Why Is My Cactus Turning Pink?(8 Reasons and How to fix them?)

Cactus is a spiny succulent plant without foliage, having chubby stems and dazzling blooms. One fine day, you notice that your cactus is turning pink. At times, you may also notice your cactus turning red or purple as well. What can be the reason for your cactus plant turning pink? 

Quick Answer

A cactus turning pink or red is not a concern per se. It can be an indicator of the stress experienced due to the extreme environment. Sudden changes in the temperature, amount of sunlight, over watering and similar other extremities can make the cactus to turn pink. Of course, there may be a few severe conditions that may include root rot, and lack of nutrients. A change in the environment can help fix the issues most of the time. 

Photo Source- www.latimes.com

Why is my Cactus turning Pink?

There are several reasons that you would find your cactus turning pink. analysing the reasons can be helpful in letting you find the exact solutions and fixes to help you take an absolute care of your cactus.


Cacti are in love with the sun, but an indoor cactus can be vulnerable to sunburns if exposed to excessive sunlight. 

Cactus kept on the windowsill may get sunburn as glass magnifies sun rays. The situation will aggravate if  your plant is on or near a south-facing window.

While shifting your cactus plant  outdoors, make sure that you have slowly exposed it to the sunlight, initially keeping it in a partially shaded place.

Drastic changes in light intensity will stress the plant making it retaliate by turning pinkish.

Fixes – 

  • Shift your cactus plant to a partially shaded place away from direct sunlight. 
  • If indoors, you can keep your plant near a north-facing or west-facing window. Make sure that it gets a daily dose of at least six hours of bright, indirect light.

Excess Heat

Excess heat can also turn your cactus pink, particularly if the heat is due to too much direct or unfiltered sunlight.

This happens in two ways: 

  • Your cactus may produce anthocyanins, a pink purple pigment in response to the heat stress. 
  • Or extreme heat can burn your cactus leading to tissue damage. This will stop your plant from taking in UV sun rays that are necessary for photosynthesis causing the discoloration.
  • Your cactus can become reddish purple due to overheated roots.


Protect your cactus from any source of heat like direct sunlight, radiator or heating vent.

Improper Watering

Cactus plants need proper watering and both over watering and less watering will turn it pink.

If underwatering is the issue, your cactus plant will turn pinkish or purple before becoming parched to a dull, crispy brown. Wrinkling or curling near the base of your cactus can be noticed.

Initially, overwatered cactus plants show signs of health and they are plump and have new growth. 

However, overwatering your cactus causes root rot. As they get waterlogged, the roots will die and rot. As more roots die, the plant above ground will start to deteriorate, usually turning soft and changing colour. By this point, it may be too late to save it. It’s important to catch the symptoms early, when the cactus is plump and growing quickly, and to slow down watering considerably at that point.

Overwatering your cactus causes root rot. Initially, they turn yellow, then become brown, purple or pink. Rusty or corky areas may also develop (scabbing) due to overwatering.

In the end, your cactus will be soft, mushy and die.

Fixes –

  • Underwatered cactus should be watered thoroughly and deeply.
  • In case of an overwatered cactus, get rid of any diseased roots, treat healthy roots with fungicides and repot with fresh soil.
  • Allow the top 2-3″ of soil to dry out completely between waterings.

Nutrient Deficiency

Cacti turn pink when they lack major nutrients like phosphorus. Phosphorus is needed by the cactus to make nucleic acids, sugars, and energy.

Pink cactus may be due to magnesium or nitrogen deficiency.  

A nutrient-lacking cactus may become yellow, wilted or pale.

Excessive use of fertiliser, potting mix that you are using for a long time, and poor drainage often lead to nutrient deficiency. Also, keep checking the root damage due to infestation.

Fixes – 

  • Use fresh cactus potting mix to repot the cactus plant, when required.
  • During the growing period, a half- strength houseplant fertiliser can be used to fertilise your cactus. 
  • Epsom salt can be used for magnesium deficiency.

Poor Drainage

Poor drainage causes water logging, your cactus roots will suffocate and can’t absorb nutrients, thus leading to root rot.

If they stay wet for longer, your cactus roots will die.

So, your cactus plant will not absorb water and nutrients such as phosphorus, nitrogen & magnesium, turning the foliage pink or purple.

Fixes – 

  • Once root rot has set in, it is better to remove dead or diseased roots. You can also reduce foliage for fast recovery.
  • Or, repot your plant in a fresh, cactus potting mix.

