Cactus Growing Skinny on Top: 4 Reasons

A strange phenomenon is occurring in our garden – we’ve got a cactus growing skinny on top, defying the usual stout appearance.

cactus growing skinny on top

Now you are getting a mix of feelings. Is it normal? Should I be worried? Or is it just a normal occurrence I may just embrace?

Yes, cactus growing skinny on top might be a sign of health issues with the plant.

In this article, we will delve deeper into the reasons behind this problem, how to fix it, and what you can do to prevent it from happening in the first place. 

Cactus Growing Skinny on Top: 4 Reasons

1. Lack of Light

In the lexicon of cactus care, the term “etiolated” designates a phenomenon wherein the cactus assumes a slender and pallid appearance.

The primary cause behind this transformation often lies in insufficient daily sunlight exposure.

cactus growing skinny on top

Cacti, naturally inhabitants of some of the world’s most arid and sun-drenched locales, demand ample sunlight for optimal growth.

Even when acclimating to indoor settings, they necessitate a specific light threshold to flourish.

Failure to meet these light requirements leads to etiolation, a deceptive burst of growth that ultimately yields an undesirable, thin, pointed, and pale stem, compromising the cactus’s health.

2. Reaction to Abrupt Environmental Changes

Etiolation often occurs when a cactus is transferred from outdoors to indoors without sufficient time to adjust to its new environment.

In a desperate attempt to survive, the cactus will allocate all its resources to grow long, thin stems toward the nearest light source.

These stems may resemble antennae sprouting from the cactus’ pads.

cactus growing skinny on top

3. Temperature

Another possible cause of skinny cactus growth is temperature.

As the weather warms up, the cactus naturally craves more light because winter is over and it is no longer dormant.

If you neglect to move the cactus outside despite the warmer climate, it will become etiolated and skinny.

So be attentive and take your cactus outdoors to soak up more light even before winter officially ends.

Don’t wait for it to wake up from dormancy before making the move.

4. Abnormal Dormant Condition

cactus growing skinny on top

Lastly, your cactus might be growing skinny because it didn’t go dormant over winter.

This happens when you fail to adjust your care routine according to the season.

During winter, it’s crucial to bring your cactus indoors because freezing temperatures can be fatal.

Additionally, avoid overwatering your plants during the dormant period as they require minimal water.

If you continue watering as you would in spring or summer, but neglect to provide adequate light, the cactus will fail to go dormant, stunting its growth.

How to Fix A Skinny Cactus

cactus growing skinny on top

If you already have a skinny cactus, unfortunately, you can’t reverse the thin growth to make it normal again.

Leaving the skinny parts untouched can lead to a top-heavy cactus that may snap in half once healthy stems grow on top of the skinny ones.

To prevent such a disaster, it’s important to remove the skinny stems and use them to propagate the plant.

This is best done during summer, when the cactus is in its active growth phase and the newly propagated stems will flourish.

Post the removal of the slender stems, transition your cactus to an outdoor environment for essential sunlight exposure.

cactus growing skinny on top

For apartment dwellers, a well-positioned windowsill offers optimal light exposure when indoors.

While sunlight is crucial, exercise caution to avoid sunburn by rotating the cactus every few days, promoting even growth on all sides.

In cases of inadequate natural light, consider augmenting with a grow light, seamlessly complementing your cactus’s need for light, both natural and artificial.

How To Replant Your Broken Cactus

Should your cactus sustain damage, worry not; the solution lies in a simple replanting process.

Allow the broken cactus segment to rest in a shaded room with room temperature for approximately one week.

During this period, the fractured end will form a callus, signaling its readiness for replanting.

cactus growing skinny on top
  • As you start repotting, ready a new pot with a quarter-inch space between the cactus and the container’s edge.
  • Prioritize drainage holes to mitigate overwatering risks, fostering optimal growth conditions.
  • Fill the container about two-thirds full with succulent soil and plant the cactus in the center.
  • Then, fill the pot with the remaining soil, gently patting it down to stabilize the plant.

How To Care For Your Replanted Cactus

In the realm of cactus care, keep in mind the trinity of vital factors: temperature, water, and light.

Achieving the delicate equilibrium among these elements is paramount to ensure the flourishing health of your cherished plant. Here are Three things you can do:

cactus growing skinny on top

1. Place your newly replanted cactus on a windowsill and let it sit there for two to four weeks without watering.

2. After this initial period, check the soil; if it feels dry to the touch, it’s time to water the plant.

3. Do not water it again until it establishes roots, which typically takes around two more weeks.


  • You can test for root growth by gently tugging on the cactus. If you encounter resistance, it means the roots have developed nicely.
  • When watering your cactus, adjust the volume and frequency according to the season and local weather conditions.
  • In colder climates, reduce the frequency of watering as the soil takes longer to dry out compared to hotter regions.


cactus growing skinny on top

Your cactus is growing skinny because it’s etiolated, struggling to receive the necessary amount of light.

To rectify this, cut off the skinny stems and use them for propagation. Allowing the skinny stems to persist can result in a broken succulent.

To prevent skinny succulents, ensure your plants receive adequate light and water them correctly.

Remember, caring for a cactus involves striking a delicate balance between temperature, water, and light.

By being attentive to these factors, you can help your cactus thrive.