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Why Do Christmas Cactus Leaves Turn Red?

Why Do Christmas Cactus Leaves Turn Red?


Schlumbergera bridgesii, commonly known as Christmas Cactus, performs best indoors but also thrives in sheltered areas outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 10 to 12. An established Christmas Cactus typically suffers few problems, although some may develop red-tinged foliage as a result of poor growing conditions, infections, or inadequate care.

Cultural Stress

Cultural stress is one common reason that Christmas Cactus develops red foliage, specifically if the plant is exposed to direct sun in summer or doesn't receive enough water. As a tropical forest species, this cactus performs best in partial shade during warm seasons. However, it prefers full sunlight during midwinter. It requires slightly more water than many other cacti and should be irrigated whenever their soil feels dry 1 inch (2.5 cm) below the surface. If an established Christmas Cactus develops reddish foliage but otherwise appears healthy, evaluate its light exposure and move if necessary. Likewise, adjust the moisture level in the soil and don't allow it to dry out for too long between watering.

Root Infections

Overwatering causes damage to roots both by limiting their oxygen exposure and by weakening their tissue. Root rot is a common result of overwatering. It is characterized in Christmas Cactus by mushy tissue, wilting, and pink or reddish discolorations on the leaves. Another tell-tale sign of root rot is a musty or sour smell in the soil. An affected plant should be repotted into fresh, unused potting soil and left unwatered for 2 to 3 weeks. Prune off the badly damaged foliage, and slowly return the plant to a regular water schedule by letting the soil dry out in the top 1 inch (2.5 cm) between waterings. Disinfect pruning blades before and after use by wiping with rubbing alcohol.

Pathogen Infestations

Christmas Cacti may develop an infestation of Cactus Cyst (Cactodera cacti) if potted in dirty soil or propagated from an infected plant. As a nematode, Cactus Cyst primarily affects the roots but can cause a host of symptoms in the foliage. Stunted growth, wilting and reddish discolorations are all common symptoms, but the most unmistakable sign is seen on the roots in the form of tiny, pearl-like masses. Treatment of Cactus Cyst is difficult and seldom successful, so prevention is key. Pot the plant in fresh, sterilized soil inside an unused pot and keep it off the ground to limit contact with infected soil. If an infestation occurs, discard the plant to keep the pathogen from spreading.

Nutrient Deficiency

Red or purple-tinged foliage and wilting are two common symptoms of a magnesium deficiency, which is a common ailment in Christmas Cacti. It occurs mainly during the winter months when feeding and watering are restricted, and cold temperatures slow the plant's nutrient uptake. The cactus does best in winter at temperatures around 55 to 65 °F (13 to 18 °C). Correcting a magnesium deficiency can be done with Epsom salts. It usually helps to provide a supplemental feeding of 1 teaspoon of Epsom salts dissolved in one gallon (3.8 l) of water. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and spritz the tops and undersides of the foliage. Reapply the mixture every two weeks until the foliage returns to its original color.

Source: sfgate.com

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Why Do Christmas Cactus Leaves Turn Purple?

Oftentimes, a purplish tint to your Christmas cactus leaves is normal. That said, if it’s noticeably throughout the leaves, it may signal an issue with your plant. Below are the most common reasons for leaves becoming red or purple on Christmas cacti:

Nutritional issues – If you don’t fertilize your Christmas cactus regularly, the plant may be lacking necessary nutrients. Feed the plant monthly from spring until mid-autumn with a general purpose fertilizer for indoor plants.

Additionally, because Christmas cacti require more magnesium than most plants, it normally helps to provide a supplemental feeding of 1 teaspoon (5 mL.) of Epsom salts dissolved in one gallon of water. Apply the mixture once every month throughout spring and summer, but don’t use the Epsom salt mixture the same week you apply regular plant fertilizer.

Crowded roots – If your Christmas cactus is rootbound, it may not be absorbing nutrients effectively. This is one possible reason for reddish-purple Christmas cactus leaves. Keep in mind, however, that Christmas cactus thrives with crowded roots, so don’t repot unless your plant has been in the same container for at least two or three years.

If you determine that the plant is rootbound, repotting Christmas cactus is best done in spring. Move the plant to a container filled with a well-drained potting mix such as regular potting soil mixed with perlite or sand. The pot should be just one size larger.

Location – Christmas cactus requires bright light during fall and winter, but too much direct light during the summer months may be the reason for Christmas cactus leaves turning purple on edges. Moving the plant to a more appropriate location may prevent sunburn and solve the problem. Be sure the location is away from open doors and drafty windows. Similarly, avoid hot, dry areas such as near a fireplace or heating vent.


Problems with Leaves Turning Red on a Christmas Cactus

Related Articles

The Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) earned its common name with the timing of its bloom, which occurs at Christmas if the plant has been given 8 weeks of long nights -- 13 hours or more of dark - for eight weeks preceding Christmas. As a tropical species, it performs best indoors but also thrives in sheltered areas outdoors in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 to 12. An established Christmas cactus typically suffers few problems, although some may develop red-tinged foliage as a result of poor growing conditions, infections or inadequate care.


