Is Sugar Water Good for Christmas Cactus? Does It Really Help

The internet is filled with facts and myths. As a gardener, you must recheck the claims with scientific evidence.

Like other plants, the Christmas cactus produces glucose and then converts it to sucrose. This combination of glucose and fructose is then transported around the plant.

But what if you added sugar water to the Christmas cactus directly? Will it benefit the plant or kill the root system?

A straightforward answer is no; sugar water won’t benefit Christmas cactus. Instead, a higher concentration of sugar can result in wilting and yellowing of Christmas cactus leaves.

Scientific Evidence: Is Sugar Water Good for Christmas Cactus Plants?

sugar water for Christmas cactus plant

There is no scientific evidence to back the use of sugar water for plants. A study carried out in 2010 concludes that sugar sources have no impact on the yield of soybean crops.

However, adding sugar water can benefit microbial activity in the soil, states the study carried out by the United States Department of Agriculture

Microbes in the soil can absorb nutrients more efficiently compared to plant roots. When these microbes die, those nutrients are readily available for the roots to absorb.

However, an increase in microbes can reduce nitrogen and oxygen in the potting soil. How this impacts Christmas cactus growth has yet to be discovered.

Nevertheless, adding sugar water has a small impact on plant growth. But, the concentration of sugar must be ¼ cup for 4 cups of liquid. Overdose can kill the Christmas cactus plant.

What is Sugar Water?

When a layperson hears the term sugar, they consider it to be white sugar. But, there are many varieties or sources of sugar.

In the case of plants, it takes water, carbon dioxide and light to carry out the photosynthesis process. It then produces glucose, which is converted to sucrose. This form of sugar that plants produce can easily be transported and preserved around the plant.

Now, the question arises: can plants be able to use the external sugar water effectively?

Why do Plants Need Sugar and Glucose?

Sugar is energy made out of the photosynthesis process.

Sugars are responsible for plant growth at different stages. It contributes to leaf formation and stem development and contributes to root growth.

Cell walls and plant structure are highly dependent on sugars.

Glucose is responsible for transporting nutrients to plants, maintaining cellular functioning and repairing damaged plant cells.

Sugars, including glucose, are essential for a plant’s survival and growth.

Is Sugar Water Good for Christmas Cactus?

No, you shouldn’t use sugar water to fertilize Christmas cactus. Instead, you can use the alternative methods listed below to revive your plant.

It has already proved that sugar water from different sources had no impact on the plant yield.

However, there are a few cases where the dying plant did recover after applying sugar water.

Now, it is not known whether it benefited due to increased microbial activity or whether the sucrose did give an external boost to the plant.

To put an end to the discussion, let’s get deep into plant biology.

What happens if Christmas cactus gets too much sugar?

Plants use osmotic pressure to uptake water and nutrients from the soil.

In simple words, due to osmotic pressure, water flows from low pressure to higher pressure. Osmotic pressure in roots is higher, so the water flows into the roots. Similarly, when the osmotic pressure in the cell is higher than outside the cell, water can easily flow into the cell.

But, when you add a higher concentration of sugar into water, osmotic pressure outside the roots will be higher when compared to pressure inside the root.

So, instead of water flowing into the roots, it flows out of the roots, leaving the Christmas cactus to die.

Check this: Can You Plant a Christmas Cactus Outside?

What does a stressed Christmas cactus look like?

Christmas cactus is prominently used in the holiday season. With their colourful blossoms and attractive foliage, these succulents elevate the décor.

But, small gardening mistakes can ruin their appearance. However, they show signs so that you can revive the plant and make it more beautiful.

  • Yellowing and dropping of leaves is one of the symptoms that your plant has underwater stresses.
  • Falling leaves and stunted growth are signs that you’re underwatering the Christmas plant.
  • Similarly, lack of sunlight, low levels of nutrients and pests are among common signs of plant stress.

Diagnosing the root cause of the stress is essential to revive the Christmas cactus plant. Otherwise, you may end up adding sugar water when the real cause of yellowing is overwatering or small pot size.

