Cactus species like the Peruvian apple grow taller and may easily fall over and get damaged when the top section becomes too heavy for the roots to support. Plants that don’t receive adequate light and those with shallow or damaged root systems are also prone to tipping over.
My bunny ear cactus growing long and skinny, made me seek the help of a plant specialist from the Lukas Nursery and Garden Center in Florida, who advised me on what to do when a tall cactus is falling over.
Cactus Too Tall and Falling Over
Here is how to fix a cactus that is falling over:
1. Provide support for the cactus
Providing steady support is ultimately the first step in saving the plant. Carefully insert a stake into the soil near the cactus base and tie the stem to the stake using soft fabric strips. This will stop the cactus from leaning further or completely falling over.
You can use the Monstera Coir Totem Pole Moss Stick for Plant Support available on Amazon.
Additionally, monitor the cactus regularly to be sure that it’s not outgrowing the support you provided. Adjust the stake as needed as the cactus grows to continue providing support. Sturdy materials, like hardwood, bamboo, or driftwood, will provide lasting support.
2. Prune the cactus to reduce its weight
Pruning the cactus will help reduce the extra weight that makes it lean or fall over. Depending on the type of cactus, you may trim the top or remove some overgrown branches and offsets. To do this, you’ll need a sterilized pair of long-handled pruning shears, a sharp, clean knife, and a pair of gloves.
Identify the section of the cactus to be pruned and make a clean cut just above a set of healthy new growth. Allow the cut to be dry and callous for a day before watering the cactus. This will prevent water from getting into the cactus tissues to cause rot.
3. Ensure the cactus is getting light adequately
Improper lighting could be why the cactus is leaning on one side or falling over. This is common in plants grown indoors. If the cactus is not receiving enough light, it may grow leggy to reach more light, making it more prone to falling over.
To fix this problem, you may need to review your light conditions and ensure the cactus receives adequate light in all directions. You may introduce grow lights to supplement the lighting and don’t forget to rotate the plant every other week for even light distribution.
4. Inspect and treat the cactus roots for pests
Insect pests such as root mealybugs, fungi gnats, and root weevils can attack the cactus roots causing serious damage that may lead to the plant falling over, wilting, or dying. Since they act under the soil, detecting and controlling them as needed becomes hard.
Therefore, regular plant inspection can help detect the signs early enough to prevent the spread of the problem. Since it may be difficult to tell the type of pest that is damaging your plant without the help of an expert, it may not be possible to offer effective treatment.
Usually, removing the damaged roots and repotting the cactus in the fresh soil mix is always helpful in saving the affected plant. The infested plant should also be isolated to prevent the spread of pests to other healthy plants. A plant specialist may recommend a suitable pesticide to use.
5. Check for root rot and review your watering
Overwatering is the leading cause of damaged plant roots. Excess water in the soil limits the air supply around the roots causing them to suffocate and die. Cactus turning yellow, falling over, or wilting potentially indicates overwatering or poor drainage.
Cactus root rot is typically the most difficult condition to treat. Removal of the damaged roots and repotting the plant in fresh soil is a quick solution to this problem. Cutting back on watering may help save the plants whose roots are not badly damaged.
Cactus roots are also likely to get damaged when you under-water the plant. But the problem won’t be as much serious as overwatering. Cacti generally prefer drier soil than waterlogged. Be sure to water them only when the soil feels dry.
6. Repot in a large sturdy planter
Over time a cactus may outgrow its pot and become root-bound. Sometimes, the potting material may become unstable to support the growing plant. If this is what is causing your cactus to tip over, consider replanting it in a slightly larger and more sturdy container.
You may reuse the potting soil only if it’s not contaminated, but add some sand to improve drainage and fertilizer to boost its nutritional content. Ideally, use a fresh soil mix formulated for cactuses or succulents. Further, make sure the pot has drainage holes at the bottom.
A cactus that grows too tall may become unstable and fall over, resulting in damages and losses. This can happen when the weight of the plant exceeds the support of its roots when the cactus is not receiving enough light, and when the roots are weakened or damaged by pests or fungal infections.
To stop the cactus from topping over, provide support, prune, and provide proper growth conditions, including sufficient light, balanced watering, and regular inspection for pests and diseases. Repotting the plant in a sturdy planter and well-draining soil may also fix the problem.
“Pruning Cacti and Other Desert Succulents,” University of Nevada Extension
“Pests in Gardens and Landscapes,” University of California Extension
“Cacti and Succulents,” University of Minnesota Extension
My name is Diane M Lewik, and I am the founder of this website. I am a degree holder in plant biology from the University of California – Berkeley. Over years, I have cultivated a vast collection of succulents and I have learned a great deal about how to grow and care for these unique plants.