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Why Is My Christmas Cactus Turning Red? (And What to Do About It)

Why Is My Christmas Cactus Turning Red? (And What to Do About It)

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When most people think of the word “cactus,” they will often think about the tall, spiny plants that can be found in deserts all around the world, and while this is certainly what a cactus can be, there are also many other kinds of cacti in the world for you to look at.

In fact, cacti are quite a popular kind of plant to grow, especially if you live in an area where you cannot easily grow flowers. Many people will even keep small cacti on their desk to look at.

As houseplants, cacti are well-known for their resilience and their patience for being able to handle an owner that may forget to water the plant from time to time.

Even though cacti can be as forgiving as this, there are still some types of cacti that are quite sensitive and may require more of a green thumb than your standard cactus will. This happens far more often with cacti that are bred for their appearance, rather than their hardiness.

One type of cactus that tends to be somewhat fickle is known as the Christmas cactus. This type of cactus gets its interesting name from the fact that it tends to bloom around Christmas time, despite being a tropical type of cactus.

These cacti can be fun to care for, but if you own one, there may come a time when you aren’t entirely sure what is happening to it.

One of the more inexplicable problems that comes with the Christmas cactus is going to be when the leaves deepen to a red or purple hue. This is almost always indicative of a plant that is in distress and something that you will need to do something about if you want to have any chance of saving the plant.

Unfortunately, there are a few different causes that can result in your cactus having these issues, but the good news about this is that most of these problems are treatable as long as you know what to do to improve the situation.

Getting to the Root of the Problem

Christmas Cactus With Red Leaves

More often than not, the cause of your Christmas cactus’ new colors is going to be because there is something going on with the roots of the plant. There are a couple separate problems that can affect the roots and cause the leaves of the plant to turn red.

For some people, the problem comes from a case of root infections, while other times it might be because the cactus is rootbound to its container.

If your cactus has an infected root, there’s a good chance that you have been overwatering your cactus. Considering how much water a standard cactus can store, it is pretty easy to overwater your cactus, meaning that this kind of problem is relatively common and also easy to fix.

To remedy the issue here, you are going to want to try and get rid of the infection as best as you can.

First things first, you will need to relocate the plant to a new bowl of completely new soil so that it can begin to heal itself. You should hold off on watering a plant with infected roots for about two to three weeks in the case of these cacti.

While you are doing this, you can work on pruning away the parts of the plant that are damaged. Over time, you will reintroduce watering on a proper schedule so that your cactus can recover and thrive once more.

Thanksgiving Cactus Blooming

Another common cause of red leaves on the Christmas cactus is when the plant becomes rootbound. If you are someone who is new to the area of gardening, the term “rootbound” may be somewhat unfamiliar to you.

In essence, it describes a condition where the roots have molded to take on the shape of the container it is in because the roots do not have enough space to expand further. When this happens, the roots will become cramped and twisted, which will slow down the production of all of the beneficial aspects of owning a plant.

In this case, the first thing that you should do is to try and find a bigger container for the cactus, assuming that you are not going to plant it in the ground, you will then want to try and remove as much of the dirt as possible while still preserving the root.

This will make it easier for those roots to take hold and thrive once again. Once you have done this, you can place the plant back into an environment that it enjoys being in.

Other Problems with Christmas Cacti

Christmas Cactus Close Up

Depending on where you are and where the cactus tends to stay in relation to the house, there’s a chance that there may be some degree of pesticide or herbicide on the cactus.

This can easily cause the leaves to turn red, so it is often recommended that Christmas cacti are kept inside and remain predominantly indoor houseplants.

Another factor that you will want to consider when looking into this is that, sometimes, a Christmas cactus may become stressed out because of its environment. Just as people tend to have their reactions to stress, these plants have their own ways of reacting to stress.

One of these ways of reacting to stress can be that the leaves of the cactus begin to turn red.

If the cause of the new leaf color is due to stress, you will then have to try and determine what the source of the stress is. This is almost always easier said than done, as your plant cannot physically tell you what its problem is.

Usually, stress in Christmas cacti comes from problems with the soil, watering, and sunlight. You will want to make doubly sure that you are following what you need to do to keep your plant happy before you completely rule out stress as a factor in your cacti’s new leaf color.

Finally, one last reason why your Christmas cactus’ color may be different is because of a pest problem. More often than not, there will be other indications of something going on in the plant if the pests are the reason for the leaf color, but it is still a cause that you should be aware of.

The easiest way to fix this problem is going to be to remove the pests from the cactus so that the vibrant green can return to the leaves.

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