Cactus Corking vs Cactus Rot – Identification and Differences

Cactus can live over a century, but many changes occur. It’s common to see the plant losing its glorious green texture to leathery like a callus when aging. The cactus might turn brown, and owners may not know if they are looking at cactus corking or rot.

So, what are the differences been cactus corking and rot?

Corking is a natural aging process that hardens the cactus’s lower portion and outer skin as protection. The plant remains healthy and firm.

On the other hand, rot is a fungal or bacterial infection that can cause the cactus tissues to become soft, mushy, and discolored. It is majorly caused by overwatering, poor drainage, or damage to the plant.

Cactus CorkingCactus Rot
It is a natural process that occurs when the plant is aging.A fungal or bacterial infection due to overwatering, poor drainage, or open wounds on the plant.
It commonly starts at the base as it moves upwards.The rot can occur anywhere on the plant. It can start from the top to bottom and vice versa.
Signs appear gradual and can be hard to notice when it starts.The signs can appear overnight, and you can tell when it starts to happen.
The plant remains healthy and firm.The plant feels mushy and soft to the touch.
It cannot be stopped once it starts.It can be stopped by removing the rotting parts.
There is no bad smell around the plant.There is a likelihood of a bad smell coming from the rotting tissues.
Common in mature cacti only.It can happen to a plant at any age.

Cactus corking vs. Rot – Differences

It is easy to confuse cactus rot and cactus corking as they all result in cactus turning brown. To tell the difference, you need to look into other factors, such as the age of the plant, stem texture, and even the smell around the plant.

Corking cactus

Corking is common in mature cactus plants, and it usually starts at the base of the plant and spreads slowly to other parts. A build-up of suberin causes this change in texture in the outer stem tissues to form calluses. This provides firm support and stability to the aging cactus.

Even though the outer skin changes in appearance, the inside tissues remain firm and intact. Corking will not kill plants, and you should not worry if it starts happening. You can do nothing to stop the process, even if the whole plant looks dried up.

Cactus rot

Cactus rot is a serious condition resulting from fungal infections, diseases, frost, or water penetrating the plant through an open wound. A rotting cactus feels soft and mushy to the touch. You can also notice a foul smell oozing around the cactus plant.

Rot can start from any plant part, depending on the cause. Unfortunately, this condition spreads quickly and may kill the plant in a matter of days. Root rot is the most difficult to detect and treat, while topical issues in the upper section of the plant can be treated easily.

How to fix cactus rot

Most plants respond well to the removal of diseased tissue. Use a sharp, sterile knife to cut off the damaged section until all the rot signs are gone, and allow the wound to dry out. Don’t water overhead as the wound closes; it may cause another rot.

There is very little to be done if the roots are severely damaged. Try to remove the plant from the soil and cut off the damaged roots. Thoroughly wash the remaining plant in clean water and let it dry for two days, then replant the cactus in well-drained fresh soil.

Since overwatering and poor soil drainage are the main causes of root rot, only water your cactus when the soil is completely dry. However, how long a cactus can go without water will depend on the size of the weather conditions.

Final thought

Cactus corking is a natural process that occurs as the plant matures, while rot is a disease that can cause serious damage to the plant. If you aren’t sure of what is happening to your cactus, consult a plant specialist.


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