Flower Wilt On Christmas Cactus: Fixing Wilting Christmas Cactus Blooms

Image by Gail Frederick

By Mary H. Dyer, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener

Christmas cactus is a long-lived plant with bright blooms that appear around the winter holidays. Normally, blooms last at least one to two weeks. If conditions are just right, the impressive flowers may hang around for seven to eight weeks. Although the plant is relatively low-maintenance, dropping or wilting Christmas cactus blooms are usually an indication of improper watering or sudden temperature changes.

Flower Wilt on Christmas Cactus

Christmas cactus bloom wilt is often caused by excessively dry soil. Be careful and don’t over-correct, as watering a Christmas cactus can be tricky and too much moisture may cause more serious problems, such as stem or root rot, which are usually deadly.

For most of the year, you shouldn’t water the plant until the soil feels slightly dry, and then water deeply so the entire root ball is saturated. Let the pot drain thoroughly before replacing the plant on a drainage saucer. However, it’s important to note that slightly different tactics are needed when the plant begins to bloom.

During the blooming period, water just enough to keep the potting mix consistently moist, but never soggy or bone dry. Don’t water deeply during this time, as soggy roots may cause blooms to wilt and drop. Don’t fertilize the plant while it is blooming either.

From October on through winter, Christmas cactus prefers cool nighttime temperatures between 55 and 65 F. (12-18 C) during the blooming period. Keep the plant away from cold drafts, as well as fireplaces or heat vents.

Christmas cactus also needs relatively high humidity, which replicates its natural, tropical environment. If the air in your home is dry during the winter months, place the pot on top of a layer of pebbles in a plate or tray, then keep the pebbles moist to increase the humidity around the plant. Be sure the pot is standing on the moist pebbles and not in the water, as water wicking into the soil through the drainage hole can cause the roots to rot.

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