactus from Corking?

They are nothing you can do if your cactus plant browning is due to corking. However, you can slow down the aging process by taking good care of your plant.

3. Aging

When you notice your cactus spines turning brown on top, the sign could be aging.  An aging cactus have a dark-like and brown tissue on the bristle. See that you keep your aging cactus away from vent and air-containing.

Taking good care will help prolong the life of your plant.  

4. Sunburn

Cacti plants turning brown could be because of sunburn. It sounds rather strange. In elementary science, cacti plants are called desert plants or sun-loving.

Then, why are my cactus spines turning brown from the top? The reason is this not all cacti species are sun-loving. A few of them require minimal sunlight and little shade to do well.

Introducing this kind of cacti plant from the store to sunlight may cause browning on top of the plant. Therefore, they should be some time to adjust. You can help by introducing them slowly to bright and outdoor light.

How to Save Cactus from Sunburn? 

Mild sunburn on cacti plants appears as whitish before turning brown in severe sunburn. Therefore, if you notice your cactus plant has whitish spots. You can control the damage and save them from sunburn by moving to a shady place.

Providing shade on a hot sunning day for your cactus plant will help it recover fast fully.

5. Root Rot

Cactus turning brown at the bottom is a sign of root rot. Most times, you will see that the stem is soft and yellowish.

Poor drainage soils and overwatering are the primary cause of root rot.

Cactus with root rot is difficult to save because the rotten started within the plant’s tissue before spreading to the outer surface to be seen. Therefore, indications of root rot will possibly show when the problem is in the advanced stage.

How to Save Cacti Plants from Root Rot?

When a cactus plant is showing symptoms of root rots, here are simple steps to take to save them.

  1. Stop watering the plant.
  2. Use a clean, sharp knife to cut away all the tissue that is showing signs of rot.
  3. Apply alcohol in between the cuts
  4. Apply sulfur powder on the cuts to help the plant heal
  5. Then, repot it in a new and well-draining soil

Frequently Asked Questions

What Color Should Cactus Spines Be?

What Color Should Cactus Spines Be-cactus spines color

The amount of light your cactus wants lies with the species. More so, you can only know how much light your cactus plant needs by observing it for color change.

Depending on the types of cactus you have, the spines’ color ranges from red to yellow to green and to gray or black. Many times, the coloration of your cactus spines doesn’t specify health. But, have more to do with the species of the cactus.

Don’t worry much about your cactus color. For instants, let’s say that you saw your cactus Spines with a black coloration. Black spines usually occur after rainfall that changes the spines to black. Afterward, when the sun is out, the color goes back to normal.

When to Worry About the Color of Spines

Remember earlier I said that color doesn’t indicate health challenges but more to do with the species.

So when should one be worried about the color of her cactus spines? Pay close attention to the overall state of the plant. Observe how quickly and how long the color change occurs. You should be worried when the following happens:

  1. When the plant develops a black splotch on it, this indicates the start of a disease.
  2. If you can grab a cactus spine and pull it off easily shows your plant is unhealthy.
  3. When you see cactus spines with deep brown color, that could mean the cactus has begun to die from the bottom up. It also means the plant needs to be watered or high humus content in the soil.

Why Are My Cactus Spines Turning Yellow?

The change in color of most cactus spines depends on age and species and not a health issue. It is normal to see a color change.

Cacti plants such as Mammillaria Elongata displays yellow spines. In some varieties, you may see red or brown spines. Therefore, it is okay for cactus spines to be yellow.

But, when the cactus itself (the body) turns yellow, this is the time to get alarmed. This sign means your cactus is dying. Take action fast to prompt to save your plant. Some of the few reasons why cactus plant turns yellow includes;

  • Overwatering
  • Pests Infestation
  • Mineral-Deficient Soil
  • Sudden Change of Environment

Why Are My Cactus Spines Turning Black?

It is natural for certain species of cacti to change their spines’ color to black after rain or heavy watering. Watch out for damp environments as heavy dampness in the soil can leads to root rot. They can kill your plant if not checkmated.

Can I Revive a Brown Cactus?

Yes, you can! But, remember that the brown color of a cactus spine does not necessarily mean it is dying. However, you should pay close attention to your cactus to know why they are browning.

The brown color on your cactus plant; is caused by root rot, infested soil, bugs, or inappropriate watering. Then you should be alarmed and take action promptly to revive your plant.

Why Is My Cactus Is Turning Brown at The Bottom?

Why Is My Cactus Is Turning Brown at The Bottom? - cactus spines turning brown

The primary reason your cactus is turning brown from the bottom is as a result of root rot. Root rot is encouraged by poor drainage soils and overwatering.

If water does not dry out from the soil around the base of a cactus, the plant can develop rot. Some cacti can also develop brownish dry spots called corking.

Therefore, watch out for damp environments as heavy dampness in the soil can lead to root rot. It can kill your plant if not properly handled.

Why are My Cactus Spines Turning Brown On Top?

Not all cactus species do well under intense sunlight. Some cactus varieties may not thrive in the hot sun. Therefore, if you see your cactus spines turning brown on top – it is an indication that your cactus is affected by sunburn.

Another reason is aging. Most aging cactus do have brown spines. Also, in high humus soil, you can see your cactus spines close to the base have a brown tint.

Final Words

The above causes have shown why your cactus spines turning brown? And we strive to give the best possible solutions to the problem.

I hope you have understood the topic “why are my cactus spines turning brown on top and at the bottom”. Sometimes the brown color of cactus does not necessarily mean a death sentence to your plants. You have got to investigate the reasons for the brown spines.

When you have found the cause of why your cactus spines are turning yellow, brown, red, or black? Try as much as you can to deal with the problem swiftly.

But if you cannot identify the cause, don’t hesitate to bring in a plant expert to assist you with tackling the issue. Taking good care of your plants is the surest way to having a healthy plant!


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