Christmas cactus red leaves

Purple Christmas Cactus Leaves: Why Do Christmas Cactus Leaves Turn Purple

Christmas cactus are relatively trouble-free succulent plants, but if your Christmas cactus leaves are red or purple instead of green, or if you notice Christmas cactus leaves turning purple on edges, your plant is telling you that something isn’t quite right. Read on to learn about possible causes and solutions for reddish-purple Christmas cactus leaves.

Why Do Christmas Cactus Leaves Turn Purple?

Oftentimes, a purplish tint to your Christmas cactus leaves is normal. That said, if it’s noticeably throughout the leaves, it may signal an issue with your plant. Below are the most common reasons for leaves becoming red or purple on Christmas cacti:

Nutritional issues – If you don’t fertilize your Christmas cactus regularly, the plant may be lacking necessary nutrients. Feed the plant monthly from spring until mid-autumn with a general purpose fertilizer for indoor plants.

Additionally, because Christmas cacti require more magnesium than most plants, it normally helps to provide a supplemental feeding of 1 teaspoon of Epsom salts dissolved in one gallon of water. Apply the mixture once every month throughout spring and summer, but don’t use the Epsom salt mixture the same week you apply regular plant fertilizer.

Crowded roots – If your Christmas cactus is rootbound, it may not be absorbing nutrients effectively. This is one possible reason for reddish-purple Christmas cactus leaves. Keep in mind, however, that Christmas cactus thrives with crowded roots, so don’t repot unless your plant has been in the same container for at least two or three years.

If you determine that the plant is rootbound, repotting Christmas cactus is best done in spring. Move the plant to a container filled with a well-drained potting mix such as regular potting soil mixed with perlite or sand. The pot should be just one size larger.

Location – Christmas cactus requires bright light during fall and winter, but too much direct light during the summer months may be the reason for Christmas cactus leaves turning purple on edges. Moving the plant to a more appropriate location may prevent sunburn and solve the problem. Be sure the location is away from open doors and drafty windows. Similarly, avoid hot, dry areas such as near a fireplace or heating vent.

Christmas Cactus

Christmas Cactus

Native to the rainforests in Brazil, the Christmas cactus is a popular, low maintenance houseplant and a favorite pass-along plant that can live for years. Although the Christmas cactus is a true cactus, it is of the tropical variety and is used to growing as an epiphyte off tree branches in areas of heavy moisture and high humidity. With a few tricks, you can easily get this tropical plant to blossom year after year indoors.

genus name
  • Schlumbergera
light
  • Part Sun,
  • Part Sun
plant type
  • Houseplant,
  • Houseplant
height
  • 6 to 12 inches,
  • 6 to 12 inches
width
  • From 1 to 2 feet
flower color
  • Purple,
  • Purple,
  • Red,
  • Red,
  • Orange,
  • Orange,
  • White,
  • White,
  • Pink,
  • Pink,
  • Yellow,
  • Yellow
foliage color
  • Blue/Green,
  • Blue/Green
season features
  • Spring Bloom,
  • Spring Bloom,
  • Fall Bloom,
  • Fall Bloom,
  • Winter Bloom,
  • Winter Bloom
special features
  • Low Maintenance,
  • Low Maintenance,
  • Good for Containers,
  • Good for Containers
propagation
  • Seed,
  • Seed,
  • Stem Cuttings,
  • Stem Cuttings

Colorful Combinations

Like other cacti, these plants have beautiful blossoms in a variety of jewel tones. The intricate flowers are almost orchidlike in their beauty, and when the light hits them just right, they look as if they have been dusted with diamonds. The shimmering petals are most often pink and purple, but you can also find shades of salmon, orange and red, and even white. The center of the blossom is typically white and transitions to vibrant colors towards the edges of the petals.

See more beautiful blooming houseplants here.

Christmas Cactus Care Must-Knows

Christmas cactus is easy to grow but, unlike most cacti, it does not like to dry out. Be sure to plant it in a small container; this plant does not mind being pot-bound and may not thrive in a container that is too large. Use a standard general purpose potting mix. Water it regularly, allowing it to dry slightly between waterings. During flowering season, keep it evenly moist at all times. From spring until flowering in fall, Christmas cactus appreciates some fertilizer on a regular basis. This helps ensure a good bud set as well.

