5 Common Problems With Your Christmas Cactus - Backyard Boss
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5 Common Problems With Your Christmas Cactus

The Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) is one of the most popular holiday plants due to its wide range of colors, ease of growth, and long-lasting blooms. These plants can last ten years or longer with proper care and maintenance. So it pays to learn more about their growth habits, watering needs, and general care requirements to ensure they stay healthy and beautiful. 

If you’re having trouble with your Christmas cactus, keep reading to find out about common problems faced by your beloved cacti. You’ll also read solutions to help keep your plant healthy and happy this holiday season! 

5 Problems Faced By Your Christmas Cactus

Put down those holly branches and pick up a shimmering green – aka the perfect holiday accessory – the Christmas cactus! This plant is used as a colorful additions to holiday wreaths and especially centerpieces. They’re a popular gift during the holiday season and can often be seen with their twin, the Thanksgiving cactus. These holiday plants are low-maintenance, but are challenging to grow in the home environment. 

Here are five common problems that may occur if you don’t take good care of your Christmas cacti.

1) Christmas Cactus Dropping Leaves/ Stems

Flowering Christmas cactus. Bright pink flowers. Young plant.
Image credits: Kathy D. Reasor via Shutterstock

If your plant’s leaves or stems are dropping or appear mushy, it may be due to too much water. Christmas cacti prefer soil that is moist but not soggy. If you’re watering them twice a week, try watering once a week and see if the problem persists. 

If you need to figure out how often to water them, you can always check the soil. Allowing the soil to dry out before giving your plant another healthy drink will help to avoid overwatering. But, when Christmas cactus are in bloom they do require more frequent douses of water. 

Although, it’s good to mention the Christmas cacti is capable of self-pruning. Sometimes if the plant is too large and unable to support the weight of its branches it will drop them. This is a natural process and simple to fix; You can repot it into a slightly larger container, so it has room to grow and flourish.

Temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit will also cause the blooms to drop, but more on that later.

2) Christmas Cactus Won’t Bloom

Christmas cactus without flowers
Image credits: Schwoaze via Pixabay

Another problem with Christmas cacti is that sometimes they won’t bloom. There are a few reasons why this may happen; it could be due to temperature changes, potting issues, and light.

Light

If your Christmas cactus is sitting in bright daylight, it won’t bloom. Christmas cacti are short-day plants that require 16 hours of darkness and eight hours of light each day. This dark period is what aids the plant in blooming. If you notice a lack of blooms, move it inside to a place with less sun exposure, such as the basement. 

Pot

Something else that can cause a lack of growth is a stressed plant. Unlike other plants, you don’t need to re-pot your Christmas cacti frequently. They like to be snug, so you must put them in a slightly larger container every 2 to 3 years. It’s best to do this after the bloom season. 

Temperatures

If your plant is exposed to freezing or high temperatures, chances are it won’t bloom. Christmas cacti are temperature sensitive, requiring a specific environment to initiate the blooming process.

The daytime temperatures should be around 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure successful blooming. If your Christmas cactus is exposed to cooler night temperatures, such as 55 degrees Fahrenheit, it will bloom in 5 to 6 weeks. Anything below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the plant should be brought inside to a more controlled space.

Keeping your Christmas cactus on your window sill in a cool room and not switching on the light is all this plant needs (it can take a little neglect).

3) Limp or Wilting Christmas Cactus

Image credits: TSViPhoto via Shutterstock

Incorrect watering might cause your Christmas cactus to appear limp or wilted. If your plant appears weak it’s because the cactus is thirsty and not getting the moisture it needs. But before you pick up that watering can, you need to stop and listen.

There are two main reasons water fails to reach the stem: the soil is too dry, or the roots are damaged. But how do you figure it out? Yellowing leaves, soft stems, and wilting foliage are all signs you overwatered your Christmas cactus. If this is the case, it’s time to get to work.

Check to see if the soil is dry by using your fingers or a soil moisture meter; if it is dry a third of the way down, water the plant frequently in small increments. This will help your plant come back to life without the risk of overwatering it.

If the soil is moist to the touch, your Christmas cactus may be experiencing standing water, or worse, root rot. This problem can be caused by overwatering, so ensure your plant doesn’t sit in excess water and allow its soil to dry between watering. If your plant is withering, re-pot it using fresh soil and remove damaged roots.

If you have fixed the watering issue, but your Christmas cactus still looks weak, limp, or shriveled, it could be due to excessive sunlight exposure. Move your Christmas cactus away from direct sunlight, and watch it come back to life.

4) Christmas Cactus Leaves Turning Red or Pink

Very wonderful Christmas cactus zygocactus with pink blooms in front of blue lightning lantern and little lights around
Image credits: Hosak via Shutterstock

Most of the time, when Christmas cactus leaves turn red or yellow, it is because they are getting too much sun. Christmas cacti are tropical, requiring moist heat, not the dry heat that usually comes through your window.

The solution is to cut back on the direct sunlight you give to your plant and provide it with more filtered light by moving it away from a window. Christmas cactus prefer high humidity levels. 

5) Christmas Cactus Dropping Flower Buds

Fuchsia flowered Christmas cactus bloomed on a window sill.
Image credits: Yael Allevici via Shutterstock

If your Christmas plant buds are dropping, it’s an alarming situation. The condition tells you that your dear cactus is dealing with a stressful condition.

Flowers drop off Christmas cacti for various reasons, such as sudden changes in temperature (if you have turned up the heat), duration of light (more than ten hours during the blooming season ), too many buds, or varying levels of moisture in the soil (too dry or too wet). This is where your training comes into play! If you care and maintain your Christmas cactus using the tips above, everything will go smoothly!

To prevent your flower buds from dropping, make sure that you follow a proper watering schedule. Water the plant when the top 1/3 of the soil feels dry, usually after 2 to 3 weeks. 

Overwatering your plant can cause issues – too much of a good things can quickly turn bad. And, avoid moving your plant around when it is showing signs of blooming while trying to maintain a moderate temperature of around 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Your Christmas Cactus May Be Screaming for Help

If your Christmas cactus leaves are wilting or the buds are falling off, these might be extreme cries for help. But thankfully, you have us. You can follow the steps mentioned above for primary care.

Since Thanksgiving cactus comes from the same family, you may want to read this blog on how to care for them as well.

If you have any other questions about caring for your Christmas cactus, feel free to comment below. Share this article with your friends and family if you’ll be gifting one of these gorgeous plants this year. Happy gardening!

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