Why Is My Christmas Cactus Dropping Leaves

Though native to tropical rainforests of South America, people in and across the USA love to decorate their homes with Christmas cacti. Also called Schlumbergera, the Christmas cactus is a top favorite because this houseplant blooms with exotic and beautiful flowers.

It instantly enhances your indoor settings- making it a perfect choice for the holiday season.

If you are a parent of a Christmas cactus already, you must be aware of its special care needs. Talking about special care, if you’re wondering why is my Christmas cactus dropping leaves? You have landed at the right place. In today’s post, that will be our focal point.

Why Is My Christmas Cactus Dropping Leaves?

 Here is a detailed review of the top reasons for leaves dropping from your Christmas cactus. Take a look; your answer is right here in this post:

Watering Improperly

As mentioned earlier, the Christmas cactus needs special care. So, once you bring a Christmas cactus home, ensure you water it properly according to its requirements. Sufficiently watering the plant is the best way to care for it. Overwatering or underwatering can cause the plant to lose its leaves.

Although Schlumbergera requires more moisture than desert-dwelling siblings, too much and too little be harmful. Too much water results in root rot. It happens when you continuously water the houseplant before the soil dries.

Due to this reason, the root remains in moisture for the longest time and eventually fails to function properly and weakens. Additionally, weakened roots can’t transfer sufficient water to the leaves; eventually, the leaves drop.

It is crucial to understand that several other underlying reasons result in overwatering, such as you have:

  • A pot that doesn’t have a sufficient number of holes for drainage
  • A Large container
  • Poorly draining soil

How to Fix it?

The two main things to keep in mind when dealing with watering issues are watering timing and frequency. Here’s to avoid overwatering the Christmas cactus:

  • Water once a week or only when the soil’s top layer feels dry
  • Water the plant until moisture trickles down through the drainage hole.
  • Make sure the soil is never bone dry or drenched in water. You can easily determine the soil’s moisture level with a moisture meter.
  • Always water the Christmas cactus sparingly during the winter and fall seasons.

Moreover, you can also use plant applications available online to create a balanced routine for watering your plant. Plus, it is also helpful in determining your Christmas cactus watering needs according to the local weather and environmental conditions.

Poor Soil Quality 

Indeed, the soil’s quality directly impacts the health and growth of your plant. However, soil that lacks essential nutrients, isn’t porous or is well-drained can result in your Christmas cactus dropping leaves.

A poorly drained soil is usually dense and compact. Hence, the water doesn’t drain through it perfectly, making Christmas cacti vulnerable to dropping leaves and root rot.

How to Fix it?

Some best tips for fixing the problem are to:

  • Avoid compacted soil. Soil compaction is used to press the soil together and reduce the void space between the soil particles.
  • Use a potting mix with 75% regular oil and 25 percent perlite.
  • Buy a pot with proper drainage holes to facilitate adequate soil drainage.

So, if you are thinking about why is my Christmas cactus dropping leaves, observe the soil. If soil is a concern, quickly repot your cactus with fresh and high-quality potting soil.


When soil is not a problem, look for other reasons which could be causing the plant’s leaves to drop and fall. Consider the surrounding temperatures. That’s right; sometimes, extreme variations in the weather could be the culprit.

Extreme and sudden temperature changes can lead to hot and cold shocks, which can have damaging consequences on your plant.

For example, the leaves of your plant may start dropping off if you place them near the vent or fireplace. It is because high temperature absorbs moisture. Likewise, a low temperature can also cause the leaves to drop.

Cell respiration, nutrients, and water permeability slow down at low temperatures. When fluid flow is disrupted, the water builds up inside the leaves. As moisture is not used inside the cactus leaves, the stems soften and become soggy.

How to Fix it?

Therefore, to control this problem, maintain ideal temperatures. It should not be too cold or too hot. Try to keep temperatures in the optimum range, such as:

  • Summer and spring temperature ranges should be between 70°F and 80°F
  • Fall temperature should be between 60°F and 70°F
  • Winter temperature should be around 55°F and not more

Another technique to protect it from extreme weather variations is to move the plant to the greenhouse. Furthermore, avoid placing your Christmas cactus near drafty windows and close to heat sources.

Improper Light

Improper light is also a common reason for dropping cactus leaves. Christmas cactus generally prefers indirect yet bright sunlight and a little bit of shade. These are its light requirements. Failure to meet them can cause problems. 

For instance, plants grown in the shade will not produce green leaves and eventually fall because of poor development. Similarly, the scorching heat can sunscald the Christmas cactus leaves. Once they burn, the leaves don’t survive long and soon fall.

How to Fix it?

Find the perfect balance of shade and light to prevent leaves from dropping because of improper light. Also, save it from intense sunlight. Furthermore, provide it with ideal conditions to grow and stay healthy.

  • You can also move them to the patio or porch, depending on the prevailing weather conditions in your area. 
  • A great thing about Christmas cacti is that dropping leaves are easy to propagate. It means if your plant has segmented branches of leaves dropping down because of light problems, but the plant is healthy, then you consider planting the dropped branches in a new container. The plant will take root, growing into a new cactus. 

Potting Problems 

In general, a Christmas cactus may spread two feet and grow moderately in a few years. As it outgrows the pot, you must repot it. It is because oversized cactus drops leaves to conserve energy and survive in a narrow space.

Moreover, a growing plant has specific soil requirements. So, when the soil becomes nutrient deficient and doesn’t meet the requirement of a growing cactus, it begins to shed leaves. Shedding leaves is the Christmas cactus way of saving the plant base.

How to Fix it?

The best way to save your plant is to repot it in new soil. However, make sure the pot is large enough to support its growing needs. Furthermore, take fresh and nutrient-rich soil. Soon, the plant will amaze you with its green leaves and stunning visual appeal.

Zygocactus Yellow (Golden Dancer) Christmas Cactus - 4'' from California Tropicals

Final Thoughts

In a nutshell, multiple reasons are associated with the Christmas cactus dropping leaves. It’s important to identify the problem at its earliest and resolve it before the damage is done. Moreover, you can take a proactive approach by ensuring that:

  • You have a consistent and balanced watering routine.
  • Keep check of the moisture level of the soil.
  • Protect it from extreme temperature variations.

Once you take care of all the factors above, your Christmas cactus will look healthy, and there will be no chance of leaves falling off.