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


A dying Christmas cactus is unpleasant to the eyes as it exhibits signs like drooping, wilting, yellowing, white spots, etc. They not only reduce the beauty of the plant but also indicate that your plant is suffering and may die soon. 

But why is your Christmas cactus dying, and how can you save them? Let us find out.

Overwatering, under watering, low light, too much light, pest infestation, and high humidity are common reasons your Christmas cactus is dying. You can fix these problems by identifying the underlying problem and taking the necessary steps to fix the same.

We want to warn you that stressing the plant further may have you lose it forever. 

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It is important to know all the important points before reaching the root cause and carrying out its treatment.

In this article, we will simplify all your problems and give simple and effective solutions to treat your dying plant.

Signs of dying Christmas cactus

Christmas cactus has beautiful stem segments; if the plant suffers from any issue, you may notice dull and lifeless stems and plants. 

They show signs depicting bad health, which may be:

  • Wilting
  • Drooping
  • Yellowing
  • White spots
  • Leggy growth
  • Leaves falling off
  • Black/brown spots on leaves
  • Stunted growth
  • Browning

 These signs surely indicate that something is kosher with your Christmas cactus. It is crucial to look for the root cause and treat the plant accordingly.

Revive dying Christmas cactus

After you have examined the signs, you must know the cause behind the signs. As you know the sign, you can now treat the plant.

We will go through all the possible reasons for your dying plant and look for the solutions in detail to save your plant from wilting.

Overwatered Christmas cactus 

Overwatering is usually the root cause of almost all problems in your plant. 

Beginners often overwater as a sign of love to keep their plants hydrated but end up drowning them.

Overwatering never promotes growth but rather promotes diseases, pests strike, and root rot. 

The soil stays wet for a long period, so the soil and roots cannot breathe and supply nutrients, leading to wilting. 

Signs

  • Yellow leaves
  • Brown leaves
  • Leaves falling
  • Root rot
  • White spots
  • Stunted growth

Solutions:

  • Stop watering your Christmas cactus and let the soil dry out fully.
  • Clip damaged parts of the plant with sterilized scissors.
  • Check the drainage system of the pot.
  • Move the plant to a well-ventilated space.
  • The soil mix should be well-draining as it could be the reason for root rot.
  • Expose the plant to indirect bright light so that the plant dries faster. Use grow light to combat low lighting.

Prevention:

  • For watering, always make sure the soil is dry before watering the plant.
  • After watering, ensure that the excess water has drained out and the soil is not drowning. The drainage system is appropriate if the excess water has drained within 2 minutes of watering.
  • If you keep a tray under your plant, empty it every time you water it.
  • Water your plant adequately but avoid drowning the soil.
  • Check the soil moistness by digging a finger in the soil up to 2 inches and taking it out. If the soil sticks to the finger, the soil is still moist.
  • Avoid watering the plant when you are unsure about the soil condition and wait for a few days to water.
  • A moisture meter is also a very helpful tool to check the soil moisture level.   

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


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Under watered Christmas cactus

Under watered Christmas cactus is also not a good condition; it dehydrates the plant and makes it lifeless.

The soil becomes bone dry and dull due to a lack of water. There is a lack of water and nutrients in the soil and other parts of the plant, which can be seen through dull leaves.

Signs

  • Brown edges
  • Leaf drop
  • Curling eaves
  • Discoloration
  • Stunted growth

Solutions:

  • Under watered plants can be fixed by fixing the watering routine.
  • Start by pruning the damaged parts of the plant, if any.
  • Now, soak your Christmas cactus in water for some time or water them till the excess water starts to come out of the drainage holes.
  • Water the plant again after the soil has dried halfway; this will help retain moisture in the plant.

Prevention:

  • This condition can be prevented by watering at the right time to keep the plant hydrated.
  • If the stems curl, the plant is dehydrated and asking for water.
  • Check the soil in regular intervals to see if the soil is dry, and water the plant as soon as you feel the soil is dry.
  • Make a routine after observing their watering needs but do not blindly follow it.
  • Make sure to touch the soil to ensure the soil needs water.

Root rot

Root rot is the sign of an overwatered plant, usually caused by overwatering frequently. The roots and soil stay wet consistently, and the root rot conditions progress.