Cultural Stress

Cultural stress is one of the common Christmas cactus problems, specifically if the plant is exposed to direct sun in summer or doesn't receive enough water. As a tropical forest species, this cactus performs best in partial shade during warm seasons however it prefers full sunlight during midwinter. It requires slightly more water than many other cactus species and should be irrigated whenever their soil feels dry 1 inch below the surface. If an established Christmas cactus develops reddish foliage but otherwise appears healthy, evaluate its light exposure and move if necessary. Likewise, adjust the moisture level in the soil and don't allow it to dry out for too long between watering.


Christmas Cactus Problems

Why Is My Christmas Cactus Limp?

When you notice that your Christmas Cactus has become limp, it can mean two things: The soil is too wet or your plant needs to be repotted. Whichever of these two are the case, you’ll need to replace the soil with fresh new soil.

Remove the limp plant from the planter and then gently remove the soil from the roots. Once you’ve done that you can then transplant your plant in the new soil and a slightly larger pot, if need be.

To avoid this problem from arising again in the future or in the first place, mix your own soil for repotting. You can prepare a good quality potting soil by mixing two parts potting soil to one part of vermiculite or sand.

Make sure to repot your plant every two to three years and that will help avoid the issue of them going limp.

Why Did My Christmas Cactus Leaves Turn Red (Or Pink)?

Your Christmas Cactus can turn red or pink when it’s stressed, specifically if it is exposed to direct sunlight or if it doesn’t get enough water.

Unlike a desert cactus, the Christmas Cactus cannot live in the heat and drought in which desert plants thrive. It performs best when it’s in partial shade in the warm seasons and full sunlight during the middle of the winter.

If the cactus develops red foliage, but it still looks healthy, check the light exposure and move it to a shadier spot if necessary. You can also adjust the moisture level of the soil. Do not allow the plant to dry out for long periods of time as this can also be a cause of the plant becoming stressed and turning pink or red.

Why Is My Christmas Cactus Turning Brown?

Once your Christmas Cactus turns brown, you should be on high alert. Turning brown means that it has developed a disease called root rot, which is caused by poor drainage or excessive watering.

Check the plant for any signs of the roots rotting. Remove the cactus from its pot then begin inspecting the roots. If the roots are brown or black and if they smell of a musty odor or they look musty in appearance, it more than likely means your plant has developed root rot.

You can try to revive the life of the plant by cutting the affected roots, being careful not to destroy the root system but to remove the affected areas. Then move the plant to a clean pot with fresh potting mix.

To prevent this from happening, water your Christmas Cactus until the top two to three inches are moist. Only water the plant when the soil feels dry or if the leaves start to look wrinkly and flat.

Why Do Christmas Cactus Leaves Fall Off?

When the leaves of your Christmas Cactus start to fall off, there are a few possible reasons behind it: Improper watering, poorly draining soil, bright and intense light, too much heat, or the temperature is too cold.

As a rule of thumb, water your Christmas Cactus about once a week or only when the soil feels dry in the top 1 inch of the soil, Use a well-draining soil also by preparing your own mix consisting of 75 percent good quality potting soil and 25 percent perlite.

Maintain the temperature in the spot where your cactus lives. Avoid placing it in an area in your house where it will get direct sunlight, especially during the summer.

Why Is My Christmas Cactus Not Growing?

If your cactus grows slowly or is not growing at all, you might need to stimulate the growth of its roots to encourage the plant’s vitality and health.

You can encourage its growth by repotting the Christmas Cactus in a pot which is at least two to three inches smaller than the current one you’re using. Make sure that the new pot has a number of drainage holes at the bottom and is large enough to hold the width and depth of the cactus roots.

The Christmas Cactus often does better when the pot is a little smaller than you’d think it needs. It flourishes when it’s a little root bound.

Fertilize your plants also by mixing in a gallon of water with a teaspoon of Epsom salt, between the months of early April to early September. This provides the plant much needed Magnesium and will help it add new foliage.

How Do I Know If My Christmas Cactus Is Dying?

If your Christmas Cactus appears limp or wilted, it might be a sign that it is dying.

There are a few reasons why your cactus might die: Too much water, too little water, or too much direct sunlight.

How Do You Revive A Dying Christmas Cactus?

Move your Christmas Cactus to an area that has more shade, instead of too much sunlight. You may also revive your limp cactus by repotting it in a pot filled with fresh potting soil.

Why Is My Christmas Cactus Not Blooming?

Your Christmas Cactus may stop blooming when it is subject to environmental stress. Once it develops red hues, it might mean that the plant is getting more sun than it needs or it doesn’t get enough water and humidity.

If you notice that it is not blooming, you can force it into dormancy and get it to flower by:

Placing it in an area with 12 to 14 hours of darkness every day. To allow it to bloom, you need to reduce the light that it gets for six to eight weeks.
Cut down on watering your Christmas Cactus to allow the soil to maintain its moisture. If you really need to water it, water the top most part only.
Maintain a temperature of 50 to 65 degrees for the plant at all times.

Taking care of your Christmas Cactus is rewarding once you see those gorgeous blooms. If you know how to deal with the problems that may arise, you can expect to have a healthy and fully blooming Christmas Cactus during the holidays.


Watch the video: The Christmas Cactus - everything you need to know