Got 99 problems and a Christmas Cactus is one? Even though they have “cactus” in their name, the Christmas Cactus is not an easy plant to grow. Like all plants, they have their fair share of problems. However, by diligently attending to your Christmas Cactus problems, they’ll bloom happily once again. This guide will help you revive your Christmas Cactus with ease. Top tip: the trick lies in identifying the exact cause.
The Christmas Cactus
It’s important to know the basic facts about the Christmas Cactus. Having a good understanding of the plant will allow you to prevent future Christmas Cactus problems.
Even though Christmas Cacti are a genus of the cactus, they’re not from the hardy deserts. They fall into a small genus category of cacti called Schlumbergera, which are a type of tropical cacti. They thrive in humid shady forests found in the tropics. This plant does not grow on the ground but on the branches and nooks of trees. It anchors itself on the rotting vegetation trapped on the tree.
The Christmas Cacti flowers in winter. Therefore, for them to bloom they need a suitable light cycle. On average, they need 16 hours of darkness and 8 hours of light to start their bloom cycle. A cool and dark environment is all they need to bloom.
Mild Christmas Cactus problems
This is a list of mild Christmas cactus problems you may encounter. We have included the symptoms and a solution. Thankfully, they are easy to rectify and the plant has a high chance of recovering.
Why doesn’t my Christmas Cactus bloom?
Symptoms: Constant Growth with no bloom.
Cause: Faulty light cycles.
My Christmas Cactus just keeps growing but never flowers! Every newbie owner will face this issue at some point. This issue is more prominent if the plant is grown in an entirely different climate when compared to the tropics. Luckily this doesn’t fit into the “life-threatening” criteria in the list of Christmas Cactus problems.
The Christmas Cactus originates from Brazil. The change in the climate during winter is what triggers the flowering season. Therefore, if you mimic those conditions, your plant will flower. In nature, this season begins in September. The temperature drops and the nights become longer. This forces the plant to stop growing and use its energy to flower.
The easiest way to mimic the climate condition is to place the plant in a dark room. The temperate of the room should be between 11.5-13C. Allow the plant to sit in a dark for 14 hours. Make sure that the remaining 8 hours are full of bright but indirect sunlight.
This Christmas Cactus problem should be fixed and ought to bud after a few weeks. You can discontinue this light schedule afterwards. Your plant will re-bloom if the initial blooming stage fails. Therefore, if you mess up once, don't give up!
My plant is wilting and it has black spots all over it. The leaves have turned brown.
Symptoms: The plant is wilting. Black and red spots on the plant. The spots have a watery texture to them. The leaves of the plant are browning.
Cause: Overwatering and root rot.
This is very common when it comes to Christmas Cactus problems. The culprit is root rot. Act quickly. Overwatered Christmas Cactus care should be administered with immediate haste if you want to save your plant!
Start by unrooting the Christmas Cactus and washing the soil off the roots. Take a pair of sharp, clean plant scissors and snip off the rotten chunks of the root. If the roots are rotten they should feel squishy.
Get a clean pot with drainage holes at its bottom. Fill the pot with cactus soil and lightly water to make it moist. Let the water drain off. Do not make the soil too moist or you will start the rot all over again. Re-pot the plant and observe it for a few days.
Only water the plant when the soil goes dry. If your Christmas Cactus starts to shrivel, this is a good sign that you need to water. Once watered, remove excess water from the tray below to ensure the soil doesn’t sit in it.
Avoid using fungicides! This is indeed caused by fungi, but you need to know the exact variant to treat it. It is easier to re-pot the cactus and give the plant a second chance.
My plant is limp and is wilting.
Symptoms: Droopy plant.
Cause: Overwatering or root growth.
When it comes down to Christmas Cactus problems, there are two possible causes for wilting. You will need to use the process of elimination to figure out the exact cause. However, a drooping plant is the first stage in root rot. Overwatered Christmas Cactus care will boost it back up without letting the problem grow.
Follow the steps below:
- Stick your finger into the soil (1-inch minimum) to assess your Christmas Cactus problem. If the soil is wet, let the plant dry out for a few days. If this solves the problem, then the cause was overwatering. Reduce the time between waterings to avoid this issue in the future.
- If the soil is dry after dipping your finger in, then give your plant a good drizzle. Watch the plant for a few days to see if it is correcting the problem. If it does, then you need to increase the frequency of watering to avoid this problem in the future.
- If your plant is still limp, the plant could be root-bound. This is a very easy Christmas Cactus problem to fix. If you notice the roots have filled out and start coiling in the pot, chances are that it has outgrown its container! Unearth your Christmas Cactus and repot in a bigger container.
The leaves of my Christmas Cactus are turning pink
Symptoms: Reddish pink leaves.
Cause: Lack of water or leaf burn.
This is quite a common Christmas Cactus problem and easy to fix. If your plant is placed in direct sunlight, relocate it into the shade. The Christmas Cactus loves sunlight, but too much will cause the leaves to burn.
Dip your finger into the soil (around 1 inch). If the soil feels dry to the touch, give your plant some water. Also, remember to increase the frequency of watering to avoid this in the long run.
Dire Christmas Cactus problems
We hope you don't face these Christmas Cactus problems, but if you do it's going to be tough recovering! However, if you follow these steps we’re sure you’ll be on your way to getting a happy Christmas Cactus.
Brown spots on the stem
Symptoms: Brown spots on the stem that has a watery texture.
Cause: Stem rot caused by overwatering.
Brown spots are quite a serious Christmas Cactus problem. If wilting has escalated from stem rot, your plant is indeed in a very dire state. Instead of trying to recover the plant, it’s best to obtain some cuttings. Use the cuttings to grow a new plant!
Use the leaves of the plant to obtain cuttings. Make sure to obtain the leaves from areas that don’t have spots. This ensures that the fungus won’t spread to the cutting. Once the cuttings are planted and taken care of, you’d have a bunch of new cacti to brighten up your home!
If you wish to save the mother plant after obtaining the cuttings, we recommend you cut out all the rotten areas. Once all the spotty areas are removed, let the plant recover. Although It is highly unlikely the plant will recover.
Greyish mould on my plant
Symptoms: A whitish-grey mould on the leaves of the plant.
Cause: Fungi that live on decaying vegetation.
The name of this fungi is Botrytis blight. It’s a critical Christmas Cactus problem, and for any plants around. Your plant should be immediately isolated and destroyed to prevent the spread. Think Monsters Inc style. Sanitize the pots with bleach afterwards. If left in the same room with other plants, they too may catch the fungi.
Treating the fungi is not advised as it spreads too quickly.
Acting on the first instance will ensure the highest survivability. Christmas Cactus problems escalate fast, therefore we advise you to act quickly. Sticking to a good growing guide and following proper plant care guidelines will help you to avoid these issues in the future. Christmas Cacti are relatively easy plants to grow, so as long as you follow our care tips, you should be good to go!