If you do not treat the problem, it will be harder to recover your plant, and you may lose it forever. As you see the following signs, take the actions discussed below.

Signs

  • Brown leaves
  • Yellow leaves
  • Wilting
  • Stunted growth
  • Thin stems
  • Mushy and brown roots
  • Foul odor from the soil

Solutions:

  • Take your plant out of the pot to check the condition of the roots.
  • Start with checking the roots and cutting the soft, brown, and mushy roots.
  • Use sterilized scissors tools before and after use.
  • Now, wash the roots with bleach, then wash them with plain water. Let the roots dry in fresh air for a day.
  • After that, repot the plant in a new pot with proper drainage holes.
  • Use well-draining, light, and organically rich soil mix to repot your plant.
  • Water the plant after a few days when the plant looks better. Ensure the excess water is draining out of the drainage system. Keep the plant in good light but not direct.

Prevention:

  • Prevent our Christmas cactus from root rot by keeping the plant in a well-ventilated space.
  • Water the plant only when the soil is dry, as overwatering promotes root rot.
  • Always check the soil before watering. Dig a finger in the soil to feel if the soil is dry or not.
  • Use pots with proper drainage holes to allow excess water to drain easily to keep the soil evenly moist.
  • Make sure the soil is light and porous; you can simply buy cactus soil mix.
  • Good light and air circulation are crucial for a healthy and happy plant.

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

Lighting issues

Light is an essential part of any plant’s growth, but if the light is inadequate or too much, then it can become a problem for the plant. 

They thrive in indirect bright light but can also live in a slight change in conditions.

If the lighting is unfavorable around your plant for a consistent period, then the plant tends to suffer.

Signs:

Too much light

  • Sunburn
  • Brown leaves

Too less light

  • Leggy growth
  • Yellowing
  • Stunted growth
  • Browning

Solutions:

Improper lighting can harm your Christmas cactus, i.e. low light or direct sun are not recommended for your plant. 

You must find the right spot for our plant to get the right light.

Too much light:

  • Prune the damaged, burnt leaves, if any, and move the plant to an indirect light location.
  • For plants living outdoors, cast a shade over them, and keep them on a patio or under a shade to protect them from direct sun.
  • Place the plant at a distance from the window such that the plant is getting light but not direct light.
  • Use sheer curtains to filter the direct light.

Too less light:

  • Move the plant in better light so that your plant can receive enough light to thrive.
  • If there is a lack of natural light in your home, move the plant outdoors to provide sufficient light but avoid direct light.
  • An artificial light source such as grow light can also be used to fulfill the plant’s light needs.
  • Rotate the plant every few days to ensure each part receives light.
  • Prevention:
  • Christmas cactus-like ample light to thrive, giving them 5-6 hours of light at least every day.
  • You can keep them near a window where they can receive morning and afternoon sun or where it gets 5-6 hours of indirect light.
  • Please keep checking the plant and place the plant where it grows the best.
  • Temperature fluctuations
  • Christmas cacti can live in various conditions and are adaptable and hardy to different conditions.
  • If the temperature shifts frequently around them, it is harder for them to stay healthy for longer. Temperature shifts can shock the plant and face several problems for them.

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

Temperature fluctuation

Temperature fluctuation is another common reason that leads to wilting of the Christmas cactus. If you keep them under extremely low or high temperatures, they will likely die.

Signs

  • Discolored leaves
  • Stressed leaves
  • Brown spots on leaves
  • Curling leaves
  • Slow growth

Solutions:

  • Keep your Christmas cactus in a place where the temperature level is stable. Avoid keeping them in freezing temperatures.
  • If there are some damaged parts, trim them.
  • Move them to a warmer area when the temperature is cold and freezing. You can place them near heating systems to keep them warm.

Prevention:

  • Keep the plant at room temperature. The ideal level ranges between 65°F to 85°F.
  • Please do not keep them near heating systems such as fireplaces, furnaces, radiators, etc.
  • They can tolerate temperature levels as below as 50°F.
  • Avoid keeping them near windows during winter; touching the glass can shock the plant.

