Overwatered Christmas Cactus Care

The Christmas cactus is one of the most beautiful cactus plants that looks stunning when it flowers. It usually requires physical support to grow properly, like a rock or a tree. This Brazilian rainforest cactus is a hardy winter plant that suits the hardiness zone of 12 and higher. 

While it is a relatively easy plant to maintain, like all cacti, when growing in an ideal environment, it could suffer greatly when overwatered.

Fortunately, you can save the plant with proper care. Knowing the signs of an overwatered Christmas cactus is essential to treat the plant accordingly before the condition worsens.

Signs Christmas Cactus has been Overwatered

Any cactus plant that has been sitting in standing water for a long time is bound to suffer. The Christmas cactus plant will quickly show signs of being overwatered. Here are some of the most common signs of an overwatered Christmas cactus:

  • Limp leaves that will start dropping off
  • Leaves becoming soggy and yellow
  • Soft and mushy branches and stems
  • The appearance of mold on the soil
  • Spongy soil that stays like that for over two days
  • Dropping flowers
  • Foul odor in case severe cases

If your Christmas cactus is showing these signs, it indicates that you have been overwatering your plant.

Caring for Overwatered Christmas Cactus

Even if the cactus becomes squishy and soft, you can still save it with proper care. However, it is important to ensure you start taking immediate measures, as an overwatered cactus plant is prone to get infected. Here are some of the easiest ways to save your overwatered Christmas cactus:

Place the Cactus under Direct Light

It is ideal to quickly place your Christmas cactus under bright light, as this will help dry out the soil. If the plant was placed indoors, put them on a sunny window or shift them outside the house to help it recover.

Exposure to sunlight or bringing light will release moisture from the leaves and soil of the cactus. Keep the plant under direct light for a few days or until you start noticing it getting back to its healthy state.

Decrease the Watering Frequency

Stop watering the overwatered Christmas cactus immediately for a week or so. Avoid watering the plant while you are taking other measures for its recovery. For the next few weeks, reduce the frequency of watering and only water it when the soil feels dry to the touch.

Once your plant starts recovering, ensure you have a proper watering schedule for it to avoid overwatering in the future. It is ideal to water the Christmas cactus once every two to three weeks.

Prevent Root Rot

You can save the overwatered Christmas cactus from root rot in the early stages by repotting the plant. While the cactus plants require repotting every three years, you must immediately repot an overwatered cactus.

Be sure to carefully remove the roots that have been affected already and clean the remaining roots to ensure there is no fungus left on the plant. Before repotting, keep the plant on a soft towel to dry out in a well-ventilated room for a night.

The next day, put the plant in a clean pot and add fresh potting mixture. Water after a few minutes, but make sure not to add too much water. Continue caring for the Christmas cactus normally after repotting.

Ensure Proper Drainage System

As soon as you notice the Christmas cactus has been overwatered, check its drainage system. Make sure the pot has sufficient drainage holes so that the plant can remove the excess water. However, if the pot doesn’t have any drainage holes, be sure to repot the plant into a pot that has a proper drainage system.

Moreover, you can also make small holes in the soil if it is too compacted to improve root aeration. Another way to ensure proper drainage is by changing the soil of the plant. Ensure the soil’s pH level is between 5.5 and 6.0 to provide an ideal growing environment.

Create the Right Environment

An overwatered Christmas cactus needs an environment that is dry with low humidity. This will help in evaporating the excess water quickly. If there are other plants in the room, consider separating the cactus and placing it in a room where you can increase heat and air circulation. Don’t let the plant sit in a room with too much heat for a long time, as this could result in further damage.

Put the Plant Outside

The Christmas cactus is an epiphytic, succulent plant that grows well outside. If your plant has been overwatered and has been indoors, take it outside and place it under a sunny spot.

However, this is not recommended during winter. It is wise to bring your plant back inside after a few hours in the sun and provide it with bright light indoors.

During spring and summer, be sure to eventually place it under partial or full shade, as too much sunlight can end up scorching the cactus. Light shade is preferable if you live in a hotter region or during harsh summers.

Discolored and Dead Leaves Removal

Lastly, make sure that you gently remove all the dead leaves and cut off the yellowing ones. Be sure to remove all the leaves with molds or black spots to prevent a spread. Badly damaged leaves can’t be reverted back to their normal, healthy color. Therefore, it is best to remove them.

However, be cautious when removing the affected leaves, as deep cuts could further harm your Christmas cactus. Once the dead leaves have been removed, the cactus plant redirects its energy to healthier areas and produces more foliage.

Red Christmas Cactus Plant - Zygocactus - 4" Pot

Wrapping Up

It is important to act fast if your Christmas cactus has been overwatered. Ensure you empty the pot or saucer of any standing water. If the cactus has been soaking in water for a long time, repot it in a fresh pot with a new potting mixture and follow the proper watering schedule.

While this plant requires a slightly higher frequency of water than other cacti, it still doesn’t need as much water as other houseplants. Ensure you follow the right techniques and tips for an overwatered Christmas cactus, and you will see a healthy, recovered plant in the next few weeks.