What is a Christmas Cactus?
A Christmas Cactus is a popular and common plant you will find in most homes. They have tubular flowers that are pink and lilac when they are in bloom. They bloom for an extended period of time and, generally, are easy to care for. They belong to the Schlumbergera family, and their name stems from the time they flower in the Northern Hemisphere. It blooms close to the Christmas holiday. They are actually native to southern Brazil’s tropical rainforests. In this region, they bloom from April to May, and their name has no meaning. They can not be cared for in the same way you would a cactus or succulent. They do not respond as favorably to dry and sunny environments. They also require more regular watering.
Why is My Christmas Cactus Limp?
You may have adequately cared for your Christmas Cactus all year, and now when it is time to bloom, it looks sad and droopy. The good news for you is this is a common problem that typically can be fixed easily.
It is essential to know if your cactus is blooming. If so, the leaves may be limp because it is working hard to produce flowers. All of the energy is being taken from the plant to go towards producing flowers. If it is not blooming, then you may not be watering your cactus properly. Not only does improper watering cause your leaves to be droopy, but they also appear wilted and shriveled. The best way to determine if your Christmas Cactus has too much or too little water is to put your fingers several inches into the soil to feel the soil. You can also use a moisture meter to determine if it is too wet or too dry.
How Can I Correct This Problem?
In the case of a blooming plant, you want to wait until it finishes blooming. Once it has, let it rest for a few weeks. Do not fertilize, but do give it just a little water when the soil feels dry. After a few weeks rest, you can care for it as your normally would.
If you have been under watering your Christmas Cactus, then you want to give it water over the course of several days slowly. Gradually increase the amount of water you give it being careful not to over water it. You want to soil to be a little moist. Once it has enough water, the leaves will begin to be perky again.
Christmas Cactus does not like it when its roots are soggy. When there is not enough drainage and soggy roots, the leaves will become limp. If you have been over watering your Christmas Cactus, the soil is going to be too wet. It would be best if you repotted your cactus in new soil that is only a little moist. Before putting it in a fresh pot of soil, trim off any mushy or black roots and pour hydrogen peroxide over the roots. Hydrogen peroxide kills any leftover bacteria on the roots. You want to make sure the new soil is a good quality and that you have proper drainage. It would help if you considered moving the plant into a slightly larger pot every few years. Christmas Cactus likes to fit tightly in the pot, but as it grows, it may need a larger space.
If your soil is not overly wet, but the leaves are drooping, you still may want to consider repotting your Christmas Cactus in a new pot. If the soil for your plant is hard and difficult to move your fingers through, you want to repot your cactus is fresh soil that is well draining. It would help if you also considered mixing your soil with perlite or sand to help it drain more effectively.
What are Other Common Christmas Cactus Problems?
You may notice that your Christmas Cactus has some other problems besides droopy or wilting leaves. You may experience the leaves changing color. The leaves may start to look paler or have a red tint to them. This is an indicator that your Christmas Cactus is getting too much sunlight. Sometimes the red leaves are not harmful and are often pretty. However, they could also mean that the leaves are burning from the heat and sun. While their name indicates they are a cactus, the Christmas Cactus is not like a traditional cactus that enjoys excessive heat. They prefer moist heat, not the dry heat found in homes, especially close to windows. The best thing to do is move your Christmas Cactus, so it is not in direct sunlight. Indirect sunlight is ok for the cactus. You can acclimate the Christmas Cactus to a higher level of direct light, but it takes a lot of work and time.
You may notice that stems are beginning to fall off your Christmas Cactus. Most of the time, this is caused because there is stem or root rot at the base of the root system. However, it can also happen because the plant has been overwatered. As a result, you should address this problem just as you would when the Christmas Cactus has been overwatered.
While Christmas Cactus is easy to care for, they are sensitive plants. You may notice that buds are falling off before they have fully bloomed. There could be a number of reasons for this. The flower may not have the right amount of water, or you may have recently moved it. The best thing you can do for your cactus is to stay consistent. The flower does not particularly like change. When it is budding, you want to keep the watering schedule consistent. If you just got your plant and the buds fell off as soon as you brought it home, be patient. Let it rest in its new home, perhaps give it a little less water than typical, and allow it to bloom new buds. A healthy Christmas Cactus is able to bloom twice. You also may need to give it time to settle in.
Best Way to Store a Christmas Cactus
A Christmas Cactus can be a bit sensitive. As a result, it is essential that you follow some guidelines to ensure a healthy and happy plant. First, you want to make sure you get a pot that has drainage holes at the bottom. Christmas Cactus does not like to have wet roots. You want to make sure the soil is not too wet. You can use just about any potting mix for succulents that you would like. You should consider a high quality option. The critical piece is that your potting soil drains well.
Once you have your Christmas Cactus potted, you want to make sure it is in a bright area where it can get indirect sunlight. A bright bathroom or a window facing east are great locations. The sensitive leaves of the cactus do not respond well to too much sunlight. It prefers a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit in the evening. It is going to prefer a humid area which also makes the bathroom a great place to store your plant. During the summer, you can place your Christmas Cactus outside in the shade or on the porch if it is not heated. You can leave it outside until the temperature gets below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but remember to get it out of direct sunlight.