Why Is My Christmas Cactus Turning Purple

The Christmas cactus looks spectacular. It can instantly enhance the natural aesthetics of your indoor space. Its broad green and hard leaves are hard to go unnoticed- making your Christmas cactus a great conversation starter.

However, one thing you want people to avoid noticing is the unusual purple tint on it. If you are wondering why is my Christmas cactus turning purple all of a sudden, read this post. Learn the top reasons for your houseplant turning purple and the best solutions.

Why Is My Christmas Cactus Turning Purple?

Here’s why purple is becoming the dominant color of your Christmas cactus houseplant:

Nutritional Deficiency

If you’re a first-time parent to a Christmas cactus, you should know two things:

  1. The Christmas cactus needs high-quality fertilizer
  2. It doesn’t need fertilizer of any kind when it is in bloom. 

Like any other houseplant, the Christmas cactus needs proper nutrition. It requires phosphorous, nitrogen, and potassium. Trace minerals like copper and iron play a pivotal role in the growth of the Christmas cactus. One more element the Christmas cactus needs to stay healthy is its high magnesium content.

Discoloration of leaves is a sign of nutritional deficiency. Purple foliage indicates a lack of magnesium supply.

Solution- How to Fix it?

Fertilizer is the best way to meet nutritional needs. Use a high-quality, diluted, and well-balanced liquid fertilizer. You can opt for any general-purpose fertilizer. However, fertilize the plant every 2 to 4 weeks from April to October.

As the Christmas cactus requires higher than average magnesium content, add Epsom salts to the soil. A teaspoon will do the trick. Do it every alternative week. Also, stop the fertilization process altogether after October. It is needed for healthy plant blooming over the holiday season.


Overcrowding could be another reason why your plant is turning purple. The Christmas cactus needs space to grow and bloom. However, if you don’t repot the cactus as it matures, it will outgrow it. The roots will take over the maximum space of the pot. Hence, there will be no space for the soil to hold water. 

When this happens, the roots cannot draw food from the soil. Eventually, the plant becomes malnourished. Malnourishment results in stunted growth and foliage turning purple. 

Solution- How to Fix it?

It is easy to identify the problem of overcrowding. If you spot roots on the top or poking through the drainage hole, fix it. It means the plant is in distress. 

The rule of thumb is to repot the Christmas cactus after every two years. Do this during the spring season. However, repot it into a container one size bigger and not too big. It will help keep the soil intact and ensure proper nutrient supply to the plant. Repotting helps in multiple ways, such as:

  • Replenish the soil
  • Provide plenty of space for roots to grow 
  • Promotes healthy plant growth

Excessive Sunlight

Your Christmas cactus or Schlumbergera may be turning purple because of excessive sunlight. It is a potential reason for purpling of the plant during the summer months. Unlike its desert-dwelling cousins, Schlumbergera doesn’t need too much sunlight. 

The Christmas cactus is adapted to live in tropical rainforests, where they are sheltered by tall trees. The plant is genetically designed to grow and thrive in shady conditions. Hence, the excessive sunlight is likely to scorch the Christmas cactus. 

Scorching damages the stem tissue of the cactus. Due to sun damage, the cactus can’t absorb the sunlight it needs for photosynthesis. 

Therefore, instead of chlorophyll-rich green color, the plant stems begin to turn purple. Too much light induces anthocyanins. These are ultraviolet-protective phenolic compounds that dominate with their purple-colored pigments. 

Solution – How to Fix it?

To overcome this problem, the first thing you should do is avoid too much sun exposure. Do not keep the plant in direct sunlight at midday. Ideally, you should keep the Christmas cactus in filtered sunlight by keeping it behind a light curtain. 

Temperature Fluctuation

Sometimes temperature changes can also result in a purple tinge on the Christmas cactus. Generally, the Christmas cactus thrives well in temperatures ranging between 70°F and 80°F during the daytime and between 60°F and 65°F at night.

Therefore, failure to maintain the right indoor temperature can cause changes in the color of your plant. It is because the cactus struggles to protect itself through reactive discoloration in stressful conditions.

Solution – How to Fix it?

Some of the best ways to avoid discoloration induced by extreme temperature variation are to:

  • Keep it sheltered and protected from drafts from exit doors, heat registers, and windows
  • Avoid placing it near the air conditioner, heater, or fireplace
  • Mimic a natural environment with the ideal temperatures for a few weeks

All these tips can help restore the luscious green look of your plant and breathe new life into it. Remember that the Christmas cactus has different light requirements than other cactus species. 

Watering Issues

Did you know that overwatering and underwatering can also cause your Christmas cactus to turn purple? It is an easy mistake but can have severe consequences on your plant. You must water it properly and maintain a delicate balance to avoid problems.

It’s crucial to understand that the Christmas cactus gets waterlogged super-fast. Overwatering can lead to root rot. It is a condition where the root is exposed to excessive water, which prevents it from absorbing nutrients and water properly. In such a situation, the leaves begin to turn yellow first.

Gradually, they take on a brown or purple cast before becoming soft and mushy. Moreover, waterlogging makes it difficult for the plant roots to breathe. It further makes it difficult for the plant to carry out the process of food production.

Likewise, when the plant is underwatered, it may begin to turn purple before it dries to lifeless and brittle brown. The leaves wilt because of the lack of adequate moisture, inhibiting the photosynthesis process.

Another reason the soil becomes bone dry is the dry weather, which can be stressful for the plant’s survival.

Solution – How to Fix it?

Here are the best ways to fix water issues with your Christmas cactus. If the Christmas cactus soil is bone dry, consider watering it sparingly. But do it over several days. Continue to water your plant until the soil is light and evenly moist. Don’t waterlog. The process requires patience. As you meet your plant’s water requirements, it will start to show signs of recovery. It will soon begin to go green.

Similarly, to avoid overwatering, make sure the plant’s pot has proper drainage holes. In other words, use a pot with ample holes and well-drained soil.

Another great way to prevent the overwatering or underwatering issue is to practice the soak and dry method. For this, check the soil of your Christmas cactus after every few days. Water it only when the soil is dry one-third down the plant pot. Next, add water gently and slowly. Don’t rush. Let the water seep from the drain holes.

9GreenBox - Rare Yellow Christmas Cactus Plant - Zygocactus - 4" Pot

Final Thoughts

The Christmas cactus is truly a great addition to your indoor environment. It looks great and helps maintain healthy indoor air quality. However, it is important that you provide it with the perfect environment and specialized care for survival and growth. Remember that proper care is the best way to avoid discoloration of your cactus.