Leaves Dropping From Christmas Cactus: Fixing Leaf Drop On Christmas Cactus

christmas cactus leaves
Image by ruthieonart

By Liz Baessler and Mary H. Dyer, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener

Christmas cactus is relatively easy to grow, so if you notice Christmas cactus leaves dropping off, you’re justifiably mystified and concerned about the health of your plant. It isn’t always easy to determine what causes leaves dropping from Christmas cactus, but there are a number of possibilities. So why do Christmas cacti drop their leaves, you ask? Read on to learn more.

Why Do Christmas Cacti Drop Their Leaves?

Most frequently grown as a houseplant, it has the distinct property of blooming when the days are shortest, bringing color and brightness when most other plants are dying or settling in for the winter. This is all the more reason to be concerned when your Christmas cactus is losing leaves. Preventing and fixing leaf drop on Christmas cactus may be as simple as pinpointing the problem. When otherwise healthy leaves fall from Christmas cactus plants, there are a few possible reasons, with the following being the most common:


Improper watering – When it comes to caring for Christmas cactus, overwatering is a big no-no. Although Christmas cactus requires more moisture than its desert cousins, too much water can cause the plant to rot – a common cause for leaves dropping from Christmas cactus. Although not quite so common, underwatering can also cause leaves to drop.

As a rule of thumb, a Christmas cactus should be watered about once a week, or when the top of the soil feels dry to the touch. Water until moisture trickles through the drainage hole, then allow the pot to drain completely before placing it on the top. Don’t allow the soil to become bone dry, but never allow it to remain soggy. Water the plant sparingly during fall and winter.

Poorly-drained soil – If your Christmas cactus leaves are falling off, it may also be caused by soil that is too dense or compacted. Christmas cactus requires porous, well-drained soil. If the soil is compacted or doesn’t drain well, it may benefit from repotting in a clean pot with fresh potting soil. A potting mix consisting of approximately 75 percent regular, good quality potting soil with 25 percent sand or perlite works well. Be sure the pot has a drainage hole.

Temperature – Too much heat or cold may be to blame for Christmas cactus leaves dropping off. Christmas cactus doesn’t appreciate cold temperature. As a general rule, the plant prefers temperatures between 70 and 80 F. (21-27 C.) during spring and summer, and slightly cooler temperatures during fall and winter. Don’t allow temperatures to rise above 90 F. (32 C.).

Cooler temperatures are beneficial while the plant is setting buds, but never below 50 F. (10 C.). Avoid sudden temperature changes and protect the plant from drafty windows and heat sources such as fireplaces or vents.

If you’ve just bought your Christmas cactus or just moved it in from its summer spot outdoors, it’s probably experiencing a big change in environment. The shock of this change may make it drop a few leaves, and there’s not much that can be done about this.

Light – Christmas cactus performs best in bright, indirect sunlight and may be damaged in bright, intense light, especially during the summer.

One nice thing about a Christmas cactus dropping leaves is that these plants are very easy to propagate. What we refer to as “leaves” are really segmented branches. As long as they’re healthy looking, try planting your dropped branch in a new container – chances are good that it will take root and grow into a new plant.

Print This Article
This article was last updated on
Did you find this helpful?
Share it with your friends!

Additional Help & Information

Didn't find the answer to your question? Ask one of our friendly gardening experts.

Do you know anything about gardening? Help answer someone's gardening question.

Read more articles about Christmas Cactus.

Search for more information

Use the search box below to find more gardening information on Gardening Know How: