Why Is My Christmas Cactus Leaves Curling? (Causes+Fix)

Christmas cactus have stem segments that look amazing with proper care. However, these stem segments may curl due to some unfavorable conditions. 

But what causes the curling of leaves in the Christmas cactus? Let’s find out.

Overwatering is the primary reason for the curling of leaves in the Christmas cactus. As the roots and soil stay soggy, they cannot provide moisture and nutrients to other parts of the plant, which leads to the curling of leaves. Inadequate lighting, pests, and temperature stress may also lead to the curling of leaves.

Inspect the plant closely to discover the reason for curled leaves. Review your care routine and observe where you have gone wrong.

Through this article, you can conclude the reason behind the curling of leaves and treat the plant for the same. You cannot overlook the problem; otherwise, the plant will keep suffering and eventually wilt.

Christmas cactus curling

What causes curly leaves in the Christmas cactus?

Christmas cactus is easy to maintain houseplants, and they survive various conditions. When your plant doesn’t get favorable living conditions, they get stressed.

Due to stress, they show signs like yellowing or curling of leaves. Curling leaves, withering, and dropping leaves are a few initial signs you can notice in your plant. 

You need to notice these signs and treat your ill plant immediately.

If these signs go unnoticed, the problem magnifies and may even lead to the end of the plant. 

Taking the right actions is vital because if you stress, you might do something wrong and stress your planet even more.

Inadequate watering

Christmas cactus watering

Inadequate watering can be under watering or over watering, and both can lead to the curling of leaves of your Christmas cactus.

Underwatering: Underwatering can lead to curling leaves due to lack of moisture. Christmas cactus is not drought-tolerant, and they like their soil to be evenly moist.

Though they will stay healthy for some time being underwatered, they will suffer if it extends for a longer period. 

The plant lacks moisture in all its parts as, with time, the soil cannot supply moisture, nutrients, and water to all its parts. The pant becomes weak, and the leaves start to curl.

You must thoroughly water your Christmas cactus and let the excess water drain out. 

Water the plant when the soil is moderately dry. If the soil gets bone dry, the plant will tend to suffer.

Overwatering: Overwatering suffocates the roots and soil of the Christmas cactus. 

The roots and soil cannot breathe and suffer from supplying water and nutrients to other parts of the plant. Due to a lack of moisture and lack of nutrients, the stems limp and curl.

It could be an improper drainage system that is causing overwatering and soaking of the roots. You must check your drainage system before concluding.

Water the plant only when the soil is dry and ensures the excess water has drained out. Checking the soil from within is critical to avoid watering issues.

Check the pot size too. The pot should be slightly larger than the root ball of the plant. If the pot size is wrong, it can lead to over-watering.

Always permit the soil to dry and drain excess water to avoid any watering-related issues.

Also read: How Often To Water Christmas Cactus? (Water Requirement+Tips)

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Root rot

Christmas cactus brown

Root rot is often caused by overwatering because moist conditions invite diseases and fungus and allow them to grow. 

The pathogens in the soil grow when the soil and roots are soaked for a long time. They grow and lead to root rot.

The roots cannot breathe due to drowning, and in the same way, other parts of plants are also not receiving water and nutrients. Roots gradually become mushy, brown, soft, and leave curl, turn yellow, etc.

It would be best to fix this condition, or you may soon lose your plant. The curling of leaves is an initial sign, but that doesn’t mean you can wait. If left ignored, the plant would suffocate to death.

Take the plant out of the pot to repot it in the fresh soil mix. Use sterilized scissors to crop damaged roots and stems, then repot the plant in the well-draining fresh soil mix.

Keep the plant in good lighting and appropriate room temperature and water properly. Avoid keeping them in indirect light and avoid overwatering them.

Also, avoid fertilizing the plant after repotting and avoid over-fertilizing in any condition. 

Over-fertilizing damages the plant by burning the roots and salt buildup in the soil leading to curling and browning of leaves.

If you have over-fertilized your plant, wash the soil with a strong stream of water to let salt buildup flush with excess water. 

Fertilize the plant only during the growing season with a well-balanced houseplant food.

