Christmas Cactus are beautiful, low maintenance plants that can tolerate different environmental conditions. However, there might be an instance where you notice your plant’s leaves change color.
Why is your Christmas Cactus turning yellow, purple or white? Christmas cactus turning yellow, purples or white can be caused by a variety of reasons. Here’s what they mean:
- If your Christmas Cactus is turning yellow – it could be caused by root rot, nutrient deficiency, too much light or the plant’s roots getting crowded.
- If your Christmas Cactus is turning purple or red – it means that your plant is experiencing nutrient deficiency specifically in magnesium, it could also be root bound or getting incorrect lighting.
- If your Christmas Cactus is turning white –it is likely a watering issue coupled with excess sun or lack of humidity.
Whenever your Christmas Cactus’ green leaves turn a different color, it is a sign that something is not right. Therefore, you need to identify what’s causing it before fixing the problem.
Christmas Cactus Turning Yellow Causes & Fixes
A Christmas Cactus turning yellow can be caused by a number of reasons. The most common is nutrition deficiency.
However, because there are multiple causes, it is important to identify the actual cause before treating the plant This way you avoid worsening the situation.
As mentioned, the most common reason that you’ll see yellow leaves on Christmas Cactus is it is not getting its nutritional requirements.
Like other plants, cacti get their sustenance from the soil usually in the form of fertilizer. You can likewise use compost or other kinds of organic matter to add nutrients to the soil.
However, if your Christmas Cactus does not get the enough nutrients or lacks certain minerals it needs, its lovely green leaves will turn yellow.
As such, if you don’t use fertilizer, this will likely be the first thing to suspect.
It is also worth noting that the plant needs magnesium. Therefore, make sure that the fertilizer you use contains this mineral.
How to Fix Christmas Cactus Turning Yellow from Nutrient Deficiency
To fix nutrient deficiency causing your Christmas Cactus to turn yellow, feed it once a month with an all-purpose liquid fertilizer during spring to early fall. You don’t need to fertilize your cactus during the winter.
If you feel that it needs magnesium supplementation, you can give it some Epsom salt solution. To do so, mix:
- 1 teaspoon of Epson salts
- 1 gallon of water
Apply once a month during its growing season.
Like other cacti, your Christmas Cactus does not need a lot of water. In fact, it prefers less to more water because it is able to store moisture in its leaves.
This makes the plant more susceptible to overwatering and root rot.
Root rot occurs when there’s too much water in the soil. This causes your cactus’ roots to sit in water for very long periods of time.
As a result, the roots are deprived of oxygen which causes them to suffocate. This is when root rot sets in.
The problem with root rot is that the damage prevents the roots from absorbing water and nutrients from the soil even if you water the plant and feed it enough fertilizer.
As a result, your Christmas Cactus will eventually get dehydrated and deficient in nutrients. This is when its leaves turn yellow.
What’s worse is that if untreated, root rot and ultimately destroy your entire plant.
How to Fix Christmas Cactus Turning Yellow Due to Root Rot
The first thing to do when you suspect root rot in your Christmas Cactus is to check the soil. if it wet, soggy or damp, your suspicion may be correct.
Then, unpot the plant and check the roots.
Rotten roots will have a foul odor you’ll be able to smell once you start brushing off the excess soil and dirt. Additionally, the roots will look mushy and rotten, vasty different from their healthy state.
If there is indeed root rot, the best way to save or try and revive your cactus is to repot it in fresh dry soil. But before you do that, cut off all the damaged roots.
In case there’s significant root system damage, you may need to section the plant to reduce its size.
By doing so, you give the remaining (fewer) roots the chance to recover and support a much smaller plant. If there are too many leaves, it is unlikely that the few roots will be able to sustain them.
Thus, jeopardizing your Christmas Cactus survival and recovery.
Also, make sure to adjust your watering routine to avoid overwatering the plant again.
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A rootbound Christmas Cactus can also turn yellow because it is stressed and unable to get the proper nutrition from the soil.
Like other plants, your cactus will grow if it gets proper care.
Thus, over time, it will eventually outgrow its container and need a bigger home.
Note that Christmas Cactus enjoy being snug in their pot. Therefore, you don’t need to hurry. However, you cannot leave it there for months on end after it gets rootbound
That’s because the roots will get too crowded.
This not only stresses the plant but also reduces the amount of soil in the pot relative to the size of the roots. So, the soil won’t be able to hold enough moisture or nutrients to support the plant.
How to Fix Christmas Cactus Turning Yellow from Being Rootbound
You’ll know when a Christmas Cactus needs to be repotted once you see its roots start to show up from under the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
In most cases, Christmas Cactus only need repotting once every 3-4 years. So you don’t need to repot annually.
This is a sign that the plant needs more space and its current pot’s size is not enough anymore.
To repot, choose a container that is one size larger than its current pot.
Make sure to use the appropriate soil for you cactus. It will need a good draining potting mix. You can use a combination of 2 parts potting soil and 1 part perlite or coarse sand.
