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Why Do Cactus Split – 2 Key Reasons!

Coming across a crack in your cactus stem can be very concerning, especially if this is your first time coming across this problem. But why do cactus split?

Most of the time, stem splitting in cacti is a sign of overwatering or a cactus getting a large amount of water right after a dry spell. Cactus filling with water too quickly can also split.

This article will explain everything you need to know about stem splitting in cacti and how you can fix it. 

Why Is My Cactus Separating? 

There are two potential causes for a cactus to separate at the stem, and they are incredibly similar. The two leading causes for a stem to separate in a cactus are over-watering and a cactus getting an influx of water after a drought. Here we will be going into each of these causes for stem splitting in cacti a little more closely. 

Over Watering 

Overwatering can easily cause stem splitting in a cactus. This occurs because cacti store water in their stems. When this reservoir in a cactus’ stem becomes overfilled, it can cause stem splitting due to excessive pressure within the cactus itself. In addition to stem splitting, you may also notice a puffy-looking stem that is soft or mushy to the touch in an over-watered cactus. 

Getting An Influx Of Water After A Dry Spell

In addition to overwatering, a cactus’ stem can split when they get a sudden influx of water after a dry spell. Most of the time, this occurs in cacti that are planted outdoors. A sudden heavy rain after a drought can cause the cactus to fill up with water too quickly, resulting in stem splitting. 

What Does An Overwatered Cactus Look Like? 

There are some other signs of overwatering in a cactus that you can look out for besides stem splitting. Here are some other signs that you may be overwatering your cactus. 

  • Your cactus is mushy or soft to the touch 
  • Your cactus’ stem looks inflated
  • Your cactus has brown spots on it 
  • Your cactus has spots that are sunken and soft 
  • Your cactus is losing its color 
  • Your cactus smells and looks like it is rotting

It is best to catch these signs early whenever possible when it comes to overwatering in cacti. This way, you can adjust your watering schedule accordingly and prevent your cactus from becoming more damaged. Unfortunately, cacti that have been severely damaged due to overwatering may be unable to survive. 

Will A Split Cactus Heal? 

Many times, yes, a split cactus will heal. This is especially true if it does not seem like the cactus has experienced too much damage due to the stem splitting. Most of the time, these slits in the stem will callus over and appear to be brown, which is the cactus’ process of healing itself. 

However, it is important to note that the stem splitting is permanent and will always be visible on the plant even if it does not damage its health. 

It will be fairly obvious if your cactus has suffered extensive damage due to its stem splitting. Most of the time, the areas around the splitting will turn brown or black and begin to rot. This area will not be calloused and hard like the healing cactus. Rather, these slits will likely become mushy and start to smell rotten. 

How Do You Fix A Split Cactus? 

The best thing you can do for a split cactus is prevent it from getting more water for a while. This is because stem splitting in cacti is usually caused by overwatering or a sudden influx of water. You can do this by changing your watering schedule or by temporarily preventing your cactus from getting more water from the rain. 

Can I Replant A Broken Cactus? 

Overwatering a cactus can cause one of its arms to fall off due to stem splitting. The good news is that these broken-off pieces can often be replanted to create a new cactus plant when they appear to be healthy. Here we will explain how to replant a broken cactus in a few simple steps. 

Step 1: Let The Broken Piece Heal

Before planting the broken piece of cactus, you should allow it to heal. Leaving the cactus piece in a cool and dry place will encourage the site of the break to callous over and harden. Once this has happened, you can move on to step two. 

Step 2: Pot The Cactus Piece Into An Appropriately Sized Pot 

The next step is to plant the cactus piece into an appropriately sized pot. This means that the pot should be large enough for the cactus piece to sit in comfortably but not so big that the cactus has a lot of empty space around it. This pot should have some drainage holes, and it is recommended that you use potting soil that is made for cacti and succulents. You should also plant the cactus piece so that the calloused end sits in the soil. 

Step 3: Encourage Root Development

The next thing you should do for your new cactus plant is encourage root development. You can keep the soil around your new cactus damp for three weeks. You will also need to ensure that your new cactus is in a spot with plenty of direct sunlight. 

Step 4: Care For Your New Cactus

Once the roots have developed on your new cactus plant, all you need to do is care for it just like you would for any other cactus of that species. 

How Often Should A Cactus Be Watered?

Most types of cacti only need to be watered every couple of weeks. It is recommended that you ensure that the soil around your cactus is completely dry before watering them again, no matter how much time between waterings. 

Things To Consider 

There are some other things that you should consider when it comes to cactus splitting. These additional things include whether you can straighten a bent cactus and what else you should look out for in cacti that could be a sign of a problem. Here are some other things to keep in mind about cacti splitting. 

Can You Straighten A Bent Cactus? 

Unfortunately, you can not physically straighten a cactus that is already bent or slanted. A bit of bending or leaning in a cactus is alright, but extremes can become an issue. If this is the case for you, then the best course of action is to take a cutting from your cactus and start over. 

Luckily, you can prevent bending and slanting in cacti fairly easily. You can avoid overwatering and ensure that your cactus gets enough direct sunlight. It also helps to ensure that your cactus has enough room to form roots properly. The good news is that some very minor leaning or bending can also be stopped by doing these things. 

What Are Some Other Signs Of Problems In Cacti? 

There are some other signs of problems in cacti that you should be aware of if you have these spiky plants in your garden. Some additional problems can occur in cacti besides bending, leaning, and stem splitting. 

  • Soft stems 
  • Discolored spots (brown, black, yellow, etc.)
  • Signs of rotting 
  • Loss of color vibrancy 
  • Wilting, shriveling, or drooping 
  • Losing spines 
  • Dying flowers 
  • Cactus is just not growing or developing properly


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