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

Christmas cactus are hardy plants that can be grown in a wide range of environments. If your Christmas cactus is dying, they are certainly stressed out. 

Your plant needs help, but what has caused wilting Christmas cactus. Let’s find out.

Overwatering, poor lighting, lack of nutrients, and pest infestation are primary problems that lead to a dying Christmas cactus. To identify the underlying problem, look at the visible signs like yellow or brown leaves, curling, etc., and then take the necessary steps to fix the issue.

We will go through all problems that your Christmas may be possibly suffering. 

We will go deep and learn the possible reasons for all the problems your Christmas cactus might be suffering from. We will also discuss ways to fix them.

Christmas cactus pot size

Why is my Christmas cactus wilting?

Wilting makes the plant look dull, which usually happens due to watering related issues. 

It could be overwatering or underwatering; both can harm your Christmas cactus.

The watering issue can create several issues for the plant; wilting is one of them. 

Under-watering and over-watering are serious, but over-watering may lead to the death of your plant. 

Overwatering suffocates the roots and soil, making it hard for them to breathe. 

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

Due to this, nutrients and water to other parts of the plant are prohibited. That leads to weak, dull, and wilted leaves.

That does not mean you can underwater your plant. Underwatering in the long term makes the plant weak, and the plant suffers from drought stress. The leaves lose their moisture, shine, and gradually sink and wilt.

It usually happens when the planter is careless about watering or has gone on vacation. The plant longs for water and starts wilting.

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

Keeping the plant in too much light and giving less water leads to dehydration, low energy levels, and lack of nutrients which results in wilting, yellowing, leaf drops, etc.

You must check the drainage system of the pot so it can be the reason for overwatering. 

Along with this, the lack of light also leads to wilting of the Christmas cactus. 

Though, direct light is also not good for your plant. Due to low light, the plants lack the energy to keep their parts healthy and plump.

Too much light will also lead to dehydration of leaves. The leaves lose their moisture due to intense lighting and suffer from sunburn, wilting, yellowing, etc.  

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

Change in the color of the leaves

Christmas cactus brown

The color of the leaves needs chlorophyll production and photosynthesis process to be carried out properly to stay green and healthy. 

The Christmas cactus loses its color due to several issues such as improper watering, inadequate lighting, cold weather, etc.

Due to low light, chlorophyll production slows down, so the plants cannot produce color. If you keep your plant in a shady area, they will not receive enough light. 

The leaves turn yellow, fade, and become dull. It happens only when you keep your Christmas cactus in low light for a continuous period. 

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

The leaves turn red and brown if the plant is kept in intense light for a consistent period. 

Too much light dehydrates the plant both outside and inside. That leads to brown and yellow leaves.

Inadequate watering also leads to a change in the color of your Christmas cactus. Underwatering leads to dry soil, which results in yellow, purple, red leaves, etc.

Too much watering for a long time results in wilting too. 

Due to soil and roots drowning in water, the plant suffers from loss of water and nutrients and loses its color. 

Also, if the temperature level is frequently evolving or is freezing, the entire plant may turn yellow, brown, or red due to temperature stress. 

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Holes or spots on the leaves

Holes or spots on the leaves of your Christmas cactus intimate pests attack. Pests such as spider mites, aphids, scales, and fungus gnats strike the plant and feed all the nutrients. 

Due to feeding continuously, the leaves have holes and spots on them. The plant becomes weak, loses vigor, and cannot function properly.

Overwatering also leads to holes or spots on Christmas cactus leaves. It also causes root rot and fungal diseases, which lead to holes and spots.

Examining the plant is essential to get to the root cause of spots and holes on your Christmas cactus so that you can treat the plant thoroughly.

Act as soon as you find holes or spots on your Christmas cactus. They are the initial indication that your plant is giving to tell something is wrong. If you ignore it, you may lose your plant.

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

How do you revive the Christmas cactus?

Christmas cactus curling

To revive your Christmas cactus, examine the problem and treat it accordingly. By knowing the problem, half of the treatment is done.

You can save a dying Christmas cactus with the right treatment. 

If the reason for the dying plant is light, you need to find better lighting for your Christmas cactus. Plants kept in low light should be moved to the brightly lit area. 

If there is a lack of light in your home, then use an artificial light source to fulfill the light demands of your plant.

If the plant is kept in an area with direct or intense light, move them to a spot where they receive indirect light all day. 

West, East, or South-facing windows are good options to keep your plant but check the light yourself before deciding on any spot.

If our plant is suffering from nutrient deficiency, then increase their nutrient content by feeding them with balanced houseplant food. Feed only during the growing season and water them before feeding. 

If the plant is already suffering from overfertilization, stop feeding until they look healthy. Avoid fertilizing in winters and dilute the food to avoid salt build-ups.

Underwatered Christmas cacti need water to become lively. Water them thoroughly and let the excess water drain out completely. 

