Why Is My Thanksgiving Cactus Dropping Leaves

Why are my cactus’ leaves falling off, you ask? Here are a few of the main explanations.

How can you tell if a Christmas cactus is overwatered?

Overwatered stems will appear mushy and limp. If the roots are getting dark and mushy, remove the plant from the ground and check them. If so, the plant is badly overwatered and has root rot.

Do you water a Christmas cactus from the top or bottom?

A smart approach to prevent water from sitting on the stem and rotting is to water your plant from the bottom.

Pick a pot with lots of drainage holes if you want to do this. For 30 minutes, place the pot in a bowl of water. Remove any extra water, then reposition the plant.

Temperature problems

Holiday cacti may experience shock and lose their leaves in response to significant temperature swings. Always keep them inside during the winter and keep them away from drafts.

Is Epsom salt good for Christmas cactus?

Epsom salts give your plant magnesium, which Christmas cacti love. One teaspoon can be added to one gallon of water. Use without fertilizer To prevent fertilizer burn, only use one or the other at once.

Should I repot my Christmas cactus?

Your holiday cactus has to be repotted every year or two, just after the blooms have finished. Pick a pot that is 2 inches wider across!

Your plant might benefit from new nutrients in new soil rather than needing a bigger pot. Pull it out of the pot gently, remove as much soil as you can, and then repot it in the same pot with new soil.


When it comes to Christmas Cactus maintenance, this is the largest error that most people make. It does need more water than its desert-dwelling cousins, but keep in mind that it is called a “cactus” for a reason.

Root rot is brought on by overwatering, and this in turn makes the plant lose its leaves. Overwatering can be caused by a variety of things, such as poorly draining soil, a pot with insufficient drainage holes, a too large container, etc. As a result of water saturating the soil for extended periods of time, these variables may cause root rot.

The temperature and amount of light that the plant receives should also be taken into account. The plant will grow considerably more slowly under low light conditions or in the fall and winter months, and your Christmas cactus will require much less water as a result.

Why Does Overwatering Result In My Christmas Cactus Dropping Leaves?

The trunk and branches of your Christmas cactus will absorb more water than they require during the initial stage of overwatering. Edema of the leaf tissue and injury to the plant itself may result from this. This alone may cause some leaf drop, but it may also raise the danger of infection and pest infestation, which may cause the plant to lose some leaves (branches).

Root rot will occur as a result of continued overwatering and wet soil conditions. When root rot takes hold, the plant is unable to absorb the necessary nutrients and water to maintain the health of the remainder of the plant. As a result, the plant will start to shed some of its leaves, usually starting with the lower, older leaves.

How To Fix This?

Look for symptoms of root rot if your Christmas Cactus is losing leaves. Examine the roots of the plant by gently sliding it out of the pot. Rotten roots will be mushy, brittle, and brown or black in color. They could also have an unpleasant odor. To rescue your plant if root rot is prevalent, follow these instructions.

  • Gently brush away any loose dirt that is near the roots. To completely clean the soil from around the roots, I frequently use a basin of water.
  • To remove all rotten roots, use a pair of sterile pruners.
  • In order for the remaining plant to be supported by the healthy roots after removing a significant percentage of the roots, you should also prune the plant back proportionately.
  • To lessen the likelihood of root rot recurring, you might prefer to treat the roots with a fungicidal solution.
  • Select a fresh container with plenty of drainage holes that is just big enough for the plant.
  • To avoid root rot, potting soil must be well-draining. A decent combination is 1/3 succulent mix, 1/3 houseplant potting mix, and 1/3 perlite or gritty sand.
  • After repotting, make sure to give your plant moderate growing conditions to lessen stress and give it time to gradually recuperate.

Preventing Christmas Cactus Leaf drop From Overwatering

Checking the top (1-2 inches) of the soil is the easiest way to tell when your Christmas Cactus needs to be watered. Watering the plant is necessary if it seems dry to the touch.

When watering, be careful to soak the soil completely and evenly, but give the additional time it needs to drain out of the drainage holes so the plant doesn’t sit in soggy soil.

After a while, don’t forget to empty the drip tray, or else give your plant somewhere to drain before returning it to its usual location.


The fact that a plant is labeled a “Christmas cactus” does not automatically imply that it can survive for extended periods of time without water. Therefore, if you are feeding your Christmas Cactus too little water in the hope that it would survive the drought, you are gravely mistaken.

A plant that is continually under the stress of a drought and is not receiving the moisture it needs to thrive is more likely to lose leaves as a result of dehydration. There is also reduced chance of blooming.

Watering the plant is the apparent solution to underwatering. Make sure the water properly permeates the soil and reaches the plant’s root ball if it appears to be bone dry.

Allowing the container to remain in a dish of water for around 10-15 minutes will allow the roots to soak up the liquid well, which is another way to rehydrate your plant.

Remember that your plant needs more regular watering in the summer because it is growing more quickly, the light is stronger, and the temperatures are higher.

Lighting Issues

Christmas Cacti naturally grow in the dense rainforests of Brazil under the shade of tree canopies and larger plants. It has therefore evolved to grow and flourish in bright, indirect light and will not withstand direct sunshine, in contrast to many other cactus species.

Your plant will scorch its leaves and start to drop leaves if it is kept in an area that is exposed to direct sunlight for the majority of the day.

The best location for your Christmas Cactus is one that receives plenty of bright but indirect light. For further information on where to place your plants in your home to ensure their success, read my post on lighting for houseplants.


