How to Revive a Christmas Cactus: Reasons & Solutions

Updated July 23rd, 2023

The Christmas cactus is a popular holiday plant but caring for the plant throughout the year is not always easy.

If the leaves are limp, there are a few ways to revive a Christmas cactus. Water the soil, inspect the plant, select an excellent potting soil for it, place it near a window, or put it in a new pot. The right care for a dying Christmas cactus depends on the cause of its state. In most cases, at least one of the above solutions can rectify the issue.

Possible Reasons for a Christmas Cactus Limp

  1. Too little or too much water. The latter results in too much moisture
  2. Root rot – a decomposing root does more harm than good for your plant
  3. Not enough sunlight or too much direct sunlight
  4. Neglecting the plant – lack of attention makes it easy for you to miss the early signs of its wilt
  5. Stem rot
  6. Plant diseases which is more likely to happen during weather conditions with very high humidity

How to Care for a Christmas Cactus – The Solutions

The Schlumbergera bridgesii or Schlumbergera truncata, also known as the Christmas cactus, is commonly used for Christmas decorations because of its great visual appeal. When a healthy Christmas cactus blooms, it brings out cute pink flowers and doesn’t have the sharp spikes you see on desert cacti. But if the leaves are limp, it is time to revive the plant.

Christmas Cactus in window with Christmas decorations

As we said earlier, the solution depends on the cause. Knowing the latter is just as important as knowing the solution. In fact, if you don’t know the cause of the problem, you can’t solve it effectively. For instance, if the issue is the soil, perhaps it’s compacted soil. You go ahead to place the plant near your window for better access to sunlight; you’re simply wasting your time.

Watering the Christmas Cacti

If the problem’s cause is that it isn’t fed enough water, the simple solution will be to water it. When the house owner tends to neglect the holiday cactus, the potted soil gets dried up and can’t nourish the plant. Always ensure you water the plant when you notice that the top layer of the soil is drained of water.

Cacti are known for thriving in extremely dry areas because they have a very high tolerance to little water, but that’s the desert cacti. The Christmas cacti need regular watering to stay fresh and beautiful.

At the same time, avoid overwatering the plant, so it doesn’t wash away all the nutrients in the soil. Just as underwatering is a problem, overwatering is another. How do you avoid too much water? Simple. Let the top part of the soil dry before you water it again.

Reduce the watering frequency when it’s six to eight weeks before the Christmas season. Also, ensure the soil you use doesn’t have poor drainage.

Inspect the Christmas Cactus

This is the most important solution for reviving your wilted Christmas cactus because it looks at most, if not all, of the problems.

Firstly, inspect the leaves and flower buds of your plant. If you notice anyone who feels crunchy, cut it out with scissors or a knife. Also, look out for yellowing leaves.

Secondly, check the potting soil by looking at the soil and touching it. If the top inch feels dry, but the sub-layers are damp, you just need to remove the top layer and replace it with new soil. Alternatively, if the subsoil layers are also dry, you’ll need to change the pot holding your Christmas cactus.

Select a Good Potting Soil for the Cactus

Bad soil is the most likely reason your plant is dying. You need the right soil mix for your Christmas cacti to grow and bloom well. These plants thrive in soils that drain water well. They prefer damp soil to soggy soil. Ensure the soil contains both inorganic and organic elements.

A fast-draining soil is good for the Christmas cactus because it absorbs the water it needs into its steam a short while after it’s been watered. Ensure the soil contains perlite and has the right pH level.

You also don’t want to use compacted soil because it lacks drainage holes and can lead to root rot which will result in the leaves turning yellow and not stimulating growth. Remember, the root absorbs the water and nutrients from the soil.

Place the Plant Near a Window

The apparent reason for this measure is to ensure your plant gets direct sunlight. This is the ideal solution if the Christmas cactus has been deprived of sunlight. This stimulates active growth and also helps the soil drain faster. At the same, be careful not to expose the Christmas cactus to too much direct sun, an hour or two at most.

This solution is tricky because the Christmas cactus doesn’t need too much sunlight. In fact, the sun, at its peak, can burn the plant or cause wilting leaves. So give them very little direct sunlight and much more bright, indirect light. Alternatively, you can expose the plant to dappled sunlight.

Change the Pot

This is the ideal solution when the roots of the plant have grown beyond the base of the pot. Root-bound growth is inevitable, so you can’t use the same pot for several years.

Imagine maintaining the same pot for years and the roots growing outside the pot. That means it won’t have access to the soil’s nutrients again. It will be a slow death for the Christmas cactus. In this case, get a bigger pot that can accommodate the new growth.

Another situation that may warrant changing the pot is the state of the soil. As we mentioned earlier, if the soil is dry and stiff all through, it will be difficult or, at best, stressful to remove the soil from the pot and put in a new one.

Instead, change the pot and fill it with good soil for the Christmas cactus. If your immediate environment lacks the soil you’re looking for, you may have to purchase it.

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