Why Is My Christmas Cactus Turning Brown? (Causes+Fix)

Christmas cactus is an easy-growing plant and make a great addition during winters. But they might face some problems if their care requirements are not met. 

Brown leaves in Christmas cactus are also one of the indications that your plant is unhappy. But what could be the cause behind the Christmas cactus turning brown? Let’s find out.

Christmas cactus will turn brown primarily due to sunburn, water-related issues, lack of nutrients, and temperature fluctuations. Other reasons are the wrong size of the pot and pest infestation. Identify the primary problem and take the necessary step to prevent brown leaves in the future.

To understand why your Christmas cactus is turning brown and take appropriate steps, you must identify the primary problem. 

This article is dedicated to helping you find the real reason for your Christmas cactus turning brown and fix it.

Christmas cactus curling

9 Reasons why your Christmas cactus turning brown

Christmas cactus turning brown indicates several causes that we have covered below. We have also discussed how to treat them.

Poor quality water

Water is essential for your Christmas cactus growth but may also harm them. The water may have minerals that may not be good for the plant’s health, eventually leading to brown leaves.


Christmas cactus does not go well with certain minerals like chlorine and phosphorus. 

Poor quality water may have minerals that can harm the Christmas cactus plant.

These minerals gradually build up in the soil and spread to the entire plant, resulting in brown leaves.


We can still save our plant by following the below-given fixes:

  • Use filtered water or rainwater to ensure these are free from unwanted minerals like chlorine and phosphorus.
  • Your tap water can be the reason that is affecting the Christmas cactus. Avoid using it directly; simply keep the tap water in a bucket overnight to let the harmful elements settle down.
  • Install a water filter to filter harmful elements from your water so that you can use it to water your Christmas cactus.
  • Following these steps will help reduce the harmful elements in the soil and gradually renew the soil with useful minerals.


Christmas cactus water

Overwatering is one of the major causes that lead to the browning of the Christmas cactus. It also is the root cause of several problems in the Christmas cactus.

Christmas cacti do not need much watering and are drought tolerant. However, proper watering by keeping the soil relatively moist is the best.


Overwatering may be responsible for your Christmas cactus turning brown. 

Watering unconsciously without checking with the plant leads to severe cases. 

Browning happens when the plant has been over-watered for a long time. Gradually it leads to other extreme issues.


  • Simply allow the plant to dry fully in the fresh air and indirect sunlight. You can also dig the plant out, cut the damaged roots and patches and repot it.
  • Use a right-sized pot with a proper drainage system to prevent such conditions. Also, use light and well-draining soil to allow easy flow of water and air.
  • Check the soil before watering the plant. Dig a finger in the soil to check the soil moisture.
  • If the plant is severely damaged, you can save some stem segments or healthy roots, if any, and propagate it.

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

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Underwatering can also be the reason your Christmas cactus is suffering. 

Though they need less watering, ignoring their water needs continually can cause issues like browning.


Underwatering a Christmas cactus will dehydrate the plant, which may lead to the plant turning purple and then brown. Underwatering for a long time stresses the plant and causes multiple issues.


  • If there is dryness in the space you are keeping your Christmas cactus, then you can place a tray lined with pebbles and fill it with water. That will keep the moisture level in check.
  • You can also simply mist around the plant in dry weather to keep the humidity level in check.
  • Grouping houseplants also helps in keeping the moisture level high. 
  • Water the plant without letting the soil dry out completely.

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

Nutrient deficiency

Fertilizer 3

Christmas cactus turning brown could also be due to a lack of nutrients. Nutrient deficiency makes the plant weak, and the plant cannot stay healthy. 


Nutrient deficiency in Christmas cactus may be due to the soil mix it is growing in.

Frequently transplanting the plant may also cause nutrient deficiency. 

Pests and diseases are one of the major reasons for nutrient deficiency.


  • To fix the issue of lack of nutrients, do the following:
  • Use a nutrient-rich, well-draining potting medium for your Christmas cactus.
  • Use a pot slightly larger such that the roots fit into the pot.
  • Use a houseplant balanced fertilizer once a month. Dilute the recommended dosage to half the strength during the growing period.
  • Water the plant properly to ensure an even flow of all the nutrients.
  • Use neem oil solution to treat pests and keep a watch every week for any pest attack.

