11 Signs It’s Time to Repot Your Christmas Cactus

Does your Christmas cactus look a little tired? While these succulents do not need to be repotted too frequently, it does need to be done from time to time. In this article, gardening expert Jill Drago will list 11 signs that it may be time to give your Christmas cactus a new pot!

A schlumbergera with browning leaves and no blooms sits in a small pot.

Contents

You don’t need to repot your Christmas cactus very often. These plants do not like to be repotted frequently. However, there are signs that it’s time for a new pot to ensure a healthy plant in the future. 

For the most part, this plant will be healthy and carefree. However, too much love and incorrect growing conditions can lead to troubling issues that require repotting.

Keep your eye out for these 11 signs that your Christmas cactus needs to be repotted. Use your best judgment and enjoy the rare task of repotting these pretty plants. 

It Has Been A While

Close-up of a holiday cactus in a white pot on a wooden surface. Nearby is some craft paper and a pair of gray gardening gloves. The Christmas cactus is a distinctive and charming houseplant with long, flat, segmented dark green stems. These stems are glossy, smooth, succulent, and have slightly jagged edges.
Opinions vary on repotting Christmas cacti, but it’s crucial not to do it too often.

There are varying opinions on how frequently Christmas cacti need to be repotted. Some say it should be done every 1-3 years, while others say 4-6. There is no exact timeline for this task; it all depends on the growing conditions and overall health of the plant

While the amount of time between repotting may be up for debate, the important factor is that these plants do not need nor like to be repotted too frequently. Christmas cacti will fail to bloom if they are not growing in tight quarters and are generally in better health when they are slightly pot-bound. 

If it has been a while since you have repotted, move on to step two. If not, and your plant is not displaying any other concerning symptoms, hold off for another year or two. 

The Roots Are Visible Through the Drainage Holes

Close-up of a woman's hands showing protruding plant roots from drainage holes in a black plastic pot, indoors. On the table there are plastic, yellow gardening tools and several plastic flower pots in black, green and white.
Check pot drainage, and if roots emerge from the bottom, consider repotting for space.

Hopefully, your holiday cactus is growing in a pot with drainage holes. These are necessary to allow water to flow through the soil, preventing rot. Now, take a peek at the bottom of your pot. Do you see any roots peeking through the bottom? If so, it may be time for a new pot. 

When your roots begin to poke out of the bottom, they have run out of room within the pot. This is a sign that 1) your plant needs more room and b) the roots cannot do their job correctly. Roots are used to take up not only water but nutrients as well. If your roots are not in the soil, they aren’t getting the nutrients they require to thrive.

Your Plant is Visibly Pot Bound

Close-up of a flowering Schlumbergera plant in a large, plastic, brown pot on a light windowsill. The Schlumbergera, commonly known as the Christmas cactus is a visually striking houseplant distinguished by its flattened, succulent, and segmented leaves. The fleshy, glossy leaves have serrated edges and are arranged in a cascading fashion along the arching stems. The plant produces vibrant and pendulous flowers that are bright pink in color and have a tubular shape.
If roots protrude from the soil, the plant is likely pot-bound; repot carefully.

This sign is very similar to the roots coming out of the bottom of your plant, except in this scenario, you will see roots coming up the sides and out of the top of the soil. This is a bit more of a problem.

If you can see your roots above the soil line, your holiday cactus is likely completely pot bound. Yes, Christmas cacti like to be snug in their pots, but not that snug. 

Tip the plant out of the pot and gently work the roots with your fingers. You will remove most of the potting soil while doing this. The objective is to untangle the roots before repotting them into a larger pot with fresh soil. In severe cases, use clean plant shears and trim away some of the gnarly bits before repotting. 

There are Signs of Root Rot 

Close-up of a Schlumbergera plant in a large, brown, plastic pot on a wooden surface, against a white wall. The plant has symptoms of root rot: weakened leaves and fungus on the soil surface. The Schlumbergera has long, flattened, succulent, segmented stems of green color with a glossy surface. These leaf-like segments have slightly scalloped edges.
Symptoms of root rot include weakened foliage and black roots.

Root rot occurs in houseplants when they have been overwatered. This can happen for a few different reasons: heavy-handed watering, incorrect soil, or a container without drainage holes. You might be in trouble once you notice signs of root rot above the soil line. 

Root rot symptoms are weakened foliage, possible discoloring of the foliage, fungus on the top of the soil, and the most common: black rotting roots. If you suspect that your plant may be dealing with root rot, remove the plant from the pot and remove as much soil as possible from the roots.

