Common Problems with Christmas Cactus and How to Fix Them

Isn’t it frustrating when your plant (that looked so great at the store!) comes home and slowly starts looking like it’s about to die?! If this is the story of you and your Christmas cactus, just know that it’s okay.

You are not the only person who has a hard time keeping this tropical cactus alive…

And today, I’m going to show you the five most common problems people run into with their Christmas cactus. Knowing these problems and implementing their solutions will turn your dying Christmas cactus back into its glorious cactus self again soon!

Click here to subscribe

Problem #1: Your Christmas Cactus’ Leaves are Limp & Droopy

Cause #1: There are two different reasons why your Christmas cactus’ leaves are limp and droopy. The first reason is if it is currently flowering. Producing flowers takes a lot of energy away from the plant and many people have said that their plants become droopy during and just after flowering.

Care: If this is you, then simply wait until your plant has finished flowering, then make sure to let it rest for a few weeks with no fertilizer and only little water. Only water it when the soil is dry to the touch. After these few weeks, you can then resume your care as normal.

Cause #2: The second reason for limp or droopy leaves is because of improper watering. This is also a cause for wilted or shriveled leaves. So if your plant’s leaves are limp and droopy, and it isn’t currently flowering, then improper watering is the cause.

Care: Refer to the next section for shriveled or wilted leaf care.

Christmas Cactus Limp Leaves
Image courtesy of

Problem #2: Your Christmas Cactus’ Leaves are Shriveled or Wilted

Cause: Christmas cactus leaves will wilt and shrivel up when the leaves aren’t getting enough water due to improper watering. This can be from either over-watering or under-watering. Feel the soil several inches below the soil surface, or use a soil moisture meter to determine if your soil has been kept too wet or too dry.

Care #1: If your soil is too wet, then you will most likely have damaged roots. You should immediately re-pot your Christmas cactus into fresh soil that is only lightly moist. While re-potting, trim off any black or mushy roots and pour hydrogen peroxide over the root system. This will kill any remaining bacteria before you place it into fresh soil. Also, take stem cuttings at this time to propagate, following the directions in Christmas Cactus Propagation. This will ensure that even if your plants’ roots die, you will still have cuttings to re-grow your Christmas cactus.

Care #2: On the flip side, if your plant is too dry, then you will need to slowly increase the moisture levels over a few days. Slowly bring it from bone dry back to lightly moist. You will know you’ve been successful when your plant’s leaves perk back up! Just be sure that you don’t end up over-watering your plant at this time. Remember, let it barely dry out before you water it again.

Also note that if your plant’s soil is hard and difficult to press your fingers into, then you will need to re-pot your plant into fresh, well-draining soil, such as a cactus and succulent soil or a regular soil mixed with additional sand or perlite.

Image courtesy of

Problem #3: Your Plant’s Leaves are Pale or Red

Cause: Christmas cactus leaves begin to turn pale and then get a slight red tint if they are getting too much direct sunlight. The red tint can be pretty (and harmless in the right settings), but make sure that it isn’t getting burnt. Remember, these plants are tropical cacti, not desert cacti. So they are used to a very moist heat, not a dry heat like what you find in a home window. So if your leaves are turning a pale greenish-yellow color, or are excessively red, then it’s too much hot, direct sunlight.

Care: Move your Christmas cactus out of any direct sunlight. Indirect sunlight will be fine, but try to avoid any direct sunlight for at least a little while.

These plants can eventually become accustomed to higher light levels, but this would take a lot of acclimatizing. Instead, I would suggest you take the easier route and simply move it away from the hot sunlight.

Image courtesy of

Problem #4: You Christmas Cactus’ Stems are Falling Off

Cause: The reason why your plant’s stems are falling off is because of root- or stem rot at the base of the plant. This always happens as a result of over-watering.

Care: Follow the care instructions for over-watering under the “Wilted or Shriveled Leaves” section (Problem #2, Care #1). This will tell you exactly how to care for a plant that has been over-watered.

Image courtesy of

Problem #5: Flower Buds Fall off Before they Fully Bloom

Cause: Christmas cactus flower are notorious for being overly-sensitive. The reasons why your buds fell off could be because of your plant getting too dry, staying too wet, or because it recently moved locations.

Care: When your plant is in bud, make sure to keep your watering schedule consistent. But, if something comes up (or you’ve just recently brought your plant home) and all of its buds fall off, sit tight.

Let it rest for a few weeks, keeping it a bit more dry than usual, and give it a chance to set new buds. Sometimes if it is healthy enough, a Christmas cactus is able to produce a second set of blooms. So don’t get frustrated! Your little plant might just need a bit more time!

Image courtesy of

Those are the 5 most common Christmas cactus problems and how to fix them! Please let me know below if you have any questions or additional comments, and join my email list to get not only a special welcome gift, but to also receive all the latest tips and how-to’s straight to your inbox. Then, for more info on how to take care of your plant, check out my post, Christmas Cactus Plant Care!

Happy Digging!

Click here to subscribe
problems with christmas cactus pinterest image

4 thoughts on “Common Problems with Christmas Cactus and How to Fix Them”

  1. thanks for the answer,all winter it has been getting about 12 hrs darkness and I do use epsom salts,maybe humidty is the problem

    • Yes. Check humidity levels and then maybe even increase the darkness levels. I know mine was outside for the summer (high humidity and high light) then I brought it in to a dark basement in September that made for a huge drop in light levels, even during the day. That got my cactus setting blooms right away! Good luck and keep me posted on how it goes!

  2. I have a cactus that is about 30″ in dia and hasn’t bloomed in a few years,this year it had 3 blooms and currently I can see 2 more buds,I had a large one in the past and when it bloomed it was covered with blooms,what am I doing wrong?

    • Hi Donald! Getting Christmas cactus to bloom is more of a matter of light and dark hours per day than anything else. Of course you want to make sure that it has enough nutrients (whether you have added fertilizer in your soil, or you fertilize it during the summer). But Christmas cactus need a period of complete darkness at night for an extended period of time to signal that it is the right time of the year to bloom. I will be doing a post on this soon about the exact numbers and instructions, but for now I would suggest google or youtube to get the exact ratio of light/dark hours. I hope this helped! Good luck with it!

Comments are closed.