When growing indoors, Christmas cactus appreciate as much light as you can give them, but avoid direct light during the summer, as this can burn the fleshy leaves. In too little sun, plants will become thin and spindly, and the blossoms, if they bloom at all, will be sparse. Since Christmas cactus appreciates higher humidity, place it on a tray of pebbles and fill the tray with water to just below the top of the rocks. As the water evaporates, it increases humidity around the plant. During warm summer months, you can grow your Christmas cactus outdoors in a sheltered, part-shade location.

See more of our top succulent plants for the home.

Blooming Your Christmas Cactus

A Christmas Cactus needs long, uninterrupted nights and cooler temperatures to initiate the growth of flower buds. Late-summer, cooler nights as fall begins to set in helps to naturally begin this process for cacti growing outside in the summer. To initiate it on your own, count back 8 weeks from the date you want blossoms. At this point, the plants need 13-15 hours of uninterrupted darkness. This means no light of any sort, not even a lamp or streetlight through a window. One way to do this is to keep the plant in a basement or dark room with a grow-light on a timer for 8 weeks. Once buds have begun to set at the tips of the leaves, place the plant back in its usual spot. A common problem with getting a Christmas cactus to bloom is bud drop, where flower buds suddenly drop off before blooming. To prevent this, make sure the plant has high humidity and even soil moisture. It is best to avoid moving a plant during this time, as movement from one room to another can stress it out and cause the flower buds to drop.

Get inspired by our dreamy ways to decorate with cacti.

More Varieties of Christmas Cactus

Christmas cactus

Schlumbergera X buckleyi has scalloped leaf margins and whorls of satiny flowers that dangle from segmented stems, which resemble leaves. It is sometimes called zygocactus or holiday cactus. The true Christmas cactus usually does not bloom until mid-December; many plants sold as Christmas cactus are actually Thanksgiving cactus.

‘Madame Butterfly’ Christmas cactus

This variety of Schlumbergera is a rare cultivar with cream-color variegated leaves and magenta flowers with white centers.

Thanksgiving cactus

Schlumbergera truncata blooms several weeks earlier than Christmas cactus. It has 2 to 4 pointed teeth along the margins of stem segments. It is also known as crab cactus.

Christmas cactus turning red?

Howdy Prince_Of_Garden02,

Christmas cactus typically suffers few problems, although some may develop red-tinged foliage as a result of poor growing conditions, infections or inadequate care. Since you mentioned this plant has sentimental value, let’s get to healing this Christmas Cactus.

The red leaves on your Christmas cactus indicate that it has experienced some type of stress. This is usually related to a lack of nutrients and being exposed to excessive bright light (like being set outdoors in the sun).. The red leaves on your cactus are an indicator that it has suffered sunburn. This could be from sudden exposure to excess light, or due to the fact that is lacks the nutrients necessary to help filter out damaging ultraviolet light. Check to see that it isn’t pot bound, which can effect the root’s ability to take up nutrients. As long as it’s not pot bound, a boost of fertilizer will probably be enough to turn the leaves back to green again.

Overwatering also causes damage to roots both by limiting their oxygen exposure and by weakening their tissue. Root rot is a common result of over watering. It is characterized in Christmas cactus by mushy tissue, wilting and pink or reddish discolorations on the leaves. Another tell-tale sign of root rot is a musty or sour smell in the soil. An affected plant should be repotted into fresh, unused medium and left unwatered for two to three weeks. Prune off the badly damaged foliage, and slowly return the plant to a normal water schedule by letting the soil dry out in the top 1 inch between waterings. Disinfect pruning blades before and after use by wiping with rubbing alcohol.

If you have any more questions please feel free to post more questions.

