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Last week, I was finishing up a landscape consult with a client, when I noticed the saguaro cactus growing in his neighbor’s yard…


At first glance, you may have trouble seeing what is wrong.

You might think that it is a little on the ‘fat’ side and you would be right.

But look closer…


Do you see the two horizontal cracks?
There is one toward the top and one near the bottom of the photo.

These cracks are signs of an overwatered cactus.

At the base of the saguaro are 4 drip emitters.

You may be surprised to find that drip emitters around a cactus isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  But ONLY IF the irrigation line is used for cactus exclusively.

Cactus do like a good drink of water once a month during dry, summer months and a dedicated drip-line can provide that.  When the summer rains arrive, turn off off the water.  In fall, winter and spring, your saguaro does not need any supplemental water.  

*Keep in mind that they survive on natural rainfall out in the desert.

For the saguaro above, it is obvious from the size of the saguaro and the cracks, that the drip irrigation is probably being turned on too often.


The other 2 Saguaro cacti on the property also are being overwatered.  They are too ‘fat’.

The Desert Botanical Garden has an excellent article on how to grow Saguaro cacti, including how much, if any, water they need.

**I told my client about his neighbor’s ‘fat’ Saguaro cacti and he said that he would mention it to them 🙂

I bet you didn’t know that Saguaro cacti can suffer from weight problems, did you?

Well in my travels through countless neighborhoods, I have seen my fair share of ‘fat’ saguaro cacti.

So, are ‘fat’ saguaro feasting upon too much fast food?  I don’t think so….

Believe it or not, it isn’t totally their fault that they are fat.  The homeowner usually bears some responsibility. 

 Here is a great example of a saguaro that needs to be put on a diet.

Seriously, it is quite fat.
Can you see why?

Well, all cacti are specially adapted to take advantage of any nearby water source.  

When it rains, they quickly send out tiny roots that are very close to the surface.  These roots absorb all the water they can and then dry up and die once the ground dries out.

In a landscape setting, the roots will grow towards the nearest water source and keep ‘drinking water’…..usually the water that is irrigating your other plants.  

In the photo above, the saguaro is getting quite a bit of water for the citrus tree behind it.

Here is another saguaro that has a weight problem.

It isn’t full of fat…..just too much water.

I took this picture of a client’s saguaro that was planted amidst two shrubs that were being irrigated regularly.  You can see that the ‘folds’ are almost non-existent.

Unfortunately, I see this quite often.  To avoid having this happen to you, do not place any irrigated plants near your saguaro.  (I am assuming that you do not water your saguaro).

How far away should irrigated plants be kept away from a saguaro?
Well, a saguaro’s roots extend out roughly the same distance as its height and sometimes twice as far.  So, make sure to place your irrigated plants out at least that far.

So what do you do if you already have a ‘fat’ saguaro?  

Well first off, remove any nearby, irrigated plants and plug up the irrigation emitters.  Then substitute other succulent plants that will require very little water (below).

So, are you fortunate enough to have a saguaro in your landscape?

I wish I was….. 🙂