Help, My Cactus is Dying

INDIO – Even a cactus has limits.

The icon of desert survival can’t always take the heat. Record-breaking temperatures that draw shudders and international attention also have been rough on many types of succulents.

Certain deserts, like ours are so harsh that even some cacti won’t live in them.

Homeowners and landscapers cover vulnerable species with black nets to protect them from the sun, especially if they’re not native to our desert. But even native species have encountered more trouble with each passing summer.

If the heat is too severe they will stop growing. Cacti require temperatures of about 85 degrees at night so they’re able to respire, the plant equivalent of breathing. If nighttime temperatures remain too high the plants’ water reserves will slowly be depleted. Recently here in SC Shadow Hills, we have been experiencing nighttime temperatures at or above 85 degrees.

They’ll essentially cook, they’ll just sort of stew in their own juices, and after several weeks of this they will die. Direct sunlight also threatens succulents’ health. When the Sun gets too intense it’ll burn the tissue and actually kill your plant. To protect your succulents, have your gardener or landscaper apply a sun shade above and around your most vulnerable cacti.