Happy Gardening,

Coach Dave

10 Types of Indoor Succulents

Succulents are now seen in everything from boutonnieres to hanging planters. They are a trend that is taking over not just gardens, but wedding and home decor as well. Succulents are a type of plant that thrives in dry climates. Most succulents come from areas in Africa or Central America where it is hot and there is little humidity. Because they store water in their leaves,they can withstand long hours in the sun and little watering.

Succulents are known for their low maintenance and long lifespans, which makes them great for people who work all day, are on the go or just aren’t great at taking care of plants. These plants are great for adding structure and vibrance to gardens and homes. There are many types of succulents that can be used as corner plants in a home office or pops of color in a lush garden.

However, even though these drought-resistant plants are simple to maintain, they still have preferences when it comes to location. To help you better understand the different types of succulents and where they grow best, we have composed a list of the 20 most popular types. We’ve categorized them by indoor and outdoor varieties, and created visual guides to help you differentiate between the two types.

There is a reason that succulent plants are so trendy. Not only can they be grown alone, but they also pair nicely with other types of plants. Succulents also happen to be right on trend with Pantone’s color of the year: Greenery! Succulents offer a diversity of shapes, colors and styles that can fit anywhere from a home office to a child’s bedroom.

Indoor succulents grow best in room temperatures where it is dry with little humidity. While they like direct sunlight, they can adapt to lower levels of light as well, making them ideal for home decor. Keep reading for the top 10 most popular types of indoor succulents.

Burro’s Tail (sedum morganianum)

Also known as the donkey tail plant, this succulent is one of the easiest plants to propagate and care for, which makes it a popular houseplant. The burro’s tail was given its name because of its ability to grow up to four inches long with a shape that resembles a tail. This species happens to be a cactus and although all cacti are succulents, not all succulents are cacti. This succulent grows best indoors, placed in a well-drained container, where its long stems can drape down off of the edges of the pot.

Crown of Thorns (euphorbia milii)

The crown of thorns is a great houseplant because it adjusts well to dry indoor environments and room temperatures. For the best care and results, place this succulent near a window where it can get about three to four hours of sunlight a day. The crown of thorns is very lenient when it comes to missed waterings, but make sure to only water the plant when its soil is completely dry. In Thailand there is a legend that the number of flowers that bloom on a crown of thorns predicts the future of the plant-keeper. So, make sure to take good care of this one!

Flaming Katy (kalanchoe blossfeldiana)

The flaming katy is a common houseplant that is native to Madagascar. It prefers temperatures from 60 to 85 degrees, and is extremely sensitive to the cold which is why it is best suited for indoors. The flaming katy grows best in clay pots that have holes at the bottom for drainage. They prefer well lit areas and will produce more buds and flowers when given eight to 10 hours of sun a day. In late autumn and early winter this succulent produces buds with four petals that can be an array of colors from dark reds to golds and whites. It looks great as a table centerpiece or a desk plant.

Jade Plant (crassula ovata)

The jade plant is similar to a bonsai plant in the way that it grows and is maintained. It has a thick trunk with branches that jut out like a miniature tree. This succulent has thick, shiny, dark green leaves that grow into an oval shape. Some varieties of the jade plant develop a red color at the tip of the leaf. Once the plant matures and if the conditions are right, the jade plant can develop beautiful white or pink flowers that bloom in the shape of a star.

Aloe Vera (aloe vera)

Aloe vera is a variety of houseplant that is most known for its medical benefits. It has been grown in tropical climates for many years and cultivated for its medicinal purposes. You can use the healthy compounds of the aloe vera plant to ease scrapes and burns, so it is a great plant to have around the house. This succulent can be found in ointments for burns, skin lotion, drinks and cosmetics. It can also be used for decorative purposes as an indoor plant. This plant has thick, pointed leaves that are usually a green-gray color. The leaves are variegated with spots of white that stretch out directly from the plant’s base.

Panda Plant (kalanchoe tomentosa)

The panda plant is one of the most interesting types of indoor succulents because of its small and fuzzy leaves. The velvety appearance of its leaves and brownish red markings on its edges are what earned it the name of the panda plant. They can live for many years indoors and although this type of succulent can flower in the right circumstances, it rarely does. Because of the panda plant’s small size and soft texture, it looks great in children’s rooms or in hanging planters.

