Sad Cactus

I love small cactus. But I have a problem keeping them alive. I have tried keeping several cactus and they always end up the same – and in a fairly short time: they shrivel, looking loose and floppy around the top, and turn a sick yellow-green mushy color around the base (see attached photo).

Because they look shrivelled I assume that I am not watering enough, so I water a bit more – but to no avail. The attached photo is a cute little cactus in a 2″ pot I bought at the store about 2 months ago – and have been giving maybe a couple of tablespoons of water about every 2 weeks (it is on my desk at work, at it is farily dry here so it dries out very quickly). I feel terrible that such a cute little plant should look so unhealthy. My roommate in college had a fairly healthy cactus that he carefully gave 1 tablespoon of water every month – which didn’t seem like much to me, but his cactus was still alive after several years. Does that mean I am over watering mine? If so, why does it look like a deflated baloon? Does this species require more water than my ex-roommate’s cactus? Should I really soak it when I water it then wait for it to dry, or just slightly moisten it periodically per current practice? And what periodicity (obviously the current rate isn’t working!)?

Any advice would be appreciated.


In general we recommend watering cactus every 3 weeks – drenching it and letting it drain away so that it never sits in water. Overall, watering every 2 weeks but a smaller amount is probably fine, so I would look elsewhere for the problem.

First off, where do you live? Your local humidity levels can impact a watering schedule. Next, how much sunlight is the plant getting? We recommend a minimum of 4 hours of direct afternoon sun through the spring and summer. And finally, the plant is in a tiny plastic pot with what looks like a houseplant soil mix, so in general we would repot into a 4″ terra cotta pot with a fast draining cactus soil.


  Cactus and Succulents
  Carnivorous Plants

  Sign up for our Monthly Newsletter

September 2023

US Constitution


We Get Questions

Email your questions to:

blog [at] cactusjungle [dot] com