Asked on Aug 13, 2013

Help for my Christmas cactus?

Holly R
by Holly R
I inherited a Christmas cactus from my very green-thumbed grandmother about 6 months ago. She lived in SC and had a greenhouse, but I live in NC and don't. I've kept it inside until until just a few days ago when I read it needs more humidity. It had flowers when I first received it, but now the stems are starting to drop off and I'm getting worried. Am I overwatering it (didn't realize I shouldn't water it from the top like usual plants) or what? What else should I do to keep it alive?
Is this Christmas cactus sick?
  27 answers
  • Martha Cobb Martha Cobb on Aug 13, 2013
    You can break some of it off and put it in water to root. I have also had luck with getting a smaller pot and filling it with dirt then stick some small pieces in and keep it watered and it rooted. Putting it outside is good also in the shade. water in a pot that has good drainage, let it dry out before watering again. It could also be root bound and need repotting. When you do this cut those dead pieces off and break the green pieces off and try rooting them. There's still a lot of life in your Grandmother's cactus.
  • Summer Summer on Aug 13, 2013
    I have mine under the porch outside... They do like some sun... Overwatering is not an issue for me... Under Watering mine will wilt and start to look like that. I live in central ca and we have very little humidity.. Mine bloom every year. I hope this helps? Oh don't leave it in hot direct sun or it will burn.
  • Catherine Smith Catherine Smith on Aug 13, 2013
    Check the soil with your finger, if it's dry to the first joint, then water. Do water these babies from the bottom. They do better. And you can replant some of the pieces as some of the others have suggested. They'll do fine. I have a "thing" for Christmas cactus, so one is never enough. LOL
  • Peg Peg on Aug 13, 2013
    This looks like a Thanksgiving Cactus, not a Christmas cactus, similar but has differences. The T.Cactus has the spikes on leaves, C.Cactus doesn't. Then there's the Easter cactus which has even more smoother leaves but has tiny bristles. Over watering is a big issue with the care of these. Keep a tray/plate under them and water in that. They like moisture in the air. Make sure soil is airy, not too hard, compact or dense. They have fine roots, best to use a cactus potting soil. Only water when the soil is dry, let it dry well between waterings but not to the point of it being bone dry where it will suffer and wilt. Good luck!
    • See 1 previous
    • Lynn Lynn on Aug 15, 2013
      @Peg I have never heard about those 'varieties!' I have a TG I guess! I have had it since 1996 or so (I guess that is about 17 or so years. It has been neglected, pampered, and occasionally forgotten. Blooming is not annual, but has been on stand near window most of those years and I love the green. Love it more when it blooms, but don't have that recipe down pat as yet!
  • Carole Carole on Aug 13, 2013
    I am thinking overwatering. I would put this outside in a shady spot to recover. I think these plants generally do well in hanging baskets as the baskets don't hold onto too much water. We had one on our back garden at a rental place and it was planted under some other taller plants in a flower bed and did well. I had lovely bright pink flowers. It is possible to kill these plants which are succulents in nature with too much kindness and too much water. A free draining soil or hanging basket (under the eaves and a little shaded) would be the way to go.
  • Liz H Liz H on Aug 15, 2013
    keep it out of the sun (it will turn purple & die) and only water about once a week. good luck!
  • Donna Hathaway Donna Hathaway on Aug 15, 2013
    Looks like to much water,these plants do not like direct sun either. Pot looks to small. Remove the plant carefully and place in larger pot preferably clay with new pottong soil. If your plant is beyond that of being repotted then take pieces and stick them in potting soil.. They will grow but you have to have patience. If you have other plants you can stick pieces in with them but DO NOT OVER WATER . I sometimes don't water mine for a couple of weeks at a time.. If they get dusty I put mine in the bathtub and use a warm water sprey from the shower to clean them. They will thank you very much. Hope this helps
  • Cyndi Moore Tippett Cyndi Moore Tippett on Aug 15, 2013
    I agree with looks like over watering. I have several of these, live in NC about an hour from you and I keep mine inside. I have found if I let the soil on the top get dry to the touch and then water with just enough where the water doesn't come out of the hole in the bottom of the pot it keeps me from overwatering. Another thing a friend told me to do was put a "pinch" of epsom salt in the cup of water every week and it has done wonders for restoring the green shiny look to my leaves and I actually have NEW growth. Good luck.
  • Karen Karen on Aug 15, 2013
    It looks like it needs to be repotted and use less water. I got a globe and it gets the water it needs. I inherited my moms and I lived in Florida and it was doing ok. Then we moved to Colorado and she was not a happy plant. So I talk to her and got the globe and now she is getting big and beautiful........I keep her inside
  • Susan Campbell Baggett Susan Campbell Baggett on Aug 15, 2013
    Cindi Moore Tippett is right on!! Patience :)
  • Babby Blair Babby Blair on Aug 15, 2013