Pincushion Cactus (mammillaria crinita)

The pincushion plant is of the cactus variety and has pointy spikes covering its exterior. It is a native to Mexico, but has also been found in some southwest areas of the United States. This succulent belongs to the mammillaria family, which consists of over 250 species of cacti. The Latin word mammillaria means “nipple” and refers to the tube-like features that protrude out of its exterior. The pincushion is a miniature cactus that usually does not grow taller than six inches and produces vibrant blooms that add a desert vibe to your home.

Roseum (sedum spurium)

The roseum plant is a low-growing succulent that only gets to be about four to six inches tall. It is a fast grower that works great in containers or planters on a windowsill. In the summer, the roseum develops clusters of light-pink star flowers that can add a pop of color to your home decor. It can also add texture to a floral arrangement. This succulent prefers full sun to partial shade, so we recommend placing it on a windowsill that gets a decent amount of light.

Snake Plant (sansevieria trifasciata)

Native to West Africa, the snake plant is one of the easiest succulents to cultivate. It can be neglected for long periods of time and still maintain its fresh look. This plant has long, variegated leaves in different shades of green. It is one of the most tolerant types of indoor succulents and can survive in rooms with low light and little water. NASA research says this plant can even improve the air quality in your home by removing toxins and pollutants while you sleep!

Zebra Plant (haworthia fasciata)

The zebra plant can grow between five and six inches tall and wide. It does not take up a lot of room and does not require much care, so it works well as a houseplant. The zebra plant gets its name from the white variegated stripes on its leaves. These striking leaves point out from its stem in different directions. This plant has shallow roots and is best grown in smaller pots. The zebra plant produces bright yellow, cone shaped flower heads that last about a week. They are dainty, slow-growing and have an eccentric appearance. They make great gifts and decor for a shelf or desk.

10 Types of Outdoor Succulents

Succulents make a great addition to outdoor gardens. They add structure and complexity to a garden design and can be planted in the ground or in a variety of different containers. There are many characteristics that make these particular succulents great for growing outdoors- some are too large for indoors, while others need direct sunlight to grow properly.

The most important thing to be aware of when growing succulents outdoors is the sun. A lot of care instructions will say “full sun,” but that does not necessarily mean they will be able to handle temperatures of 100 degrees. Most succulents do best in zones nine or 10 when outdoors. Here is a list of the top ten succulents for outdoor gardens.

Hens-and-Chicks (sempervivum tectorum)

Sempervivum means “live forever,” which makes this succulent perfect for those that don’t have a natural knack for growing. The hens-and-chicks succulent can propagate very quickly and produce multiple offspring called “chicks”. With over 3,000 different species, this sempervivum species comes in a wide array of colors that you can mix and match in your garden.

When given the proper care, they can produce beautiful red flowers that bloom together in the shape of a crown. This succulent only lives for about three years, but because of its ability to quickly propagate they “live forever.”

Stonecrop (sedum spp.)

The stonecrop succulent comes in a variety of colors from bright green and pink to silver and blue. There are two main types of sedums- tall sedums and creeping sedums. The tall sedums have long stems that grow to be between one and three feet tall. They are known for sprouting colorful flower clusters that look great in a summer garden.The creeping sedums grow along the ground and are usually used in rock gardens, rock walls or on roofs.

Whale’s Tongue Agave (agave ovatifolia)

This agave succulent was originally grown in Mexico on mountains with elevations of 3,700 to 7,000 feet. It has light green, flat and wide leaves that resemble that of a whale’s tongue. They grow to be between two and five feet tall and about three to six feet wide. Because of their large size, they are are more suitable to be grown outdoors. They grow to their full size when watered regularly and can produce 10 to14 feet-tall flower spikes.

Ball Cactus (parodia magnifica)

The ball cactus is one of the most uniquely-shaped succulents because it can grow between one and two feet tall with a shape that resembles a hot air balloon. However, it is not quite as smooth as a balloon, with columns of spikes lining its exterior. The ball cactus produces small, yellow-colored flowers that like to grow in clusters.

