Why Is My Christmas Cactus Turning Yellow?

Have you ever looked at your Christmas cactus and noticed a change of colour? Perhaps you’ve seen it slowly turning yellow, leaving you in trouble.

The main causes of the Christmas cactus turning yellow are overwatering, underwatering, improper lighting (too much or too little), and temperature fluctuations.

Other causes like pests or diseases can also contribute to the yellowing of Christmas cactus leaves.

The Christmas cactus, scientifically known as Schlumbergera, is a popular houseplant cherished for its stunning blooms. Its unique ability to thrive indoors makes it an ideal choice for those seeking a touch of natural beauty during the festive period. 

Why is my Christmas cactus turning yellow?

Here are some factors that cause Christmas cactus yellowing – 

1. Inappropriate sunlight

The Christmas cactus thrives when placed in a location that receives bright, indirect light. This means finding a spot where the plant is near a window but not directly in the path of sunlight. 

Direct sunlight can be harmful to your Christmas cactus. The intense rays can cause sunburn-like damage, resulting in yellow or brown patches on the leaves. 

Insufficient light can also make your Christmas cactus weak and pale, while excessive light can stress the plant and lead to discolouration and leaf damage. Observe your plant’s response to light and adjust accordingly to find a suitable spot.

2. Watering problems

One of the common watering problems is overwatering. When you give your Christmas cactus too much water, the roots can become waterlogged and suffocate, leading to root rot. This can cause the leaves to turn yellow, wilting, and overall decline.

To determine when to water your Christmas cactus, check the moisture level of the soil. 

Watering problems can occur not only due to overwatering but also as a result of underwatering, both of which can negatively impact the health of your Christmas cactus. 

Just like overwatering, underwatering can cause problems for your Christmas cactus. When you don’t provide enough water, the plant can become stressed and dehydrated. This can lead to wilting, drooping, and even crispy yellow tips of the leaves. 

3. Drainage Problem

Having good drainage can promote the healthy growth of your Christmas cactus. It allows excess water to escape and prevents the roots from sitting in stagnant water.

Drainage refers to how well water flows through the soil and out of the pot. Without proper drainage, water can accumulate at the bottom of the pot, creating a soggy environment that can cause yellowing leaves in your Christmas cactus.

For good drainage, use pots with drainage holes at the bottom. These holes allow any excess water to escape, preventing it from pooling around the roots. 

4. Temperature

Extreme temperature fluctuations can stress the plant and lead to yellowing leaves. Christmas cactus prefer moderate temperatures to thrive. They enjoy a comfortable range of around 60-65┬░F. The temperature range that feels pleasant is not too hot, not too cold.

Avoid your Christmas cactus from sudden temperature changes or drafts. Cold drafts can be problematic. Your plant may experience discomfort and start to show some problems.

Whereas in the warmer months, be mindful of hot weather or direct exposure to intense sunlight, which can make your plant stressed out.

Maintaining a stable temperature helps your Christmas cactus thrive. Fluctuations in temperature can cause stress and lead to leaf discolouration or dropping. 

5. Pests and Disease

Christmas cactus can face troubles with pests and diseases. These unwanted visitors can cause yellowing leaves and affect the health of your plant.

Pests like aphids, mealybugs, red spider mites, soft brown scales, thrips, and whiteflies can infest your Christmas cactus. These little creatures can latch onto the leaves, stems, or soil, causing them to weaken and decline.

Regularly inspect your Christmas cactus for signs of pests, such as small insects, webbing, or sticky residue on the leaves. If you spot any unwelcome visitors, prevent the infestation from spreading.

6. Repotting

Repotting plays a vital role in the growth of plants, and the Christmas cactus is no exception.

Repotting is an opportunity to provide your Christmas cactus with a fresh start, but it needs to be done correctly to avoid any harm.

Mishandling the process can lead to permanent root damage or cause excessive stress, resulting in yellowing leaves. If the roots and soil are stressed, it reflects on the leaves, and they may show signs of distress, such as turning yellow or curling the leaves.

Timing plays an important role when it comes to repotting. Performing the task at the wrong time or too frequently can cause unnecessary problems. Repotting during the plant’s dormant period can stress the plant. When the roots are stressed due to repotting, they struggle to provide adequate support to the leaves, leading to yellowing. 

7. Fertilizing Issue

Fertilizing provides necessary nutrients for Christmas cactus. It helps your Christmas cactus grow, produce beautiful blooms, and maintain its health.

However, overdoing it can cause many problems. Excessive fertilizing can lead to salt buildup in the soil, causing stress to your Christmas cactus.

To avoid such issues, follow a proper fertilizing schedule. During the active growing season, which is typically spring and summer, you can fertilize your Christmas cactus once a month.

Also Read: Do Christmas Cactus like Coffee Grounds?

How to fix yellow leaves on Christmas cactus?

