Do you want to learn how to tell if your Christmas cactus is healthy?
The easiest way to tell if your Christmas cactus is healthy is to inspect the plant and soil. If it’s growing at a healthy rate and not showing any signs of pests or disease then it is highly likely that it is a healthy plant.
6 Ways To Tell If Your Christmas Cactus Is Healthy
Here are 6 signs to look out for to tell if your Christmas cactus is healthy or not (they also apply to Thanksgiving and Easter cacti as well).
1. Leaf (Cladode) Growth
Christmas cactus leaves are actually cladodes, which are leafless photosynthetic units, but for the purpose of this article, I’ll refer to them as leaves as they have a similar function and appearance.
If your Christmas cactus is producing new leaves regularly this is a good sign that it is healthy. New leaf growth shows that the plant is getting enough nutrients, particularly nitrogen, to support the growth of new structures on the plant.
Similarly to leaf growth, if your Christmas cactus is flowering it’s a great indicator that its care conditions are being met and that the plant is healthy.
Getting a Christmas cactus to flower requires the right basic care such as providing the right type of soil and watering enough, as well as adjusting the amount of sunlight that the plant receives during the flowering season to ensure that it can develop the buds necessary for flowering.
If lots of buds are falling off without others flowering this can be a sign that the plant is not healthy, but if there are buds falling off while other buds are flowering then this is actually a good sign. This shows that the plant simply has too many buds for all of them to flower, but if none of the other buds is flowering it shows that the plant is unable to support any flower growth.
3. Root Condition
Inspecting the roots of a Christmas cactus is a great way to check the overall health of the plant.
Here are a couple of things to look out for when inspecting the roots:
- Mushy roots/Discolored – Mushy roots or roots that have changed color are indicators of root rot. You’ll typically find that the soil will be saturated with water due to overwatering if this is the case.
- Root-bound – Christmas cacti do well when root-bound, but only for so long. If the roots have completely taken over the soil then there won’t be many nutrients left for the roots to absorb, which will be a detriment to the overall health of the plant
- Roots growing out of soil or drainage holes – When the roots start to grow either out of the surface of the soil or the drainage holes below then they are struggling to find space within the soil and are severely root-bound.
Healthy roots should look white or tan in color and have fleshy white tips. If your roots are healthy it’s very likely that the rest of the plant will be as well.
4. Soil Condition
The soil condition is another great way to check the health of a Christmas cactus.
Christmas cacti are epiphytes, which means in the wild they grow on other plants. The effect of this is that the roots prefer well-draining soil with plenty of small pockets of air, as they are capable of absorbing moisture both from damp organic material and the air.
Gently inspect the soil to make sure it isn’t overwatered for a start. It should be moist instead to provide enough moisture for the plant without suffocating the roots.
Underwatered soil is not ideal either, so make sure that the soil isn’t bone dry either. If the soil is moist with enough pockets of air this is a good indication of the overall health of the plant.
5. No Signs Of Diseases
Christmas cacti are susceptible to a wide range of diseases just like many other houseplants. If they have a disease then the health of the plant is obviously affected.
Here are some common diseases that can affect Christmas cacti along with their symptoms:
- Root Rot – There can be different types of root rot, but it will typically cause the roots to go soft and mushy and change color. The plant will also wilt and die if the problem isn’t resolved.
- Stem Rot – Brown spots form at the soil line and the tissue slowly dies.
- Spot Virus – Spot virus can sometimes not show any symptoms, but in other cases, spots can form on the plant and the plant will wilt.
6. No Signs Of Pests
Christmas cacti are also susceptible to pests like aphids and fungus gnats.
Some pests are visible and you should always inspect your plant for any insects that are visible to the eye. Others leave behind marks and other signs, here are some of the most common of these:
- Sooty mold – sooty mold is black mold that can grow in excretions from pests like aphids. It looks like fuzzy, black mold and is usually seen in patches on the leaves.
- Yellow patches – If you notice small yellow patches in uneven patterns across the leaves or base of the plant this is a sign that pests are present.
Pests can cause some pretty serious damage to Christmas cacti, so it’s crucial to keep them away to maintain the health of the plant.