How Can I Tell If My Christmas Cactus Is Dying? (7 Signs)

Christmas cactus are elegant flowering cactuses with a lot of stem segments. However, if you fail to provide your plant with the right conditions, these plants will show a sign of distress and will start dying. 

But how can you tell if your Christmas cactus is dying? Let’s find out.

If a Christmas cactus is dying, it will show signs through its leaves. Common signs include drooping, yellowing, and browning of leaves. If you don’t provide them with appropriate care at the initial stage, then the leaves will start wilting, and the plant will start losing all its leaves.

You can heal your plant without much mess by noticing the signs early on. In this article below, we will help you observe your plant and notice problems. 

Moreover, we will consider all the possible causes of the signs, followed by the right solutions.

Christmas cactus curling

7 Signs my Christmas cactus is dying

Christmas cacti show signs of dying through their leaves and outlook. They cannot speak; hence it is the only way they can tell you they are suffering.

You will notice these signs in the initial days if you are conscious. It can help the plant recover fast and survive ill health.

We have discussed below a few of the common signs that your plant is indicating:

Droopy leaves-Over watering
-Improper drainage
-Improper lighting
White spots-Fungal disease
Yellow leaves-Watering issue
Brown leaves-Excessive light
-Over watering
Dying leaves-Watering methods
-Harsh environment
-Low light
Leggy growth-Insufficient light
Shriveling of leaves-Excessive sunlight
-Too much watering 
This table represents common signs of dying Christmas cactus and their underlying cause

Let us dive into further details now. We will learn 7 signs of a dying Christmas cactus and understand the underlying causes of the same.

The leaves of the Christmas cactus are drooping.

Christmas cactus 6

If the leaves of your Christmas cactus are drooping, then it could be due to the following reasons:

Underwatering: Droopy leaves of Christmas cactus are usually caused by a lack of moisture. 

Leaves need moisture and nutrients to stay thick and upright. Due to insufficient water in the soil, they cannot supply water and nutrients to its stems.

That results in dehydration as the leaves have used up all their moisture and nutrients to stay healthy and stiff. The leaves start drooping, showing a lack of moisture and nutrients.

To restore moisture and nutrients in your plant, you must first identify the reason. If the reason is underwatering, then it means that the soil is bone dry.

In that case, You need to water your dehydrated plant thoroughly and let the excess water drain out; once the excess water is out, water the plant again to soak the soil completely.

Let the soil dry and water the plant next when the soil is halfway dry. 

Do not overwater the plant, always follow the rule of checking the soil first and then watering it.

Overwatering: Overwatering is common among beginners and owners pouring extra love on their plants. Also, some planters think that more water will fasten the growth of their plant.

That is the biggest mistake and soon becomes a disaster for your plant’s health. 

Overwatering leads to the drooping of leaves of your Christmas cactus and, if not corrected, the plant’s death.

Overwatering chokes soil and roots and obstructs air, water, and nutrients flow to other parts of the plant. The root starts rotting due to a deficiency of air and overwatering.

Planters must stop watering the plant to fix the problem. Afterward, move the plant to a brightly lit and well-ventilated area.

Check the drainage system of the pot; it could be a potential reason for overwatering too. Prune any damaged parts with sterilized scissors.

Let the soil dry out completely, and the excess water drains out of the drainage holes. Water the plant only when the soil needs it and not by any routine. Your plant will soon come to life.

Too much light: Christmas cactus cannot tolerate direct light as it can burn the leaves and affect their functioning. 

They are not used to direct harsh sun, which can lead to moisture loss and hence the dropping of the leaves.

You should avoid too much light as it speeds up the transpiration process, which results in a lack of moisture and low humidity. 

The soil dries faster, and the plant will suffer from dehydration if watering needs are not taken care of.

Simply move your plant to medium indirect light; it could be near a window, but at a distance, so your plant is not getting direct light.

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

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White spots on stems of Christmas cactus

White spots are an indication of fungal diseases progressing in your plant. 

Another reason could be using hard water to water your Christmas cactus.

