Skip to Content

Why is my Christmas cactus yellowing?

Are you having trouble with your holiday cactus? Here are the top causes of Christmas cactus yellowing, how to fix it, and how to prevent it!

The Christmas cactus, or Schlumbergera, is a unique house plant known for growing in tropical climates in the shade along with other rocks and trees.

Native to South America, this type of cactus loves growing in highly humid places in the subtle shade of the rainforests.

They are easily recognizable for their flat green stems, also called cladodes, and they typically have lovely flower buds at the end of their stems that range in different vibrant colors such as pink, red, white, and purple.

Although the Christmas cactus requires a specific setting to thrive ideally, they tend to be a low-maintenance house plant that enjoys consistency and attention.

However, if you notice your Christmas cactus yellowing, you might be alarmed. As every plant parent beginner, it’s understandable not to know the cause or what to do.

However, you need to know that, in most cases, this issue is reversible and won’t damage your plant fatally, but you need to know the cause.  

Why is my Christmas cactus yellowing

Free printable holiday cactus care guide

Join the (free!) KeepYourPlantsAlive+ community to access this exclusive printable plant care guide! Once you sign up, you can right click & save the JPG care guide. Or keep scrolling for more!

holiday cactus plant care guide

Why is my Christmas cactus yellowing?

Here are some of the reasons that may trigger yellowing leaves and Christmas cactus problems:

  • Inappropriate sunlight exposure
  • Underwatering 
  • Overwatering
  • Lacking nutrients 
  • Drainage issues
  • Pests and diseases 

Sunlight exposure

If your Christmas cactus is yellowing, one of the most common issues might be the light it’s getting.

The plant thrives in a bright, cool setting, so depending on its placement in your home, the amount of sunlight it gets might be why its leaves turn yellow.

If it’s exposed to direct sunlight, it’s probably what’s causing the damage.

Remember that the Christmas cactus requires indirect light. If it’s exposed to extreme heat and sunlight, its leaves will change their color, and if you don’t act soon, it may die. 

Ensure your plant is placed in an appropriate area with shade, away from direct sunlight.

There’s also a possibility that your Christmas cactus is turning yellow if it receives less light than it’s supposed to. This can also cause its bloom production to stop.

To avoid this, place it in an area of your home with bright and indirect light. North and west-facing windows are a good option as they don’t get a lot of direct sunlight.

If it’s suitable for the plant, its leaves will return to their previous deep green color. If not, change its location until you find the ideal place for your plant to thrive.

christmas cactus cuttings


A popular misconception about the Christmas cactus is that it’s similar to other cactus plants because it doesn’t need much water.

The truth is the Christmas cactus loves thriving in high humidity, so replicating its natural environment is key to its maintenance.

It’s likely that your Christmas cactus is turning yellow because it doesn’t have enough moisture. You’ll also notice some of its leaves falling off in that case.

To prevent this, water your plant as soon as the top inch of the soil feels dry to the touch. The soil is the best source of information on how to care for a Christmas cactus.

Always make sure to check on it before adding any water or nutrients. Be careful not to let it get overly dry because it will cause the plant to die.


If you’re underwatering your plant, there’s a chance you can rescue it from any possible damage. But overwatering can cause a fatal problem to your Christmas cactus that you need to look out for.

An overly drenched soil can cause its roots to rot, resulting in severe damage.

A trick in preventing this is not sticking to a specific schedule but checking the soil to determine if it needs to be watered.

Ensure your plant is in an appropriate pot with suitable drainage holes and organic-rich soil with a gritty texture supporting its healthy growth.

Even if your pot is not ideal, you can also drill in extra drainage holes to avoid the Christmas cactus turning yellow.

Easter cactus

Lacking nutrients 

To prevent various Christmas cactus problems, it’s advised to repot your plant once you purchase it.

Ensuring that your plant is in a suitable soil mix will give you a sense of what you’re dealing with if your Christmas cactus is yellowing.

A nutrient deficiency, specifically in nitrogen, can cause yellowing of the leaves. Depending on its needs, you can avoid this by feeding your plant with a high-quality liquid fertilizer or a slow-release fertilizer.

Add the fertilizer as the package instructions advise throughout the growing season.

There is also some discussion that the Christmas cactus requires a lot of magnesium.

If this is the case, you can dilute one teaspoon of Epsom salt in one gallon of water and feed it once a month in spring and summer.

Just ensure you don’t add the mixture and fertilizer simultaneously. 

Drainage issues

As mentioned before, a key element in how to care for a Christmas cactus is providing it with a good drainage pot.

Oftentimes you can get distracted by the aesthetic value of a pot over its functionality.

Make sure to choose an appropriate pot with enough drainage holes to ensure all that extra moisture is escaping to prevent your Christmas cactus yellowing.  

thanksgiving cactus with red purple tips

Pests and diseases

One of the most common diseases on a Christmas cactus is root rot. This might be tricky to identify as it is below the plant’s surface.

A Christmas cactus yellowing might indicate a disease or infection of pests, which you can determine by closely inspecting your plant.

An overly-moist soil in an unsuitable pot may attract numerous diseases. Pests are likely to appear on an already ill plant. If you notice any, you need to react fast.

Pests are usually carriers of different diseases, and they feed out of the plant’s nutrients.

You need to instantly place your plant in quarantine to ensure your other plants won’t get infected. Moreover, research your options to see which remedies are best to battle the issue you’re dealing with.

We hope this article will help you determine what causes your Christmas cactus yellowing and how to deal with the issue.

Thanks for reading!

About Me Plant picture

Sharing is caring!