Cactus and Tender Succulents forum: Unhealthy Christmas cactus, please help!

Page 1 of 2 • 1 2
Views: 1520, Replies: 38 » Jump to the end
Name: Kelly V
Portland, OR (Zone 8b)
Image
Thughorse
Jan 11, 2016 12:27 AM CST
Hello,
I have a very old Christmas cactus that has been having trouble recently. It's normally bright green growths have turned darker green and seem wilted and slightly shriveled. Just yesterday, a limb fell off roughly 1/3 the size of the whole plant. About a month that ago I realized something was going on and repotted. The old soil was rock hard and had to be carefully broken up. After repotting I was hoping to see improvement but so far there hasn't really been any, and of the limb just broke off. I live in Portland Oregon which is currently very cold, but moved the cactus to a warmer spot in my home when I started noticing it's failing health. I water once a week, ish? I never have carefully monitored my watering habits but they have been consistent for the years I have owned the plant. If anyone can offer any advice I would greatly appreciate it, the plant has great value to me and I would be very sad to see it go.
Thank you,
Thughorse


PS I will try and highlight in the photo were the limb broke off... the bark is a darker color than the rest of the plant except for a couple spots of similar color elsewhere.
Thumb of 2016-01-11/Thughorse/f76e96


Thumb of 2016-01-11/Thughorse/e9ee64


Thumb of 2016-01-11/Thughorse/2aa999

Name: 'CareBear'

Sempervivums Hostas Dog Lover Irises Amaryllis Cactus and Succulents
Region: Pennsylvania
Image
Stush2019
Jan 11, 2016 12:55 PM CST
Myself, I would start some new stem cuttings off in a cactus mix with more perlite added. Kept covered and on the dry side. Spray mist once in a while. Kept warm. The main plant, I would not transplant this late in the season. Come spring I would transplant into a more cactus mix. Keep water on the lessor side. Keep warm & sunny. Good luck.
Stush
Name: Kelly V
Portland, OR (Zone 8b)
Image
Thughorse
Jan 11, 2016 7:47 PM CST
Thank you for your reply! I will take some cuttings, although I have never done so before. Plant is currently in the warmest, sunniest spot in my home. Hoping it will recover; cuttings would be good, but the parent would be better.
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
Image
sooby
Jan 12, 2016 7:13 AM CST
Two questions based on the pictures and the other thread - how much cold was it exposed to, and did the darkening/wilting start before that? In the pictures the potting mix looks quite dry, is it really as dry as it looks?
Name: Kelly V
Portland, OR (Zone 8b)
Image
Thughorse
Jan 12, 2016 11:04 AM CST
The coldest the plant was exposed to I would say was 40-45 degrees F. As the temperature plummeted I moved it to a warmer position, and then as the cold grew stronger yet I once again moved it to a place guaranteed to always be warmer than about 59 degrees F. It's current position also provides strong sunlight for 3.5 hours per day. The soil is very dry, i think the photos accurately document the current soil condition.
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
Image
sooby
Jan 12, 2016 12:30 PM CST
I wouldn't have thought that temperature would cause the symptoms but I know mine doesn't like to be too dry. Does it perk up when you water it (although the medium looks so dry is it even absorbing water?). Was the original root ball hydrated when you repotted it?
Name: Kelly V
Portland, OR (Zone 8b)
Image
Thughorse
Jan 12, 2016 1:02 PM CST
I feel that the plant showed some improvement after watering once I repotted (at least until a large limb fell off). After that slight improvement it has been holding its current condition. When I repotted, what I found was that the outer soil was moist but not soggy and the rootball itself was completely dry. The soil was too hard to allow water to pass. My assumption was that this caused the plants decline, but my inexperience makes me wonder if it is going to regain its health. If the soil currently looks too dry, should I be watering more frequently?
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
Image
sooby
Jan 12, 2016 2:23 PM CST
I would unpot it and if the original rootball is still very dry then soak it for a while in a bowl or other container of water until it is hydrated. Then repot it having dampened the extra media first so that the whole thing is reasonably moist. If it is a peat-based medium it may be very hard to re-wet with regular watering hence the soaking and dampening. Once you've got it all damp again I would not let it dry out as much as it is now. It's hard to say how often to water a plant because it can vary but you don't want it to get so dry that the plant wilts. Of course you don't want to over-water either, which is actually more common. Watering plants correctly is not as easy as one might think Smiling I would also take others' advice and do some cuttings as back-up in case this doesn't revive it.
Name: Kelly V
Portland, OR (Zone 8b)
Image
Thughorse
Jan 12, 2016 3:38 PM CST
Thank you very much for your advice. I've taken some cuttings in case the plant does not revive, and I will also follow your suggestion. As i look at other images of other "Christmas cacti", I see that the leaves are much different than mine. They have sharper looking edges while mine is more rounded. Have I (and family members before me) been incorrectly calling this plant a Christmas cactus? Now, on to my final question; I have owned this plant for 5 years and never has it bloomed. My father had it for 15 - 25 years before me, and before him another relative had it for an undetermined amount of time. According to my dad, the plant never once bloomed. Not sure about it's life before he had it. Is this abnormal? If i am incorrectly calling it a Christmas cactus, is it instead some variety that does not bloom?
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
Image
sooby
Jan 12, 2016 4:43 PM CST
I'm not an expert in them, I sort of ended up in this forum via your question in the other forum, but flowering in these plants depends on factors such as daylength and temperature. One of the experts in this forum can hopefully guide you better than me, but these two extension sites links describe how to get them to flower, and the second of the two tells you how to differentiate between the different "holiday" cacti at the bottom of the article:

