Help! Shrinking and need id!

by Nicki

Hi, I live in a dorm, and I'm 14.

Last year in Arizona I bought this potted cactus to bring a piece of home with me. It means a lot to me, but now it's dying! I think....

It's shrunk about an inch off the top and sides total, and the spines (needles? they're circular) are turning gray at the bottom. There is also a lot of space around the cactus in the pot now, probably because of the shrinkage.

The top of the soil is covered in this hard packed down rock thing that I can't get through. Not sure what to do, it means a lot to me! Please help!

Oh, the spines have never been sharp, it's not really fuzzy though either.

Drought Smart Plants reply;
Hi Nicki, I have bad news for you - it appears that your cactus may not be with us much longer.

These plants are tough in several ways, but if they are in a place where they don't get absolutely the most light possible, they won't thrive, and then the danger is that they may get overwatered, which is their death sentence.

So, stop watering it, and make sure that the pot it's in has a drain hole - if it doesn't, find one that does to put it in.

To handle a cactus plant when you're repotting it, use leather gloves, or several sheets of newspaper to protect you from the spines.

The most likely possibility is that it's been potted into some really hard sandy soil, and it's packed down.

If you can, I would try and just poke into it with a metal fork or something - just to aerate it a bit, not to dig it out.

This might loosen the packed soil enough to get some air into it and dry it out if that's the problem.

My other suggestion is to put it somewhere quite bright, such as an east facing window if possible, or under a grow light - you can get small ones that are made for one plant, like a spot light - use the ones specifically made for growing plants as they'll have the correct type of light.

These are last ditch efforts - it's doubtful that you'll be able to save it at this stage - I'm so sorry!

In future, if you happen to get a similar plant, it's best to avoid watering it except very rarely - they can withstand severe drought conditions, sometimes for years.

I've even heard of really committed collectors keeping track of the weather patterns in Arizona, and only watering when it rains there. This is a bit excessive, but it gives you some idea of the rare number of times that you should water in a year.

Generally, once they do get a drink, it will promote blooming, a spectacle worth waiting for.

Hopefully, this just makes you want to succeed badly enough that you will keep trying!

Best of luck,

Comments for Help! Shrinking and need id!

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Feb 28, 2012
about the soil
by: Anonymous

Did you buy this plant already in this pot? Is the soil sort of -uh - glued together? If so, you need to get it out of there. If you take the plant right out of the pot, you may be able to get that hard "crust" off. Then replant in fresh cactus mix. If not, I'd just write this plant off. Sorry.

Feb 28, 2012
by: Nicki

yeah, the soil is like a grainy tar, and is glued together.

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