Christmas cacti are typically trouble-free succulent plants, but if you find that your plant’s leaves are turning red or purple around the margins or if they are red or purple instead of green, something is wrong. Continue reading to discover potential reasons and remedies for reddish-purple Christmas cactus leaves.
Why are the leaves on my xmas cactus becoming purple?
An excess of light may cause a plant that is genetically programmed to flourish in the sun-dappled shadow of a rainforest canopy to produce a defense mechanism against ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
Life-threatening strong light causes UV-protective phenolic chemicals called anthocyanins to dominate with their purple colour instead of appearing as chlorophyll-rich green stems.
A Schlumbergera exposed to extreme sunshine would probably burn, which might permanently harm stem tissue. Due to this damage, it is unable to absorb sunlight, endangering photosynthesis, the process through which sunlight is converted into food.
By picking a position with filtered or indirect sunlight, preferably towards north or west, you can avoid this problem.
Should I trim the Christmas cactus’ purple leaves?
Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera truncate), which has a lengthy blooming season during a time when floral displays are in short supply, has long been regarded as a holiday favorite by houseplant enthusiasts.
Despite the fact that these plants are quite simple to grow, novice gardeners occasionally encounter difficulties.
One of the most frequent problems with Christmas cacti is that their foliage may occasionally turn purple for no apparent reason, which can lead some individuals to give up on the plant and throw it away. Despite the fact that the plant may be having a hard time surviving, Christmas Cactus can typically be brought back to life if the issues that are creating the purple foliage are resolved.
What you need to know about the most frequent reasons of Christmas Cactus leaf fading and how to restore the plant’s signature brilliant green leaves are provided below.
Too Much Bright Light
Christmas cacti are genetically programmed to thrive in light conditions that mimic the dappled shade of their natural habitat because they evolved as understory plants in tropical rainforest environments. As a result, their foliage may become discolored if they are regularly exposed to light that is too bright for them, especially during the summer.
Try moving your Christmas cactus to a different area of the house or a few feet away from a south or west window if it is currently situated close to one of those windows.
Why is the purple coloring on my cactus plant?
Cool, dry weather is what gives cacti their purple hue. The plant’s response to environmental stress is to turn purple. When under duress, some types of succulents, agave, and aloe also turn scarlet, burgundy, or purple.
How can a purple Christmas cactus be revived?
Repot the Christmas cactus into new soil when it is extremely limp and the earth is wet. As much soil as you can gently remove from the pot after removing the weak Christmas cactus from it. By repotting your Christmas cactus with your own homemade soil, you can prevent future issues. Use high-quality potting soil in a 2:1 ratio with sand or vermiculite to ensure precise drainage.
Repotting a weak Christmas cactus might be the answer, even if the soil is dry. Even though the plant prefers to be tucked away in its pot, switching to a little larger pot with new soil every few years will help you prevent Christmas cactus issues.
How can a purple cactus be fixed?
When the majority of the leaves on your cactus are visibly purple, there is cause for concern due to the color change.
Additionally, wilting, stunted growth, or wet foliage are warning indicators of a problem. To ascertain whether your plant is in any immediate danger, it’s critical to identify the reason for the color change.
When cacti are under duress, their colors shift. Betalain, a purple pigment found in cacti, is one that they create more of when stressed.
Too Much Sunlight
Cacti have adapted to thrive in direct sunshine, but the one you have at home may be struggling.
Cacti found in stores have often been produced in greenhouses with shade. They are therefore not accustomed to such intense sunshine.
Bright light is necessary for cacti, but indirect, diffused light is preferable. An abrupt exposure to harsh light can scorch a cactus’s skin, turning it purplish-red in hue.
Your cactus is probably sunburned if it is fresh or if you recently moved it to a sunnier location.
How to Treat Sun Scorched Cactus
Fortunately, treating a sunburn is not too difficult. Your cactus should be moved to a location that receives less direct sunlight.
Cacti still require a ton of sunlight, so don’t move it to your basement just yet!
Direct sunlight is light that shines directly on a plant, such as via a south-facing window.
The indirect sunlight from the other windows in your home will be more evenly distributed and kinder to the plant.
To avoid sun burning, move your plant to a window facing any other way.
Make a DIY sun filter if all of your windows are on the south side. To provide your cactus with some much-needed shade, simply place a paper towel over it.
Purple leaves may indicate stress brought on by high temperatures. When cacti’s roots get too hot, they sometimes turn reddish-purple.
