Problems with Leaves Turning Red on a Christmas Cactus

July 18, 2014 – 06:23 pm

Healthy Christmas cactus foliage is bright, glossy green.

The Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) earned its common name with the timing of its bloom, which occurs at Christmas if the plant has been given 8 weeks of long nights -- 13 hours or more of dark - for eight weeks preceding Christmas. As a tropical species, it performs best indoors but also thrives in sheltered areas outdoors in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 to 12. An established Christmas cactus typically suffers few problems, although some may develop red-tinged foliage as a result of poor growing conditions, infections or inadequate care.

Cultural Stress

Cultural stress is one common reason that Christmas cactus develops red foliage, specifically if the plant is exposed to direct sun in summer or doesn't receive enough water. As a tropical forest species, this cactus performs best in partial shade during warm seasons; however it prefers full sunlight during midwinter. It requires slightly more water than many other cactus species and should be irrigated whenever their soil feels dry 1 inch below the surface. If an established Christmas cactus develops reddish foliage but otherwise appears healthy, evaluate its light exposure and move if necessary. Likewise, adjust the moisture level in the soil and don't allow it to dry out for too long between watering.

Root Infections

Overwatering causes damage to roots both by limiting their oxygen exposure and by weakening their tissue. Root rot is a common result of overwatering. It is characterized in Christmas cactus by mushy tissue, wilting and pink or reddish discolorations on the leaves. Another tell-tale sign of root rot is a musty or sour smell in the soil. An affected plant should be repotted into fresh, unused medium and left unwatered for two to three weeks. Prune off the badly damaged foliage, and slowly return the plant to a normal water schedule by letting the soil dry out in the top 1 inch between waterings. Disinfect pruning blades before and after use by wiping with rubbing alcohol.

Pathogen Infestations

Healthy Christmas cactus foliage is bright, glossy green.


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Sounds like you will be traveling...

I suggest you have a live flower sent to their home to arrive just before you get there... something like an azalea or a Thanksgiving cactus plant, or a Christmas Cactus plant.
While there, I recommend you be very active in helping prepare meals, serve and clean up after the meals.
Offer to do things like peeling the potatoes, set the table, etc.
Since you are going to be there for 4 days, offer to run the vacuum before guests arrive, etc.
Offer to make quick trips to the grocery store as you see the need.
If there are children in the family, help entertain the children to give their parents a break

Christmas Cactus Unrooted Cuttings 'Lavender' Variety
Lawn & Patio ()
  • Easy to Grow.
  • A holiday and year round favorite.
  • Buds bloom from Thanksgiving to Christmas.
  • Three healthy unrooted cuttings are 2-4 segments each.
  • Roots can take 4 to 6 weeks to grow.

Related posts:

  1. Thanksgiving Cactus Dropping Leaves
  2. Thanksgiving Cactus Cuttings
  3. Thanksgiving cactus Flowering