Another typical mistake people make when taking care of houseplants is overfertilizing. It’s very tempting to fertilize or add a little bit more than necessary in an effort to hasten the growth and aesthetic appeal of your plant.

Unfortunately, all of this affection results in the Christmas Cactus’ slow demise since excessive fertilization severely harms the plant’s roots. I’ll tell you how.

Like vitamins are for humans, fertilizer is for plants. Although nutrients from the soil supply only trace amounts of vital elements, sunshine is the primary source of sustenance for plants.

They can grow and thrive with a small amount of fertilizer, but more is hazardous to the plant. Numerous symptoms might result from this, but leaf drop or brown patches on the leaves are the most frequent ones.

Additionally, excessive fertilization can poison the roots, making it impossible for them to function and absorb water and nutrients for the plant. This occurs when too much fertilizer salt builds up in the soil as a result of overfertilizing.

The resultroots begin to dry out and eventually die, which causes significant leaf drop.

Search for signs of white crusts on the soil’s surface, which signify nutrient buildup. Consider how much fertilizer you have given your plant recently and how regularly you have done so as well.

There are two potential remedies if you feel that overfertilizing is the cause of your Christmas Cactus loosing leaves.

  • For five minutes, thoroughly wet the soil to breakdown excess fertilizer salts and remove them from the soil. After that, refrain from fertilizing for at least 6 months to give the plant time to heal.
  • Check the roots of the plant after gently removing it from the pot. If any roots are harmed, prune them, and then thoroughly rinse the remaining roots to remove the extra salt buildup. The plant is now potted in new potting soil.

A Christmas cactus should ideally only be fed once per month, from April to September. Any balanced, all-purpose houseplant fertilizer is OK. When it is flowering in the fall and winter, it doesn’t need to be fed. To understand more about this critical component of plant care, read my guide to fertilizing indoor plants.

Temperature Changes

If you believe your Christmas Cactus is not afflicted by any of the aforementioned conditions, it may just be losing leaves due to exposure to extreme cold or heat. The following are some typical causes of temperature stress that may cause your Christmas Cactus to shed its leaves:

  • the moment your Christmas cactus is brought home. Leaf drop might be a result of temperature fluctuations during shipping or at the plant nursery.
  • When the chilly fall nights approach, if you forgot to bring your Christmas cactus inside while it was growing outside throughout the summer.
  • If your Christmas Cactus is put close to a radiator, air conditioner vent, or a window that lets in chilly or warm air.

Make sure your Christmas Cactus is exposed to summertime temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit (18 and 29 degrees Celsius), and somewhat lower temperatures in the winter. Keep the temperature above 50°F at all times (10C).

Additionally, keep the plant away from vents that blow hot or cold air, as well as from windows that draft cold air, as sudden fluctuations in temperature will stress the plant.

Temporary leaf drop caused by temperature stress will end once your plant adapts to its new surroundings.


Christmas cacti can occasionally become plagued with mealybugs, aphids, or spider mites even though they are generally pest-resistant. A severe infestation is likely to do the plant substantial injury and cause leaf drop.

In the early stages of an infestation, mealybugs can be recognized as tiny specks of white cotton. They typically show up at the leaf or stem joints or on the underside of leaves.

New growth or the underside of the leaves are where an aphid infestation first appears. These insects feed on the sap of the leaves and leave a honeydew-like residue on the surface of the plant that draws mold.

Your Christmas cactus may be suffering from a spider mite infestation if you begin to notice fine silken webbing on its leaves. To the unaided sight, these pests are undetectable.

The best technique to deal with a minor insect infestation is to use a strong water spray to try and drive the pests away. In the event that this approach is unsuccessful, you can get rid of the pests with insecticidal soap or neem oil spray. A gentle toothbrush can be used to get rid of mealybugs.

Why are the leaves on my cactus dropping off?

Succulents and cactus with fleshy leaves frequently lose their leaves for a variety of causes.

Falling leaves are an inevitable component of the growing process or an adaptation to environmental stress, which might include things like:

  • Reduced Energy Needs Are Needed
  • Insufficient or excessive water
  • Too much light
  • Chemical Trauma
  • Extreme Heat
  • Extreme Cold
  • Absence of Light

Leaf loss can be caused by a variety of factors:

  • various succulent species
  • maintaining succulents
  • the kind of soil
  • drainage-equipped pots
  • temperatures and hot spells

How frequently should a Thanksgiving cactus be watered?

Never water until the soil seems dry to the touch. The plant can die if it is overwatered. Aim for 60 to 65 degrees F in the room’s temperature range and plenty of indirect light. If you already have a Thanksgiving cactus from the previous year, you should start temperature and light treatments in mid-September to ensure that it blooms on schedule.

Why are my Christmas cactus’s leaves drooping?

Lack of water or much sunlight can occasionally result in wilted or weak Christmas cacti. Start by giving the wilting Christmas cactus a small amount of water if you haven’t been watering it. Every few days, continue to water carefully until the soil is barely damp.

Christmas cactus issues can also result from excessively damp soil. The Christmas cactus cannot tolerate wet roots since it is an epiphyte in its natural habitat on the ground of tropical forests, where it takes moisture and nutrients from the air. The roots of Christmas cacti can become excessively wet and floppy because to poor drainage.

Move your wilted or limp Christmas cactus to a location with more shade, especially in the afternoon, if the leaves look dried or burned.