How to trim a cactus damaged by cold

We recently had a sever winter event and many mature cacti were damaged by the cold weather. There was a lot of discussion as to what people should do with their plants. We wrote an article here about assessing plant health, but it didn’t address cacti. 

We took a few pictures throughout the weather event to document the process and we will try to update this post as appropriate to add more context. As you can see in the first picture, this was a mature spineless prickly pear. It is in an exposed area and took a beating from the “winter vortex”. 

When the snow melted and it started to warm, it looked atrocious.

Almost all of the pads were mushy. Their cell structure was damaged and they could no longer support themselves. 

How to trim a cactus damaged by cold

How to trim a cactus damaged by cold

  1. Assess the structure of the plant

    If anything is falling over, it’s structure has likely been damaged beyond repair.

  2. Anything that is soft needs to be removed 

    Soft parts of the plant will quickly begin decomposing and need to be removed.

  3. If the base of the cactus seems to be alive, leave it! 

    The ground helps insulate plants and root systems from the cold. If your base is still firm and alive, it will hopefully support new growth next year. Fingers crossed!

A couple things to remember when doing this: even spineless cacti still have little thorns that can be a huge pain. Also, patience is king. Don’t remove something if you think there is a chance it will recover. You can always cut more. Super glue is not too effective at fixing plants.

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