Additionally, cacti can become purple under extreme cold. The plant can no longer contain fluids if it has frost damage because its cells burst.
How to Fix Temperature Stress
Since the ideal temperature is somewhere in the middle, it’s crucial to keep your plant away from environments with significant temperature fluctuations.
Keep your cactus away from drafty areas like open doors and windows to avoid it from getting too cold. Avoid areas with excessive heat and dryness as well, such as around fireplaces and heating vents.
Keep your cactus in a cold planter because its roots are particularly susceptible to overheating. Avoid using black plastic planters and get ones made of clay instead.
Purple leaves may also indicate root rot, which is brought on by over watering and inadequate drainage.
Your plant’s roots will dry out and become unable to absorb any more water or nutrients like magnesium if the soil is left wet for an extended period of time. Your cactus might consequently turn purple.
How to Fix Root Rot
With sterile scissors, begin cutting off the injured roots and leaves while removing as much of the moist dirt as you can.
Place the plant in a clean pot filled with new potting soil. Allow the top inch of soil to dry out between waterings and wait a few days before watering the cactus after transplanting it.
Overwatering is frequently the cause of root rot. I have a piece on how to keep your overwatered cactus alive. You will also learn the proper way to hydrate them.
Your cactus may be turning purple because it lacks the nutrients it needs to survive, which is one potential explanation. Your plant may be suffering from a magnesium deficit if it is withering and turning purple.
Magnesium deficits are more likely to occur in Christmas cacti. Nevertheless, all varieties of cacti are vulnerable.
How to Treat Nutritional Issues
Fertilizer is the remedy for a magnesium deficit in your cactus. You can apply an Epsom salt treatment yourself or purchase a fertilizer that has been supplemented with magnesium.
In a spray bottle, combine the following items to create a magnesium treatment:
- Epsom salts, eight tablespoons
- A total of 2.5 gallons of water
- A couple of drops of dishwashing liquid
Spray the cactus’s leaves with water using a spray bottle, being sure to reach the undersides as well. Use the spray mixture consistently every two weeks until the color of your cactus returns to normal.
Another possible explanation for your cactus’ color change is congested roots. A plant’s roots may get excessively crowded, or “rootbound,” if they are planted in a container that is too tiny.
Plants that are root-bound are unable to adequately absorb soil nutrients and water. The leaves may turn purple as a stress response in response to nutrient insufficiency.
How to Fix Overcrowded Roots
Your cactus’s root system may enlarge over time and may eventually become too large to fit inside the pot it was originally in.
It’s time to repot your cactus to a larger container if you see that some of the roots are attempting to escape through the drainage hole. Normally, every 3 to 4 years, think about repotting your cactus.
Your cactus needs to be relocated to a larger location if its roots have grown crowded. Cacti should often be repotted once the roots are visible through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
This normally takes two to three years for cactus kinds with a quicker growth rate. Repotting slower-growing cactus should only be done every three to four years.
Researching the perfect settings for your cactus is vital because not all cactus species have the same requirements.
For instance, some cacti, including Christmas cacti, thrive when their roots are packed.
So, until it has lived in the same pot for at least a few years, a Christmas cactus shouldn’t be repotted.
The steps to repot your cactus are as follows:
- Make sure you are using thick gloves to protect your skin from the plant’s sharp spines before repotting your cactus.
- Look for pests and disease symptoms in the plant and the soil.
- Choose a new container that is one size bigger than the old one.
- To aid with drainage, add gravel to the bottom of the pot and sprinkle a thin coating of it on the soil’s surface.
How often should my Christmas cactus be watered?
Christmas cacti are highly common indoor plants, and for good reason too! They produce vibrant, tubular flowers that are pink or purple in hue when they bloom. They are a superb plant because of their lovely blossoms, lengthy bloom period, and simple maintenance needs. Someone in your family most likely owns a Christmas cactus!
About Christmas Cacti
The Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi) and its cousins don’t exist in hot, arid conditions like deserts or plains, in contrast to other cacti. These epiphytic succulents, which grow on tree branches and take in the high humidity, dappled sunlight, and moderate temperatures, are actually endemic to the tropical rainforests of southern Brazil.
Bottom line: Don’t handle a Christmas cactus like a typical succulent or cactus. They are unable to withstand the same kind of hot, dry weather that other cactus can. These cacti require more frequent watering than most succulents, but you also need to be careful not to overwater them. (See the care guidelines in more detail below.)
Thanksgiving, Easter, or Christmas Cactus?
