Christmas cactus dies typically due to overwatering, underwatering, and inadequate light. These plants need bright, indirect light. Too much direct sun can scorch leaves. Underwatering causes leaves to shrivel, while overwatering rots roots and turns leaves limp. Water only when the top inch of soil is dry. Low humidity also causes leaf drop. Mist the plant or use a pebble tray for humidity. Pests like mealybugs and diseases may also cause a decline. Isolate and treat affected plants.
Schlumbergera buckleyi, commonly called the Christmas cactus is an indoor plant that’s grown for its pretty leaves and flowers.
It is definitely not a beginner-friendly plant. So, one needs to properly care for the plant for the best results.
Why is my Christmas Cactus turning purple/red?
Christmas cactus plant turns purple/red when the plant gets too much sun in the summer. Too much direct sunlight causes leaves to turn purple on the edges. Christmas cactus plant also turns purple when the plant is root-bound.
Make sure that your Christmas cactus doesn’t get bright, direct sunlight in the summer season. Move your Christmas cactus to a place where it gets only indirect sunlight.
By doing this you can prevent sunburn in Christmas cactus plants. Also, do not place the plant near a fireplace/warm area.
Root-bound Christmas cactus
Christmas cactus plants grow and spread their roots rapidly. The plant thrives when the roots are in a crowded environment.
This is the main reason why many Christmas cactus plants become root-bound. You need to check the plant’s pot often to ensure the plant isn’t root-bound.
If the plant is indeed root-bound, you may need to remove the plant from the pot carefully and re-pot it in a bigger pot.
Tip: Be careful when repotting, don’t cause any damage to the roots.
Christmas cactus limp and wrinkled
Christmas cactus becomes limp and wrinkled when the plant is underwatered. Christmas cactus plant also turns limp and purple when the plant gets too much direct sunlight.
Underwatered Christmas cactus
The Christmas cactus plant needs much more water than other cactus plants. Do not panic and overwater your Christmas cactus.
Overwatering the plant causes many issues too. As soon as you identify that underwatering is the issue, water your plant.
Water the plant regularly but sparingly. Do not let the soil get too moist/waterlogged. Check the soil with your fingers and water only when the soil is dry.
Check the soil with your fingers and if it’s dry up to many inches, the Christmas cactus is underwatered. If your plant is in waterlogged conditions it is overwatered.
Christmas cactus limp and purple?
Christmas cactus turns limp and purple when the plant is exposed to bright, direct sunlight. Observe how much sunlight your plant gets throughout the day.
If you think too much sunlight is the problem move the plant away from the window. The plant should recover in weeks.
Overwatered vs Underwatered Christmas Cactus
The main difference between an underwatered and overwatered Christmas Cactus is that the stems get soft and mushy when you’re overwatering and the stems look shriveled when you’re under-watering.
|Soil dries out rapidly, leaves wrinkle||Soil stays soggy, leaves feel mushy or edema|
|Leaves and stems appear shriveled||Lower leaves yellow, drop off
|Flowers wilt prematurely||Root rot diseases more likely|
|Leaf tips turn brown or scorched||Minimal flowering or bud drop|
|Stunted growth||Stem segments droop, appear wilted
|Fewer blooms||Scaly mealybugs, fungal issues
Christmas cactus yellow leaves
Christmas cactus leaves turning yellow is most often caused by overwatering and root rot disease. Allow soil to dry between waterings and improve drainage to prevent roots from sitting in moisture.
Overwatering causes root rot in the Christmas cactus. It loves water more than the other cactus plants but do not let the plant sit in waterlogged conditions.
You may want to check for root rot before actually trying to treat the plant. Remove the Christmas cactus carefully from the pot and inspect its roots carefully.
If you see rotten roots it is indeed time to take action.
How can you tell if a Christmas cactus is overwatered?
Overwatered Christmas cactus plant becomes limp and turns yellow. These yellowed leaves eventually turn brown.
Check the soil for moisture with your fingers. If the soil is too moist then the plant is probably overwatered.
How do I fix an overwatered Christmas cactus?
