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Why is my holiday cactus dropping leaves?

Holiday cactus problems? Let’s talk about why your holiday cactus is dropping leaves and the possible solutions to get it healthy again!

Holiday cactus are beautiful plants with thick, glossy leaves (ok, it’s actually the stem but they look like leaves!). I love the unusual shaped leaves and gorgeous blooms in the winter.

Holiday cacti include:

Be sure to check out my guide to propagating holiday cactus!

However, it can be a bummer if your plant isn’t doing well. Let’s talk about why your plant might be dropping leaves and how to fix it before it’s too late!

why is my holiday cactus dropping leaves

Why is my holiday cactus dropping leaves?

Wondering why are leaves falling off my cactus? Here are some of the top reasons.

Watering issues

There are 2 main causes for your holiday cactus to be dropping leaves: overwatering or under watering.

If the leaves appear shrunken and drooping, it is under watered.

If the leaves appear sagging and mushy, the plant is over watered.

How often do you water a Christmas cactus?

Water your holiday cactus when the top 2 inches of soil feel dry to the touch.

Be sure that your pot has drainage holes to prevent water from pooling, which can lead to root rot and leaf drop.

How can you tell if a Christmas cactus is overwatered?

Overwatered stems will look limp and mushy. Pull the plant out of the soil and examine the roots – if they are turning black and mushy, the plant is severely over watered and has root rot.

Should I mist my Christmas cactus?

You can mist your holiday cactus daily in lieu of regular watering. If you do this, only water when the soil feels very dry.

Do you water a Christmas cactus from the top or bottom?

Bottom watering your plant is a great way to be sure that water doesn’t sit on the stem and rot.

To do this, choose a pot with large drainage holes. Set the pot in a dish of water for 30 minutes. Dump excess water and put the plant back in place!

leaves fallen off a holiday cactus dropping leaves

Temperature problems

Big changes in temperature can also cause holiday cacti to go into shock and drop leaves. Keep them away from drafts and always keep indoors in the winter.

Over fertilization

Applying too much fertilizer can shock your plant, which can sometimes lead to leaf drop.

Are coffee grounds good for Christmas cactus?

Coffee grounds can provide potassium and nitrogen to your plant, which is healthy. Don’t do this more than once a month.

Is Epsom salt good for Christmas cactus?

Epsom salts provide magnesium to your plant, which holiday cacti love. You can mix 1 teaspoon per gallon of water. Don’t use with fertilizer – use one or the other at a time to avoid fertilizer burn.

propagating dropped leaves from a thanksgiving cactus

Lighting problems

If your holiday cactus gets too much direct sun, it could get sun burned and drop leaves.

Does Christmas cactus like sun or shade?

These plants do best in partial shade or indirect light. Direct sun will burn the leaves.

How much sunlight does a Christmas cactus need?

These plants need at least 8 hours of sun a day to encourage blooming.

Potting issues

If your plant has outgrown it’s pot, it might start dropping leaves to conserve energy.

Do Christmas cactus like to be root bound?

These plants tolerate being a bit root bound, but only to a point.

Should I repot my Christmas cactus?

You should repot your holiday cactus every year or two, right after all of the blooms have fallen off. Choose a pot 2 inches wider across!

Your plant might not need a larger pot, but could benefit from new nutrients in fresh soil. Gently pull it from the pot, knock off as much soil as possible, and repot in the same pot with fresh soil.

thanksgiving cactus in a plastic pot

Is it normal for Christmas cactus to drop leaves?

No – dropping leaves is indicative that your plant is in some sort of distress.

Why is Christmas cactus limp?

A limp Christmas cactus is probably either over or under watered.

How do you rejuvenate a Christmas cactus?

First, determine what is wrong with your plant. If the soil is dry and hard, it needs to be watered. If it is wet and soggy, it’s too wet.

If neither of these is an obvious problem, pull the plant from its pot. Check to see if it is root bound.

Move to a new pot with fresh soil to help give it a boost.

close up of thanksgiving cactus blooms

How do I know if my Christmas cactus is dying?

If your plant seems very mushy, pull the plant out of the pot and examine the roots. If they are also black and mushy, that is root rot and it is hard to come back from.

Repot the plant in fresh, dry soil. Watch it carefully and hope it can recover.

Any more questions about holiday cacti?

Thanks for reading!

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