Avoid using heavy soil or anything that tends to retain moisture as this will put the plant at risk of overwatering and waterlogging.
Finally make sure that the new container has drainage holes at the bottom.
Water the plant moderately (avoid overwatering) and keep it in low light.
Christmas Case do best in bright, indirect light. It will also do well in medium light and can adapt to low light.
That said, if you want the plant to bloom, bright light is ideal.
However, be careful of giving it too much list.
It cannot tolerate long periods of direct sunlight or very intense sun. This can burn its leaves. Therefore, try to keep the plant away from the direct rays of the sun especially during mid-day between 11:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
On the other hand, it will appreciate being placed near an east-facing window.
This spot provides lots of sunshine that with moderate intensity. Thus, it won’t scorch the plant’s leaves. And it will provide it with sufficient light for optimal growth.
How to Fix Christmas Cactus Turning Yellow Due to Excess Light
In addition to burnt leaves, keeping your Christmas Cactus in very intense light or long periods of direct sun can make it turn yellow.
In part, that’s because the heat from the sun causes moisture and nutrients to evaporate.
Therefore, unless you’re able to replenish them, the plant will lack water and nutrients.
The good news is that it is easy to fix too much sun exposure that’s causing your Christmas Cactus to turn yellow.
All you need to do is move the plant to a less bright location.
Christmas Cactus Turning Purple Causes & Fixes
In addition, yellow leaves, you may notice your Christmas Cactus turning purple or red as well.
Both are separate from yellow leaves. However, they are likewise signs that something is happening and needs to be addressed.
In most cast, a Christmas Cactus turning purple or red is case by nutritional issues, too much sun exposure and crowded roots.
If you don’t feed your Christmas Cactus with plant food, there may be a good chance that it turns purpose or red due to lack of nutrients.
The specific culprit in this case is usually magnesium or lack of it.
Therefore, make sure to choose a fertilizer that contains magnesium. If your current fertilizer does not have magnesium, don’t worry.
You can supplement with Epsom salt or magnesium sulfate.
Epsom salt is easy to find in store and you can give your Christmas Cactus a combination of 1 teaspoon of Epsom salts dissolved in 1 gallon of water.
Apply this to the soil during the spring and summer.
Magnesium plays a role in many of your plant’s functions including the production of chlorophyll which gives leaves their green color.
The Roots are Crowded
As mentioned above, Christmas Cactus only need to be repotted once every 3 to 4 years. And they like staying in a slightly tight container.
However, if you leave your Christmas Cactus there too long after it is root bound, it will struggle to get enough moisture and nutrients from the soil.
This causes nutrient deficiency which in turns leads to its leaves turning red-purple.
Thus, check the bottom of the pot to see if its roots are coming out of the drainage holes. If they are, be ready to repot.
The best time to repot is during spring, although you can do it any time of the year provided that you avoid very hot or cold environments to do it in.
Both will only add to the stress the plant will experience from repotting.
Too Much Bright Light
Improper lighting is another reason for your Christmas Cactus turning purple or red.
In this case, it is lack of light.
This usually happens during fall or winter when there’s much less sunlight as the climate gets colder.
Fortunately, it is easy to fix as all you need to do is move the plant to brighter location. But be careful not to put it under direct sunlight or any area that gets very intense light.
Too much light is likewise bad as it will burn the plant’s leaves.
Instead, pick a spot that’s receiving medium to bright, indirect light.
Christmas Cactus Turning White Causes & Fixes
In case your notice your Christmas Cactus turning white, then it is another sign that something isn’t right.
When the plant turns white, it usually means the leaves don’t have enough chlorophyll. Thus, they lose their green color. in some cases, it could be bleaching which can happen it they plant gets too much sunlight.
Either way, it is important to identify the cause and fix it.
Insufficient Water and Too Much Light Exposure
The two work in combination because lack of water and excess sun will make the plant more susceptible to scorching and scalding.
This happens when your Christmas Cactus does not get enough water and is left under intense sun. As a result, it easily gets sunburned. And the leaves get bleached.
Initially, it won’t turn white. Instead, you’ll see small white patches.
If the plant is left as is, the white patches will grow and eventually turn into brown marks over time.
Thus, when you see your Christmas Cactus turning white, check the soil to see if it is dry. If so, add water.
Also, check to see if it is getting too much light.
This usually means that it is near a window that’s receiving direct sun or sunshine during the hottest times of the day.
If so, move it to a spot with less sun exposure.
Another thing that can turn your Christmas Cactus white is lack of humidity.
The plant needs humidity to stay around 50% and above. That’s because it is used to warm, humid environments.
When humidity drops too far below 50%, you’ll start seeing side effects, including its leaves turning white.
To fix this, you have a few options:
- Get a humidifier
- Place your cactus on a pebble tray
- Keep the plant in the bathroom
- Group it with other plants
I don’t recommend misting its leaves because you can easily give it too much moisture which will cause a host of different problems.