Why Is My Christmas Cactus Splitting? (Causes+How To Fix)


Christmas cactus have stem segments that need proper care to develop. If the leaves split, then there must be something going wrong with them. This condition is unusual, and your plant is telling you something. Let us find out the possible reason why the leaves are splitting.

The primary causes of splitting leaves in Christmas cactus are overwatering and physical damage. When the soil stays wet for too long, the leaf’s cells do not develop, leading to leaves splitting. Any physical damage by pets or planters will also lead to the splitting of the leaves.

We will now move forward by discussing the causes of your Christmas cactus leaves splitting and how we can save the plants from such a state.

What causes the Christmas cactus to split?

The splitting of Christmas cactus leaves is heartbreaking as it ruins their beauty. 

The leaves of your Christmas cactus must be splitting due to the following reasons:

  1. Overwatering your Christmas cactus
  2. Pests
  3. Extreme Environmental changes
  4. Physical damage
  5. Micronutrient Deficiency
  6. Placement of the plant

We will dive into detail on each topic and discuss how to treat them properly. 

Overwatering your Christmas cactus

When your Christmas cactus is suffering, the first thing we look for is the watering schedule. These cactuses prefer to stay moist but not soggy. As you keep overwatering them, you may soon lose them.

They can go through drought but cannot survive overwatered conditions for a very long period. They need water but at the right time when the soil is dry. 

We always advise you to feel the soil before you water them. You can dig a finger/skewer in the soil to feel the soil and see if it is dry or moist. Water only when the soil is dry.

The leaves may split due to lack of water available to them or due to high temperature around them, due to which the leaves transpire rapidly and split. 

How can we avoid overwatering?

We can easily avoid overwatering by:

  • Make a watering schedule mindfully.
  • Touch the soil to feel it before watering.
  • Dig a finger to feel the soil and check the soil’s moistness.
  • Check the drainage system of the pot.
  • If there is a tray under the pot, then empty the tray.
  • Water only when the soil is dry.

Christmas cactus can stay dry for weeks and during winter for about a month.

Use a well-draining soil medium for the plant.

If your Christmas cactus is drowning, repot the plant to save them. While repotting them, choose a well-draining soil mix to plant them. 

Using the right type of soil mix is very important to prevent over-watering conditions.

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

Pests

Christmas cactuses are usually resilient to pests, but the plant can suffer root rot and invite pests under unfavorable routines such as over-watering and over-fertilization.

Sometimes even when all the care needs are taken care of, the plant is still affected due to pest invasions. But why?

The reason could be your pruning scissors. Yes, if you use scissors without disinfectant or rubbing alcohol, then the reason is clear. 

If you want your plant healthy after pruning, then always use disinfectant on your scissors.

It will keep the pests and diseases away from the plant. 

Pests from another plant will also not be transferred to them as the conditions are unfavorable for the plant.

Other than this, the reason could be overcrowding of plants. They do not like to stay in poor ventilation; it also increases the humidity. 

If any plant is infected, the pests can easily spread to nearby plants.

Generally, spider mites, aphids, and mealybugs attack your Christmas cactus. 

They are tiny and not easy to recognize with naked eyes. You may see white mold on the plant indicating spider mites.

Isolate the pest-infested plant immediately to save other plants from getting infected. 

You may notice your plant leaves turning yellow, brown, or splitting due to pests eating them.


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How can we tackle the pest situation?

To ensure your Christmas cactus is safe, follow the steps below:

  • Isolate the infested plant from other plants.
  • Check other plants for infestation too.
  • Now, prune and discard the damaged and affected parts of the plant.
  • Use neem oil solution by diluting it with water, and apply to the plant.
  • Repeat applying for 15 days or till the problem persists.
  • You can also use chemical pesticides available on the market. Use according to the instructions.
  • Check the plant to ensure no pests or eggs are there. If not treated on time, the plant can die.

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

Extreme Environmental Changes

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As we know, the Christmas cactus is sturdy and survives in various conditions. Many planters take this leniently and compromise in their care.

Talking about the environmental conditions, the Christmas cactus can suffer if moved from one extreme condition to another.

Just understand when you live in one condition, for example, in a chilly climate, and suddenly if you move to the high-temperature area, you will feel discomfort. 

Similarly, if you move your Christmas cactus from indoors to outdoors at once, they will likely suffer.

When you keep your Christmas cactus in poor lighting condition, and now you want to move it to your garden area, then moving it in one go can harm the plant.

To help the plant, you must check the environmental conditions and maintain favorable conditions. 

If you want to move them, take the necessary steps and time to move the plant gradually to help them acclimate to new conditions.

You can move the plant to a new condition for an hour a day for a week and increase it gradually. 

During winter, you must start moving them in early winter to save them from freezing temperatures.

How can we avoid extremes?

To avoid your plant from extreme conditions:

  • During winters, move the plant to a warm spot and away from the window sill.
  • Avoid keeping them near heating systems such as radiators, vents, fireplaces, etc.
  • Use humidity to keep humidity levels in check.
  • Do not mist them regularly. They do not like excess humidity.
  • Observe the plant, and change the location if they are uncomfortable.
  • Use artificial light to keep the temperature warm and arid.