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

Too much sunlight

Christmas cactus misting

Christmas cactus likes sunlight, but the direct harsh sun can lead to browning leaves. 


Christmas cactus grows best in indirect bright light. 

When exposed to direct sun, the plant tends to suffer and turn brown to protect the plant from harsh sun rays.

Too much sunlight affects plants’ photosynthesis process, which leads to browning.


  • Move your Christmas cactus to a location with indirect bright or dappled sunlight.
  • If you want to move them outdoors, increase the lighting gradually. It will acclimate the plant to new lighting.
  • It is best to keep them in the shade when outdoors.

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

Root rot

Root rot could be the main and alarming cause for your Christmas cactus turning brown. 

If the base of the plant is turning brown and the stem is yellow and soft, it indicates root rot. 


Root rot condition is challenging because it has already harmed the plant before showing any signs. 

If the cause of brown leaves is root rot, then the problem has already advanced inside.

Overwatering and improper drainage commonly lead to root rot.


  • Stop watering immediately and repot the plant with fresh well-draining soil mix. 
  • Cut the damaged roots and tissues and some healthy tissues to prevent the rot from spreading. 
  • Use clean and sterilized shears to cut the roots and clean them with alcohol after use.
  • Keep the plant in fresh air before repotting.

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

Inappropriate pot

Christmas cactus flower

Christmas cactus growing in the wrong sized pot will not be able to flourish and may suffer with browning. 


Growing your Christmas cactus in a wrong-sized pot, whether big or small, may lead to various issues in the plant. 

Browning of the Christmas cactus is one of the signs indicating inappropriate pot.

The plant will not be able to grow correctly if grown in the wrong-sized pot. Always choose the right size of pot for your plant.


  • Choose a pot that is 2 inches larger than the previous one while repotting.
  • The pot should be large enough to allow your Christmas cactus to fit in easily.
  • Prefer terracotta containers to allow better airflow.
  • Make sure your pot has a proper drainage system and is porous.

Pest infestation

Christmas cactus brown

Pests are another major reason for your Christmas cactus turning brown. 

It sucks the plant nutrients and usually turns brown from the top, where new growth appears.


Your Christmas cactus may be suffering due to a pest attack. It happens either due to moist conditions that attract bugs. 

Another reason could be that an infected plant around your plants may infect them.

If not treated timely, these pests will kill your plant by sucking all the plant’s nutrients. These plants are most susceptible to mites.


  • Isolate your infected Christmas cactus immediately.
  • Wash it with a strong stream of water from the top.
  • Now remove the plant from the pot, rinse it and remove the soil.
  • Cut the damaged and mushy roots stems and discard them.
  • Allow the plant to dry in fresh air for a day as it will kill any germs left in the plant.
  • Repot the plant with fresh and nutrient-rich soil mix.

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

Your Christmas cactus is stressed.

Christmas cactus 7

Christmas cactus can show signs like brown leaves and loss of leaves if the plant is stressed out. The plant could be stressed due to various reasons that may lead to the browning of the leaves. 


Your Christmas cactus could be stressed due to over or underwatering, over or underfeeding, inadequate light or too much sunlight, etc. 


  • Always keep your Christmas cactus in bright indirect light.
  • Water the plant regularly and always check the soil before watering to avoid water stress.
  • Make sure your Christmas cactus is growing in the right pot, and if not, repot it in the right pot.
  • Feed them monthly during the growing period with a balanced fertilizer.

Also read: How To Save A Dying Christmas Cactus? (A Complete Guide)

Final words

Keep a check on your Christmas cactus and other plants, for that matter. It will help you determine any problem your plant may face before it gets severe. Take the required steps to treat your plant. 

  • Using unglazed, porous pots will encourage airflow and water evaporation.
  • Please keep them in full sun for a few weeks before the blooming season.
  • Keep the plant in the dark for a few hours to promote flowering.
  • Avoid overfeeding and feed only by diluting the fertilizer to half the recommended dosage.

Also read: How To Care For Christmas Cactus Plant? (Ultimate Care Guide)

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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