Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii), commonly known as the Holiday cactus, is an exquisite houseplant that graces our homes with its winter blooms. Its distinctive flat leaves and fleshy segmented stems bear delicate flowers at their tips, adorning our spaces from late November to late January.
However, Christmas cactus often drop leaves, a concern that can be exacerbated by a range of factors including improper watering, subpar soil quality, inadequate light exposure, and pot size as well as extremes in temperature. In such as case, In such instances, it's crucial to identify the potential causes and implement the corresponding solutions, as outlined below.
Let's delve into it!
Christmas cactus Dropping Leaves – Causes with Solutions
Here are the most prominent reasons for Christmas cactus dropping leaves, along with effective solutions to address the issue.
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.
As a succulent plant, Christmas cacti have the capacity to store a significant amount of water in their leaves. Therefore, overwatering can lead to root rot, if you water your plant before the soil has a chance to dry, the roots remain in a prolonged state of moisture, which ultimately weakens their ability to carry out their function. Furthermore, weakened roots are incapable of supplying the necessary amount of water to the leaves, resulting in leaf drop as a consequence.
A genuine way to inspect whether the Christmas cactus is dropping its leaves due to root rot is to carefully remove the cactus from its pot and examine both the roots and the adjacent stems for signs of rotting or blackening.
When a cactus's leaves droop and its foliage becomes wrinkled due to dehydration, typically the roots are dry and healthy. In such cases, giving them a thorough watering should suffice.
Watering frequency and timing are the two main things to deal with the watering issues. So, a good rule of thumb is:
- 1. Water approximately once a week, or perform a finger test by inserting your finger about one inch deep into the soil to check for moisture.
- 2. Only water if the soil feels dry; otherwise, wait for it to dry out.
- Consider using a moisture meter to accurately assess the soil's moisture level.
- 3. During the fall and winter, water your Christmas cactus sparingly.
- 4. Strive for a balanced watering routine; avoid over-saturating or allowing the plant to become excessively dry. Alternatively, you can make use of plant apps that provide reminders based on your local weather conditions.
When your Christmas cactus has already droped its leaves due to root rot, it's too late to adjust the watering. The best way to salvage it is by trimming away the affected parts and propagating from healthy stems and leaves.
Poor Soil Conditions
The soil plays a crucial role as the growth medium for Christmas cacti. When the soil conditions are inadequate, it can result in leaf drop. Christmas cacti thrive in porous, well-draining soil. If the soil becomes compacted or dense, proper drainage is compromised, increasing the risk of root rot and leaf loss.
If a cactus experiences drooping leaves during or after its flowering period, it could be due to insufficient nutrients in the soil. The soil may not provide the necessary nutrition to support the flowering process of the cactus. In this scenario, the plant channels all its nutrients towards flowering, resulting in leaf droop.
When it comes to the issue of Christmas cactus leaf drop due to soil concerns, it's crucial to avoid using compacted soil.
Many Christmas cactus owners opt for regular garden soil in their planters, but this is not the best practice. It's recommended to use a succulent potting mix composed of one part potting soil, two parts peat moss, and one part perlite.
Regularly apply succulent-specific liquid fertilizer to your Christmas cactus, diluted according to the instructions. Once a month is generally sufficient. It's important to note that during the summer, when temperatures exceed 80℉, the Christmas cactus goes into a dormant period and does not require fertilization.
Heat or Cold Shock
The Christmas cactus is sensitive to extreme weather conditions and abrupt temperature changes. Drastic shifts towards either very high or very low temperatures can distress the plant, potentially leading to leaf loss. Placing your plants near heat sources such as a fireplace or a vent can cause leaf drop due to excessive drying caused by elevated temperatures.
Conversely, prolonged exposure to cooler temperatures can also result in leaf loss for your Christmas cactus. A slight decrease in temperature can be beneficial when the plant is in the process of setting buds, but it should not fall below 50°F.
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.
If your Christmas cactus is exposed to intense, direct sunlight, especially in the summer, it may be experiencing leaf drop due to improper lighting conditions. The Holiday cactus thrives in bright, indirect sunlight, and it benefits from a balance of light exposure and shade. Plants grown in excessive shade may not produce robust leaves, leading to leaf shedding. Additionally, during the intense heat of summer, the leaves can become sunscalded, appearing scorched and eventually dropping 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.
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.