https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cfiv/homeowners/111122.ht...
https://hort.purdue.edu/ext/cactusFAQs.html
Name: Kelly V
Portland, OR (Zone 8b)
Image
Thughorse
Jan 13, 2016 12:21 AM CST
Great information in those links, thank you!
I tip my hat to you.
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
Always count your blessings in life
Region: California Houseplants Plays in the sandbox Orchids Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Composter
Cactus and Succulents Dragonflies Hummingbirder Amaryllis Container Gardener Xeriscape
Image
tarev
Jan 13, 2016 12:14 PM CST
I would suggest repotting in a more draining media, but I seldom do repot during the middle of winter, it is too much struggle for any plant. I would follow what Stush said and try to get some cuttings. Just keep it warm for now till it acclimates further and recovers. To me, as long as I see green, there is hope for your plant, and I see good viable leaves there, so there is hope.

This plant is rather photoperiodic, reacting to the length of day and night. I keep my plant in a small container, and in a well draining media. I do not water weekly here, I have to consider the ambient temps, if it is too cold, most succulents would rather stay on the dry side. And I do not grow it outdoors here, always indoors but near our west facing window so it gets to experience the length of day variation. It is a tropical cacti, so it does like moisture, but still as a cacti, got to keep their media well draining. I usually add perlite or pumice to my media, so it will stay open and well draining. It has rather fine roots, so it needs to be able to breathe too at soil level, too compacted media often will hurt it, hence unable to drink properly.

My own plant is a late bloomer, just starting to bloom at this time. Good luck, I hope your plant recovers soon.
Name: Greg Colucci
Seattle WA (Zone 8b)
Sempervivums Sedums Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Cactus and Succulents Container Gardener Garden Ideas: Level 1
Garden Art Birds Dog Lover Cat Lover Region: Pacific Northwest Hummingbirder
Image
gg5
Jan 13, 2016 6:23 PM CST
Didn't have time to read all other answers but I wanted to say - I went to a lecture from a succulent guru who said that these guys like to be totally pot bound - they won't bloom until they are feeling like they have enough root system and being pot bound helps them to feel that...I think that is something you said above Tarev, anyway - I had just repotted all mine into large pots and didn't want to repot, so I added small plants all around and now I get random blooms, which is nice, but they're all different colors and styles, which for me I like but more purists probably don't like...
I keep mine indoors from Oct. thru April and water at least once per week, sometimes it is dry inside...
This year I also had a big die off, I realized that the fan I had going was bugging it - not sure why (or even 100% sure if that was it) turned the fan off and the plants are doing much better! 3 different pots of plants were effected, which is why I do think they didn't like the constant wind - even though my other succulents and plants love it.
Now I'm thinking these guys prefer a more sheltered less drafty home.
Please keep us updated! I like getting people's personal experiences - often it is something I hadn't even thought of
Cheers
I tip my hat to you.
Plants bring me peace and calm, more of what we all need Smiling
Name: Kelly V
Portland, OR (Zone 8b)
Image
Thughorse
Jan 14, 2016 3:24 PM CST
Thank you all for the information and replies. I have successfully taken some cuttings to ensure survival of the plant. But, I have noticed quite a bit of improvement in the couple, few days since I put it in a different area of my house with a higher temperature, more indirect sunlight and much less draft. The leaves seem to be more hydrated as they are much heavier and to the touch feel more dense. The color has also begun to come back to them - they are a nice, bright green compared to the darker, less vibrant green i was seeing before I took action. I wasn't expecting such quick results, but fingers crossed it continues to improve!
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
Always count your blessings in life
Region: California Houseplants Plays in the sandbox Orchids Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Composter
Cactus and Succulents Dragonflies Hummingbirder Amaryllis Container Gardener Xeriscape
Image
tarev
Jan 14, 2016 3:56 PM CST
That is good! Keep us posted as it goes! Smiling
Name: Nancy Mumpton
Sun Lakes, AZ (Zone 9b)
I'm NancySLAZ on DG
Charter ATP Member Enjoys or suffers hot summers Cat Lover Container Gardener Dog Lover Region: Southwest Gardening
Region: United States of America Photo Contest Winner: 2014
Image
nmumpton
Jan 14, 2016 11:27 PM CST
Just wanted to say that your Christmas cactus was just doing what it naturally does. The older it gets, the more woody the center of the plant gets. They need to be rejuvenated just as you are doing by taking and rooting the young fresh green stems and getting rid of the old dried out center. Your plant looked like it was quite old!