If you are sure that your Christmas cactus plant is overwatered, stop watering the plant immediately. Check whether the plant is suffering from root rot.
If the roots look fine just stop watering for a week or two. Water your Christmas cactus consciously, and check the soil with your finger when needed.
If the roots look rotten, get rid of the soil and remove the parts of the root that are rotten. Plant your Christmas cactus in fresh soil.
Can you save a Christmas cactus from root rot?
Yes, you can save your Christmas cactus from root rot if you identify the disease early. If the fungus established itself in the roots of your Christmas cactus it is not possible to save the plant.
If the plant is suffering from root rot, get rid of the soil. Do not plant any seedlings in that pot until you sterilize it.
Get a soil moisture meter if possible. Try to monitor the moisture of the soil constantly.
Christmas Cactus white spots on leaves
White spots on the leaves of Christmas cactus plants are seen due to the Impatiens necrotic virus. White spots can also be caused by Mealybugs.
Necrotic spot virus Christmas cactus
If you see white spots on the Christmas cactus plant, it is due to the Impatiens Necrotic spot virus. The infected plant’s leaves turn yellow.
The plant becomes wilted although sometimes the disease is asymptomatic. This disease is carried from an infected plant to a healthy plant by Thrips.
If you control thrips you can control the spread of this disease. Such plants can be saved. Re-pot the plant in a new pot with fresh soil. Nurture the plant properly and it will bounce back.
Mealybugs on Christmas cactus
Mealybugs eat the Christmas cactus plant’s leaves. These pests are tiny but their presence can be confirmed by the cottony masses.
Mealybugs cause these cottony masses on the joints and undersides of the leaves. If left untreated, Mealybug infection causes leaf yellowing and wilting.
To get rid of Mealybugs on Christmas cactus
Place the plant pot in a sink and rinse off these pests and their eggs using a water spray. You’ll see that most of the cotton mass is washed away.
You can further get rid of Mealybugs by rubbing the leaves with a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol. If the infection is too severe, use an insecticide that is labeled for Mealybugs.
Holes in Christmas cactus leaves
Those holes you see in the leaves of your Christmas cactus are caused due to Shot hole disease. Shot hole is a fungal disease that causes holes in the leaves of a plant.
Prune out the infected parts of the plant and dispose of them carefully. This disease can be cured by spraying the plant with fungicides.
The lesions appear on the buds, leaves, and stems. One of the first signs of this disease is brown spots on the leaves.
It is best to prevent this disease. You can prevent this disease by spraying the plant with fungicides in fall.
Do not wet the leaves of the Christmas cactus when watering the plant. Wet leaves harbor the fungus which causes this disease.
Whenever possible add water to the plant from the bottom. To make things easier you can place the plant pot in a tray filled with pebbles.
Place the Christmas cactus pot on these pebbles. Add water to this tray. This way you can be sure that you won’t run into leaf problems or root rot.
Why is my Christmas cactus not blooming?
If you see buds on your Christmas cactus but they don’t flower then the reason is improper watering or lack of air humidity.
Both overwatering and underwatering can prevent the buds of Christmas cactus from turning into flowers. You need to water your Christmas cactus consciously if you want it to blossom.
One can revive such Christmas cactus easily though. Water the plant adequately and it should flower soon assuming all the other requirements are met.
Christmas cactus problems buds falling off
Christmas cactus buds fall off prematurely when the plant is overwatered. Christmas cactus buds also fall off due to temperature fluctuations and lack of adequate light.
Water the plant consciously. Check the soil with your fingers and do not let the soil go dry. Keep it just moist and you’ll surely see blossoms.
Keep the plant in a room with a temperature of ~61F. Make sure the plant isn’t exposed to the sun for more than 8 hours a day in the blooming season.
Do not change the external conditions abruptly. Sudden change in external conditions is the main reason why buds fall off in Christmas cactus plants.
Premature bud dropping is the second most common issue faced by Christmas cactus plants after root rot. So, do not let it happen to your plant.
What triggers a Christmas cactus to bloom?