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

Physical damage

Physical damage can only be caused when someone or something physically hurts your plant. 

You must be thinking, why would someone hurt your plant. Let us find out why your plant may get hurt physically.

Pets, Yes, if you have them at your home, then they are the prime possibility that your plant may get damaged physically. 

Pets are curious and attracted to plants and try to touch and munch them. 

Sometimes your pets want to play with the plant, touching and disturbing them. The plant may get damaged and suffer from issues such as splitting, yellowing, etc.

Another reason is you may damage plants during the transportation process. You must always check the plants when you bring them home.

Also, sometimes owners may mishandle the plant, which may damage it unintentionally. 

How can we overcome this?

You are the only one who can save your plant and overcome any problem your plant is facing. To avoid this:

  • Right placement is crucial. If you have pets and children around, keep the plant safe.
  • Keep them on a shelf or tabletop where your pets cannot reach, as it can also be mildly toxic for them.
  • Keep your plants in different rooms from your pets when you are away from home.
  • Hanging pots also help keep plants away from pets and children.
  • Pet owners are suggested to use spatial plantation.
  • Check the plant thoroughly whenever you get a new one home. Also, give them time and the right conditions to acclimate to the new environment.

Also read: How Fast Do Christmas Cactus Grow? (+Make Them Grow Faster)

Micronutrient Deficiency

If you find the leaves of your Christmas cactus splitting, then the reason could be a nutrient deficiency. They need both micronutrients and macronutrients to grow and thrive. 

Usually, boron deficiency leads to splitting leaves. The cells do not develop properly. It is a micronutrient deficiency; it hinders cells and leaves development.

How to avoid Boron Deficiency?

You can avoid boron deficiency in Christmas cactus by:

  • Test the soil pH level. If the soil is too acidic or alkaline, try to maintain it.
  • You can use boric acid, a tsp mixed with one gallon of water.
  • Do not water the plant with a boric acid solution. Spray on the foliage only.
  • Avoid over-fertilizing your Christmas cactus as it can damage the plant.
  • Use organic substances, compost, mulch, etc., in the soil.

Also read: Do Christmas Cactus Need Fertilizer? (How Often+Best Pick)

Placement of the plant

The placement of a houseplant is crucial and plays an important role in its health. 

Your Christmas cactus leaves might be splitting due to wrong placement, which you may not have yet discovered.

Spots like staircases and doorways are not very safe for them. High traffic and disturbance could accidentally harm your plant.

Pets at your home are also disturbing to your plant. We have discussed it earlier in detail.

Grouping Christmas cacti can also hurt them and lead to the splitting of their leaves. They do not like overcrowding.

How can we avoid damage due to placement?

To avoid such conditions:

  • Locate your plant where pets and children are away from the least disturbing.
  • If your Christmas cactus is kept in the group, check if the plant is overcrowded and give more space around them.
  • Keep them in a well-ventilated space, and they will love it.
  • Use hanging pots to keep them safe from curious pets and children.
  • Also, train your pets to be careful around plants and avoid chewing them.

How to fix leaves splitting in a Christmas cactus

Christmas cactus needs some care and alertness to stay healthy. You can prevent leaves from splitting just with some attention and changes.

Since we have covered all the reasons causing the splitting of leaves, we will now learn ways to keep the plant healthy.

Type of potting soil

Soil is the growing medium of any plant, and it is important to use the right soil mix for your plant. 

Soil provides nutrients and minerals for the plant to grow and develop. It helps the plant to function properly and cells to develop.

Use a well-draining, porous soil mix for your Christmas cactus. You can use potting soil and mix perlite to make the soil light and well-draining.

You can add compost to the soil mix to make the soil light. It will also raise the nutrient ratio of the soil. 

Also read: What Kind Of Soil Is Best For A Christmas Cactus? (+Best Soil Mix)

Watering regime

Christmas cactus likes to be watered but cannot tolerate overwatering. Overwatering can make the plant suffer and may gradually lead to wilting.

Planters follow a watering plan blindly, which sometimes goes against the plant. 

You must follow a regime after observing how much soil takes time to dry. The soil should be dry before getting water.

Do not overwater, assuming it will promote their growth. Rather it will create more issues for the plant, such as root rot. 

Water only when the soil is dry and avoid top watering. 

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

Location, Location, and Location

Location is an equally important and ignored factor for growing your Christmas cactus. 

It is even more important when you have pets around. Keep your plants away in a spot where your pets cannot reach.

If you feel your plant is unsafe in a particular spot, consider moving it to a safer spot or use supplies such as fencing, etc.

Also, please keep them in a location where they can receive sufficient light. Please choose a location where the plants are safe and receive enough bright light.

Fertilize but do not over-fertilize

Planters often make the mistake of overfeeding their plant in expectation of better growth of the plant. 

Christmas cactus can survive even without fertilizer, but as houseplants, they may have to compromise with cultural conditions. 

Due to this, they might need a nutrient boost to grow but at the right time and in the right dose.

Use fertilizer by adulterating it with water and only in the growing season. For ideal growth, Nurture your plant with a balanced or cactus fertilizer once every two months.


Reference: NC State UniversityNebraska Extension in Lancaster CountyResearchgateTexas A&M UniversityChicago Botanic Garden.

Richa

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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