The columns of the Acanthocereus tetragonus rise from the soil with the majesty of the towers and turrets they resemble. One look at this plant and it makes absolute sense that it goes by the name Fairy Castle Cactus.
There may be times, however, when the Fairy Castle Cactus’ erect dignity gives way to drooping, leaving its caretaker wondering why. The same issues that plague other succulents, such as overwatering, inadequate light, unsuitable temperature, and pests, are likely to blame.
In their natural environment, succulents do not see too much rainfall. They are adapted to conditions in which they receive a good occasional drenching, and then nothing for some time. This should ideally be mimicked to ensure healthy growth. However, overwatering is quite common.
When succulents receive more water than they can absorb, it accumulates in the pot. The excess moisture prevents the soil from aerating, and this blocks the uptake of oxygen and nutrients by the roots, thus starving the leaves and causing them to droop.
Additionally, root rot may set in because the moist soil environment encourages fungi and bacteria to grow. This, too, prevents the roots from taking in oxygen and nutrients and the deprived leaves will droop.
To ensure that your Fairy Castle Cactus receives the right amount of water, follow the “soak and dry” method which basically simulates conditions in its natural environment. Give it a generous watering and then refrain from watering again until the soil in the pot has gone dry.
If your Fairy Castle Cactus is already overwatered, you may try to save it by removing it from its pot and allowing it to dry before repotting it in a fresh soil mix. If root rot has set in, however, there will be more for you to do.
Gently clean the roots under running water and prune away all parts of the root system that have been affected by rot. Also, prune some of the leaves to lessen the load on the newly-trimmed roots.
Soak the roots in a fungicide solution to eliminate any possible rot-causing fungi, then plant the Fairy Castle Cactus in a fresh soil mix. Moving forward, the “soak and dry” method should be adhered to when watering the succulents.
Succulents that do not receive their sunlight requirements undergo a pathological condition known as etiolation, in which the leaves become elongated as the sunlight-deprived plant tries to stretch toward a light source.
In some cases, the succulents merely appear longer and “leggy.” But in others, the stretched-out leaves are too weak and begin to droop. Giving your Fairy Castle Cactus adequate sunlight is very important, especially since the leaves cannot revert to their former size once stretched.
That said, there is still hope for your Fairy Castle Cactus. Pruning the elongated leaves or propagating and starting over with new batches are both options. But for either, see to it that the plants’ lighting needs are met.
The Fairy Castle Cactus is native to Brazil and does not do very well in lower temperatures. Downwards of thirty degrees, the effects on the plant will be apparent, such as the drooping of leaves. To prevent this, keep your plant indoors or in a greenhouse during the colder months.
Pests may also be the culprits behind the drooping leaves of a Fairy Castle Cactus. Mealybugs, in particular, will take all the nutrients for themselves, leaving the plant deprived and dehydrated, and with drooping leaves as a result.
To determine whether you are dealing with mealybugs, inspect the leaves of your Fairy Castle Cactus for white, cottony spots on the surface of the leaves. When you have located them, take a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol and wipe away the mealy bugs.
Spraying the leaves with neem oil is recommended to discourage the mealybugs from returning. It is also advisable to put some distance between your Fairy Castle Cactus and other plants as mealybugs are quite the jumpers and could easily leap to a neighboring pot.
The Fairy Castle Cactus is a succulent popular for its majestic, storybook appearance. However, if your standard of care dips, it can quickly reflect in the plant’s drooping foliage. This succulent is fairly easy to care for, though, and satisfying its needs will ensure the preservation of its lovely aesthetic.
Image: istockphoto.com / victor alfonso arguello martinez