Why is my Christmas Cactus Dropping Leaves: Common Causes

Cacti are always a trendy houseplant to have, and the Christmas Cactus is no exception. Known for its pink or lilac tubular flowers, it gets its name from its tendency to bloom around Christmas time.

why is my christmas cactus dropping leaves

Unlike other cacti, the Christmas cactus isn’t normally found in arid and desert conditions; instead, it’s native to the tropical rainforests of Brazil. Christmas cacti are also epiphytes, meaning they grow on other plants or trees rather than in the ground. In the wild, they are often seen growing on rocks or tree branches, enjoying the dappled sunlight that filters through the canopy above.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, our Christmas cacti can start to drop leaves. Although hardy, it’s mystifying and disheartening to see leaves falling off our plants, concerned about their overall health and whether we’re doing something wrong. If you’re dealing with a Christmas cactus that’s losing leaves, read for some tips on what to do.

Christmas Cacti Ideal Growing Conditions

why is my christmas cactus dropping leaves

To better understand why your Christmas cactus might be losing leaves, it’s important to know a little bit about their ideal growing conditions. Since they’re found in the tropical rainforest, they enjoy high humidity and temperatures between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. They also like bright, indirect light and prefer to be on the drier side.

Although they’re not desert cacti, they still don’t like to be too wet. Dappled sunlight is always best, and placing them in areas around your home with high humidity, such as bathrooms or kitchens, can help.

Why is My Christmas Cactus Dropping Leaves: Possible Reasons

First and foremost, it’s important to note that a leaf drop doesn’t necessarily mean your plant is dying. In fact, it’s normal for Christmas cacti to lose leaves as they go through their natural growth cycles. However, if you’re seeing an abnormal amount of leaf drop, there are a few possible reasons why this might be happening.

You’re Watering Your Cactus More Frequently Than Needed

Overwatering is one of the most common reasons for Christmas cacti to drop leaves. No matter what plant it may be, overwatering is always rarely tolerated. When plants are overwatered, the roots can’t get the oxygen they need to survive. When oxygen doesn’t reach the leaves, they will start to fall off.

Watering your Christmas cactus once a week should be more than sufficient, and you should only water it when the soil is dry to the touch. Be sure to check the soil before watering; if it’s still moist, wait a few more days before giving it a drink.

The Temperature Around Your Christmas Cactus is Too Cold

Another possible reason for leaf drop could be that the temperature around your plant is too cold. While Christmas cacti enjoy high humidity, they don’t like to be in cold drafts. This could be from a window that’s constantly open or from a vent blowing directly on the plant.

To remedy this, simply move your plant away from any areas where there might be a draft and make sure the temperature around it isn’t below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sudden Change in Light Conditions

Christmas cacti also don’t like sudden changes in light conditions. If you’ve recently moved your plant to a new spot in your home, it might be reacting to the change by shedding leaves. While leaf drop is a normal reaction to a change in light, it’s best to try and avoid moving your plant around too much.

If you have to, slowly acclimate your plant to its new location by moving it a little bit each day until it’s in the spot you want it. This will give it time to adjust and hopefully minimize leaf drop.

Not Enough Humidity

These plants love humidity so much that when they’re not getting enough, they’ll start to drop leaves. If the air around your Christmas cactus is too dry, using a pebble tray or having a humidifier around the plant can help.

Making a pebble tray is easy:

  • Fill a container with pebbles and water, making sure the water level is below the top of the pebbles.
  • Place your plant on top of the pebbles.
  • As the water evaporates, it will create a humid environment around your plant. Just be sure to check the water level every so often and add more as needed.

Improper Soil Drainage

If your Christmas cactus is placed in a pot without proper drainage holes, or if your soil isn’t well-draining, this could be the reason for your leaf drop. When roots sit in water, they can start to rot, and this will eventually kill your plant.

If this is the reason, carefully repot your Christmas cactus in a pot with drainage holes and well-draining soil.

Final Thoughts

Normally, the Christmas cactus may lose a bit of its uniquely-shaped leaves during its natural growth cycles. However, what’s normal is when only a few leaves fall off here and there.

If you’re seeing an abnormal amount of leaf drop, it’s important to take a closer look at your plant and its environment. You may be able to change the plants care and could give your Christmas cactus coffee grounds. By observing your plant, you can determine the best course of action to get your cactus back on track!