Christmas Cactus Leaves Turning Purple and Thin

colemattsonJanuary 19, 2011

I purchased my x-mas cactus about 8 months ago and it had been doing wonderfully. It bloomed beautifully this past holiday season with dozens of flowers. Recently, the leaves have become very thin and are turning a purplish color. I am thinking it may be time to repot it as it was a tight squeeze when I first planted it. It is in a 3 inch square pot that is about 4 inches deep. I have been waiting until it dries out to water it and this had been working well prior to the bloom. I've heard different theories about the purple color and wasn't sure what to follow. Some have suggested under-watering, over-watering, root rot, or root constriction. Any input on what may be causing this?

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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

These plants often gain a reddish or purplish hue when receiving copious light.
These are jungle cacti, and they can handle more frequent waterings than desert cacti.
After the bloom, I do limit water for about a month...then I resume full watering.
The coloration might be due to dryness, but I can't say for sure.
Much will depend on the type of potting mix you're using.

If you live in a warm area, re-pot as you wish.
If you're in a cold area, where it's still wintry, I'd probably wait until April/May.


    Bookmark   January 19, 2011 at 12:35PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Hi Cole,

The segments turning purple has nothing to do w/ watering, it's usually a reaction to stronger sunlight & does not harm the plant at all.

I believe the thinning segments have to do w/ improper drainage, is that the mix they came w/?

Is it possible it has hardened off & become impossible to rewet? In that case the water tends to run down the inside of the pot, right out the bottom & doesn't get into the rootball.

These plants are best NOT potted up, they tend not to want it, have small roots & don't need the larger pot until the plant is much larger. I have some for several years in their original 3 or 4" pots.

Also overpotting them can lead to overwatering & subsequent rot.

Generally they benefit from withholding of water for about a month after they bloom, then resume watering somewhat & in Spring when you see lots of new growth, that's the time to resume watering more heavily.

In the meantime, I'd take a pencil or stick, poke some holes in the top of the mix around the plant & then when you water, water down into these holes in hopes that the water will go right into the rootball where it can do some good.

Additionally, there's lots of info. here on these plants. Pls. search around here for the link about Holiday cacti. It's very useful & chock full info. HTH = hope this helps.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2011 at 12:54PM
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puglvr1(9b central FL)

Hi Cole, I too get purplish leaves on occasion on my TC...mine gets very bright light and gets an hour or two of direct sun. Once in a while I do get a segment of those thin leaves and in my case when I do its usually because the segment has broken off or that particular stem is dying or drying out too much and not getting any moisture. Most of the time it doesn't recover and I end up just pinching it off.

PG and Josh have given you some good advise...hope you figure out what might be causing the thin stems. Good luck!

Is this the same color you're describing?

    Bookmark   January 20, 2011 at 3:22PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Great pic, Nancy! ;)


    Bookmark   January 20, 2011 at 5:07PM
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puglvr1(9b central FL)

Thanks Josh! I think the reddish/purplish color on some of the leaves are very pretty.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2011 at 9:18AM
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hi i have looked at other webite and i cant find any one with the same problem. I have three christmas cacti and two easter but one of the christmas cacti when it finished flowering, its leaves turned a deep purple and thin and vainy and almost al of the leaves are like this but a few in the middle of the plant, I repotted it last year before it flowered and i did the same to another christmas cacti that i have and that one is growing new leaves and is fine. It is on a i think a south easten window seal and gets rest in winter and all the stuff it should and i dont know what to do it has been like this for a few months now and not done anything even during the warm weather. any ideas would be helpful ?

    Bookmark   April 18, 2011 at 5:05AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Water it, would be my advice, Christine.
After the blooming period, I let mine dry down for about a month...then back to regular irrigation.


    Bookmark   April 18, 2011 at 1:15PM
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