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

High Humidity 

Christmas cactus needs a proper humidity level to thrive. The plant may suffer if the humidity is very low or very high.

Signs:

  • Fungal diseases
  • Leaf spot
  • Yellowing
  • Brown spots

Solutions:

  •  
  • Keep your Christmas cactus in average humidity, around 50% to 60%. Some up and high is okay.
  • Please keep them in a brightly lit space and use a humidifier to maintain the ideal humidity level around them.

Prevention:

  • Keep your Christmas cactus in humidity around 50% to 60%. Maintain this humidity level around them and keep them in good air circulation.
  • Avoid misting them or grouping them with other plants.
  • Use a humidifier to maintain the humidity around the plant.

Also read: Do Christmas Cactus Like humidity? (Humidity Requirements+Tips To Increase)

Pest infestation

When infested with pests, the Christmas cactus will go through several problems. The plants become weak and dull if the pests keep sucking on them.

Pests such as mealybugs, spider mites, aphids, etc. are common bugs attacking your Christmas cactus. 

They keep eating the plant nutrients and moisture; if ignored, the plant may even die.

Signs:

  • Yellowing
  • Brown spots
  • Leaf spot
  • Weak plant
  • Leaf drop
  • Stunted growth

Solutions:

  • Isolate your Christmas cactus to save other plants from infection and diseases.
  • Clip off the damaged parts with sterilized scissors to get rid of damaged parts. Dispose of them immediately to avoid infection from spreading.
  • Wash the plant with soapy water and then with plain water; it will help get rid of a lot of pests.
  • Use neem oil solution to treat pests. Spray the neem oil solution all over the plant. Repeat it every few days till the problem persists.
  • Chemical pesticides are also easily available in the market. Use it on your plant by following the instructions, and do not overuse it as it can damage the plant further.
  • Keep your Christmas cactus in good air circulation while and after treatment.
  • After getting rid of the pests, you can repot the plant in a sterilized fresh soil mix as it will help the plant become healthy faster.
  • Sterilize the area after the treatment, and repotting are completed.

Prevention:

  • Provide your Christmas cactus with good lighting to allow the soil to dry easily.
  • Keep the plant in a good air circulated area and with average humidity.
  • Check the plant closely every few days, or check the plant every time you water it. It will help you know if the plant is doing well or not.
  • Always keep a newly bought plant, irrespective of where you got it from until you are sure the plant is completely healthy.
  • You can use a neem oil solution on your plant once a month as a preventive measure to prevent pests.

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

Inadequate fertilization

Christmas cactus are light feeders and can survive even without fertilizer. 

That sometimes varies because indoor plants have limited conditions and care due to which their nutrient requirement is also not fulfilled.

It would be best to fertilize your Christmas cactus appropriately to avoid nutrient-related issues as it can further stretch to weak plants and stunted growth.

Signs:

  • Weak plant
  • Yellowing
  • Drooping
  • Leaf drop

Solutions:

  • Feed your Christmas cactus with a diluted balanced fertilizer every two months from spring through summer.
  • Water your plant before fertilizing. It will help the fertilizer distribute evenly in the soil.
  • If it is winter, do not fertilize and wait for the spring to approach. As spring approaches, feed your plant.

Prevention:

  • Fertilize your plant with a balanced fertilizer once in two months in the growing season to avoid a lack of nutrients.
  • Avoid fertilizing during a dormant month; it will affect plants’ health and blooming.
  • Provide enough light to allow movement and assimilation of nutrients, so the plant has enough energy to grow.

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

Final words

Christmas cactus are hardy blooming cactuses that need a little care to thrive and bloom. They can fight almost all conditions but may suffer in extremities.

It is best to keep them in favorable conditions or make arrangements to imitate their native conditions.

They prefer room temperature in summer and can survive at temperatures below 50°F.

Please keep them in a warm and humid environment. Good air circulation is essential for their good health.

Do not mist around or on them as it can lead to leaf diseases.

Expose them to ample indirect bright light for as long as you can. Avoid direct light pouring on them.

You can use neem oil spray monthly to protect your plant from pest infestation, fungal diseases, etc.

Prune the plant in spring to boost their growth and fertilize in the growing season to stimulate new growth.


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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