They look great on patios or as container plants within a garden. The shape and brilliant blooms of this plant add a desert vibe to your garden’s aesthetic. They are most commonly used in xeriscapes, which is why they make one of the most popular outdoor succulents.

Plush Plant (echeveria pulvinata)

The plush plant is covered in fine white hairs that shimmer in the sun, giving it a silvery appearance. It is a native to Southern Mexico and blooms gorgeous orange-yellow blooms that mirror a sunset. They prefer partial shade and can be grown in the ground or placed in containers within a garden. For best results, it is important that the plush plant is repotted during the warmer months. Before repotting, always make sure that the soil is completely dry.

Dudleya (echeveria spp.)

Dudleyas are members of the echeveria genus and are t native to California.There are more than 40 different varieties of this succulent, some of which are on the endangered species list. They are a rosette-forming plant which means that they have a circular arrangement of leaves. Most leaves have rounded edges that with good care can live up to 100 years! These plants used to grow naturally on hills to avoid getting water on their leaves, so make sure to avoid their leaves when watering.

Pig’s Ear (cotyledon orbiculata)

The pig’s ear succulent was given its name because of its thick, oval leaves that have red on the edges. During late summer or early autumn, yellow and red flowers grow at the top of two-foot stems and droop down. When fully mature, the pig’s ear can grow up to four feet high, making it a great addition to an outdoor garden.

It is best suited to dry areas like succulent beds, rock gardens and even hanging baskets! This succulent does not need much water, but can take up a large space, so make sure to leave a little room when planting this one in your garden.

Zwartkop (aeonium arboreum)

The zwartkop is also called the “black rose,” which refers to the dark burgundy color of its rosette-forming leaves. In winter, this plant produces yellow flowers that create a beautiful and unexpected contrast to its dark foliage. This succulent prefers full sun, which is why it grows best in outdoor gardens. They are most commonly placed in flower beds or borders and like to grow together in clusters.

Sunburst (aeonium davidbramwellii)

The sunburst succulent is also called copper pinwheel because of the yellow leaves that grow in a circle around its center. The sunburst is considered to be a “tri-colored” plant because of its variegated green, white and yellow leaves. It is a hybrid succulent and a member of the aeonium genus that is popular among outdoor succulents. It branches out with rosettes that bloom white flowers in the summer. The sunburst succulent is native to the Canary Islands and can flourish seaside, growing to up to two feet high.

Torch Plant (aloe aristata)

The leaves of this plant start off as a light green shade that turns darker in the sun. In the summer, they can bloom orange blossoms atop 20-inch stems that resemble a torch. It does not have quite the same medicinal benefits as its aloe vera cousin, but is unique its ability to grow to great lengths. When cared for properly, the torch plant can grow up to ten feet tall and 18 inches across. They are great for brightening a garden and creating a summer vibe.

Types of Succulents: Visual Guides

From garden walls to hanging planters, succulents are a great addition to any home or garden. Not only are they easy to care for, but they can help add variety and texture to what might have been a boring design. With the many different varieties to choose from we have created two visual guides listing the most popular types of indoor and outdoor succulents.

It can be fun to mix and match different varieties of indoor succulents to spice up your home decor. They look great as office plants, on kitchen windowsills or as coffee table centerpieces. Here is a list of the most popular types of indoor succulents for your home.

Sources:

While plants need sunlight to perform photosynthesis, some plants can get too much sunlight. While some succulents can be planted in bright sunlight, not all can handle full sun (defined as 6+ hours of direct sunlight per day) or can suffer in too much sunlight. Leaves that are sunburned will appear brown or black, and may begin to shrivel or callus. The best way to fix sunburn in your plant is to move it to a place with less sunlight or less bright light. Sunburned leaves will never fully heal, but unaffected parts of the plant will still be healthy.

You can distinguish sunburn from rot by looking at other signs in the leaves. A recently sunburned plant will still have fat and full leaves that have begun to turn black or brown and may still be glossy. Older sunburn will be black or brown and dry or shriveled, or even completely desiccated. Leaves that are showing signs of rot and too much water will appear mushy and wrinkly.

