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Why is My Cactus Leaning to the Side? 6 Common Causes and Simple Solutions

Leaning cacti can be a sign of underlying issues that need to be addressed promptly to ensure the health of your plant. Cacti are popular succulents that bring a touch of wildlife and desert-inspired feeling to any living space. Despite being low maintenance, they can still face problems such as root rot, overwatering, and pest infestation. Keep reading and explore the most common reasons why a cactus cannot stand upright anymore and how to fix them.

How do you stand up a leaning cactus lean

Common Causes of Cactus Leaning

Environmental Pressures

Strong winds, heavy rains, or an uneven surface can cause a cactus to gradually lean in one direction as it struggles to stay upright. Exposure to extreme weather conditions puts stress on the plant, damaging its ability to gain proper support from roots and stems.

Solution: Bringing potted cacti indoors or covering them during harsh weather is the best way to prevent environmental leaning.

You might also like: The ONE Simple Thing Succulents Need to Thrive and 5 Reasons Why Wind is It

How to care for a cactus with a leaning stem lean

Watering Errors

Both overwatering and underwatering a cactus can lead to leaning. Overwatering damages roots, preventing them from taking up water and nutrients effectively and sustaining the weight of the plant. Underwatering deprives the cactus of moisture it needs for healthy growth, causing it to become dehydrated and weak.

Solution: Only water cacti when the top few inches of soil are dry to keep them at an upright, vigorous state. Allowing soil to dry out completely between waterings prevents root rotting and ensures proper absorption of water.

You might also like: How & When to Water Succulents So They Don’t Die (2023 Update)

How to fix a leaning cactus without damaging the roots lean

Root or Stem Rot

Excess moisture creates the ideal environment for pests, fungus, and pathogens that feed on cactus roots and stems. Rotting roots lose their ability to anchor the plant, while rot along the stem creates weak points that lead the cactus to become imbalanced or lean towards one side. Eventually, the rot will become so severe that it travels up into the cactus and causes it to completely fall or liquefy.

Solution: Ensure that your cactus is in a pot with a drainage hole at the bottom and the soil can drain freely so water doesn’t get trapped in the pot.

You might also like: Root Rot in Succulents: How to Identify and Treat the Problem

How to fix a leaning cactus without harming the spines lean

Potting Issues

An incorrect pot size, improper soil type, or soil level that is too low or too high can put physical stress on a cactus. Using a pot that is too large allows for excess moisture accumulation, while a pot that is too small restricts root growth. Cactus potting mix, with its limited ability to retain water, must be used rather than regular potting soil to avoid leaning caused by roots drowning or drying out.

Solution: Keep the pot at the same level and never leave a pot sitting in water to allow for optimal conditions. Only increase pot size incrementally, about one size larger every 2-3 years as your cactus continues to grow.

You might also like: Repotting Succulents: The Best Time to Repot Your Plants and 3 Ways to Tell When It’s Time

How to repot a leaning cactus lean

Lighting Conditions

Lack of bright light exposure causes a cactus to stretch towards available light, developing an imbalanced and leaning shape. Most cacti require plenty of bright, indirect light from a sunny window or proximity to a sunny window. Supplemental grow lights provide essential light for some species or during limited sun seasons.

Solution: Rotating and adjusting your cactus’s position regularly helps ensure even light exposure and straight growth. Dim lighting should be increased or the cactus relocated to an area with more brightness.

You might also like: How Much Light Do Succulents Need? A Comprehensive Guide in 12 Parts

What causes a cactus to lean and how to prevent it lean

Natural Tendencies

Natural tendencies of some cactus species or aging in long-established plants can contribute to leaning over time. 

Solution: To stand up a leaning cactus, you will need to take a few steps. First, gently loosen the soil around the base of the cactus with a small garden trowel or spade. Next, use a stake or a piece of bamboo to prop up the leaning cactus in its original position. Make sure to place the stake or bamboo on the side opposite the direction in which the cactus is leaning. Tie the cactus to the stake or bamboo using a soft, flexible material such as gardening tape or twine. Water the cactus thoroughly and monitor it closely to make sure it stays upright.

You might also like: Rocks On Top of the Soil

What to do when a cactus is leaning too much lean

Fortunately, there are several ways to fix a leaning cactus and promote upright, healthy growth. Increase root-level support with a larger pot, well-draining soil, and trellis. Ensure proper watering amounts and frequency based on the specific cactus type. Apply appropriate treatments, such as soil amendments, pesticides, or pruning, to address any root/stem rot or pests detected. Reduce overhead lighting intensity or rotate the plant for even light exposure. Staking or trellising a leaning cactus provides physical support as roots and tissue heal and strengthen. Being aware of the reasons why cacti lean will help you prevent it in the future.


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