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Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera Truncata), is a wonderful holiday plant that blooms into bright pink and red flowers. It is a very popular plant across America and is often given as gifts around the festive season. Growing in USDA hardiness zones 10 to 12, the holiday cactus is not to be mistaken for the Thanksgiving cactus or the Easter cactus.
However, what happens when you care for your cacti plant all year round and when it comes to its winter bloom cycle, you find you have a wilting Christmas cactus? Why does a Christmas cactus go limp and shriveled? Well, this article aims to go into detail about the reasons why you may have a wilting Christmas cactus.
But first, we think you’ll enjoy these other blog posts on common Christmas cactus care tips:
- Why is my Christmas cactus turning purple?
- 5 simple steps on how to revive a Christmas cactus
- Why is my Christmas cactus not blooming?
Why is my Christmas cactus wilting?
Usually, when you have a wilting Christmas cactus it is because of two reasons; soggy soil and root rot. If you have the first Christmas cactus problem, then it will more than likely develop into the latter!
The Christmas cactus is different from the desert cactus as it is a tropical plant native to Brazil. It needs extra attention, love, and care and requires more maintenance than other cacti species. But how do you properly care for a Christmas cactus? And how do you stop your Christmas cactus from wilting and going limp?
Let’s start with the first common Christmas cactus problem; songy soil! If you have a wilting Christmas cactus then it is more than likely due to moisture issues.
Typically, when watering your houseplant, you’ll want to do a thorough job and make sure you water until it comes out the drainage holes. However, if you water your plant and the water runs straight out the bottom, this could be a sign of stunted roots and means you need to repot!
Typically a Christmas cactus will only need to be repotted once every 3 – 4 years, but if you think that this could be the reason for your wilted leaves, then here is a great, easy-to-follow YouTube video on how to repot a Christmas cactus.
An overwatered Christmas cactus and leaving the soil soggy for long periods of time will cause root rot and no one wants that! That being said, underwatering will also cause a wilted Christmas cactus.
So how often do you water a Christmas cactus? As a rule of thumb, you should be keeping the water moist when in bloom. When out of bloom you should wait until the top few inches of soil are bone dry before rewatering.
Best soil for Christmas cactus
If you feel like your wilted Christmas cactus is due to moisture and soggy soil, then you might want to think about replacing the soil with some yummy, nutrient-friendly alternative.
Horticulture magazine suggests that the Christmas cactus likes an airy, fast-drying soil. You can make your own blend of soil for Christmas cactus by mixing one part potting soil, two parts peat moss, and one part sharp sand. This will create the perfect mix and will give your festive houseplant all the nutrients it needs to thrive and revive those wilted leaves.
Christmas cactus is most commonly an indoor houseplant and enjoys a sterile potting mix. Be careful about contaminating with soil from the outdoors as this may cause Christmas cactus bugs!
If you don’t want to blend your own potting soil mix, then I would recommend the below soil for a Christmas cactus:
Organic Succulent and Cactus Soil Mix, Fast Draining Pre-Mixed Coarse Blend, 4 Quarts – affordable and great quality, this is usually my go-to for Christmas cactus soil. The organic blend is optimized for a pH of 5.5 which is ideal for a Christmas cactus plant. The soil is also lightweight, fast draining and contains 25% perlite.
Hoffman 10410 Organic Cactus and Succulent Soil Mix – alternatively, Hoffman is a well-recognized brand name and I have no complaints about their organic cactus mix. The soil contains both perlite and peat, which makes it a well-draining mix. It also contains limestone which works as a great pH balancer.
If you don’t want to order soil online and would rather go to your local garden center, then my two main tips would be to look at the pH level of the soil (anywhere between 5.5 and 7 is what a Christmas cactus likes). If the potting mix doesn’t specifically say what the pH level is, then look out for limestone. This is the ingredient often used as a pH balancer. Secondly, make sure the mix contains 20%-40% perlite as this is what will make it a well-draining soil.
To get rid of wilted leaves you will also want to be fertilizing at least once a month when in bloom. This will promote a healthy and happy plant. If you don’t want to use chemical fertilizer, then why not try using coffee grounds on Christmas cactus? If DIY isn’t your thing, then I would advise using Schultz Cactus Plus 2-7-7 liquid Plant Food. It’s cheap, water-soluble and easy to apply!
Often, when a Christmas cactus’ soil is left soggy for a long period of time, it will eventually cause root rot! Obviously, this is very unhealthy for your plant and may even cause the plant to die. This is also a common problem in regards to a wilting Christmas cactus.
Signs of Christmas cactus root rot
If you think your Christmas cactus might have root rot but are unsure, then there are some common signs to look out for. Of course, the first sign, and the reason you landed on this blog post, to begin with, is limp, sagging, and wilted leaves.
To inspect further you will need to lift your Christmas cactus out of its pot to properly take a look at the roots. If you have root rot on your holiday plant, then the roots will be blackened and often have a slimy consistency.
If this is what’s causing your wilted Christmas cactus then it is important to act fast as root rot is deadly for your festive plant and once it has progressed then it’s impossible to fix and the only option will be to use a cutting to propagate.
How to fix Christmas cactus root rot
You may be able to treat a Christmas cactus with root rot, but only if you catch the disease early. There are some simple steps you should follow when trying to save your Christmas cactus from root rot:
- Remove from the pot immediately. Cutaway the rotten roots and gently wash the remaining roots to get rid of the fungus/slime
- Leave out overnight in a warm, light, well-ventilated room to let the roots dry
- When the roots are dry, place into a new pot with drainage holes. You will want to pot with a fast-drying and airy soil mix (as discussed above)
- Wait a few days before you water your newly potted Christmas cactus
Once you have followed the above steps you can then begin watering your festive plant as normal. Remember that you will want to thoroughly water your plant until water drips out of the drainage holes. Avoid placing your Christmas cactus onto the saucer until all the water has drained out. You don’t want your Christmas cactus to sit in the extra water as this is what will have caused the root rot in the first place!
Remember, a slightly underwatered Christmas cactus is far better than an overwatered Christmas cactus!
Hurrah! You have fixed your root rot and hopefully, you will no longer have a wilted Christmas cactus.
Wilting Christmas cactus conclusion
I hope you have enjoyed this article on common causes of a wilting Christmas cactus and you have found the answer you were looking for. We have a number of different blog posts on common Christmas cactus problems such as why is my Christmas cactus not blooming and Christmas cactus leaves falling off.
However, to quickly recap on this article, we discussed and answered your question on why is my Christmas cactus wilting. We talked about how a wilting Christmas cactus is caused by two main issues; soggy soil and root rot.
If your wilting Christmas cactus is due to soggy soil then the best option is to repot with a nutrient-rich, fast-drying and airy soil that you can easily blend together yourself.
If your Christmas cactus has unfortunately developed root rot, then you can fix this by following some simple steps that we addressed above. You should cut away the rotting roots and clean the remaining healthy roots, leave out to dry overnight and then repot into a new planter with drainage holes.
These are the two most common problems of a wilting Christmas cactus and following the guidance above should help lead your holiday plant back to its healthy, happy self.
If you have any questions on this topic, then leave a comment and I’ll get back to you with the best advice possible.
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