Save a Cactus

We are sending this to you in hope you can help. Mr. Stewart was not able to offer any help.

Hello Mr. Stewart,

My name is Jo Reynolds. I have a cactus given to me by a grandson on his first Mother’s Day. He passed away at 8. He would be 21 now so the plant is very dear. We used to have a florist who would repot as needed but they have gone out of business. It became so pot bound (cracked the pot) that we tried to repot it. Used cactus soil and one one size larger pot. The plant has many thumb sized, very prickly parts, and a number have turned very brown and opened up to a dead center. We would like to have someone with much more knowledge than us look at it and advise us. We live in Frederick County. Maybe some of the green shoots could be saved. Any help/advice you could give us would be appreciated. We have attached a picture of the poor thing.

John and Jo

The news is not good, though there is still some hope. The soil you used looks too rich for cactus – too much bark in it. And it looks like the root-bound plant might have been potted with the roots still wound. The change as such was a shock to the plant, and most of the stems are not salvageable. However there are a few still-green stems that might be able to be saved. You will need to do some surgery, cutting them off from the rest of the plant.

In general you want to cut above any rot so that the fresh cut will be clean, no brown spots. Spray with hydrogen peroxide to help it heal, and let it callous over for a week. Then you will want to plant it in dry fast-draining cactus soil and not water for another 2 weeks. Make sure there are still no brown spots when you plant it. If any develop you will need to cut it higher up until again there is fresh clean flesh. If that doesn’t work then the infection has spread too far.

If you need cactus soil, we do ship our soil in 2 gallon boxes. You can call us at the nursery and we can send that off.

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