overwatered christmas cactus

Can an Overwatered Christmas Cactus be Saved?

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The Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera) is a fantastic festive houseplant that is often passed from generation to generation. Blooming each year into wonderful shades of pinks and reds, the holiday plant is native to Brazil and is a tropical plant. But what happens when you have an overwatered Christmas cactus? Can it be saved? How often should you even water a Christmas cactus? This blog aims to answer all the pressing questions you have in regards to watering a Christmas cactus. 

You can learn more general care tips by reading our article on Christmas cactus care

One of the most common problems you’ll notice of an overwatered Christmas cactus is root rot. Any holiday plant that is left in its saucer surrounded by water is going to encounter problems so it’s important to make sure that when watering, you let the water drain out properly before placing it back onto its saucer. 

So, can an overwatered Christmas cactus be saved? The answer is in short, yes, but only if you act quick and the overwatering is in its early stages. If your Christmas cactus already has root rot, you will have to cut away the damaged roots and repot – however, propagation may be the only answer if the plant is in late stages of root rot.

Can an overwatered cactus be saved?

One of the first signs you will notice of an overwatered Christmas cactus is that it will become wilted and limp. Most of the time, the most common cause of a wilting Christmas cactus is soggy soil – which leads to root rot! 

Although the Christmas cactus can’t survive long periods of drought-like a desert cactus, it also can’t survive being left in soggy soil for long periods of time.

You need to do a thorough job when watering but make sure you let the top few inches of soil dry out before you think about rewatering! When in bloom, it will need to  be kept slightly more moist than when out of bloom, but we’ll discuss that a bit later. 

If your Christmas cactus is in the early stages of root rot, then yes you can save an overwatered Christmas cactus by repotting. Alternatively, you can choose to propagate the plant and start afresh. If your Christmas cactus hasn’t got root rot and it has just sat in soggy soil for a bit too long, then just simply let the water dry out a bit and it should help revive your Christmas cactus

can an overwatrered christmas cactus be saved

How do I fix an overwatered Christmas cactus?

This all depends on how bad the damage is. If your Christmas cactus is simply sat in some soggy soil, then letting it dry out is just fine. However, if unfortunately your houseplant has root rot, it will depend on how far the rotting has spread on whether or not you can fix an overwatered Christmas cactus. 

If, in the early stages, fixing an overwatered Christmas cactus with root rot is fairly simple and will involve repotting. Usually, the tropical plant will only need to be repotted once every 3-4 years but to fix an overwatered Christmas cactus, you will need to do it sooner. Follow these simple steps: 

  • Remove from the pot and cut away any of the roots that are rotting and wash the remaining roots to remove any existing fungus 
  • Leave the plant our overnight in a warm, well-ventilated room to let the roots dry out
  • Place into a new pot with some fast-drying, airy soil
  • Wait a few days before you begin to water the plant again

Following the above steps should fix an overwatered Christmas cactus with root rot. If the root rot is in its late stages and most of the roots have been destroyed, then you can propagate your plant by taking a cutting and starting afresh. 

Remember that an overwatered Christmas cactus can also cause other problems such as mealybugs, spider mites and scale insects

Recommended soil for fixing an overwatered Christmas cactus

If you are following the above instructions on how to fix an overwatered Christmas cactus, you’ll need some light and airy fast-draining soil. Over the years I have tested a number of different products on my succulents and cactus and these are Miracle-Gro products and Espoma products. There are many other great ready-made soils to try and you can read my list of the best soil for Christmas cactus.

Espoma CA4 4-Quart Organic Cactus Mix

Espoma Organic Cactus Mix is formulated from 40-50% peat humus, sphagnum peat moss, sand, perlite, earthworm castings and dolomitic limestone to adjust ph. It is the perfect blend for a Christmas cactus. My only note is that I would recommend adding in some of your own perlite to make it even effective.

Miracle-Gro Succulent Potting Mix: Fertilized Soil with Premium Nutrition for Indoor Cactus Plants, Aloe Vera and More, 4 qt.