Fungal diseases: Fungal disease causes white spots on your Christmas cactus. 

Powdery mildew is a fungal disease affecting plants’ health inside out. It leads to white spots on the stems of your Christmas cactus.

It harms the plant and kills the plant gradually. It mostly affects the plant during winter as the sun is weak and the air is dry. 

The plant remains moist for a long time and promotes fungal growth. This condition needs to be treated very soon, or you will find your plant dying.

It transfers quickly to all parts of the plant and soon affects other plants too.

It would be best if you got rid of the fungal diseases quickly, and a homemade solution helps the plant do that. 

Mix 1 tbsp baking soda, half tbsp non-detergent soap, and a gallon of water. Adding 1 tbsp horticulture oil to the solution will also make the solution strong and more effective.

Wash the leaves with the homemade solution at regular intervals. Do this till the problem persists. 

You can also use fungicides as they will work faster to eliminate fungal diseases. But use them only as a last resort.

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

The leaves of the Christmas cactus turning yellow

Christmas cactus 8

When the leaves of your Christmas cactus turn yellow, it indicates several issues your plant may be going through.

Watering problem: The watering problem may be overwatering or underwatering, due to which your plant turns yellow.

Overwatering the plant is like killing it slowly with love. It hinders the movement of water, air, and nutrients from soil and roots to other parts of the plant. Due to the lack of such things, the stems droop and turn yellow.

Underwatering Christmas cactus leads to dehydration and loss of moisture in all parts of the plant. 

Due to the transpiration process, all the water in the stems is used up; hence the stems turn yellow.

This plant needs water to stay moist; neither sogginess nor dry is good for them. To maintain this, you need to check the soil moisture before watering.

Dig your finger in the soil up to 2 inches and take it out after a few seconds. 

If the soil sticks to the finger, then the soil is still moist. Please wait a few more days until the soil dries and then water them again.

Overfertilization: Christmas cactus like to be fertilized but in the right dosage. The plant tends to suffer if the dosage is more than required or if you have fertilized more frequently than needed.

Christmas cactus are light feeders; too much feeding will lead to salt buildups and burn the roots. It also results in the yellowing of stems.

You can withhold fertilizing for a month till the plant is healthy again. 

Also, flush the soil with a strong stream of water, so excess salt buildup flushes out through the drainage holes.

Fertilize your plant once into the month with a balanced houseplant food by diluting it to half the strength. Fertilize your Christmas cactus only in the growing season.

Also read: Why Is My Christmas Cactus Turning Yellow? (Causes+Fix)

Some leaves started turning brown.

Christmas cactus brown

Christmas cactus usually turn brown due to excessive light or overwatering. You need to find out the problem and act immediately.

Excessive light: Keeping Christmas cactus in too much light for a longer period can lead to problems like sunburn, browning, etc.

Direct light harms the plant; it burns the leaves and dries the soil faster. The leaves lose their moisture due to direct harsh light and turn brown and crisp.

If the plant does not receive enough water, then it starts to lose moisture, turning brown.

It is advised to move your plant to a place where they are protected from direct light and get indirect bright light. 

Remove the brown parts and water the plant keeping the soil moist.

Overwatering: Christmas cactus can easily get ill if you overwater them. They do not need too much water but only enough water to stay evenly moist.

As you overwater your Christmas cactus frequently, the plant cannot breathe due to soggy soil. 

The air and water flow get hindered, leading to a lack of moisture and nutrients in the leaves. The leaves eventually turn brown and then drop if the condition persists.

You must stop watering till the soil is completely dry. It would be best if you never overwatered your Christmas cactus as it will further lead to the wilting of the plant.

Water it only when the soil is dry but not bone dry. Ensure a proper drainage system and check the soil moisture before watering.

Wilting of stems

Wilting of stems makes the plant look dull, and it happens when the soil is stressed. The stress could be environmental shifts, pest infestation, or improper light.

Environmental shifts: Environmental shifts can stress the healthiest plants as you cannot control them. 

It could be either due to a shift in temperature level or shifting your Christmas cactus from one place to another.