The Easter cactus (S. gaertneri), Thanksgiving cactus (S. truncata), and Christmas cactus are the three main varieties of “holiday cacti” that are available (S. x buckleyi). The holiday that each cactus is named after often sees the most blooming. Thanksgiving cacti, which often bloom from November to February and hence go unrecognized as Christmas cacti, make up the majority of “Christmas cacti” sold nowadays. See our post on the several Christmas cacti species and how to distinguish them for more information.
Note: Because it’s the most widely used term and it applies to all three of these species, we’ll refer to all three of them on this page as “Christmas cactus” for simplicity’s sake.
Potting Christmas Cacti
- Choose a pot with a drainage hole on the bottom if you’re choosing one for a Christmas cactus. This prevents the soil from getting overly saturated.
- Most succulent-specific potting mixtures work well for Christmas cacti growth. It’s crucial that your potting soil drains properly.
Where to Put a Christmas Cactus
- Plants should be kept in indirect light that is bright. The best location has an east-facing window or a well-lit bathroom. The delicate leaves might be bleached by too much direct sunshine.
- It is preferable to have a daytime temperature of 70F (21C) and an evening temperature of 60–65F (15–18C).
- Christmas cacti do well in a more humid climate, so keeping them in a well-lit bathroom or kitchen is a smart idea.
- Christmas cacti can be kept in a shady area of the garden or on an unheated porch during the summer until the temperature drops below 50F. (10C). Keep them away from the sun’s rays outside.
How to Care for Christmas Cacti
- Water your plants every two to three weeks, but only when the top third of the soil feels dry to the touch. If the plant is in 6 inches of soil, for instance, water when the top 2 inches of soil feel dry. (Check with your finger!)
- When the soil is completely dry, wet it until water seeps through the drainage holes in the pot. To collect the water, put a tray underneath the pot. To prevent the pot from sitting in water, remove any extra water on the tray after 10 to 15 minutes.
- While the plant is in bloom, it’s very crucial to water thoroughly.
- Feed your indoor plants with a balanced houseplant fertilizer every two weeks from spring through early fall. Feed the cactus once a month in the fall and winter to promote fruitful blooming.
- To promote branching and more flowers, prune plants in the late spring. Simply cut a portion of each stem off; the plant will grow new branches from the incision.
- If desired, plant the cut pieces in potting soil that is only gently damp; they will easily root after a few weeks and make wonderful Christmas gifts!
How to Get Your Christmas Cactus to Bloom
The longer evenings and chilly weather of fall are what cause Christmas cacti and its relatives to bloom. The three major varieties of holiday cacti typically bloom on the following schedule:
- Thanksgiving cactus typically produce flowers from late October through mid-winter, making them the earliest and longest bloomers.
- Christmas cacti often bloom in the early to midwinter months.
- Easter cacti flower around the middle of spring through late winter.
If your cactus isn’t flowering, it can be getting too much light or being exposed to too much heat. Here are some suggestions to help you get blooms from yours!
- For a minimum of six weeks, the nights must be at least 14 hours long and the days between 8 and 10 hours. You might need to cover your cactus or relocate it to an area that is exposed to the natural light cycle if you have powerful interior lighting that is on at night.
- When the plant is kept at temps between 50 and 60F, flower buds form best (10 and 15C).
- By subjecting the plant to temps around 45F (7C) for a number of nights in a succession, you can jumpstart the budding process.
- While the plant is in bloom, be sure to water it consistently. The plant may lose its buds if it dries out too much.
- Don’t worry if the cactus loses its buds one winter; the following year it should bloom.
The three primary varieties of “holiday cacti” are as follows:
- Often mistaken for Christmas cacti, Thanksgiving cacti (Schlumbergera truncata) bloom from late October to mid-winter.
- Christmas cacti (S. x buckleyi) flower in the early to midwinter months.
- Late winter to mid-spring is the blooming period for Easter cacti (S. gaertneri).
- Make sure to water your Christmas cactus frequently and keep it cool when the buds on the plant appear ready to open.
- The optimum time to propagate cuttings is late spring when most holiday cacti start to grow after their winter hibernation.
Blossom loss: Your Christmas cactus will probably lose its blossoms if it experiences any kind of stress. As mentioned in the plant care section above, this could be caused by the amount of light or a sudden shift in temperature. Make sure your soil doesn’t become overly dry while buds are developing.
The plant could be vulnerable to mealy bugs and root rot if overwatered. If you experience issues, remove the affected sections and repot the plant in fresh soil.