Insufficient Light

Poor light is one of the main causes of cactus turning pink. Cactus plants generally produce more anthocyanins due to stress from insufficient light. This purple pigment eclipses green chlorophyll, turning your cactus pinkish.

Though some cactus species withstand poor light, most lose their green shine on not getting sufficient sunlight for photosynthesis. You may see some yellow and/or white areas.

Fixes – 

  • The easy way to deal with insufficient light is to place your cactus in bright, indirect light. 
  • Some species of cactus grow well in partial sunlight.

Cold Drafts

Some cactus species like prickly pears are cold-hardy, but they cannot endure temperature below 50 °F (10 °C). This creates temperature stress, making the cactus plant turn pink in response.

Fixes – 

Cold temperature initiated pinking of your cactus can be avoided by placing your plant in a room. Your cactus will thrive best in a temp range of 70-80 °F (21-27 °C).

During the dormancy period, temperature should be 45-55 °F (7-13 °C). Also, keep your plant away from sources of cold drafts like doors and AC vents.


Check out the following video to find what makes cactus turn pink or red.

Pest and Diseases

A pink cactus can be a sign of pest infestation or disease.

Cactus cyst 

One of the reasons for discoloration is cactus cyst that occurs due to Cactodera cacti found in infected soil. On checking the soil, you can notice small, spherical nodules.  Wilting and stunted growth are some other signs.

Fungal root and stem rot 

These infections occur due to fungi like Dreschlera and turn your cactus pink. Check your cactus for mushy parts, rotten smell and sick appearance.

Spider mites 

These pests draw sap from soft parts of the cactus. Look for small mite webs, especially on the lower side of the foliage. You may find brown spots with a yellow aureola.

Cacti sometimes turn pink as they don’t get sufficient water. Mostly, a cactus that turns pink is not dangerous for the life of the plant. Water it regularly so that the cactus restores its normal state. Some species of cactus turn pink on being exposed to sunlight.

Why Is My Christmas Cactus Leaves Turning Pink?

If your Christmas cactus leaves turning pink, it can be an indication of  a lot of sunlight or even overwatering. Check if your Christmas cactus is close to any window that is receiving heavy sunlight. The window grill may also be one of the reasons that amplifies the sunlight. 

Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) leaves can turn pink due to root rot which results from overwatering or poor drainage.

  •  One way to find out is to examine the roots. The roots are healthy if they are fresh and white. If the tips of the roots are brown or black, they have started rotting. Mushy or slimy roots means they have rotted and the plant cannot be saved. 
  • Remove any damaged roots and wash the roots with fresh, cold water, then keep the plant unpotted overnight. Trim any mushy or damaged foliage as well. 
  • If the plant is outgrowing its pot, shift the plant to a pot one size larger. If the pot is proper sized, wash and disinfect it with a 10 percent bleach solution, rinse and then dry well. Repot the plant in a fresh potting mix and avoid watering it for about one week.
  •  When you start watering, water thoroughly till water drains through the holes at the bottom of the pot, the top inch of soil should be completely dry before next watering. Water accumulated in the saucer can be thrown away so it is not absorbed back into soil through the drainage hole.
Photo Source: acornsonglen.com
  • Christmas cactuses turn pink or red when they don’t get sufficient water. If kept indoors, these plants need less water in winters, but in growing season, water frequently.
  • If the roots are healthy, then possibly, your plant is turning pink due to inappropriate sun exposure. Christmas cactuses need bright sunlight in winters and partial shade in the active growing season. Make sure that you place it properly.
  • Magnesium deficiency can also turn your cactus plant pink, which quite often occurs in winters. This can be cured by spraying the whole plant, including the lower sides of leaves, with one teaspoon of Epsom salts dissolved in a gallon of room-temperature water. This can be done once a month till the colour of the plant becomes normal.
  • Finally, use a balanced houseplant fertiliser, as per directions written on the package on a monthly basis  from spring through fall — but do not use it in the same week when Epsom salts are applied.

Why Is My Cactus Mushy?

If you notice your cactus turning mushy, it can be a clear sign of over watering. Cacti do not work well with too much water. The mushy appearance of the cactus can be a telltale sign hat the roots of your cactus might have already rotted. 

When a cactus starts turning brown and mushy at the top, it is suffering from tip rot also called cactus stem rot.This means that your cactus is rotting. Cactus stem rot spreads quickly if proper steps are not taken to stop it from spreading.

If a cactus has started rotting top-down, it spreads continuously down the entire stem, thus killing the plant. So, as you discover cactus tip rot,  take quick action to save the plant.

