How To Save A Frozen Cactus? (Not Impossible)

As you may already know, cacti prefer to grow in warm weather conditions. Hence, you may find frost damage of cactus very astonishing. 

 If you consider someone who grows cacti in Arizona, chances are that the temperature in summer could drop to 32 degrees Fahrenheit and it will create frost damage for the cacti.

So, if you are someone who suffers from this condition, it would be worth going through this article.

We are going to cover how to save a frozen cactus and on the care treatments you need to practice when looking after a frozen cactus.

How To Save A Frozen Cactus

How cold can cactus tolerate?

The cold that cactus can handle varies from cactus to cactus. There are cacti which can withstand low temperatures up to -20 degrees Fahrenheit . 

Those are cactus which commonly grow in cold desert regions. They usually form spines or hairs to protect them from frost. Further chances are that they may expel water to avoid stem freeze too.

However, the majority of the cactus cannot tolerate much colder temperatures or frost. So, it is imperative that you check the preferred USDA hardiness zone before you purchase any cactus. 

If you have accidently purchased a cactus which is not suitable to grow in the USDA hardiness zone where you live, best would be to grow them as indoor plants. 

If you wish to make the plants thrive in freezing temperatures, you could consider having row covers, tents and frost clothes.

What happens if a cactus gets too cold?

To answer in simple words if you happen to expose them to colder weather, it will start to rot. Further it would destroy the plant cells as well. 

First of all, you need to understand the frost tolerance of the cactus before you start to grow any of them. There could be certain cacti which will not even stand the regular colder temperatures.

Having said that, your cactus may suffer from different damages when they get exposed to frost and when they get exposed to colder weather. 

In other words, if we consider the cold sensitive cactus, they will not perish due to getting exposed to cold weather, but from the repercussions which will arise due to the exposure to the colder weather.

Simply, if they get exposed to colder weather, they will start to rot. Further, it will badly impact the plant’s cells. Literally it would result in the cell rupture. 

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However, it is very unlikely that you will notice the damages at the very moment they get exposed to colder weather. 

In fact, it would take a couple of days to destroy the cells and to make them blackened. Further as a result of the frost damage, your precious cactus may suffer from softened tissues as well. 

At the start they would tend to become white in color and later on it would turn into black .Further they would end up decaying and tend to fall off on the ground too. 

Can cactus survive freezing temperatures?

To answer the question, it would depend on the cactus type. 

There are certain cacti which can tolerate low temperatures as -20 degrees Fahrenheit where there would be some other cacti which cannot stand such lower temperatures. 

However, if you have kept these cacti outdoors and wish to make them survive, the best would be to protect the plants by covering them with frost cloth.

How To Save A Frozen Cactus

How to remove dead cactus?

You can remove the dead cactus either physically or chemically. First of all, if you are dealing with a spiny cactus, you need to wear a thick and long-sleeved shirt first. 

Additionally, I suggest you wear long pants and gardening boots too. Best is to take the best possible precautions so that the thorns or the spines will not hurt you. You may further wrap the cactus with a cloth so that it will not injure you.

Next, if you have a large cactus to deal with, you need to arrange an exe or chainsaw. You may use the axe to chop them into small pieces. 

Next you need to pull those cuttings aways. Once you remove them, you need to place them in a thick cardboard box. 

Next grab a shovel and detach the upper part of the plant. After that, dig a hole of about 2-4 inches until you spot the main root of the plants. 

Once you spot the roots, you could chop them off. Beware when you do this as chances are that spines grown underground may sneak through your shoes and injure you. 

Put all the cut pieces into a cardboard box. Do not put them in plastic bags as chances are that they may rip through them. Next you could dump the cuttings in a trash can.

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Once you complete all these steps, observe your clothing properly and see whether there are any spines attached to your clothing. You may use a magnifying glass to check those and if you find any you need to get rid of them as well.

Apart from the physical method, you may remove a dead cactus chemically too. As explained in the above method, first you need to protect yourself by wearing all the protective gears as explained in the above. 

Next you need to prepare an herbicide spray mix which comprises picloram. Ensure that you go through all the instructions on the label well. 

Further I recommend adding a liquid dishwashing detergent or even a surfactant to this solution as it would increase the efficiency of this herbicide solution. 

Further you may use an axe or even a shovel and damage the plant so that it would better the efficiency of this solution. 

Further you can apply this solution on their pads as well as on the stems too. I cannot recommend any specific time to apply this solution. However, do not apply this solution when their soil is moist or if it is too cold.

What is cold damage to cactus?

Once a cactus is suffering from cold damage, the first thing you could notice is the softened tissues. First, they would be white in color which would tend to become black at the end. 

Further the cold damaged plant parts would fall on the ground. Further there may be some cactus which tend to become translucent and become mushy at the end. Further the epiphytes may develop orange spots too.

How To Save A Frozen Cactus

Can cacti survive winter outside?

Yes cacti can survive winter outside since they are hardy plants. However, surviving in such conditions would be really challenging for them

To elaborate further on this you need to think of several factors . For example, there are some cactus varieties which can handle low temperatures as -20 degrees Fahrenheit where there could be some cactus which cannot stand such colder temperatures. 

Hence best would be to first identify the hardiness zone and then purchase the cactus. However, you may still grow them outdoors while closing them from row covers and from frost cloth.

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In addition to that, cactus species prefer to grow in low humidity levels along with good aeration. So, if there are high humidity levels, I recommend bringing them indoors. 

Moreover, you may protect the plants by covering them with frost clothes as well. That will help them to thrive in winter outside.

When to bring cactus in for winter?

You could consider bringing the cactus indoors around mid-October. Further You may keep them indoors until the end of February. 

That is when you need to initiate dormancy. It is vital that you allow them to be dormant so that it would allow them to rest well before they start to grow in summer and produce the flower buds.

Can a frozen plant be saved?

Yes you can save the frozen cactus. However, you need to be a lot more patient when doing that, particularly if you have kept the plants exposed to freezing temperatures for too long

The prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures may cause the water stored in the plant tissues to freeze and expand.

The exposure to frost damages the cactus stem cells. Eventually it would result in limp stems and rotten spots as well. 

Further, your precious cactus may lose their original shape too. I suggest you not to cut off the soft limp tips at the very moment you spot them. 

You need to give it some time so that it would make the affected areas turn into black. Further, if you spot your affected cactus plant tips turn white from their regular green color, it literally means the plants are healing on their own. However, if they become excessively black, you may consider pruning them.


Before concluding, there could be some cacti which will tolerate low temperatures as -20 degrees Fahrenheit while there would be some other cacti which will not tolerate that much colder conditions. 

So, you need to choose wisely as to what type of cacti you need to grow depending on the location you live in. There are cold hardy plants which can survive in colder conditions. 

Credit to : nmsuaces
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About author

I’m Dr. Chamika, As a hobby love talking about plants and showing you that taking care of indoor plants. My website is knowledge I’ve learned over the years and continue to learn about growing succulents. If you’re a succulent lover, then you have come to the correct place.