To get Christmas cactus to bloom you need to place the plant in a dark, cold place (~61F) for a week or two. Make sure the plant only gets 8 hours of indirect sunlight every day.
Keep the plant like this for a week at least, you’ll surely see blossoms. Try not to change the conditions, otherwise, the plant won’t bloom.
Do not place the plant in a place where it gets hot/cool winds. Such winds may cause windburn.
Light and temperature are the two main factors that influence the blossoms in Christmas cactus plants. Keep this in mind when you place your plant indoors.
If one side is darker than the other then you’ll likely only see flowers on the darker side. This is the harsh reality and you need to cope with it.
Christmas cactus flowers wilting
Christmas cactus flowers wilt when the soil beneath the plant is dry. Water the plant adequately and keep the soil just moist.
Christmas cactus is not like other cactus plants. Christmas cactus is called a ‘Forest cactus’. This plant likes moist soils.
Do not let the soil go bone dry in the blossom season. Underwatering is the reason why you see flowers wilting and leaves yellowing in Christmas cactus plants.
How to remove dead flowers from Christmas cactus?
Removing the dead flowers of Christmas cactus induces another generation of blossoms. Do this with a pair of sterilized pruners.
Remove these dead flowers and add them to your compost bin if you have one. The plant blossoms even after Christmas.
Christmas cactus basal stem rot
Basal stem rot in Christmas cactus is favored by waterlogged conditions. So, overwatering is the main reason why you see basal stem rot in Christmas cactus.
Basal stem rot is a common disease in tropical cacti like Christmas cactus. The infected plant’s crown has a brown colored patch. This is the common sign of basal stem rot.
Cutting it below the brown patch helps in some cases. Remove the plant from the pot and re-pot it in a slightly bigger pot with fresh soil.
Prune off any infected roots if possible. You can probably revive the plant by caring well.
Christmas cactus brown scale
Brown scale are one of the most common pests that infect Christmas cactus plants. Fortunately, scale is easy to get rid of.
One can use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to wipe off these pesky pests. Christmas cactus can take this.
If the scale infection is severe on your Christmas cactus you can spray insecticides that are labeled for scale removal.
How do I get rid of Aphids on my Christmas cactus?
Aphids are tiny pests that may infest Christmas cactus plants indoors. Aphid eggs are carried onto the host plants by ants.
Aphids are sap-sucking insects that can cause great damage to Christmas cactus if left unattended. Both nymphs and adult aphids feed on the leaves, turning them yellow.
Aphids secrete a sticky substance called honeydew which attracts several fungi leading to the popular ‘sooty mold’.
You can wash them off with a water splash if their numbers are small. Hang sticky, yellow cards around these plants to catch them early.
If aphid infestation on your Christmas cactus is severe, spray the plant with Neem oil. You can also drench the soil with Neem oil.
Leaves absorb some of this Neem oil and aphids when eat the leaves die. I don’t advise using chemical insecticides on indoor plants.
Christmas cactus woody stem
The woody stem of the Christmas cactus is completely natural. As the plant ages the older, lower part of the stem turns brown.
There is no need to panic and you don’t need to fix this. As a matter of fact, one can not fix this as this is a natural aging process.
Brown spots on Christmas cactus leaves
Brown spots on the Christmas cactus plant are due to sunburn/sun scalding. Sunburn spots appear on the edges of the leaves of the Christmas cactus.
Keep the Christmas cactus away from windows in the summer season. Rushing winds can cause leaf browning too.
Move your Christmas cactus away from the window so it doesn’t get direct sunlight. If you see brown bumps on the leaves of Christmas cactus, then they are likely Brown scale.
Why is my Christmas cactus dropping leaves?
Christmas cactus drops leaves when the plant has been overwatered or the soil isn’t well-draining. Christmas cactus also drops leaves if the soil is compacted/dense.
Christmas cactus infected by root rot can be seen dropping leaves. This is because the roots aren’t able to absorb the essential nutrients anymore.
The leaves also get affected by this. They do not get the nutrients they need to survive. The leaves turn brown first, then fall off the plant.
Re-pot the plant in fresh soil and another pot. You can revive the plant if you care well for it.