Also read: Root Rot In Christmas Cactus? (Signs, Causes & Fix)

Temperature stress

Your Christmas cactus can survive various conditions but may suffer due to different conditions. The plant will suffer if the plant is living in extreme temperatures or if the temperature level frequently shifts around them.

Curly and brown leaves can occur due to the temperature stress that your plant is exhibiting. Due to consistent high or freezing temperature levels around your Christmas cactus, the plant leaves to curl.

You must keep the plant at room temperature during summers and above 50°F in winter. Neither too much heat nor low temperatures are good for your Christmas cactus.

Monitor the temperature levels around your plant, and ensure the plant is in pleasant conditions. Keep the plant indoors during freezing temperatures. Avoid keeping them near radiators, vents, fireplaces, etc.

Do not keep the plant near the window such that the leaves are touching the window glass. Keep the plant at a distance to avoid cold shock.

Also read: Where To Place Christmas Cactus? (Ideal Spot+What To Consider)

Pest infestation

Aphids Identification

The curled leaves of your Christmas cactus could be indicating pest infestation. 

Pests such as spider mites, mealy bugs, aphids, and thrips, are common pests that feed on your plant and cause curling leaves.

Curled lead is the result of a lack of nutrients and lack of moisture caused due to pests sucking the plant nutrients. 

These pests even transport viruses to other plants and gradually stunt the growth of the infested plants.

These pests have infested your plant due to:

  • The newly brought plant is infested.
  • Overwatering conditions invited pests.
  • Carried from other infested plants in the surroundings.

You need to be very careful while treating the plant. Use gloves and regularly apply neem oil spay on the plant for a few days. 

You can even dab cotton-dipped cotton balls on the plant to kill the pests in contact. Chemical pesticides are also effective in treating these pests.

Keep a check on the plant regularly and isolate the plant as you discover the plant is infected. You can repot the plant in fresh soil mix once the plant is free of pests.

Also read: How To Get Rid Of Bugs In Christmas Cactus? (Common Bugs+Fix)

Inadequate lighting

Christmas cactus outside

When exposed to too much light for a longer period, the leaves of the Christmas cactus lose their moisture and starts to curl. The leaves may burn or have brown spots due to too much light.

Since the leaves have curled due to external conditions, you need to move our plant to a spot where the plant receives indirect bright light and no direct light.

Christmas cactus will grow happily in 5-6 hours of indirect light, but direct light will only harm. You can use sheer curtains to filter direct light if your plant is placed near a window.

Trim off the damaged parts of the plant due to inadequate light. The leaves may curl even due to low light. The leaves have low energy causing them to curl.

You need to observe your plant after keeping your plant in any spot if the plant is happy or not. 

If the plant shows any signs of stress, then the lighting is improper and needs to be moved to better lighting.

Rotate the plant to ensure all parts are getting sufficient lighting. Also, trimming helps all parts receive enough light.

Also read: How Much Light Does My Christmas Cactus Need?

How to prevent curly leaves in Christmas cactus?

Surely, Christmas cactus leaves curling is due to some stress. It could be minor or major, which can be concluded only after examining the plant.

It is important to examine and observe your plant regularly to notice any stress in the early stages. 

The best thing you can do for your plant is to provide proper care and maintain favorable conditions around them.

Let’s see what you can do to prevent such problems:       

  • You can take some time out when you water your plant to go through your plant closely and ensure everything is okay. This will prevent any severe difficulties in your plant.
  • Use neem oil, horticulture oil, etc., on your plant as a preventive measure for pests, diseases, etc.
  • Trim the plant during spring to promote growth, and you can use the cuttings to propagate it.
  • Keep the plant in favorable conditions, away from cold drafts during freezing temperatures.
  • Fertilize the plant in growing seasons with diluted houseplant fertilizer.
  • Keep the plant in a brightly lit area for at least 5- 6 hours a day, away from direct sun.

Reference: NC State University, Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County, Researchgate, Texas A&M University, Chicago Botanic Garden.


Hello everyone, My name is Richa and I am here to make you a better gardener by creating an in-depth and helpful resource for all the fellow gardeners out there. If I could help even a few people understand their plants better then I call it a success for my efforts.

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