The Q&A Archives: Christmas cactus care

Question: I have a beautiful Christmas cactus that blooms well every year. This year after blooming, though, the leaves began to shrivel and whole stems fell off. What can I do to save the plant? Tina Dinitz Ridgefield, CT

Answer: You're probably overwatering your Christmas cactus, says Joy Logee Martin, owner of Logee's Greenhouses, growers of Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) and other indoor plants in Danielson, Connecticut. After blooming, the plant needs a restperiod during which it gets very little water, explains Martin. Keep the plant slightly moist and growing in a bright window until new growth starts appearing. Only then should you start feeding it and increasing the amount of water. If only a few stems or leaves are dropping, then the plant should be OK. Just cut back on watering, adding moisture only when the top few inches of soil are dry, says Martin. If the whole plant is shriveling up, though, it may be too late to save it. You can try taking the plant out of the pot and checking the roots. If they are still white and pliable, there's hope. Remove all the old soil from the roots and repot the cactus with new potting soil, she says. If the roots are brown and mushy, it's best to start over with a new plant.

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