Christmas cactus issue

(Question)

My Christmas cactus has been growing for over 50 years. Mine is a part of the original plant and I have had it for 35 years. It’s very large and has always been extremely healthy and blooms both at Christmas and at Easter with an abundance of large double blooms. This past year, it has begun to droop and the leafy parts are shrunken and limp. The blooms in December were tiny and few. What could be the cause? I water and fertilize sparingly and have never had issues in the past.

(Answer)

Many people have trouble getting their plants to bloom year to year, so if yours has bloomed well for over thirty years, you’re certainly doing something right! It is strange that it would suddenly decline if no changes have been made to light and temperature conditions.

A Christmas cactus is not a cactus, but an epiphyte and native to a humid jungle climate in South America. The shrivelled leaves may indicate lack of water. Perhaps introducing some humidity may help the plant rejuvenate. Try setting it on a plate of pebbles topped up with water, always making certain that the pot remains free-draining and is sitting above not in the water.

Also you might want to repot your plant if you haven’t done so in the last few years. Christmas Cacti are merriest when they are somewhat pot bound, however when your plant tends to wilt or dry out more frequently than normal, repotting it in a commercial potting soil for succulents may give it a lift.

Plants that have grown in the same pot for many years can also accumulate salts in the soil which can be damaging to the root system. It can be helpful to flush out the soil from time to time by giving the plant a warm “shower” and letting all moisture drain away.

In the meantime, why not propagate your plant to ensure  its continued longevity. To take cuttings simply twist off, don’t cut, pieces two or three segments long. Plant them deeply into a free draining potting soil. Keep the soil on the dry side. They will root in about four weeks. Begin to increase water. Wait till about 5-6 months before you transplant them. Spring is a good time to propagate.

Please follow the link below to another Christmas Cactus question and answer that is posted on our website:

Christmas cactus