If you see sunburn in a plant at the store or that you own, this does not mean that the plant is unhealthy and will quickly die, but that it was probably cared for improperly and exposed to too much light at some point. Keep in mind that often sunburned segments will shrivel off, so while the plant may not be pretty, it could still be healthy and continue to grow for years and years. The best way to refrain from buying sunburned plants is to buy from small independent nurseries and sellers and to avoid big box stores where this type of damage is more likely to be seen.

Hopefully these tips help you diagnose and treat issues that your succulents may have. In our next post we’ll be showing you what to avoid when shopping for plants and succulents so that you make sure to always take home a plant that can be your companion for years to come!

DEAR JESSICA: My Christmas cactus is not doing very well. For most of the time I’ve had it (about 17 years), it’s been in lowlight situations. A year ago, I was in the process of moving, so I brought it into work, where we have full, southern light. At first it seemed to thrive, but then it started turning pink. Since I read that that’s a sign that the plant is stressed out, I moved it farther from the window. It’s been a year, and it still seems droopy, and branches keep falling off, which can’t be good. I haven’t changed the soil in a while. It does still bloom on a regular basis, however.

This was my mom’s Christmas cactus, and I took it when she died, so I’m attached to it. If you can give me any suggestions, I’d really appreciate it!

— Andrea Lillo,

via email

DEAR ANDREA: You are correct — your plant is under stress. Pink discoloration of a Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) can be indicative of a problem called root rot, which results from overwatering or poor drainage. The only way to know for sure is to (gently) slip the plant out of its container and examine the roots. If roots are fresh and white, they are healthy. If they have brown or black tips, they are beginning to rot. If they are mushy or slimy, they are quite rotted and there likely isn’t anything you can do to save the plant. Depending on the extent of decay, however, you may be able to reverse the damage.

Trim away any obvious root damage and rinse the roots in cool, fresh water, then leave the plant unpotted overnight. If any of the foliage is mushy or badly damaged, trim it away, too. If the plant was outgrowing its pot, move up to one that is only one size larger. If the pot was appropriately sized, wash and disinfect it with a 10 percent bleach solution, and rinse and dry well. Repot the plant in fresh potting mix and do not water it for about a week. When you resume watering, do so thoroughly until water drains through the holes at the bottom of the pot, then not again until the top inch of soil is completely dry. Discard any water that accumulates in the saucer so it does not get taken up into soil through the drainage hole.

As counterintuitive as this may seem, Christmas cactuses sometimes turn pink or red when they don’t receive enough water. Even if kept indoors year-round, these plants require only minimal water over winter, but their needs increase during the growing season.

If you find the roots appear healthy and you don’t believe watering is at fault (you have kept it alive for 17 years, after all), then it’s possible your plant is turning pink due to incorrect sun exposure. Christmas cactuses require bright sun during winter and partial shade during the active growing season. Confirm that it’s properly situated.

The problem also could be attributed to a magnesium deficiency, which often arises over winter. This can be remedied by spraying the entire plant, including the undersides of leaves, with one teaspoon of Epsom salts dissolved in a gallon of room-temperature water. Do this once a month until the plant’s color returns to normal.

Finally, apply a balanced houseplant fertilizer, according to package directions, monthly, from spring through fall — but not during the same week that Epsom salts are applied. Good luck.

DEAR JESSICA: I have a Leyland cypress that I forgot to untie last year. Now it looks like it’s dying, with middle needles falling off, but there’s new growth on bottom. Should I just pull it out and replace it?

— Nancy Padilla,

Ronkonkoma

DEAR NANCY: It looks like some of your tree’s branches are dying off, likely due to prolonged constriction from being tied up for a year.

Prune away all the dead branches and evaluate how the tree looks. Leylands grow very quickly, so I would wait to see how it grows and fills in over the summer before removing it.

By Jessica Damiano @jessicadamiano

Jessica Damiano is a master gardener, gardening coach, author and lecturer who pens Newsday’s weekly Garden Detective column. She spends her free time weeding and struggling to save her lawn from her two dogs.

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