Reasons For Cactus Rotting Top Down

If you notice the cactus rotting top down, it can be due to infection from fungus, or any disease. It can also be due to the water getting into a wound on the plant. It may be possible that the cactus might have damaged in some way. This makes it vulnerable and get infected with the fungal spores or even any disease. 

Some reasons for a cactus to rot from the top down are either fungus, disease or water entering into an open wound on the plant.

If a cactus is damaged, it is susceptible to being infected with disease or fungus spores. Sometimes, water also settles into the wound, making the plant rot from the inside out.

The damage can be caused by anything like bugs or animals feeding on the plant. If someone brushes up against it, the plant may  have tipped over, or something fell on it will also damage the plant. At times, it might be difficult to find the exact reason behind it.

You may also check out the video here to know more –

How To Save A Rotting Cactus?

If you find your cactus rotting, one of the best options to take care is to let it dry in a cool and dry place away from the direct sunlight. If your cactus is too large, you can let it dry for a few weeks. 

The steps to save a rotting cactus are the same no matter how it started, but these will depend on where it is rotting

A rotting cactus can be saved by pruning off all the rot. If it is not removed entirely, it will keep spreading, thereby killing your cactus.

As cactus rot spreads quickly, you have to take action faster.

So at  first, let’s learn the steps for how to save a cactus that is rotting top down.

How To Save A Cactus Rotting Top Down

Cactus tip rot can be very tricky. When you find small brown spots on a cactus, you may take it as a small bit of rot.

Then while removing these spots, you may come to know that it is even worse inside than it appeared on the outside.

Follow these steps to remove cactus stem rot – 

Step 1: Selecting the pruning tool

Use a sharp knife or pruning shears to remove the rot. For a thick cactus, use a sharp knife.

For small cactus plants having thin stems, precision pruners or bonsai shears are recommended. Make sure that they are sharp enough to not crush the cactus stem.

Step 2: Cleaning your cutting tool – 

It is important to clean your cutting tools and sterilize them before you start to cut.

A clean pruning tool will prevent the spread of disease and fungus spores.  Simply wash your pruning shears or knife with soap and water, and dry it before use.

It is advisable to wash and dry your tool before each cut. Dip it in rubbing alcohol to sterilise it.

Step 3: Removing cactus stem rot in layers – 

Prune off the rot in layers so that all of it is removed.

If you find that the centre of the healthy-looking portion of your cactus plant still has rot on the inside,  then keep removing layers till all the rot is removed. Even a little bit of rot left can spread again. Remove all the brown, soft and mushy cactus till there are no more traces of rot left.

For an outdoor cactus plant, make the last cut at an angle such that water does not settle on the wound or it will rot again.

Also, move the plant to a dry area to protect it from rain until the wound has callused over.

Cactus Care Tips After Pruning

After pruning, keep an eye on your cactus plant to make sure it doesn’t  rot further. If it starts rotting again, follow the same procedure to remove the rot.

After some days, the wound will callus over and your cactus will develop new growth near the cut.

How To Save A Cactus Rotting Bottom Up

  • If your cactus is rotting bottom up, or the cactus roots are rotted, then there is no way to save it.
  • In such a case,  cut off the healthy stem pieces to propagate the cuttings.
  • Prune your cactus back in layers as in the steps above to get rid of all the rot. Allow the cuttings to dry for some days till the cut end has callused over.
  • Then dip the stem in rooting hormone and put it into a sandy cactus soil mix.
  • Don’t water the soil till you notice new growth on the cutting. 
  • Cactus cuttings will root in some weeks depending upon the variety.

The Parting Thoughts

Cactus turns pink due to an exposure to the extreme conditions to the changes in the environment. It can be due to conditions such as underwatering, excessive sun exposure, and consistently cold temperatures. It may be noticed that some cactus owners tend to put their plants under extreme stress intentionally to make them appear pink.

A cactus turning pink is not an issue in itself in most of the scenarios except when it is due to root rot or wounds in the cactus stem or any other parts of the plant. Taking precautions to avoid the stress can help you avoid the possibility of turning your cactus pink.

A few FAQs

Is there a naturally red cactus?

There are no pink or red cactus as such. They come with the pigment betalain which turns it red or pink. But the pink condition is visible only when the plant is exposed to extreme conditions such as over watering, extreme sun, or extreme cold.

Does a cactus need direct sunlight?

Cacti normally thrive in good lighting conditions. However, the direct, bright sunlight can be a concern and that can turn the cactus pink or red or even purple.



Nikita is a Succulent lover. She really enjoys planting and nourishing them. She loves to share information about various Succulents on this blog to aware people more about these awesome plants.

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