A healthy Christmas cactus will give you a reason to smile in the dead of winter. The beautiful flowers around the Christmas holiday are just wonderful. However, this may remain a dream if your holiday cactus is wilting.
The Christmas cactus can wilt for several reasons, including overwatering, underwatering, direct sunlight, temperature fluctuations, lack of light, over-fertilization, and pest infestations.
Signs of wilting may include droopy or limp Christmas cactus leaves, dry or crispy stems, yellowing or browning of leaves, and sometimes cactus getting soft or mushy. A prolonged wilting may kill the plant.
To revive a wilting Christmas cactus, you’ll need to identify the cause of the problem first and take appropriate action. This might include adjusting the watering schedule, moving the plant to a cooler or brighter spot, and treating pest infestations.
Why is my Christmas cactus wilting?
If your Christmas cactus is wilting, there could be several reasons for this. Here are some possible causes and solutions:
1. Waterlogged soil
Excess moisture in the soil is the leading cause of wilting in Christmas cacti. It happens when you excessively water the plant. It may also happen when the soil is not draining well. Waterlogged soils reduce oxygen around the roots causing them to rot.
Additionally, overwatering creates a moist environment ideal for the growth of fungi and bacteria that causes root rot and other diseases that can kill a plant. When roots die, the whole plant stops getting important supplies.
How to Fix
The Christmas cactus root rot is extremely difficult to treat, but you can do a few things to try to save the plant.
Give your plant about one week for the soil to dry completely. Ensure that the soil drains well and the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot are working.
Let the plant recover slowly by slowly as you monitor the situation. The next time you water your Christmas cactus is when the top inch of the soil feels dry. Water heavily and let the excess water drain through the holes at the bottom of the pot.
If there are no improvements, it shows the roots are badly damaged. In this case, you’ll have to remove the plant from the soil, wash the roots, cut the affected parts, and repot it in a fresh soil mix.
Be sure to clean and sterilize the pot before reusing it to prevent the spread of the infection.
2. Intense sunlight
Sunlight is important to any green plant, but Christmas cactus doesn’t love when it comes direct. In their native habitat, the overhanging trees protect these plants from the sun. Too much direct sunlight during the months of summer will scorch the cactus leaves.
Overexposure to direct sunlight also leads to plant dehydration. The Christmas cactus leaves turning purple and wilting are common signs of sunburn. Without intervention, the affected plant may dry out and die.
How to Fix
Move the wilting plant to a cool place away from direct sunlight. Also, check the moisture level in the soil by dipping your finger in the soil. If it feels dry, mist your plant with a spray bottle filled with room temperature water but do not drench the soil.
3. The soil is too dry
Unlike desert cacti, which can withstand long periods of drought, a Christmas cactus constantly prefers moist soil that is not waterlogged. It can go at most 3 weeks without water, after which the plant will start wilting.
How to Fix
The fix to this problem, start watering your plant moderately by misting it with water in a spray bottle. In this state, watering heavily can drown your cactus. Once the plant starts showing signs of recovery, you can now water it as usual.
4. Air around the plant is too dry
Christmas cacti typically benefit from the moisture in the air. They prefer 50-60 % humidity, and they are likely to wilt when the humidity levels drop. Dry air can result from excess air conditioning or arid climate conditions.
How to Fix
Run a humidifier to restore the needed level of humidity. You can also increase humidity for plants without a humidifier by misting their leaves with room-temperature water.
Placing a pebble tray filled with water underneath your Christmas cactus is also a good way of boosting humidity. Be sure the bottom of the pot is not in direct contact with the water to prevent root rot.
5. The roots are overcrowded
A times Christmas cactus roots may outgrow the pot and become overcrowded. Although a Christmas cactus likes to be root-bound, heavily entangled roots won’t be able to absorb water and nutrients as required. This may cause the plant to wilt due to the lack of important supplies.
How to Fix
Check if the roots are growing outside the soil; they could be popping on top of the soil or through the drainage holes in the pot. If so, repot your Christmas cactus into a slightly bigger pot. Be sure to use a well-draining soil mix for cactuses or succulents.
6. Pest infestations
The Christmas cacti can be affected by several types of pests, which can cause serious damage to the plant. Pests such as mealybugs, spider mites, and scale are known to suck sap from the plant, causing it to wilt or turn yellow.
How to fix
Try to identify the type of pest on the cactus and choose an appropriate treatment. You can use insecticidal soap or neem oil. Preventative measures, such as regular inspection and cleaning, can curb the problem.
A wilting Christmas cactus can indicate that the plant is experiencing stress or not receiving the appropriate care. It’s important to identify the reasons for this problem and provide appropriate solutions to save the plant.
- North Carolina Cooperative Extension: Christmas cactus care
- Purdue University Extension: Christmas Cactus FAQs
- New Mexico State University: Shriveling Christmas cactus
My name is Diane M Lewik, and I am the founder of this website. I am a degree holder in plant biology from the University of California – Berkeley. Over years, I have cultivated a vast collection of succulents and I have learned a great deal about how to grow and care for these unique plants.