    I ALWAYS water mine from the top. you can't water them too much or they will die. mine are in a south window upstairs. in the winter the only heat is from the stairwell. so it's generaly pretty cool up there. If I go up and they are a little swriviled I water them. if they start to get buds on the end of the leaf DO NOT OVER WATER or they will just drop off. I always have tons of blooms on them. I have both Christmas and Easter cacti. they also seem to like to be root bound. if the leaf drops off just stick it in a pot of dirt and usually it will grow. Hope this helped.
  • Carol Harris Carol Harris on Aug 15, 2013
    I have one and I don't water it very often, it likes to be on the dry side, I have it in the kitchen window in the winter and than put it outside in the summer time, I do use tap water.
  • Glenna Kennedy Glenna Kennedy on Aug 15, 2013
    Ok either I have a green thumb or a very forgiving plant lol. I've had my Christmas cactus for probably 20 years. I repot it maybe every 5 years. It always sits near a south facing window with indirect light. I water it whenever I remember to...probably about once every week or two. I dump plain old tap water on it and I water it from the top. It has been in various types of pots but is in a plastic one now and doesnt seem to mind what it is in. It blooms twice a year..once in late November and again in Feb. Right now it is busy sending out new shoots. I dont fertilize it and usually only amend or add soil once every few years. If a piece breaks off I stick it in moist dirt till it roots which is usually fairy fast. I have even had this plant knocked over and pieces broken off it and it still survived and gets bigger every year. All I do remember my Mom telling me is that they can get woody....thickened stems getting older and sometimes those will die off on their own. So basically they seem to survive on neglect! lol
  • Kim 'Kiewatt' Waknitz Kim 'Kiewatt' Waknitz on Aug 15, 2013
    I am like Glenna, I water every week in summer when mine are outside in shade (I have 5). Some in clay and some in plastic w/ bottom reservoir. In winter I bring them in and place near windows to get indirect sun and water every couple weeks (from the to). I think if you repot and put outside in a bright by shaded spot it will come back nicely. Best of luck, and happy blooms in the future.
  • Sandy Hunt Sandy Hunt on Aug 15, 2013
    It needs very little water and quite a bit of light
  • Jenny Jenny on Aug 15, 2013
    i've had one for about 20+ years. i water from the top when i remember have never replanted or fertilized it and it is in a ceramic pot. i guess i'm lucky it's alive.
  • Teri Tripp-Lanciault Teri Tripp-Lanciault on Aug 16, 2013
    Mine was equally sick looking when I got it. Repot in a clay pot...not too big, but bigger than the current one. Use regular potting soil. Water well. Mine loves eastern exposure. Let it dry well between waterings. These prefer to be under watered than over watered. My mom left hers unattended for over 2 months and when she got back it was in full bloom. Go figure. Mine blooms from early November til around April! Good luck with yours.
  • Norma Hill Norma Hill on Oct 25, 2014
    I put mine outside every late spring/summer in open patio but they have shade in late or mid afternoon! I also fertilize them about 3 times and let them dry out always! Bring them in late fall! I have 2 now and they are budded up and getting ready to bloom! :) Others and can't wait to see them perform! :)
  • Helen Helen on Oct 26, 2014
    You have over watered. Old trick to a healthy plant was to place outside in the shade as soon as fear of frost (here in PA) was over. In the fall (before frost) take inside to a cool room and remember to duplicate the light to dark found outside. This is how the plant knows it its time to flower.
  • Holly R Holly R on Oct 26, 2014
    Okay so it hung on with just one stem left and stayed that way all summer. I was almost wondering if I needed to repot it in a SMALLER pot. But in the last few weeks as the temps have dropped here in NC, it seems much happier and even looks like it might be putting on new growth. We shouldn't have frost here yet for a while so I would prefer to leave it (more safely) on my front porch for as long as possible. I have small kids and have no clue how/where I can do that "12-14 hours of darkness" thing inside the house... Or how I would even keep up with that!
  • Karen Karen on Oct 26, 2014
    looks like maybe to much water... Break off some of the plant and stick it in the dirt and maybe it will start again. Mine is in my bedroom and gets evening sun in Colorado. I only water it about once a month.
  • Alyce Wilson Alyce Wilson on Oct 26, 2014
    Alyce-from Iowa.. I have 10 plants, and I water once a wk.. They don't like direct sun, but some sun. Mine now in the end of Oct. Are budding. Some of these plants were my mothers so they are special to me. Enjoy them.
  • Vickie Clark Vickie Clark on Sep 11, 2019

    You can sprits it with water but dont water it if you want it to bloom in nov an dec you shouldn't water it in September but in October water it good

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Oct 30, 2023

    Take it out of the pot, Wash the roots and repot with fresh soil in a bigger pot!

  • Redcatcec Redcatcec on Dec 02, 2023

    Looks to be overwatered, let it have less because it is in the cactus category. You could also repot it to give it more nutrients in the fresh soil.

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Dec 03, 2023

    Remove all dead branches and leaves. Feed, flowers will not come again until next year.