13 Common Christmas Cactus Problems & Solutions

Christmas cactus plants are notoriously easy to grow, but you can still encounter problems. This article will cover some of the most common issues and provide solutions.

1.) What Are the Most Common Diseases for the Christmas Cactus?

Christmas cactus rarely suffers from any diseases but can be susceptible to root rot if planted in a potting mix with poor drainage. Botrytis blight and basal stem rot can also occur if the stems are constantly wet and the room has poor ventilation.  

2.) How Do You Treat Christmas Cactus Mold?

If your Christmas cactus stems are starting to mold, use a sharp sterilized blade to remove the damaged sections.

Spray the rest of the plant with a fungicide solution to prevent further spread, and make sure that your cactus receives proper airflow. 

3.) How Can You Tell if a Christmas Cactus Has Root Rot?

You can tell if your Christmas cactus has root rot when the stems are starting to wilt, turn yellow, or develop soft, brown spots. Take the plant out of the pot and inspect the roots. If they look black or dark brown, feel mushy to the touch, and have an unpleasant, musty smell, that’s a sign they’re rotting.

Use a sharp sterilized blade to trim back the sick roots, and rinse the healthy ones with a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution.

Disinfect the pot, then transplant your cactus into a clean, well-draining soil mix. 

4.) What Are the Small Flies in Christmas Cactus Soil?

If you notice small flies on the soil and around your Christmas cactus, they’re fungus gnats. These insects thrive in nutrient-rich, moist soil, and although adults are harmless, the larvae can damage the plant and spread fungal diseases.

The fastest and most efficient way to get rid of fungus gnats is using beneficial nematodes. 

5.) How To Get Rid of Small White Insects on a Christmas Cactus?

Christmas cactus can be susceptible to mealybugs, a type of insect that drinks sap and forms soft, white clusters on the stems.

To get rid of mealybugs, mix 1 part of 70% isopropyl alcohol and four parts of water and use the solution to wipe them off the stems. Repeat the treatment once every 5 to 7 days for at least a month. 

6.) Why Is Christmas Cactus Dropping Stems?

Christmas cactus will start dropping stem sections when it’s stressed. This can result from too much or too little water or temperatures being too low. 

However, Christmas cactus will sometimes start dropping stems even if the plant is otherwise completely healthy. This is not a cause for concern, and we’ll explain why further down in our guide. 

7.) Why Is My Christmas Cactus Growing Hair?

These hair-like items on your Christmas cactus leaves are actually aerial roots. When the cactus is struggling to get the right nutrients it will produce aerial roots to try and get the nutrients from the air. While this is a really neat feature, it is not a good thing.

The issue is usually with the plant’s roots. Check to ensure the pot offers proper drainage, you’re fertilizing at the correct times, and the roots are not pot-bound. If left unchecked, it could lead to stem and root rot.

8.) Why Are Christmas Cactus Stems Turning Yellow?

Christmas cactus stems turning yellow is usually a symptom of incorrect watering but could also be a sign of pests and even root rot. Always use a well-draining potting mix and allow the soil to dry to a depth of at least 2 inches (5 cm) before watering it again. 

9.) Why Is Christmas Cactus Limp and Drooping?

If your Christmas cactus is drooping, this is most likely due to underwatering. But, if your watering schedule is spot on, a limp cactus could also be a sign of too much sunlight, too much water, insufficient nutrients, or a sign that you need to move your cactus to a wider pot.

10.) Why Are Christmas Cactus Stems Wrinkled?

The stems of your Christmas cactus will start to shrivel when the plant is thirsty. Always use the soak and drain method to water this plant.

Water it thoroughly until you see the water come out of the drainage holes, then allow the soil to dry out almost entirely before soaking it again.

11.) Why Is Christmas Cactus Turning Purple?

Christmas cactus can easily get sunburnt and will start turning pink, red, or purple if kept in direct sun for too long. So keep your cactus in an east or west-facing room, at least 3 feet from the window. 

12.) Why Are Christmas Cactus Flowers Not Opening?

Christmas cactus flowers will not open if the plant is not receiving enough water, if the air is too dry, or if temperatures are too low. If exposed to cold drafts or the soil dries out completely, the cactus may drop its blooms.

So make sure that your plant receives enough water, and that temperatures don’t drop below 50°F (10°C).

13.) Christmas Cactus Is Growing Aerial Roots. Is This Normal?

Absolutely! Christmas cactus is an epiphyte, and it uses aerial roots to propagate vegetatively in the wild. When the roots are long enough, and the growing conditions are right, the cactus will simply drop off pieces of stem with aerial roots attached.

If the stems fall in a suitable growing medium, they will take root, and grow into a new Christmas cactus plant.  

When grown indoors, Christmas cactus will also start growing aerial roots if it doesn’t get enough light or if the soil is too dry. This is a sign that the plant needs a boost in light and water, but it’s not something to be too worried about. 


Here is a quick video that shows how a woman restored her Christmas cactus after being away on vacation. The lack of water and nutrients made it wilted, discolored, and not look good.

See how she brings it back to life:

Final Thoughts

The Christmas cactus should provide you with decades of plant joy if you give the correct watering, nutrients, and light. Use the information in this article to combat any issues before they kill your cactus. The longer you wait, the worse it becomes and the longer the recovery time.

For more Christmas cactus plant care questions and answers on all topics click here.

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Davin is a jack-of-all-trades but has professional training and experience in various home and garden subjects. He leans on other experts when needed and edits and fact-checks all articles.