Why Is My Christmas Cactus Turning Purple? Important Reasons

The Christmas cactus, with its colorful flowers and vibrant green leaves, is a favorite addition to many homes during the holiday season. However, when you notice your cherished Christmas cactus turning purple, it can be a cause for concern. Fear not, for in this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the potential reasons behind this color change and provide you with the knowledge to restore your cactus to its former glory.

Flowering Christmas Cactus plant with leaves that are turning purple

Understanding The Christmas Cactus

Before we dive into the possible causes of a Christmas cactus turning purple, let’s establish a bit of context. Christmas cacti are unique and beautiful plants that are native to the tropical rainforests of Brazil. They are known for their colorful flowers and flat, segmented stems. These cacti are typically kept as indoor plants, often coming into their full bloom during the holiday season.

Their close relatives, the Thanksgiving cactus and Easter cactus, share similar care requirements. However, a Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera) is distinct in its own right, and its vibrant green leaves and colorful flowers are a sight to behold. So, when you start seeing purple leaves on your Christmas cactus, it’s time to explore the potential causes and solutions.

Christmas cactus with pink flower

Why Is My Christmas Cactus Turning Purple?

Let’s address the main question: why is your Christmas cactus changing color and turning purple? There are several potential reasons, and we’ll explore them in detail in the sections that follow. Here are the most common causes of Christmas Cactus turning purple:

1. Lack of Nutrients

Nutrient deficiency is a common reason for Christmas cactus leaves to turn purple. These plants require essential nutrients to maintain their vibrant green color. If they lack these necessary nutrients, the leaves may start to display a purple coloration.

Solution: To address this issue, consider using a general-purpose indoor fertilizer, diluted to half strength, during the growing season (spring and summer). This will provide your Christmas cactus with the necessary nutrients to maintain its green leaves.

2. Lack of Water

Christmas cacti, like all plants, need water to thrive. However, overwatering or underwatering can both lead to leaf discoloration. If your cactus is not receiving enough water, it may respond with purple leaves.

Solution: Ensure you water your Christmas cactus thoroughly when the top inch of the soil feels dry. Be mindful not to let it sit in standing water, as this can lead to root rot, another common issue we will address later.

3. Too Much Direct Sunlight

While Christmas cacti enjoy bright light, they are not fond of direct sunlight, especially during the summer months. Excessive sunlight can cause stress to the plant and manifest as purple leaves.

Solution: Place your Christmas cactus in an area with bright, indirect light, or provide partial shade during the summer to protect it from too much sun.

4. Poor Drainage

Inadequate drainage can lead to waterlogged soil, which may suffocate the roots and cause the plant to exhibit signs of distress, including purple leaves.

Solution: Ensure your Christmas cactus is in a pot with good drainage holes and use a well-draining potting mix. This will help prevent the soil from becoming too soggy and causing root problems.

5. Root Problems

Issues with the root system, such as crowded roots or root rot, can lead to poor nutrient uptake and, consequently, purple leaves.

Solution: If you suspect root problems, carefully remove the plant from its pot, trim any damaged roots, and repot it into fresh soil with good drainage.

6. Temperature Fluctuations

Christmas cacti thrive in relatively stable and cool temperatures. Extreme temperature fluctuations can cause stress to the plant, leading to changes in leaf color.

Solution: Keep your Christmas cactus away from heating vents and drafts, and maintain a stable room temperature for the best results.

7. Fungal Infections

Fungal diseases, such as stem rot or cactus cyst, can affect the overall health of your Christmas cactus and lead to symptoms like purple leaves.

Solution: If you suspect a fungal infection, you may need to remove affected parts of the plant, treat it with a suitable fungicide, and ensure it’s in a clean, dry environment to prevent further infection.

8. Pest Infestations

Spider mites and fungus gnats are common pests that can damage Christmas cacti, potentially causing them to turn purple as a sign of distress.

Solution: Regularly inspect your plant for signs of pest infestations and take appropriate measures, such as gentle washing and using natural remedies or insecticidal soap.

9. Light Conditions

Christmas cacti thrive in bright indirect light. If they are not receiving the right amount of light, their leaves may change color.

Solution: Ensure your plant is in a location with the right amount of bright, indirect light. If natural light is limited, consider supplementing with artificial light, especially during the darker winter months.

10. Poor Soil Quality

In some cases, a Christmas cactus may not be able to access the necessary nutrients in the soil due to imbalances or poor soil quality.

Solution: You can try adding a teaspoon of Epsom salts to your watering regimen, which can provide essential nutrients and promote healthier foliage.

Now that we’ve covered the potential reasons for your Christmas cactus turning purple, let’s delve deeper into each of these issues and explore how to address them effectively.

Schlumbergera cactus plant with pink flower

Addressing Common Christmas Cactus Problems

Your Christmas cactus may encounter various issues from time to time. Understanding these problems and how to address them is crucial for keeping your plant healthy and thriving. Here’s an in-depth look at common problems and their solutions:

Nutrient Deficiency

If your Christmas cactus appears nutrient-deficient with pale leaves, it’s essential to supplement its diet. During the growing season (spring and summer), provide your cactus with a balanced, diluted indoor fertilizer approximately once a month. This ensures it receives the essential nutrients needed for vibrant growth and blooming.

