5 Reasons for Barrel Cactus Turning Yellow (Solutions)

Barrel cacti (Echinocactus and Ferocactus) are a popular and easy-to-care-for plant, but many people worry when they see their barrel cactus turning yellow. This can be caused by various reasons, such as too much or too little water, insufficient sunlight, and nutrient deficiencies. Fortunately, there are several solutions you can try to get your barrel cactus looking healthy again.

barrel cactus turning yellow

5 Reasons for Barrel Cactus Turning Yellow

Here are five common reasons your barrel cactus may be turning yellow and the solutions you can try to help it recover.

1. Overwatering

Overwatering is one of the most common reasons why barrel cactus turns yellow. Cactus are perfect for those who don’t have much time to water their plants because they require minimal maintenance. When the plant has reserved enough water, it swells as a defense mechanism to store more water and maintain its health.

However, too much of anything is not good—when cacti is overwatered, they start wilting and becoming yellow—this can eventually lead to root rot which stops them from absorbing essential vitamins and minerals needed for growth.

To prevent the yellowing of the barrel cactus, it is recommended to mimic its natural environment by planting it in gritty soil with excellent drainage and only watering when the soil has thoroughly dried up around the roots. Care must be taken to ensure the cactus is not oversoaked, which can cause discoloration. Additionally, the cactus should be exposed to direct sunlight for about 4 hours daily for optimal results.

What does an overwatered Barrel Cactus look like?

An overwatered barrel cactus will have a yellow or discolored tinge. It may also be wilting, as the plant endures difficulty getting the oxygen it needs to stay healthy. The stem may also be soft and feel spongy to the touch if it has been overwatered.

How often should Barrel Cactus be watered?

To prevent this, ensure to only water your barrel cactus once every two weeks, and never water it until the soil is completely dry.

2. Drop in Temperature

barrel cactus turning yellow

Another reason barrel cactus leaves might be turning yellow is due to a sudden drop in temperature. Cactuses are used to living in hot climates and therefore require high temperatures for their growth. When the temperature drops, the plant cells become damaged and unable to absorb essential vitamins and minerals, which can lead to the yellowing of the leaves.

To prevent this, it is important to ensure the barrel cactus is placed in an area with temperatures between 55–85 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature drops suddenly, move the plant indoors or cover it with a blanket to protect it from extreme cold. Additionally, regular misting of the leaves can help provide some additional humidity which can help to keep the plant healthy.

3. Excessive Sunlight

Excessive sunlight can be another cause of yellowing leaves. The cactus becoming yellow from top to bottom is a blatant sign that it has become sunburnt due to excessive light. The cactus may develop a few yellow patches before the plant turns yellow.

Overexposure to light is indicated by the top cactus’ yellowing and shriveling. Cactuses that are planted outside in the sun often get sunburned. Cactus should not be exposed to too much direct sunlight as it can damage the plant’s delicate cells and photosynthetic tissues, leading to yellow or discolored leaves.

To prevent this, placing the cactus in an area with full sun exposure but with some shelter from strong winds and direct sunlight is best. Additionally, moving the barrel cactus indoors during the hottest part of the day is recommended.

Does a Barrel Cactus need direct sunlight?

Yes, a barrel cactus does need direct sunlight. It needs the sun to photosynthesize and produce energy, which is essential for it to grow. However, too much direct sunlight can cause damage to the delicate cells and photosynthetic tissues of the plant, which can lead to yellowing.

Can a Barrel Cactus get too much sun?

Full sun is not always beneficial for a barrel cactus. Too much sun can cause sunburn and damage the plant’s delicate cells and photosynthetic tissues, leading to yellowing or discolored leaves. To prevent this, placing the cactus in an area with direct sunlight is best.

yellowing barrel cactus

4. Fungus attack

Cactus are resilient plants, but they are still susceptible to fungus. Typically, if they receive too much water, fungi will begin to grow on the damp surface. On the cactus stem, open wounds can also let pathogens in and infect the stem tissue. The cactus will then change from being green to having regions of yellowish color with light brown edges.

Pests are also a factor in the development of fungus on the cactus. Where mold starts to grow, aphids, mealybugs, and scales exude honeydew. Any portion of the cactus can develop the fungal disease, and symptoms include mushy, brownish-yellow stems.

To prevent fungal diseases, it is important to ensure that the cactus is not overwatered and that all signs of pests are removed. Additionally, if there are any wounds, it is best to apply a fungicide to the area. You can also use a mixture of rubbings, alcohol, and water to clean the affected area.

In addition, regular checking of the plant is important to spot any signs of disease or pests.

5. Barrel Cactus species

Occasionally, cactuses undergo transformations in their form and hue through natural mutation. Variegation is a common type of cactus mutation where the green pigmentation of the plant becomes concealed by yellow, red, or orange colors.

Moreover, splotches on the stem can manifest as a result of alterations with plant portions changing color. Human cultivation and hybridization can also contribute to the variegation of a cactus, as cross-pollination and grafting of plant specimens from the same species can produce these results.

In this case, there is no need to worry about the barrel cactus’s yellowing.

yellow barrel cactus

Is My Barrel Cactus Dying?

If your barrel cactus shows signs of yellowing, discoloration, or wilting, it may be a sign that the plant is not doing well and may be dying. Possible causes of a dying cactus include overwatering, nutrient deficiency, pest infestation, excessive sunlight, and fungal disease. It is important to identify the cause of the problem and take steps to address it to save the cactus.

Can A Yellowing Cactus Be Saved?

Yes, a yellowing cactus can be saved. Depending on the cause of the problem, several steps can be taken to help the cactus regain its health. If the problem is nutrient deficiency, fertilize the soil regularly with a balanced fertilizer. If it’s due to overwatering, reduce watering frequency and allow the soil to dry out before watering again.

If it’s a pest infestation or fungal disease, use appropriate treatment methods to eliminate the problem. Also, ensure that the cactus gets enough sunlight, but not too much. By following these steps, you may be able to save your yellowing cactus.

How Do You Revive a Barrel Cactus?

Reviving a barrel cactus starts with examining the plant to determine the cause of its lack of health. The most common cause is drought stress, which is caused by insufficient water for the cactus. If this is the case, begin by watering the plant thoroughly until water runs out of the bottom of the pot. After giving it a good drink, allow it to dry for several days before watering again.

It’s also important to ensure that your barrel cactus is planted in a pot with drainage holes and that the soil contains some sand to allow for good drainage. If you’re still having trouble reviving your barrel cactus, it may be necessary to repot it. Move the plant into a new container filled with fresh soil and replace any damaged roots or stems.

Prune off any dead or diseased parts of the plant and take care not to damage the healthy tissue. After taking these steps, it’s important to monitor your barrel cactus carefully for signs of improvement. If you’re still having trouble reviving your plant, consider consulting an expert or seeking advice from a local nursery.


Barrel cactus are relatively easy to care for and make great additions to any home or garden. However, if your barrel cactus begins to show signs of yellowing or discoloration, it may be a sign of distress. In this case, it is important to identify the cause and take steps to address it.

Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to revive a barrel cactus and save it from dying. Just make sure to monitor the plant carefully and seek expert help if necessary. You can keep your barrel cactus healthy and happy for many years with the right care and attention.