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.
How can a purple Christmas cactus be fixed?
Christmas Cactus thrives in climates with daytime highs of 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit and evening lows of 60 to 65 degrees.
Although experts concur that fertilizer Christmas Cactus shouldn’t be done during bloom season and the weeks preceding it, neglecting to feed it properly the rest of the year can lead to problems like discolored foliage.
From April through October, you may help keep the foliage on your Christmas Cactus from becoming purple by using a standard all-purpose fertilizer twice a month.
Because Christmas Cactus requires more magnesium than the ordinary plant, you should apply a teaspoon of Epsom salts every other week. In October, stop fertilizing completely to encourage blooming during the holiday season.
What could cause the purple to appear on a Christmas cactus?
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.
My Christmas cactus is turning red; why is that?
In USDA hardiness zones 10 to 12, Schlumbergera bridgesii, widely known as the Christmas Cactus, performs best indoors but also flourishes in sheltered outdoor situations. A mature Christmas cactus normally experiences few issues, while some could experience reddened leaves as a result of poor growing circumstances, diseases, or poor maintenance.
Christmas cactus frequently produces red foliage due to cultural stress, especially if it is exposed to direct sunlight in the summer or does not get enough water. This cactus thrives in light shade throughout the hotter months because it is a plant native to tropical forests. It does, however, like full sunlight in the winter and needs a little bit more water than most other cacti do. So once the soil feels dry 1 inch (2.5 cm) below the surface, it needs to be watered. Examine the light exposure of an established Christmas Cactus if its foliage turns reddish but otherwise seems healthy. If required, relocate it. Similarly, alter the soil’s moisture content and avoid letting it go too long without watering.
By restricting the amount of oxygen that roots can absorb and by weakening their tissue, overwatering harms them. Overwatering frequently results in root rot. Mushy tissue, wilting, and pink or reddish discolorations on the leaves are the hallmarks of Christmas Cactus. An unpleasant odor in the soil is another indicator of root rot. An injured plant needs to be replanted in new, unused potting soil and allowed to dry out for two to three weeks. Trim away the severely harmed leaves and gradually bring the plant back to a regular watering schedule by allowing the top inch (2.5 cm) of soil to become dry in between waterings. Pruning blades should be cleaned with rubbing alcohol before and after use to disinfect them.
If Christmas Cacti are propagated from sick plants or are potted in polluted soil, they may become infested with Cactus Cyst (Cactodera cacti). Cactus Cyst is a nematode that predominantly affects the roots but can also manifest as a wide range of symptoms in the foliage. Common signs include stunted growth, wilting, and reddish discolorations; however, the most telltale symptom is observed on the roots as tiny, pearl-like lumps. Cactus Cyst treatment is challenging and rarely effective, thus prevention is essential. To prevent contact with contaminated soil, first put the plant in fresh, sterilized soil in an unused pot and raise it off the ground. If a plant becomes infested, get rid of it to prevent the infection from spreading.
Weeding and reddened or purple-tinged leaves are two typical signs of magnesium insufficiency, a common disease in Christmas Cacti. It mainly happens in the wintertime when feeding and watering are restricted and nutrient uptake by the plant is slowed down by the chilly weather. The cactus thrives in winter at temperatures between 55 and 65 F. (13 to 18 C). With Epsom salts, a magnesium deficit can be treated. A supplement feeding of 1 teaspoon of Epsom salts dissolved in 1 gallon (3.8 l) of water is typically helpful. Spray the tops and undersides of the foliage with the mixture after pouring it into a spray bottle. Every two weeks, reapply the mixture to the foliage until it takes on its natural hue.
Why is my cactus becoming softer and more purple?
Numerous things can cause a cactus to turn purple. Purple coloration in some cacti can occur naturally, but it can also indicate a problem. To ensure that your cactus thrives, learn why it is becoming purple.
Cacti typically turn purple when under stress from the environment. There are many potential reasons, including excessive sunlight, temperature issues, root rot, nutrient deficits, crowded roots, and cactus cysts. Your plant might also be totally healthy and just adjusting to the new environment.
How can an overwatered Christmas cactus be identified?
Any cactus that has been left to sit in a saucer of water is probably less healthy. The Christmas cactus plant will manifest clear signs of suffering if it is overwatered. To avoid moisture gnats and preserve the roots from decaying, you should always dump the extra water from the saucer if it hasn’t dried in a day.
One of the first signs of overwatering on a Christmas cactus are limp leaves that begin to fall off, just in case you forgot to do this. The stems and branches will thereafter become mushy and spongy. In severe situations, the stem can entirely rot off and the symptoms will include a bad smell.
Prevention is easy to do. To avoid overwatering Christmas cactus, use a soil moisture meter.
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.
Does a Christmas cactus require misting?
Contrary to what its name might imply, Christmas cacti can survive well into the following year. In fact, with a little care and our guidance, they can live for up to 20 years.
Christmas Cacti need cooler temperatures.
Leaving Christmas cacti in a space that is between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit will cause them to bloom more fully and sooner. Keep them away from radiators, fireplaces, and warm windowsills, especially during the winter.
While they don’t need the heat of the sun, they do need its light.
The hard part comes at this point. A Christmas cactus needs lots of sunlight but cannot be kept in direct sunlight as it will dry out. So what should a cactus aficionado do? Your best option is to leave it in a part of your home that is shaded (or outdoors once summer arrives) and rotate it occasionally.
Just like you and I, Christmas cacti need their rest.
Your cactus needs between 1215 hours of uninterrupted darkness per day if its buds haven’t yet set. Cacti only require lots of light once their buds have fully developed.
You should be misting, not watering, every day.
Your cactus will die if you overwater it. But that doesn’t mean they never experience thirst. You should mist your cactus every day rather than watering it like you would a regular plant. You only need a few sprays from a spray bottle to maintain your cactus’ happiness. Only when the soil at the base of the plant feels entirely dry to the touch should you water it.
Christmas cacti need nutrient-rich soil.
Christmas cacti are strong plants that can endure harsher environments, although well-drained soil that has some organic matter is preferable for them. While organic soil is always available to purchase, you can also use your cacti as a little compost and add organic waste that you would typically discard.