Why Is Your Cactus Turning White?

1. Introduction to White Cactus

A white cactus may be a cause for concern among cactus enthusiasts. Cacti are known for their vibrant green color and unique shapes, so when a cactus starts turning white, it can indicate an underlying issue. In this article, we will explore the possible reasons why your cactus is turning white and provide insights into how to address the problem.

2. Lack of Sunlight

Sunlight deprivation is one of the common causes of cacti turning white. Cacti are desert plants accustomed to receiving ample sunlight, and they require several hours of direct sunlight each day for optimal growth. When a cactus doesn’t receive enough sunlight, it undergoes a process called etiolation, which leads to its pale or white appearance. Here are some points to consider:

  • Insufficient Light: If your cactus is not placed in a location where it receives adequate sunlight, it may start turning white. This is especially common when cacti are kept indoors or in shaded areas.
  • Light Requirements: Cacti typically require 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. If your cactus is not getting enough light, consider moving it to a sunnier location or providing supplemental artificial light, such as fluorescent grow lights.
  • Gradual Acclimation: If you plan to move your cactus from a low-light environment to a brighter location, it’s important to acclimate it gradually. Sudden exposure to intense sunlight can cause sunburn and damage the plant. Start by gradually increasing the exposure time to sunlight to allow the cactus to adjust.

3. Overwatering

Overwatering is another common culprit behind white cacti. Cacti are adapted to arid conditions and have specialized water storage tissues to survive in dry environments. When they are exposed to excessive moisture, it can lead to various issues, including a whitish appearance. Consider the following points:

  • Root Rot: Overwatering can cause the roots of the cactus to become waterlogged, leading to root rot. This condition hinders the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients and water properly, resulting in a white or pale appearance.
  • Improper Drainage: Cacti require well-draining soil to prevent excess water from accumulating around the roots. If your cactus is potted in a soil mix that retains too much moisture, it can lead to overwatering and subsequent whitening of the plant. Ensure that the pot has drainage holes and use a well-draining cactus or succulent-specific soil mix.
  • Watering Frequency: Avoid overwatering your cactus by allowing the soil to dry out between watering sessions. Stick your finger into the soil, and if it feels dry at least an inch below the surface, it’s time to water. Adjust your watering schedule based on the specific needs of your cactus and the environmental conditions.

4. Sunburn

Sunburn can also cause a cactus to turn white. Although cacti are adapted to thrive in sunny conditions, excessive exposure to intense sunlight can lead to sunburn, which manifests as a whitish discoloration on the plant. Consider the following points:

  • Intense Sunlight: If your cactus is suddenly exposed to intense sunlight, especially during the peak hours of the day, it can result in sunburn. This is particularly common when moving cacti from indoor environments or shaded areas to direct sunlight without acclimation.
  • Protective Measures: To prevent sunburn, provide some shade to your cactus during the hottest parts of the day, especially if it has been recently moved to a sunnier location. You can use shade cloth, sheer curtains, or move the cactus to a slightly shaded area until it becomes accustomed to the increased sunlight.
  • Gradual Sun Exposure: When transitioning a cactus to a sunnier location, gradually increase its exposure to direct sunlight over a period of several days or weeks. This allows the plant to adapt and develop a protective waxy layer on its surface, reducing the risk of sunburn.

5. Pests or Diseases

In some cases, a white appearance in cacti can be an indication of pest infestation or disease. Pests and diseases can weaken the cactus, affecting its color and overall health. Here are some points to consider:

  • Mealybugs: Mealybugs are common pests that can infest cacti and cause white, cottony patches on the plant’s surface. These pests feed on the cactus’s sap, leading to weakened growth and a pale appearance. Treat mealybug infestations by isolating the affected plant, manually removing the pests with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol, and applying insecticidal soap or neem oil if necessary.
  • Fungal Infections: Certain fungal infections, such as powdery mildew, can cause a white, powdery coating on the cactus. These infections thrive in humid conditions and can be exacerbated by overwatering. To treat fungal infections, remove the infected parts of the cactus, improve air circulation around the plant, and avoid overhead watering. Fungicides may be necessary in severe cases.

  • Viral Infections: Viral infections can also cause discoloration and other abnormalities in cacti. Unfortunately, there are no specific treatments for viral infections, and infected plants should be isolated and removed to prevent the spread of the virus to other healthy plants.


When your cactus starts turning white, it’s important to diagnose the underlying cause to address the issue effectively. Lack of sunlight, overwatering, sunburn, pest infestations, and diseases are common factors that can lead to a pale or white appearance in cacti. By understanding these causes and implementing appropriate measures, such as providing adequate sunlight, adjusting watering practices, and addressing pest or disease issues, you can help restore your cactus’s health and vibrant green color. Remember to monitor your cactus closely and make adjustments accordingly to ensure its well-being.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *