An overwatered prickly pear can easily be identified when its foliage begins turning yellow. However, you still need to be careful as other factors such as pest infestation and inadequate sunlight may have similar effects.

Overwatered Pear Cactus

In extreme cases, root rot may set in and this can endanger the survival of your plant. The aim of this article is to enlighten you on the possible causes of overwatering, in addition to the effective strategies for reversing the situation.

What Are the Possible Reasons My Cactus Is Overwatered?

The possible reasons why your prickly pear cactus might be overwatered could be because of incorrect watering schedules, seasonal and environmental discrepancies, wrong potting soil, inappropriate pot, and pest control methods that involve water. These factors can work individually or as combinations to yield the negative effects of overwatering.

– Incorrect Watering Patterns

Prickly pear cactus plants are quite a drought resistant and so they do not require too frequent watering patterns. Mind you, the plants can also store water in their leaves so even if you don’t water them for some time, they will use that water for survival. Based on this, you can leave the potting soil of your plant to completely dry before you can consider adding more water.

When you simply water the prickly pear cactus too frequently then you should, this plant will sit in water. If this happens for a long time, the plant will suffer from root rot because of the waterlogged conditions.

Sometimes, your prickly pear cactus plant may end up being overwatered if you do not check the moisture of its soil before watering. This is because even though we recommend following predetermined watering schedules, changes in environmental conditions may affect the rate at which the soil dries up. Under such circumstances, definite watering patterns may not work well, as you might find yourself watering an already moist soil.

– Seasonal and Environmental Discrepancies

Your cactus’ water needs are different as seasons change. Ideally, the plant needs more water in summer because that is when its growth and development are at peak rates. As a result, the plant requires more water for use in the various biological processes that aid the growth and survival of the plant. Depriving your plant of water during this season will affect growth.

In winter, the prickly pear cactus becomes dormant. This means that its biological processes also slow down so there won’t be a need for much water. Therefore, if you water your cactus the same way you would in summer at this time, overwatering is more likely to happen.

Interestingly, environmental conditions also play a role in determining the frequency at which you water your plant as seasons change. In summer, temperatures and sunlight levels are high, both of which increase the speed at which water is lost through transpiration and evaporation. Based on the same concept, colder seasons are associated with lower temperatures and sunlight levels, which reduce the rates of transpiration and evaporation. So, the soil of your plant will stay wet for longer, hence the need to reduce your watering frequency.

– Wrong Potting Soil

One of the easiest ways to get your prickly pear cactus overwatered is by using compacted soils such as clay. Compacted soils close up the air spaces that are supposed to help the roots of your plant to breathe. These air spaces are also passages that allow water to freely move through the soil so that your plant can absorb the amount that it needs, while the rest goes down the pot until it escapes through drainage holes.

Reasons of Overwatered Pear Cactus

When your potting soil is compacted, your prickly pear cactus will sit in waterlogged conditions because water becomes stationary in the growing medium. The trapped water further clogs the few available spaces, if any, further making it difficult for your plant’s roots to access oxygen. Such conditions are highly supportive of the development of the fungi that cause root rot and you might see your cactus turning yellow due to limited access to water, nutrients, and oxygen.

Please note that the prickly pear cactus grows well in soils that are well-draining. However, as you continue to water your plant, the soil may become compacted over time. This may then expose your plant to overwatering. It is, therefore, important that you check if the soil of your plant is still loose enough to allow the proper flow of water.

– Inappropriate Pot

A pot with generous drainage holes will do your prickly pear cactus better than harm. Pots that have fewer or no drainage holes at all will be more supportive of overwatering conditions. This is because excess water won’t be able to escape the pot so it will accumulate inside . As a result, the roots of your cactus will sit in water and become prone to an attack by root rot.

A well-draining soil works together with a pot that also has good drainage characteristics. This means that even if you have soil that drains well, your plant will be affected by overwatering, considering that all the water will still remain within the pot.

Another point to note is that even if your pot has many drainage holes, the draining capacity is still compromised when they are too small. This is because a pot with tiny drainage holes takes too long to release water from the pot, so your cactus will still stay in a waterlogged condition for some time. Too big holes are also not ideal because they may allow soil particles out during watering sessions.

– Pest Control Methods That Involve Water

Some of the pests that mostly attack the prickly pear cactus are the scale, aphids, and/or cactus bugs. While there are many strategies that are available for controlling these pests, water-based methods such as hosing them off with a strong stream of water is one of the common ones. The hosing method is effective in removing pests, especially when the infestations are low.

The only challenge that comes with the hosing method of pest control is that it poses the risk of overwatering your cactus plants. This is especially true if you keep the pest control and watering sessions separate. This way, the pest control session will count as a standalone watering session, considering that the water that you use to remove the pests will fall into the potting soil. This increases the likelihood of your prickly pear cactus being overwatered.

What Are Good Reversal Tips for an Overwatered Cactus?

Good reversal tips for an overwatered cactus include how to follow proper watering schedules, take note of seasonal changes, and use the correct potting soil. For your cactus to produce prickly pears, you should prevent overwatering, as part of your plant care procedures. 

However, in the event that overwatering has already occurred, you still have a chance to recover your plant. Most of the strategies that you can employ are simple care procedures that would have protected your plant from overwatering in the first place. 

– Follow Proper Watering Schedules

If you have just propagated your prickly pear, let a month elapse without watering it. After that, you can apply water to the plant every two weeks, but don’t go beyond four weeks without giving it a drink. Young plants need resources like water, oxygen, and nutrients for them to develop, grow, and establish themselves. This is why you should water them more frequently at this stage.

For plants that are already established, you can give your prickly pear cactus a drink twice every month during summer. In other seasons of the year, watering once a month will satisfy your plant’s needs. Remember, the prickly pear cactus plants grow more vigorously in summer and enter a dormant state in colder seasons. Therefore, in summer, the plant needs more resources to aid its growth, which part;y explains why you should water the cactus more during this season.

If you are growing your prickly pear cactus indoors, check to see if the first quarter inch of the topsoil is dry. You can do this by dipping your finger or another tool like a chopstick into the potting soil and if they come out completely dry, that’s a sign that you can water your plant. You can also use a moisture meter as it is more effective and is less influenced by human error.

– Be Cognisant of Seasonal and Environmental Changes

We recommend that you follow watering schedules as stipulated for summer and other seasons. However, we also advise that you keep changes in environmental conditions in check. These conditions determine the speed at which water escapes from the soil through evaporation and transpiration. In essence, environmental conditions also determine the timeframe that it takes for the soil to dry up.

Overwatered Pear Cactus Solutions

Your plant is more likely to need more water when temperatures and sunlight intensity are high. The opposite is also true. This means that you might need to wait a little longer before watering your plant again when temperatures are low, even if general watering schedules suggest otherwise.

– Use the Correct Potting Soil

The best soil for growing your prickly pear cactus should be well-draining, sandy, or gravelly. The structure of these types of soils is loose and so allows for excellent aeration. Such soils provide ample access to oxygen by the roots of your plant. The more air spaces that are available in sandy soils make it easier for water to move, thereby preventing waterlogged conditions.

If you use clay soils, be sure to add sand to make the soil structure looser and well-draining. The prickly pear cactus is not happy in moisture-retaining soil, which is one of the reasons why you have to do everything possible to increase the drainage properties. If you are growing your cactus indoors, remember to put a collecting tray for the water that drains from the potting soil.

Also, get a pot with good drainage properties for growing your plant. The pot should have many drainage holes of the right size. Please note that some pots are more porous and naturally well-draining than others. Therefore, we recommend that you buy a terracotta pot as it is more porous than other types, such as metal ones.

– Be Careful of How You Use Pest Control Strategies

If you prefer water-based strategies for controlling pests, you could combine the schedules with your watering ones. This way, the pest control session is less likely to cause overwatering considering that the normal watering frequency is maintained. Another effective trick is spreading plastic on top of your plant’s potting soil. When you do so, the water that you use to hose the pests off will not go into the potting soil.

You could also consider using other pest control strategies, and avoid the water-based ones. For example, Neem oil is an effective organic pesticide against various pests. We also recommend 70 percent isopropyl alcohol for two main reasons. First, it is effective against many pests, and second, it quickly evaporates after use.

You can also use insecticidal soap, which you can buy from the shops if you don’t prefer making your own. To prepare your own insecticidal soap at home, simply mix a tablespoon of mild liquid soap with a cup of vegetable oil. From this mixture, take about six teaspoons and mix them with a quart of water. Use this to spray your cactus plants and get rid of pests, while also protecting your plant from overwatering, in the process.

Saving Overwatered Pear Cactus


By now, you might have noticed that recovering your overwatered prickly pear cactus is not only possible, but it’s also probably easier than you thought. Before you go, here are some nuggets that you should keep at the tips of your fingers:

  • When a prickly pear cactus is turning yellow, this might be a sign of overwatering.
  • Failure to adhere to recommended watering schedules, using compacted potting soil and a poorly draining pot are possible causes of overwatering on your prickly pear cactus.
  • If overwatering is not addressed earlier, you might have to deal with root rot.
  • To effectively deal with overwatering, you should correct your care procedures, including watering schedules.

It is true that knowledge is power. With what you now know, you have all it takes to deal with an overwatered prickly pear cactus.


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