Christmas cactus is resilient and easy to care for plants that will stay healthy if proper conditions are taken care of.
They will give signals when something is going wrong with them. If you notice wrinkled leaves, it indicates that your Christmas cactus is going through some problems.
Over or under watering usually leads to wrinkling leaves in the Christmas cactus. Other reasons could be low lighting and pest infestation. A direct breeze from air conditioning and hot or cold drafts are also responsible for wrinkled leaves.
You always have the scope to correct mistakes and rejuvenate your Christmas cactus.
In this article, we will learn the causes of wrinkled leaves in Christmas cactus, and then we will see how to correct them.
Why does my Christmas cactus look wrinkled?
The wrinkling of leaves is generally caused by loss of water. When the leaves do not receive water for too long, they wrinkle. That can happen either due to overwatering or under-watering.
Christmas cactus are hardy plants that can thrive in a variety of conditions.
When your care goes wrong, the plant may survive and fight the problem for some time but will start to lose its strength to fight the issue.
Let us see what are the issues that are causing the problem of wrinkled leaves:
- Watering adequately
- Pest infestation
- Inadequate lighting
- Air conditioning and wind
Now let us briefly discuss each of the problems and find a solution.
Watering is the prime reason that will easily cause problems for the plant.
Watering is important for plant growth; going wrong with the watering can even kill your plant.
If you keep your Christmas cactus under-watered for a long time, the soil repels water when watered after a long time. That leads to drought stress as the roots and soil do not receive water and stay dry.
Being cactus, they will survive under-watering longer, but if the condition is the same, the plant will start losing its nutrients and moisture. The leaves lose all their moisture and nutrients, resulting in wrinkling.
Overwatering suffocates the roots and soil making it difficult for them to breathe and function.
Other parts of the plant lack water and nutrients, causing wrinkling. Due to lack of air, the roots may suffer from fungal diseases, and pests attack, etc.
- To fix your wrinkled Christmas cactus caused by overwatering, withdraw watering till the soil is completely dry. Let it breathe and be in good air circulation.
- If your plant is Underwatered, regularly water the plant for a few days to let the soil and roots retain moisture.
- Either water as much as to soak the roots and soil or thoroughly ensure the excess water has drained out.
- You can check the soil before watering by digging a finger in the soil from the top.
- Also, check the soil every few days to avoid under-watering. Use a moisture meter to solve all the moisture-related issues.
Also read: How Often To Water Christmas Cactus? (Water Requirement+Tips)
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Temperature also helps in the good health of the plant. The plant will thrive if the Christmas cactus is kept at an ideal temperature.
They can tolerate slight changes in temperature level. If the change is huge and consistent, then your plant may suffer.
They thrive in 65°F-85°F. Freezing weather and temperatures above 90°F will cause problems for your plant.
At high-temperature levels, the plant may suffer from dehydration, which leads to moisture loss in the plant. The leaves lose their moisture, suffering from both inside and outside.
If the plant is under-watered in such conditions, it will worsen the situation for the plant.
Move the plant to a location where the temperature level is ideal. A cooler location away from hot drafts is ideal for the plant in hot weather.
If you like to keep Christmas cacti outdoors, make a shade over them to protect them from hot air and temperature.
Keep the plants away from vents, radiators, fireplaces, or heating systems.
Keeping their watering needs in check during high-temperature conditions will help the plant preserve its moisture.
Repotting is done to improve the health and growth of the plant. Sometimes repotting proves to be worse for the plants than good.
It happens when you repeatedly repot your Christmas cactus. It stresses the plant, and wrinkling is how plants show their stress.
When you repot Christmas cactus in the wrong season, or when they do not need it, the plant suffers.
If the plant is going through any stress and you repot thinking it will lessen the stress and help the plant, then you have increased the plant’s stress instead.
- Repot only when the roots have outgrown its pot because Christmas cactus likes to stay root-bound.
