Why is Christmas cactus Dropping Leaves?


Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii), commonly known as the Holiday cactus, is a beautiful winter-flowering houseplant. Their unique leaves appear flat and fleshy segmented stems bearing flowers on the tips that bloom from late November to late January. Unfortunately, Christmas cactus often drop leaves, but the problem worsens due to either the causes, including improper watering, poor soil, light, cold, heat shock, or the pot size. In such as case, you need to keep an eye on the possible reasons and work on their solutions the same way as directed over here. So, let's explore!

Christmas cactus Dropping Leaves – Causes with Solutions


Here are the most prominent reasons for Christmas cactus dropping leaves and their solutions to take control of the problem.

Improper Watering


Watering is one of the most critical factors in Christmas cactus care, and little mistakes can result in the loss of leaves. Both underwatering and overwatering are responsible for it.

Though the Christmas cactus is a tropical plant requiring more humidity than other cacti of the same group, overwatering leads to root rot, if you water your plant before the soil is dried, the roots stay in moisture for longer and ultimately weaken to perform their function. In addition, weakened roots can never transfer the required amount of water to the leaves, and in return, plant drop leaves.


The same you can expect with underwatered Christmas cactus



Watering frequency and timing are the two main things to deal with the watering issues. So, a good rule of thumb is:

  • Water about once a week or perform a finger test before pouring the water can flow into the pot. To do so, insert your finger about one inch deep in the soil.
  • Water only if the soil feels dry otherwise, wait for it to be dried.
  • Use a moisture meter to determine the soil moisture level.
  • Water Christmas cactus sparingly during fall and winter.
  • Don't make your plant drenched or dry – maintain a balanced watering routine or benefit from plant apps reminding water needs per your local weather conditions.

Click here to learn more tips on how to water succulents.

Poor Soil Conditions


Soil serves as a growth medium for Christmas cactus, and poor soil conditions lead to the dropping of the leaves. Christmas cactus needs porous, well-drained soil, but if it is compacted or dense, the water does not drain perfectly, making it vulnerable to root rot or leaves falling off.



When soil is the cause of concern for Christmas cactus dropping leaves, never rely on the compacted soil.

Many Christmas cactus owners use ordinary garden soil in their planters. That's never a wise approach. It is best to use a potting mix containing one part potting soil, two parts peat moss, and one part perlite.


Secondly, encourage soil drainage with a pot having drainage holes at the bottom.

Heat or Cold Shock


Christmas cactus does not appreciate weather extremes or sudden temperature fluctuations. Extremely hot or cold conditions can shock the plant, resulting in damaging consequences, including loss of leaves. If you grow your plants near a heat source like a fireplace or a vent, the plants will drop off leaves because high temperature absorbs all moisture.

At the same time, prolonged exposure to cooler temperatures can make your Christmas cactus deprived of leaves. A slight temperature drop is favorable only when the plant is setting buds, but it should not be below 50℉.




The ideal temperature for Christmas cactus varies as per weather changes so keep it in the optimum range.

Spring and Summer Temperature: 70℉ to 80 ℉

Fall Temperature: 60℉ to 70℉

Winter Temperature: Around 55℉

You can do this by moving outdoor succulent plants indoors or transferring pots to the greenhouse for protection from extreme weather changes.

Improper Light


If your Christmas cactus faces bright, intense light, especially during the summer, then improper light is dropping leaves. Holiday cactus prefers bright, indirect sunlight and shade to balance the light requirements. The plants grown in the shade do not produce lush leaves. Already-grown leaves fall off due to poor development. While intense summer heat sunscalds the leaves, causing them to appear burned and eventually fall off.



Find the ideal balance of light and shade for your Christmas cactus to save from scorching sunlight and give growable conditions.


Whether your succulent plants are indoors or outdoors, move succulents to the right place to avoid leaf issues. You can move plants to the shade of a porch or patio for the summer or take them inside for more safety.

Pot Issues


Christmas cactus grows at a moderate rate and reaches a spread of 2 feet within just a few years, so it is normal for the cactus plant to outgrow the pot.

Oversized plants conserve energy by dropping leaves and surviving in narrow spaces. However, the soil becomes nutrient deficient, and the plant finds shedding leaves the best way to save the base of the plant.




Repotting Christmas cactus in new soil and a large pot is the only way to take over the falling leaves problem. A nutrient-rich growth medium can provide essential supplements in a new space. All you need is to pull the plant from the pot, knock off as much soil as possible and repot in a new pot with fresh soil. Your plant will love its new "home" and surprise you with a stunning look.



Christmas cactus dropping leaves is a severe concern as their leaves bear floral buds. When leaves drop, the buds also fall off, and your plant is deprived of flowers. You need to figure out the leading cause by testing variable conditions as guided above. Make a consistent watering routine depending on the weather conditions, check the soil moisture level, and protect your plant from heat or cold shock. Grow in the proper light and ensure the plant is not nutritionally deficient. When you take care of all these factors, there will be no chance of falling off the leaves.


1 thought on “Why is Christmas cactus Dropping Leaves?

Catherine HERMENS

In my household the environment is very bad all my Thanksgiving Cactuses we’re doing just fine until toward the end of last year and my one that is 3 years old started dropping leaves getting brown at the bottom of the soil I was wondering if it could also be all the screaming and yelling going on this in this house from the alcoholic that lives here he is always screaming it has been like this for 10 years and it won’t change…my cat and I are taking medicine for this ….should all my plants be in terra cauta pots instead of the pretty pots…some of my plants the soil has gone done some I was going to add more soil to the top will that help…

February 3, 2023 at 19:41pm

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