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Why Is My Christmas Cactus Wilting? (4 Possible Causes)

Doesn’t matter if you want to gift your Thanksgiving cactus to someone on Thanksgiving, or you want to make your stunning plant the center of everybody’s attention; a wilted Christmas cactus can effortlessly cause you a cold shoulder.

If you got a limp and sad Christmas cactus and are asking yourself, “Why is my Christmas cactus wilting?” You clicked the right link at the right time.

In today’s article, we are going to discuss all the possible reasons that can cause your beautiful blooming Christmas cacti to wilt and how you can save your wilting Christmas cactus.

So, stay with me as I dive into the article.

Why is my Christmas cactus wilting?
“Any idea why my Christmas cacti have gone limp?” – Image via byronnn.

Why Is My Christmas Cactus Wilting? 4 Possible Causes and How to Fix Them

The leading cause of wilted Christmas cactus is underwatering.

1. Underwatering Your Christmas Cactus

In general, plants wilt when they do not get adequate water. That’s because due to a lack of water, the turgor pressure in stems, roots, and leaves diminishes, and the plant starts to droop or wilt.

Most of the time, people think that the Christmas cactus is the same as desert cacti. Desert cacti or true cactus plants can tolerate months without watering.

Firstly, that’s because they are true succulents with fleshy stems and leaves (if any — because many desert cacti drop their leaves to decrease transpiration rate), which don’t allow much evaporation.

And secondly, they are adapted to live in dry areas with low humidity levels.

But that’s not the case with our Christmas cactus.

If you neglected to water your Christmas cactus for an extended period, and you see the leaves in your Christmas cactus are wilting. It is probably because your plant has been thirsty for a pretty long time.

Christmas cactus can tolerate only a week or two without watering. It actually depends upon the type of potting mix you use. A potting mix that dries out quickly requires more watering than the one that doesn’t dry out quickly.

How to Fix a Christmas Cactus Wilting Because of Underwatering

If you think that your Christmas cactus is wilting because of underwatering, start the fix by gradually saturating the soil with water.

Use small amounts of water to give your Christmas cactus sweet shots of hydration after every few days. Continue watering your plant sparsely until the soil becomes thoroughly moist.

You should restrain from pouring large quantities of water into the pot. That’s because when you don’t water a plant for a very long time, the roots are unable to absorb nutrients and shrink down due to water deficiency. These shrunk roots lose contact with the soil.

If the same thing happened to your Christmas cactus and you poured in a massive amount of water, the roots this time won’t be able to absorb the water efficiently and will remain sitting in a pool of water. This can cause the roots to rot.

With that said, let’s move on to the next one.

2. Overwatering Combined with Poorly Draining Potting Mix

If you frequently water your Christmas cactus and your potting mixture is not well-designed for a succulent, that’s probably the reason why your Christmas cactus is wilting.

First, let’s start with overwatering.

Overwatering

Generally, thorough watering using a large amount of water is ideal for healthy plant growth. Overwatering doesn’t necessarily mean using a large amount of water while watering your plants (if you have a suitable and healthy potting mix — a well-draining mix, in this case.)

It means that you water your plant too often, and as a result, the soil stays constantly wet or soggy. This can lead to severe root rot. One of the root rot symptoms in the Christmas cactus is the wilting of leaves.

You might also see yellow leaves, dropping leaves, and suddenly declining growth in a Christmas cactus with root rot.

>> Related Article: How to treat root rot.

Unhealthy Potting Mix

Secondly, a compact and poorly draining pooting mix having a lot of garden soil content in it is the last thing you need for your Christmas Cactus.

A soil that’s not well-draining causes the pot to become saturated with water. If you use such a sick and compact potting mixture, it will cause the roots to become deprived of oxygen, and as a result, they die.

Most soil-borne bacteria and fungi thrive in wet conditions. That’s why the soil drenched in water speeds up the process of root rot.

A good succulent soil mix would contain at least 25% well-draining components such as river sand, perlite, or crushed granite.

>> Related Article: How to make the best potting mix for your Christmas cactus.

Why is my Christmas cactus wilting?
“My Christmas cactus is limp and wrinkly, is it overwatered or thirsty?” – Image via Reddit.

3. Root Bound Christmas Cactus

Why is my Christmas cactus wilting, you say? Well… it is probably because your plant is root-bound.

Being root-bound means the roots in your plant have outgrown the size of your pot resulting in the formation of a densely packed root ball unable to absorb more water or nutrients and needs some air and space for thriving back to life.

If your Christmas cactus is root-bound, you might see roots coming out of the drainage holes or the upper circumference, searching for more space to grow.

Most visual symptoms of root-bound are similar to underwatering, including the wilting of leaves in your Christmas cactus.

But to make sure if your plant is root-bound, you have to take it out of the pot.

How to Fix Root Bound Christmas Cactus

Now that you have your Christmas cactus out of the pot. You can guess the intensity of root-bound by just looking at the roots. (You might already know that after the effort you had to put in removing the plant.)

There are 2 ways to fix this issue:

  • Repotting your plant in a bigger pot.
  • Pruning the roots.

If you want to repot your Christmas cactus into a bigger pot, make sure you don’t go with a pot that’s too big for your plant. Just take a pot that’s 2-inches bigger than the previous one.

While, if you want to prune back some of the rootlets, make sure to remove only the required number of roots. Preferably, go for the dead or damaged ones if present.

After removing some of the root content you also need to prune back some of the foliage. This helps the plant to survive and prevent it from going under stress. If you removed 10% of the root content, you should ideally remove 10% of the foliage as well.

If you are not too brave to cut off the foliage, just take out some healthy cutting and propagate them into little Christmas cacti.

Pro Tip: Always use sterilized tools to prune your plant, and go for the dead and damaged parts first. I would recommend you to divide the plant into two parts (if possible) and root them in two different pots.

4. Due to Blooming Stress

Another answer to “Why is my Christmas cactus wilting?” can be “flowers.”

Sometimes, during the blooming season, the ‘leaves’ of your Christmas cactus can start wilting because the plant is putting too much energy into the flowering process.

If you think that your plant doesn’t have any of the problems mentioned above, and you provide your precious plant with all the care it needs, just wait for the blooming season to pass, and your Christmas cactus would be second to none once again!

With all that said, let’s conclude the talk.


Conclusion

You asked, why is my Christmas cactus wilting? I hope that you found the answer you were looking for.

Consider sharing this article with your friends and family if you find it helpful. Also, feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Happy Planting!

Regards,
Mahad H.