Christmas cacti, scientifically named Schlumbergera, are a genus of succulent plants of the cacti family, very popular in interior decoration due to their characteristic flowering, which occurs in cold months, hence their name. This plant is also called Santa Teresita cactus, Santa Teresa feathers or Easter cactus. Its care is not difficult, but if your Christmas cactus does not seem healthy and its leaves are wrinkled, we tell you the possible causes of a Christmas cactus wilting and what to do to help it be healthier, so keep growing and flourish well.
Summary of Contents
Why Christmas cactus wilting happens?
Like all succulents, the Christmas cactus accumulates water in its structure. This genus of plants, in particular, accumulates water in its stems, so when we talk about the leaves of the Christmas cactus being wrinkled, we are referring to its stems that look like this.
The most common when this occurs, and we see that the stems seem to deflate and wrinkle, or simply become limp in the early stages of plant discomfort, because it has lost or consumed much of the accumulated water, which gives that poor health look.
This bad watering of the Christmas cactus can be both by excess and by default. When it comes to the cactus being dehydrated, the leaves shrink because the plant does not have enough water to store in its reserves and, when it is forced to consume it, its stems shrink. Don’t forget that, although the Christmas cactus is a cactus and is adapted to drought conditions, it still needs a certain amount of water.
It can also happen that the leaves become wrinkled due to too frequent or excessive watering. Most cacti and succulents have roots that cannot tolerate excess moisture. This causes its roots to rot and, at first glance, it may seem that the plant needs just the opposite: more water. Take a good look at the stems and whether the leaves’ tips seem to blacken or rot: this is the sign that you are over-watering your Christmas cactus. If the soil seems wet to the touch, you can be sure that this is the reason.
Too much sun
Not all cacti are prepared to withstand direct sunlight in a hot climate. For example, the sun in some hot countries, especially in the summer months, can cause wrinkled leaves on a Christmas cactus. An excess of high-intensity sunlight will cause the cactus to lose water despite its retention mechanisms. Its stems will shrivel and dry out if it becomes dehydrated, especially if the plant does not receive enough water.
Plants age like other living things. Christmas cacti also notice the passage of time, and their older stems and leaves will wrinkle over time even if the plant is in good health.
Therefore, if you know that your plant is many years old, do not be surprised to see some wrinkled or somewhat withered parts. On the other hand, if you see that it is a large part of the plant, pay attention to the rest of the possible causes of this problem, since, leaving aside age, the rest of the issues discussed here can also affect it.
Inadequate fertilizers or water
Finally, the use of inappropriate fertilizers or water with too many additives can also affect the stems or leaves of this plant. The salts of some fertilizers rich in these or those that the tap water itself contains in some places can be the cause.
What to do if my Christmas cactus has wrinkled leaves
We tell you what to do if your Christmas cactus has wrinkled leaves, depending on the cause:
If it is an excess of watering, simply let the substrate of your Christmas cactus dry completely before watering again. Simultaneously, if it is a lack of watering, you gradually increase the water you provide to the plant, always being careful not to overdo it or flood it.
In the case of heatstroke, move your Christmas cactus to a location that is bright but protected from direct sunlight, at least during the noon hours.
If your plant is of a certain age, remove its stems and leaves once they have completely dried and see if it gives new shoots: if it does, everything is fine.
Finally, in the case of fertilizers, do not use fertilizers rich in sodium and, if possible, use specific ones for cacti. Use rainwater or low-sodium water for watering, and if you don’t have access to it, let it sit for at least 24 hours before watering with it.
Christmas cactus care
These are the basic care of Christmas cactus or Easter cactus:
Irrigation: abundant during the growing season, scarce after flowering. Pot with drainage holes.
Light: needs a lot. It can be direct in mild climates.
Location: put in a cool place after flowering and reduce watering to let the plant rest in a semi-shade summer. Keep it protected from drafts.
Substrate: special for succulents, very loose, light and well-draining.
Fertilizer: specific for cacti and succulents.