  • Adjust the lighting – Inappropriate sunlight can also contribute to yellow leaves. Assure that your Christmas cactus receives gentle, filtered and indirect sunlight to keep it healthy and happy. Too much direct sunlight can scorch the leaves, while insufficient light can lead to poor growth. Find a cosy spot for your plant where it gets the right amount of gentle, filtered light.
  • Check for pests – Pesky insects like mealybugs and spider mites can stress your Christmas cactus and cause yellowing leaves. Inspect your plant carefully and look for signs of infestation, such as tiny bugs, webs, or sticky residue. If you spot any use natural remedies or use insecticide for pests.
  • Temperature – Extreme temperature fluctuations can stress your Christmas cactus, resulting in yellow leaves. Keep a stable temperature of around 60-65 degrees F for your plant. Shield it from cold drafts and avoid placing it in direct light. 
  • Avoid repotting frequently – If your Christmas cactus has outgrown its current pot, it may be time to repot. However, repotting should be done carefully to avoid further stress. Choose a slightly larger pot with good drainage, use a well-draining soil mix, and handle the roots gently. Repotting can provide a fresh start for your plant and improve its overall health. Avoid repotting frequently, repot the plant when it needs.
  • Fertilizing routine – During the active growing season, typically in spring and summer, fertilize your plant once a month. Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer formulated specifically for cactus. When applying fertilizer, remember to dilute it. Make sure to water before fertilizing.
  • Proper drainage – Provide pot proper drainage holes to allow excess water to escape. Good drainage prevents water from collecting in the soil, which can further help prevent the yellowing of the leaves.

Why Christmas cactus leaves turning yellow and falling off?

When Christmas cactus leaves turn yellow and start falling off, it’s a sign that something is going on with your plant. Several factors can contribute to this issue. Some of them are overwatering, underwatering, or improper drainage can cause stress to the roots, leading to yellowing leaves. 

Inappropriate sunlighting, pests and can also contribute to leaf discolouration and loss. Check for these signs and prevent them from happening further.

Should I remove yellow leaves from Christmas cactus?

First, take a closer look at the yellowing leaves. If only a few leaves are yellow while the majority are healthy, it’s natural for older leaves to fade and drop off over time. In this case, it’s perfectly fine to let them fall naturally.

However, if the yellowing spreads quickly and affects a major portion of the plant, it may be a sign of an underlying issue. In such cases, you can’t remove so many yellowing leaves at once. Try to know what causes this problem and first prevent it from further damage.

Moreover, if they are mushy, rotting, or show signs of disease or pest infestation, it’s best to remove them. It will avoid further spread of the problem.

Can Christmas cactus recover from yellowing?

Yes, it’s possible for your plant to bounce back and regain its health and vibrancy once again.

Yellowing leaves on a Christmas cactus can be caused by various factors such as improper watering, inadequate lighting, extreme temperature fluctuations, pests, or nutrient deficiencies. By identifying and addressing the underlying issue, you can give your plant a chance to recover.

New growth and healthy, green leaves can replace the yellowing ones. Note that recovery takes time, and some leaves may naturally fall off as new ones emerge. So keep patience. 

Important Tips to Keep Christmas Cactus Healthy

  1. Watering – Keep a balance between moisture and dryness. Water your Christmas cactus when it needs. Avoid overwatering, which can lead to root rot, or underwatering, which causes stress and yellowing. To promote proper drainage, use soil that allows water to flow freely and select pots with holes at the bottom for water to drain out easily.
  2. Lighting – Place your Christmas cactus in a location with bright, indirect light. Avoid direct sunlight, which can burn the leaves and cause discolouration.
  3. Temperature and Humidity – Maintain a moderate temperature range for your Christmas cactus, around 60 – 65 degrees F. Protect it from drafts, such as cold windows or hot air vents. Maintain humidity levels, consider misting the plant occasionally or placing a tray filled with water to increase its humidity levels.
  4. Fertilizing – Feed your Christmas cactus with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer during its active growth period, typically from spring to early autumn. Refrain from fertilizing your Christmas cactus when it is in its dormant period or experiencing stress.
  5. Pruning – Prune your Christmas cactus after it finishes blooming. Simply cut off a section of the stem to the desired length.
  6. Check for pests – Regularly inspect your Christmas cactus for pests and diseases. If you spot any, gently wipe them off with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol or use insecticide. Isolating a heavily infested plant is necessary to prevent the spread of pests to other plants.


Yellowing leaves on a Christmas cactus can indicate various underlying issues. Identify and address these factors to help your plant recover its health and beauty once again.

By adjusting your watering practices, providing appropriate lighting and making some changes in temperature conditions, you can give your Christmas cactus the best chance of recovery. Also, repotting should be done when it is necessary to avoid further stress on the plant’s roots.

Remember, it’s normal for some older leaves to naturally turn yellow and fall off.