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Christmas Cactus Problems – Bud drop, poor flowering, wilting and more
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If you have a Christmas cactus you want it to look its best and form lots of flower buds that in turn produce a mass of flowers over Christmas. You put a great deal of time and effort into moving it back and forth between cool and humid conditions, allowing it ample opportunity to recover and rebloom the following year. But then, if there are problems, it can be frustrating to figure out why but it usually comes down to the growing conditions.
Below we go over some of the common problems and how to resolve the issues listed below. The good news is that they are generally pest-free so that’s one cause you can rule out straight away.
When you see the precious buds dropping it is often the result of fluctuating temperatures, being too hot during the day and too cold during the night. However, if you are overwatering it can also result in bud drop.
The first thing to do is reduce watering if you suspect you are overwatering, during bud formation which should take place late September onwards when they are resting for the second time, they should be watered little but not allowed to dry out and kept at a cooler temperature of 12-15°C (55-59°F) if possible.
If you are experiencing poor flowering or no flowering, it is likely the result of the temperature and seasonal conditions. These plants are from Brazilian forests so the conditions in which they are grown need to mimic that.
However, when days get shorter you might have to compensate with artificial light which it could simply not enjoy. Moreover, when temperatures do not mimic those of the season (it staying too warm inside during Autumn rather than dropping below 18 degrees Celcius at night) it could impact the formation of flower buds. Similarly, if the temperatures are too high in Autumn, it can delay flowering.
With this in mind, it usually comes down to moving them into a cooler room in January to March before moving them back into a warmer room from April to September before again moving them into a cooler room to promote flower bud formation. All these steps are very important as they mimic the seasons. Failing to do this is most certainly result in none or poor flowering.
Wilting, leaf scorch or poor growth
If your plant is wilting, shrivelling up at the stems, it can be a sign of root rot which is almost always brought on by overwatering or underwatering. However, it can also be a sign that your plant has been in a location that is too sunny or too warm. One way to differentiate is to look for signs of scorched stems. Scorched stems result from locations that are too warm and sunny which are usually when positioned in direct sunlight.
Another cause is when they have been potted on into a pot which is to larger which can cause root rot as they prefer to be more snug. See our guide on repotting Christmas cactus here. The simple solution is to remove the plant from its post and knock off as much soil as possible without disturbing the roots and potting back into a smaller pot. Potting into a pot that is to larger pot can also cause poor growth in general too.