When should you feed Christmas cactus?

Give Christmas cactus with a balanced fertilizer of ratio 20-20-20. The best time to fertilize this plant is during its growing season. Typically, it starts in spring and ends in late summer.

Is sugar water a good fertilizer?

No, sugar water isn’t a fertilizer.

Moreover, a higher concentration of sugar in water can actually stop nutrients from flowing from the soil to the roots.

Also read: Do Christmas Cactus like Coffee Grounds?

Do plant roots absorb sugar water?

Adding sugar water to plants isn’t recommended, but this doesn’t mean that plant roots can’t absorb sugars.

This report states that roots absorb sugars from the rhizosphere. Further, it also says that roots do release sugars. Taking back some of these released sugar molecules can help the plant save the energy it worked hard to make during photosynthesis instead of losing it through the roots. 

The problem arises when you increase the concentration of sugar in water.

Sugar water and microbial activity

Adding sugar water to the soil attracts and increases microbial activity.

Microorganisms efficiently absorb nutrients from the soil, and after their death, nutrients will be readily available for the plant.

The rapid increase in the number of microbes results in a shortage of nutrients like nitrogen in the soil for a limited time.

When these microbes die due to lack of food, nutrients will be available for the plant roots to absorb.

How to Make Sugar Water for Plants?

You need two ingredients: white or brown sugar and water.

  • Add ¼ cup of sugar to 4 cups of water.
  • Before adding sugar, first boil the water.
  • Add the mentioned amount of sugar and stir until it dissolves.
  • Allow it to cool, and collect the sugar water in a container.

When to avoid or use sugar water for Christmas cactus?

Adding sugar water to healthy plants may harm them.

  • You can use sugar water to revive wilting cut flowers.
  • Cut flowers’ stems absorb sugar, making them perk up.
  • If your Christmas cactus starts to limp, adding some sugar water can benefit from it.
  • Avoid using too much sugar; use about one teaspoon of sugar per quart of water for plants.

Can Sugar Water Attract Pests?

study states that the addition of sugar water can attract helpful insects. However, it also attracts pests that can harm your plant.

Instead of using sugar water, you can just grow ornamental plants that attract pollinators.

Christmas cactus and other succulents are efficient enough to produce their sugars. All you need to do is to provide them with essential nutrients, light and water.

Sugar Alternatives to Boost Christmas Cactus Growth

The reason why you turned to sugar water is, most likely, your Christmas cactus showed signs of stress like yellowing of leaves, wilting and falling of leaves.

And by now, it is clear that using sugar water won’t benefit your plant.

So, should you leave your succulent to suffer? No, there are plenty of natural ways that can enrich your Christmas cactus with essential nutrients.

Before adding sugar alternatives, check the cause of stress. Overwatering is regarded as one of the common gardening issues among container gardeners.

Ensure the potting soil is well-drained and the pot has a drainage hole.

Similarly, overwatering and insufficient light exposure can cause chlorosis. Fix these issues by watering and providing adequate sunlight to your Christmas cactus.

Now, the alternatives to sugar water are:

  • Use water-soluble or liquid fertilizer to encourage optimal growth of Christmas cactus.
  • Organic compost is filled with essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Add old compost to the top layer of the potting soil and water generously.
  • Ensure bright indirect light to this succulent.
  • To avoid root bound, repot the plant when you notice roots popping out of the drainage hole.
  • Trim old leaves and encourage new leaf growth.

Proper care of the Christmas cactus will promote lush foliage and colourful blooms. 

Check this: How to use Epsom salt for Christmas Cactus?


Adding low-concentrated sugar water benefits dying and weak plants; it is not recommended as there is no scientific evidence backing this claim.

Moreover, a higher concentration of sugar water can result in a reverse osmosis process and kill the Christmas cactus plant.

It may attract some pollinators, but ants and other pests that come after sugar can’t be ignored.

To pollinate, you can use flowering plants in your garden.

So, finally, sugar water is not good for Christmas cactus plants.