- If your plant is suffering from any problem, treat them in other ways and keep repotting your last resort to save it.
- Ideally, repot them in 4-5 years and not before that.
Pests are the most irritating creature for any plant and plant parents. They attack the plant and suck all its nutrients and moisture, making it weak and dull.
Pests like spider mites, aphids, and scales commonly attack the Christmas cactus.
Mealybugs will be identified as fluffy white layers feeding the juice out of the plant. They make the plant weak, brown, wrinkled, discolored, etc.
Scales lay eggs and multiply quickly, and spider mites spread their webs, hiding in the underparts of the plant.
They make the plant weak, taking its brightness. Wrinkled leaves are initial signs of pest infestation.
- The best way is to monitor the plant every few weeks, to check for any pests, diseases, etc. It helps treat diseases and pests timely and keeps the plant healthy.
- Use pest repellant, which is available easily in the market. Apply after going through the instructions properly.
- Neem oil solution is very effective in treating pests. Apply every few days till all the pests are killed.
- Wipe the leaves and other parts of the plant with cotton dipped in alcohol or soapy water.
- You can also use horticulture oil to get rid of pests.
Also read: How To Get Rid Of Bugs In Christmas Cactus? (Common Bugs+Fix)
Light is important for all living beings to grow. Plants also need light to grow and develop.
Christmas cactus also need ample light to stay healthy. It provides adequate energy to carry out all the functions and processes.
They need at least 5-6 hours of light to mature and bloom. The right light is indirect, and it will become weak if they do not receive enough light.
Due to lack of light, the photosynthesis and chlorophyll process suffers, making the leaves dull and wrinkled. The stems become leggy, weak, and gradually drop.
- Christmas cactus should not be kept in low light. Please keep them in a brightly lit space.
- Rotate the plant every time you water it to make sure all parts are getting light.
- If there is a lack of light, you can use an artificial light source to combat low lighting.
- Keeping them near a lamp will also keep them warm.
Also read: How Much Light Does My Christmas Cactus Need?
Air conditioning and wind
Winds blowing, air from air conditioning, hot drafts, or convection currents are harmful to your Christmas cactus and will damage them.
They get affected when the condition is extreme for a consistent period. The wrinkling of leaves is the initial sign of your plant living in extreme or unfavorable conditions.
Due to hot drafts, the plants lose their moisture resulting in wrinkled and crisp leaves.
It happens majorly when other conditions are also unfavorable for a long period.
Air from air conditioning or other heating systems will lead to drought stress.
- The first thing you need to do is move the plant to a safer spot away from the direct current of air, hot or cold drafts, etc.
- If your Christmas cactus is kept in a room, place it away from direct air conditioning.
- If the climate condition is severe outdoors, keep the plant indoors and away from windows.
Also read: Where To Place Christmas Cactus? (Ideal Spot+What To Consider)
How to prevent the wrinkling of leaves of Christmas cactus
Preventing your plant from any unfavorable condition is the best way to save your plant from any damage.
- Christmas cactus is a cactus plant, and they need minimum care to stay healthy.
- During winters, they are sensitive to environmental conditions, ad they are not favorable. It is advised to keep them in a favorable condition.
- Water them only when the soil is dry. Checking the soil helps in water at the right time.
- Do not expose them to hot and cold drafts.
- Please provide them with good light all day long; indirect light is best for them.
- Please keep them in good air circulation.
- Clean the plant at regular intervals to prevent diseases and let leaves breathe. Using neem oil, soapy water, and horticulture oil by diluting will help keep pests at bay.
- Feed the plant with a balanced fertilizer once every two months in the growing months.
Christmas cacti are unique cacti that bloom and need little care for the same.
They may suffer when kept in unfavorable conditions for too long.
Following the right care and proper conditions, we can keep them healthy and prevent problems like wrinkled leaves.
Reference: NC State University, Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County, Researchgate, Texas A&M University, Chicago Botanic Garden.