"Gardening is a humbling experience"--Martha Stewart
Name: Greg Colucci
Seattle WA (Zone 8b)
Sempervivums Sedums Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Cactus and Succulents Container Gardener Garden Ideas: Level 1
Garden Art Birds Dog Lover Cat Lover Region: Pacific Northwest Hummingbirder
Image
gg5
Jan 15, 2016 11:40 AM CST
Thanks Nancy for that info, wasn't aware of that! Thumbs up
Plants bring me peace and calm, more of what we all need Smiling
Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
Houseplants Organic Gardener Composter Region: Gulf Coast Miniature Gardening Native Plants and Wildflowers
Bulbs Foliage Fan Tropicals Butterflies Garden Sages Cactus and Succulents
Image
purpleinopp
Jan 16, 2016 7:09 AM CST
Christmas cactus is an epiphytic jungle plant, like orchids, and not a true cactus. Drying out is not something they would experience naturally, but when in a pot of potting soil, which has very little air in it, drying out is a method used to avoid rotting the roots.

No plant likes to be rootbound. What they like is for their roots to NOT rot, which can happen so easily in a pot with dense soils, like ground dirt, or bagged mixes of predominantly tiny particles of peat. Having very little soil around the roots makes it difficult for even the most dedicated plant-overwaterers to rot the roots of their plants. This is not ideal, just a way of coping with inappropriate "ingredients" in a pot. A more porous, chunky soil (like cactus/palm, if one is buying bagged,) can have air in it even when it is moist. Roots need oxygen and moisture at the same time to function. When there are tiny particles of any kind in a pot, such as peat, sand, silt, clay, they filter into all of the tiny spaces in a pot, eliminating the air. "Overwatering" is the label and manifestation when roots have suffocated and/or rotted, combo of both. There is no one thing folks can put in to make soil better, but removing tiny particles of any type will definitely help. Over time, organic bits decompose into smaller bits, so even the "best" soil, if it has organic components, will need to be replaced when this happens. The speed at which this happens depends on many variables, but on average, about 1-3 years.

The conditions you've described sound fine for temp and light, so it may need a bit of fertilizer to get it blooming.
👀😁😂 - SMILE! -☺😎☻☮👌✌∞☯🐣🐦🐔🐝🍯🐾
🍀👒☀🍄🍍🌱🌿🌴🎄👣🌵🌷⚘🌹🌻🌽🏡🍃🍂🌾🌿🍁❦❧ 🍃🍁🍂🌾🌻🌺🌸🌼🌹🌳🌲
☕👓 The only way to succeed is to try.
Name: Kelly V
Portland, OR (Zone 8b)
Image
Thughorse
Jan 16, 2016 2:20 PM CST
Thanks for the insights regarding soil. I think i may need to take more care in what i leave my plants in! I don't repot anything often but when i have it has just been with whatever potting soil is cheapest. Nmumpton, i hadn't really considered that. My best estimation is that the plant is 60-70 years old. Perhaps living on in fresh young cuttings is exactly what it needs!
Name: Greg Colucci
Seattle WA (Zone 8b)
Sempervivums Sedums Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Cactus and Succulents Container Gardener Garden Ideas: Level 1
Garden Art Birds Dog Lover Cat Lover Region: Pacific Northwest Hummingbirder
Image
gg5
Jan 16, 2016 3:09 PM CST
This pic is of my 20 year old never been transplanted or new soil plant, I do water with a very light fertilizer every time I water though... This is its early blooms it'll bloom more fully in spring
Thumb of 2016-01-16/gg5/b43d68 I tip my hat to you.

Plants bring me peace and calm, more of what we all need Smiling

Page 1 of 2 • 1 2

« Garden.org Homepage
« Back to the top
« Forums List
« Cactus and Tender Succulents forum
You must first create a username and login before you can reply to this thread.

Today's site banner is by dirtdorphins and is called "Dianthus 'Nyewood Cream'"