If the temperature, humidity, or light shifts suddenly, the plant is affected due to sudden shifts, which can be seen as wilting of stems.

You will notice your healthy stems suddenly wilting and looking dull; then the reason is an environmental shift.

Another reason is moving your Christmas cactus from one environmental condition to another. 

That also shocks the plant and causes wilting. You must give time to the plant to acclimate to new conditions.

Move your plant gradually from one condition to another. It gives enough time for the plant to acclimate to new conditions.

Simply keep your plant in safe conditions if they are already stressed due to environmental shifts. 

Please make arrangements for your plants to protect them from unfavorable conditions.

Pests: Pests are like unwanted guests eating all nutrients and moisture from your Christmas cactus. They are potential causes that your plant may be dying.

Mealybugs, spider mites, aphids, and thrips are common bugs buzzing in and around your plant. 

They feed on the plant and hide in them, eventually leading to the death of the plant.

Use neem oil solution to treat these bugs, spray all over the plant and repeat for a few days to remove the pests completely. 

You can also use horticulture oils to treat your plant. It will help you to retain your plant to life and good health.

Improper light: Improper light leads to several problems in your Christmas cactus. They like sufficient indirect light to survive and may suffer if they receive the wrong lighting.

If they are exposed to direct light, the plant suffers from wilting. 

They lose their moisture due to too much light, soil dries out, and the plant does not receive enough nutrients. That leads to wilting.

Move your Christmas cactus to indirect light and in good air circulation.

Low light also leads to wilting if the plant lives in low light for longer periods. The photosynthesis process slows down, and the plant lacks energy and wilts.

Keep the plant in a brightly lit location. The plant must receive indirect light for at least 5-6 hours daily to fulfill its light needs.

Also read: Why Is My Christmas Cactus Wrinkled? (Causes+Fix)

Leggy growth in Christmas cactus

Christmas cactus leggy

When your Christmas cactus has leggy growth, the prime cause is low light. The plant is weak and needs proper care.

Low light: Low light causes the leggy growth of your Christmas cactus. The stems stretch towards available light as the plant is kept in low light. 

They lean and become leggy due to stretching and look weak.

You need to move your plant to better lighting and rotate it every few days to ensure all parts of the plant are receiving sufficient light. 

Even light distribution is as important as keeping the plant in the proper light.

Overfertilization: Overfertilization is also a potential cause of leggy growth in your Christmas cactus. Overfeeding leads to salt buildup and uneven growth in the Christmas cactus.

You can wash the soil with water to flush excess salt from the soil through drainage holes. 

Trim the leggy growth and let the plant return to good health. Fertilize only in the growing season in the right dosage.

Also read: Why Is My Christmas Cactus Leggy? (+How To Make It Bushy)

The Christmas cactus leaves started shriveling.

Christmas cactus leaves shrivel due to several reasons. They are:

Pests: Pests such as spider mites, aphids, thrips, and mealybugs are common bugs that attack your plant. They eat and suck all nutrients and moisture from the plant, making it weak and dull.

Due to damage caused by these pests, the leaves shrivel, droop, turn yellow, etc. 

If not controlled on time, these bugs will suck all the good from your plant and leave your plant to die.

By using neem oil spray, you can kill these pests. Simply mix 1 tsp neem oil into a liter of water and apply or spray all over the plant.

Horticulture oil, nicotine, non-detergent soap, and pesticides are also useful and effective in treating your pest-infested plant. 

Use these treatments till your Christmas cactus is free of all these pests.

Too much watering: Too much water is not loved but welcoming the death of your plant. 

When your Christmas cactus is overwatered for a longer duration without giving them time to dry, the plant leaves shrivel.

The soil and roots cannot breathe, making it more troublesome for them to supply nutrients and water to other parts of the plant.

Fix this situation by giving your plant a lot of light and fresh air to allow the soil to dry easily. 

Next, when you water, check if the soil is dry and wants water. If yes, water the soil and let the excess water dump out.

Also read: Why Is My Christmas Cactus Dying? (Causes+How To Fix)

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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