Miracle-Gro is a well recognized brand within the houseplant community and their succulent and cactus potting mix is perfect for an indoor Christmas cactus. Containing a blend of sphagnum peat moss, forest products, and fertilizer, as well as being certified by the Mulch & Soil Council as a quality product in compliance with industry standards, you can’t go wrong! 

What are the symptoms of an overwatered Christmas cactus?

If you think that you may have an overwatered Christmas cactus there are some obvious signs and symptoms you will notice. Most commonly these are:

  • Wilted and limp leaves
  • Leaves that are falling off
  • Soft branches
  • A bad odour
  • Roots that are blackened and have a slimy consistency

You may only notice some of these symptoms but if you notice a few of the above then you have most likely overwatered your Christmas cactus. However, this doesn’t mean that it is dying! In some cases, you can save an overwatered Christmas cactus.

symptoms of an overwatered christmas cactus

How do I know if my Christmas cactus is dying? 

If your Christmas cactus is dying through root rot from overwatering, then you will have to check the roots themselves. Gently lift the plant away from its pot and do a good inspection! Root rot will cause the roots to blacken and will have a slimy consistency to them. 

When looking out for other overwatering symptoms, you will notice that the leaves are falling off. It will also most likely fail to bloom and leave you asking ‘why is my Christmas cactus not blooming?’. In other cases, the branches will soften and get mushy and in severe cases, you will notice a stage odour coming from the plant. 

If your Christmas cactus is dying through other problems such as nutrition, crowded roots or location, then you will notice the plant turning purple.  

How often should you water a Christmas cactus?

How often you should water a Christmas cactus depends on the time of year. However, you should always make sure that the top inch of soil is dry to avoid overwatering. Take into consideration the climate and location. For example, if you have an outdoor climate in the hot sun, then it might require watering every 2-3 days. If you have an indoor Christmas cactus, in a cool area then you may only need to water it once a week. 

You should also water less in the fall and winter as this will help force your Christmas cactus bloom. 

It is also important to note here that the Christmas cactus enjoys a humid environment. The easiest way to provide your plant with humidity is to place a tray of water next to it. The water will evaporate and create a humid environment. Alternatively, you can mist your Christmas cactus with a spray bottle. 

how often should you water a christmas cactus

When should I stop watering my Christmas cactus?

If you want your festive plant to bloom in time for the holiday season, then you should stop watering in October and resume watering in November. This will force your Christmas cactus to bloom at exactly the right time!

You should also stop watering for around six weeks one the plant has successfully bloomed into the bright, vibrant pinks and red we all love! This is to let the plant rest.

Other than this, you should make sure you are watering constantly throughout the year and wait until the top inch of soil is dry to avoid overwatering. 

Saving an overwatered Christmas cactus

I hope you have enjoyed this post on saving an overwatered Christmas cactus! I hope you have learned some useful tips and are knowledgeable about whether or not you can save your beautiful holiday plant. 

To conclude, it is in fact possible to save an overwatered Christmas cactus, however, this all depends on whether the plant has root rot and at what stage the root rot is! 

I have also tried to give you some general tips and tricks on watering a Christmas cactus and the topics included: 

  • Can an overwatered cactus be saved?
  • How do I fix an overwatered Christmas cactus?
  • What are the symptoms of an overwatered Christmas cactus?
  • How do I know if my Christmas cactus is dying? 
  • How often should you water a Christmas cactus?
  • When should I stop watering my Christmas cactus?

If there is anything else you would like to know on watering a Christmas cactus, please feel free to ask away in the comments and I’ll get back to you! You can also check out some of my other content such as ‘are coffee grounds good for Christmas cactus?’. 

Succulent Care Guide is a blogging site which aims to give tips to houseplant lovers! If there is anything you’d like to know, then leave me a comment! 

You can also follow me on Instagram for some other useful tips and awesome images of my houseplants, succulents and cacti. 

2 thoughts on “Can an Overwatered Christmas Cactus be Saved?”

    • Hi Monica, the easiest way to tell is by testing the soil! If your Christmas cactus is wilted and limp and the soil is extremely dry, then it will be underwatered. If your Christmas cactus is wilted and limp and the soil feels extremely wet & soggy then it will be overwatered.


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