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Why Moon Cactus Colors Fade: Causes and Solutions

Why Moon Cactus Colors Fade Causes and Solutions

Moon cactus is a ball-shaped cactus that can sometimes surprise you by changing its color. Sometimes, this change means they’re not growing in their ideal conditions and may cause death to the plant if left unsolved.

In this article, we’ll explore the reasons behind the moon cactus’s changing and fading color and how to fix them. 

Why do moon cactus lose their color?

Why do moon cactus lose their color
Image: Succulent Market

Moon cactus lose color because of sunburn, old age, overwatering, nutrient deficiency and lack of water. 

Let’s see how these causes lead to the moon cactus losing its vibrant color. 

1. Sunburn

Image: Epic Gardening

Sunlight is essential in photosynthesis, and it helps plants to make their own food. However, overexposure to the sun can damage the top cactus and get your moon cactus a sunburn. 

Exposing a moon cactus to intense light that they cannot handle is not helpful for them. Sunburn damages the skin of your plant, turning its color from pale to brown.

2. Old Age

Old Age
Image: Garden In Pots

On average, a moon cactus plant can live between 1 to 4 years. Compared to other cactus species, they have a shorter lifespan due to the top cactus outgrowing the rootstock and sucking all the nutrients until the bottom part cannot provide anymore. 

When the old rootstock becomes too weak and thin, it cannot transport sufficient nutrients to the ball graft, leaving the moon cactus pale. Aging moon cacti also suffer from corking, where the plant develops brown-colored patches of skin. 

3. Overwatering

Image: Get Planta

Like other cacti, the moon cactus is drought-resistant and requires minimal water to thrive. Conversely, overwatering your moon cactus will result in root rot, which becomes mushy and yellow, spreading upwards and damaging the top cactus.

Overwatering also weakens the plant’s health, leading to chlorophyll degradation and color fading. Excess water saturates the cells, causing them to swell and burst, which damages the plant’s pigment production.

4. Nutrient Deficiency

Nutrient Deficiency
Image: Get Planta

Moon cacti do not need feeding often, but underfeeding them will deprive them of the necessary nutrients, resulting in unhealthy pale plants. Feeding them the nutrients they need during their active state can boost their chance of survival. 

A nutrient-rich, good-quality potting mix will work best for moon cactus plants. Additionally, if you want to promote flowering, apply a low-concentration succulent-specific fertilizer once per year in spring.

5. Lack of Water

Lack of Water
Image: AZ Animals

Dehydrated moon cacti tend to shrink and wrinkle; the once vibrant color will turn dull. This is because the decrease in water availability also impacts the ability of the rootstock to supply the scion with nutrients, leading to pigment loss.

When they are underwatered, they experience stress as they struggle to meet their water needs. This stress diverts resources away from non-essential functions, including pigment production, and as a result, the vibrant colors of the scion start to fade.

How to Prevent the Moon Cactus From Fading

Moon cactus is relatively easy to grow and requires little attention, but to prevent its vibrant color from fading, check out our tips to avoid this dilemma.

1. Grow moon cactus under indirect sunlight.

Grow moon cactus under indirect sunlight
Image: Houseplant Central

While the bottom green cactus loves direct sunlight, the colorful one on top cannot tolerate intense direct sunlight. Placing them in a bright spot away from direct sunlight is best to keep them thriving and good-looking.

Moon cactus can thrive in warm temperatures but cannot survive cold drafts. Temperatures below 48.2°F (9°C) can harm them, so we recommend never leaving them outdoors in winter unless in a very mild climate.

2. Apply the soak-and-dry method on the moon cactus plant.

Apply the soak-and-dry method on the moon cactus plant
Image: Fickle Prickles
DifficultyEasy ●○○○○
Duration30 to 45 minutes
Things You NeedMoon cactusSharp knifeContainerWaterPaper towels

The best method of watering your moon cactus is to soak and dry. It’s an essential part of grafting as it helps seal the graft and prevent the scion from drying out.

How To Do

1. Cut the scion from the rootstock using a sharp knife to make a clean, precise cut.

2. Place the scion in a container filled with water. Soak it for about 15 to 20 minutes.

3. Remove the scion from the water and pat it dry with paper towels. Let it air dry for an additional 30 to 60 minutes.

4. Once the scion is dry, you can graft it onto the rootstock.

4. Do not feed the moon cactus during the dormant season.

Do not feed the moon cactus during the dormant season
Image: Greg App

Feeding your moon cactus, especially during the growing season, is essential for healthier, vibrant-colored plants. However, you should skip feeding them during the dormant season.

Non-feeding during dormancy helps a moon cactus plant retain its color by allowing it to conserve energy and redirect it toward maintaining its vibrant color.


Is my moon cactus dying because of color change?

Color change in moon cactus does not automatically mean that it is drying. Other factors, such as overwatering, insufficient light, nutrient deficiency, infestations or diseases, or natural aging, can also cause it. 

Are there other colorful cacti to consider?

There are several other common houseplants with very bright, colorful flowers, including ladyfinger cactus (Mammillaria elongata), Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera spp.), and ball cactus (Parodia spp.).

What does the moon cactus look like in the wild?

The moon cactus plant looks like a miniature 4-inch plant with a spherical shape and 8 to 14 ribs in the wild. Its native species come in gray-green with burgundy accents. 

How do moon cactus get their color?

Moon cactus plants get their color by not producing chlorophyll, allowing the vibrant coloring to show through. 

How much light does a moon cactus need?

Moon cactus plants need indirect sunlight, with 1 to 2 hours of morning or afternoon light. They are best placed in a shady area that’s still bright or near a sunny window. 

Can a cactus recover from overwatering?

A cactus can recover from overwatering by curbing watering of the plant and repotting the cactus in new soil completely.

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