That assures every part of the plant has received water and the excess water has gone out.

If you have overwatered your Christmas cactus, then keep them in bright light to let the soil dry out and breathe easily. Water next time only when the soil is dry, regardless of the season.

For Christmas cactus growing in freezing temperatures, use heating systems such as fireplaces, vents, and radiators to provide warmth to your plant. 

Keep the plant at a distance so that it feels the warmth, not the heat, as heat can burn the leaves.

Do it gradually if you wish to move your Christmas cactus to a different spot. 

For example, move the plant living indoors to outdoors by gradually moving to a warmer spot every few days to allow the plant to acclimate to the new conditions.

Prune any damaged parts of the plant as it will not grow health gain and only waste the plant’s energy. 

Pruning at regular intervals will help maintain the size of the plant, incite new growth and reduce the weight on roots and soil to maintain huge stems.

What to do if your Christmas cactus is dying?

To save a dying Christmas cactus, it is crucial to understand the underlying problems. 

Check the signs they are exhibiting outside, like leaves turning yellow or brown, curling, drooping, and more, to help you understand the actual problems.

That will help you decide whether it is possible to save the plant or not. If the damage is severe, then it may be challenging to save the plant. 

For example, if your Christmas cactus is suffering due to too much light, then you need to move them to a spot with indirect bright light. 

If the plant is overwatered, then you need to allow the soil to dry and breathe, check for any signs of root rot, and act accordingly.

In some situations, you may find your Christmas cactus is severely damaged, and recovery is almost impossible. 

In such cases, closely examine the plant and repot or propagate if no other treatment works.

Can propagating or repotting save dying Christmas cactus?

Christmas cactus propagation

Propagation or repotting is the last hope to save your loving plants. If nothing works, it will always help save your dying plant unless the case is out of hand.

You can propagate your Christmas cactus in the following ways.

Take cuttings

Since they have stem segments, there is only one method to take cuttings, i.e., stem cuttings. 

You can simply use your fingers to twist the sections of the stem up to 2-4 stems long for better propagation.

Take as many cuttings as you can to make sure the cuttings are healthy and not infected. Clean your hands after taking the cuttings. 

Keep the cuttings in dry air for a few hours or for a day to let them dry. It prevents rotting and kills bad bacteria. 

Please keep them in good air circulation and use them when they are pretty dry.

Root the cuttings

Prepare the soil mix or get soil mix from the market expressed for cactuses. Take a pot slightly bigger than before and fill it with soil mix, leaving 1-2 inches from the top. 

Water it to moisten, but do not soak it completely and check the drainage system as well. 

Make sure the excess water is draining within a minute of watering. After the excess water has drained out, you are ready to plant your cuttings.

Use your finger to make an inch hole in the middle of the pot in the soil. Now place the cutting in the hole on the side of the cut. Gently pat around it to let it stay upright and stay in place.

The next step is to keep the pot in a brightly lit area but not exposed to too much or direct light. Water sparingly or moisten the soil until the roots come out.

It might take 2-3 weeks to root in favorable conditions. 

Be patient; each plant takes its time and can differ from the same plant staying in a different area. 

Concentrate on keeping the conditions right; once the plant has grown enough, water adequately and give proper light.

Does Christmas cactus grow in water?

Christmas cacti can grow in water if you propagate them in water. You cannot move a plant that is already growing in soil to water; it will die.

To propagate them in water, Take the cuttings and place them in a glass jar full of water. 

Pour water such that only the end of the cuttings touches the water. If your cuttings are completely submerged in water, they will rot and die.

It will take a few weeks to form roots. Change the water every 10-15 days and ensure the cuttings do not touch water after rooting. 

Keep the jar in favorable conditions, i.e. indirect light, room temperature, and average humidity. That helps the cuttings root rapidly and stay healthy. 

After the roots have grown, transfer the cutting to a pot with a growing medium. 

After you move them into the soil, ensure the soil is evenly moist and kept in a well-ventilated location. You cannot grow Christmas cactus in the water forever.

Also read: How To Propagate Christmas Cactus? (In Water+Soil)

Do they need any medication?

They do not do any medication as such, just proper care and environment keep them happy. 

Christmas cactus can easily survive problems and stay healthy. They don’t need much attention to thrive, but they need your help with some problems. 

You will see your Christmas cactus recovering as soon as you provide them with proper care and keep them in favorable cultural conditions. 

If they suffer from pest infestation, you can use neem oil to treat the plant. You can also use neem oil to protect the plant from pests. 

To avoid any issue, you must:

  • Keep your Christmas cactus in indirect light.
  • Water it to keep the soil moist and not soggy.
  • Check the soil before watering.
  • Fertilize only in the growing season with diluted houseplant fertilizer.
  • Keep them at room temperature and average humidity.
  • Keep them away from cold and hot drafts.
  • Plant them in a well-draining, light, and organically-rich soil medium.

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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