How do I save my Christmas Cactus?

kitha1215(z8/Central Louisiana)February 19, 2008

Ok, I wouldn't say it around my plant b/c it would hear me (and I'm serious)but I think it's on the brink of do I save her? She was a birthday gift to me and I don't want to lose her.

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Other than that one whitish spot covering half a segment, I can't really see anything wrong with it. I don't think that spot where it's sorta dying a bit is much of a problem; mine have a couple of those and they're fine. I'm not sure what causes it to happen, but it doesn't appear to hurt them.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2008 at 11:23PM
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Well kitha1215,

I need a few more details about what you observe as wrong, since the pic isn't very big.

But off the bat I'd say, it looks like its in a pot that's too big for it. Have you potted up recently? Being in to large of a pot can be bad for your christmas cactus, esp. during the winter months, when a good watering in too large of a pot can be very detrimental--b/c too much wet soil next to the roots can cause rot as the roots are unable to absorb all the water surrounding them. It appears to be in a 6" pot. I would down grade to a 4" pot. Christmas cactus actually seems to enjoy being a little root bound, and will concentrate almost exclusively on root growth until they feel they've filled the pot to they're liking.

It's best not to re-pot in the winter months if at all possible--spring is best time to 'pot up' as it gives you plant lots of time to fill its new space--but as we're down sizing our pot and you seem to be worried demise is imminent I would repot into a smaller pot right away. Christmas cacti are actually a jungle cactus and appreciate a good drink every two-three weeks or so in the winter (at least here in WA). I plant mine in a bromeliad mix with a little extra vermiculite for drainage. But if you are worried about overwatering (maybe you like to baby your plants) I would definately go with something with good drainage, poss. a good quality cactus and succulent mix. I also plant most of my jungle cacti in terra cotta as they breath better, I find.

When you repot give your plant a good look, if you see any bugs (seem to get spider mites quite easily (little cobwebs--mites are so small that if you can see them easily you got it pretty bad)) rinse off the plant and roots and give it a good dose of Safer houseplant insecticide (it has a aerisol like sprayer on it and I find it easier to use)--reapply as needed. Then re-pot in sterile potting mix give it one good drink and try not to water it until it actually appears dry all the way through (2-4 weeks depending on conditions)--to keep from having the same issue again.

Also, as a last ditch I would pinch off a couple of leaves of the new growth on the ends--to clone your cactus if it looks like it won't continue (christmas cactus are super easy to clone take the leaves you've removed and push the pointy end in some potting soil (smaller pot 2" is best) water once and don't water again until you can tug and feel roots formed).
Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   February 19, 2008 at 11:55PM
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kitha1215(z8/Central Louisiana)

Thanx to the both of you.

To Plantgrrl: You say the pot is too big, but that's the pot it was bought in. Is it normal to have to like pot and re pot a Christmas cactus? Also, there's a lot of dead leaves in the pot. What concerned me about the plant was that some of the leaves had flowers blooming on them and the whole leaf stem would fall off. Was it just that the blooms were too heavy?

    Bookmark   February 21, 2008 at 6:41PM
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gardenbear1(6 Ma.)

sounds like your cc is stressed out and thats why its dropping leaf segments, I agree with repotting it into a small pot I did this with my cyber dancer and it stoped dropping segment and started to grow again, I don't water my cc until they are dry and then I give them a little water until I see there getting ready to set buds, then I water as they need it.


    Bookmark   February 21, 2008 at 10:18PM
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Well sadly not all garden centers (esp. places like the Depot) don't know how to properly care for plants (esp anything not like summer and outdoor--the longer it's there the more likely it's been mistreated) and for every 2 awesome growers who care about what kind of nice quality plant you get--there is a least 1 who wants to just sell bulk at cut rate.

It's not too usual for having to pot to a smaller size when you get it. Usually they'll keep it in a small pot (bigger pots are more expensive). But you can have a CC in the same pot for several years before you need to pot larger (they like crowded roots).

I agree with the stress thing. Double check your "environment" for the plant. Is it really cold? Drafty? (both) Is it getting sufficient light? Is there an animal/small child/high traffic area near by? (if your plant is already stressed out, sometimes just a little bump or tug can knock off small branches) Too wet? Check the soil, do you see small bugs or mold (if so, wash out the pot and change the soil)? And last but not least, the bayne of any good indoor gardener, the inexplicable fungus, or die back (I don't know what to do when this happens either, some times good plants die for no good reason I'm aware of).

If the leaves that fall off look otherwise healthy, shove them in the soil, they should grow roots and make another plant. If you don't feel confortable keeping the fallen leaves though, make sure they're not just left to dry in the pot--dead leaves attract mold and insects--nothing you want.


    Bookmark   February 22, 2008 at 12:47AM
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