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Q.Can I Rescue An Overwatered Pencil Cactus?

Zone 10011 | stasiabasia added on January 30, 2023 | Answered

I got a pencil cactus as a gift last summer. I was watering it about once a week. After a couple of months, I left it at my boyfriend\\\’s place for about a month while I was away. It did really well there and grew new stems and what looked like small leaves at the ends. He seemed to have been watering it more frequently as I noticed the soil in the pot was pretty wet. After I took it back to my apartment, I decided to keep watering it once a week, sometimes more, to keep the soil moist like my boyfriend had done. After a couple of months, the small leaves at the ends dried out. A few weeks later, one of the new stems also dried out where it joined the main stem. The plant was green with no yellow or brown parts. Panicking as I was leaving for a week, I watered it some more even though the soil was already moist. Now I\\\’ve come back from my trip and am horrified by the state the plant is in. Most of the stems at the bottom of the plant have dried out where they join the main stem, and the main stem itself is partially dry a bit above these bottom stems. I\\\’m pretty sure I overwatered it even though all the stems are still green in color. Can I still rescue it? Do I need to report or cut the plant above the part of the main stem that started drying out? Any advice much appreciated!

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Certified GKH Gardening Expert
Answered on January 30, 2023

Unfortunately, your photos did not come through. I am unable to see the state of the plant. These plants are quite tolerant of neglect (preferring it if everything is set right in their soil). The extra watering may have triggered some stress, which tells the plant to try and put everything it has into reproduction. This means that you will see flowers, and vigorous growth, but doesn't always indicate a good thing!

Continued overwatering led to suffocation and rot, which is what you are seeing now, likely. From here, setting in a rich cactus soil mixed with a little compost will be appropriate. Make sure that the container has plenty of drainage holes. Water, ONLY when the soil is COMPLETELY DRY down to at least halfway into the container. Make sure all extra water leaves the container, and is discarded. It should never sit in water.

You may want to use a fungicide of your choice, as well.

Here are some articles to help:



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Answered on January 30, 2023

Thank you BushDoctor! Noted on the repotting. Would you recommend cutting the cactus above the dried out bottom stems and only planting the top part?

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