Watering Woes

Overwatering can lead to root rot, while underwatering can result in dehydration, both of which may manifest as purple leaves. To strike the right balance, water your Christmas cactus when the top inch of the soil feels dry. Ensure your pot has adequate drainage to prevent water from accumulating at the bottom, which could harm the roots.

Light Requirements

Place your Christmas cactus in a location with bright, indirect light. While it needs light to grow, be cautious not to expose it to too much direct sunlight during the scorching summer months, as this can stress the plant. A spot near a north or east-facing window is often ideal.

Soil and Drainage

Pot your Christmas cactus in a well-draining potting mix and use a pot with drainage holes. This is vital in preventing water accumulation in the pot, which can lead to root issues. Ensure the potting mix allows excess moisture to escape, maintaining a healthy root system.

Root Problems

If you suspect root problems, take action promptly. Gently remove the plant from its pot, trim any damaged or rotting roots, and repot it into fresh, well-draining soil. This not only aids in recovery but also encourages new root growth.

Temperature Control

Maintain a consistent and cool room temperature for your Christmas cactus. Avoid placing it near heating vents or in areas with extreme temperature fluctuations. A stable environment promotes overall plant health and reduces stress.

Fungal Infections

If you observe signs of fungal infections, address them swiftly. Trim away the affected parts of the plant, apply a suitable fungicide as directed, and ensure the environment is clean and dry to prevent further infection. Proper hygiene is key in preventing fungal issues.

Pest Control

Keep a vigilant eye out for common pests like spider mites and fungus gnats. Regularly inspect your plant for signs of infestations, and if needed, take steps to eliminate these pests using natural remedies or insecticidal soap. Early detection and intervention are essential.

Light Optimization

If natural light is insufficient, consider supplementing with artificial light, especially during the darker winter months. Providing your Christmas cactus with adequate light ensures healthy growth and vibrant blooms throughout the year.

Soil Amendments

For vibrant green leaves, consider adding a teaspoon of Epsom salts to your watering regimen. Epsom salts provide essential nutrients and help maintain the lush color of your Christmas cactus, keeping it looking its best.

By following these solutions, you’ll be better equipped to address common problems and maintain the health and beauty of your Christmas cactus.

Blooming Christmas cactus with purple flower on black background

Additional Tips for Christmas Cactus Care

Taking care of your Christmas cactus involves more than just addressing common problems like leaves turning purple. Here are some comprehensive tips to ensure your Christmas cactus remains healthy and vibrant:

Proper Potting

Select a pot that has drainage holes and choose a well-draining potting mix. Good drainage is essential to prevent overwatering and root rot. Additionally, repot your Christmas cactus every 2-3 years. This practice not only refreshes the soil but also allows your cactus to have more room to grow.

Watering Technique

When it comes to watering your Christmas cactus, it’s crucial to get it right. Water the plant thoroughly, ensuring that excess water drains out of the pot. This helps prevent waterlogged roots and ensures the roots receive the necessary moisture. Always empty the saucer under the pot to avoid the plant sitting in standing water, which can lead to root problems.

Feeding Schedule

During the growing season, which typically spans spring and summer, provide your Christmas cactus with a diluted, balanced indoor fertilizer once a month. This regular feeding will supply the plant with essential nutrients, promoting healthy growth and vibrant blooms.


Christmas cacti thrive in higher humidity environments. To achieve this, consider placing a tray of pebbles filled with water beneath the plant or use a room humidifier. Maintaining optimal humidity levels is especially crucial during the dry winter months when indoor air can become quite arid. Adequate humidity prevents issues like bud drop and keeps the plant happy.

Avoid Dark Rooms

Adequate light is essential for Christmas cacti. Avoid placing your plant in a dark room, as this can lead to poor growth and color changes in the leaves. Instead, aim for bright, indirect sunlight. A location near a north or east-facing window is often ideal for ensuring your cactus gets the right amount of light without being subjected to harsh, direct sunlight.

Fresh Soil

Refresh the soil in the pot every 2-3 years to ensure that it remains nutrient-rich and well-draining. Over time, the potting mix can become depleted of essential nutrients and compacted, hindering the plant’s growth. By repotting with fresh soil, you provide a healthier environment for your Christmas cactus to thrive.

Be Patient

Remember that Christmas cacti can be a bit slow to respond to changes in care. If your plant has been experiencing issues, it may take some time to recover and show improvement. Be patient and consistent with your care routine, and your Christmas cactus will reward your efforts with its stunning blooms during the holiday season.

By following these tips, you can ensure that your Christmas cactus remains healthy and continues to delight you with its vibrant, holiday blooms.

Christmas cactus flower


In conclusion, the sight of Christmas cactus turning purple can be distressing, but the good news is that many common issues leading to this color change are manageable with the right care and attention. By addressing factors like nutrient deficiency, water management, light conditions, soil quality, and temperature control, you can help your Christmas cactus regain its vibrant green leaves and prepare it for a splendid display of colorful flowers during the holiday season.

Remember that Christmas cactus care involves a combination of factors, and it’s essential to provide the right environment and attention to ensure the plant’s well-being. With proper care, your Christmas cactus can once again be the star of your holiday decor, exhibiting its vibrant green leaves and blooming with beautiful, colorful flowers. Good luck in nursing your purple Christmas cactus back to health, and may it bring joy and beauty to your home for many holiday seasons to come.

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