Black and rotting roots are a clear sign of this disease. If there are still sections of healthy roots remaining, take clean shears and cut away all of the dead and rotting roots.

Replant the healthy portion of the cactus in fresh succulent soil. Clean your pot or use a new one. If you have to remove foliage from the rotted part of the plant, you can try to propagate new plants from a few of the leaves. This helps to make up for the loss of your beautiful Christmas cactus. 

Yellowing Leaves 

Close-up of a Schlumbergera plant in a large green pot, on a light windowsill. The plant displays a unique and captivating appearance characterized by flattened, succulent stems that serve as modified leaves. The stem segments are notched and serrated. They are yellowish due to improper watering or lack of nutrients.
Yellow leaves may result from overwatering, lack of nutrients, or poor drainage.

There are a few different reasons your plant’s leaves are turning yellow:

  • Too much or too little water
    • Too much water, aka overwatering, can lead to issues such as root rot (see above). If you have yellow leaves but dry soil, try getting on a more regular watering schedule or moving the plant to a more humid area of your home.
  • Lack of nutrients
    • While Christmas cactus does not have high requirements for fertilizer, these plants still need some nutrients in their diet. If your cactus has been hanging out in the same soil in the same pot for a while, it might simply mean you must repot your cactus with fresh, new, nutrient-dense potting soil. 
  • Poor drainage
    • If your soil is not drying out, but you are not over-watering, you may need to switch up your soil or your pot. These succulents grow best in succulent soil. These soils have larger particles that help the water to trickle through more easily without saturating the roots. 

Unexpected Leaf Drop

Closeup of the pink flowering Christmas cactus on a light windowsill. The flattened, segmented leaves, which serve as modified stems, showcase a smooth and fleshy texture in shades of green. At the tips of these succulent stems, vibrant pink flowers emerge, each blossom possessing a tubular shape with gracefully layered petals.
Leaf drop signals an underlying problem. Try adjusting the light levels or repotting to see if the problem improves.

You never want to see leaves dropping from your Christmas cactus. When you do, you know it is cause for concern. Leaf drop typically happens due to mismanagement of the plant. If moving the location of your plant for more or less light or heat does not help, you may need to repot the plant. 

Leaf drop can be caused by too much water or incorrect soil (surprise, surprise!). If you are concerned that your soil is too heavy, it is time to repot your plant. 

Withered Leaves

Close-up of a Christmas cactus plant with withered leaves. The plant has flat, succulent, segmented green stems with a smooth and glossy texture. The leaves are slightly wrinkled, wilted, with a purple tint. The soil is moist, black-brown in color.
Limp or withered foliage indicates improper watering or a rootbound plant.

If your otherwise perky Christmas cactus has begun to look limp or withered, you are correct in thinking that something is going on. This sad appearance is likely due to improper watering or being rootbound.

It is easy to check if your plant is rootbound. The roots will have wrapped themselves around the soil. While holiday cacti can survive in tight spaces, withering foliage is a clue that it may be time to upgrade the space. 

Growth is Stunted

Close-up of a young plant in a white pot on a light windowsill. The plant has long, segmented stems that have flat, leaf-like blades with slightly scalloped edges. The leaves are green and glossy.
Insufficient light may stunt healthy growth.

Christmas cacti that spend too much time in the shade may not grow the way you expect them to. But if your plant is getting enough light, chances are that it is potbound, making this a great time to repot. 

You don’t need to select a pot that is significantly larger than the one your plant is currently growing in; just a few inches larger will do the trick. Don’t forget that these plants enjoy growing in tight spaces. 

The Soil Dries Out Quickly

Close-up of a woman's hand spraying a flowering Schlumbergera plant on a light windowsill. A woman sprays a plant from a transparent plastic bottle with a yellow spray nozzle. The plant is in a large, decorative, clay pot.
Quickly drying soil suggests excess sun or dry indoor conditions.

If you find that your soil is drying out quickly, a few things could be going on. If you know you are watering enough, your plant could be getting too much sun. It could be in an area of your home without adequate humidity or drying out due to a nearby heating vent.

Try moving the plant to an area with a little less light or adding a pebble tray or humidifier to the room. 

On the other hand, your holiday cactus may be pot-bound. You can easily identify this by gently popping the plant out of its pot and examining the roots. If they are heavily wrapped around the plant’s soil, it’s time for a new home. 

Your Soil Never Dries Out

Close-up of a woman's hand watering a Christmas cactus from a blue plastic watering can on a light windowsill among other potted house plants. The plant has long, segmented stems that are dark green in color. These flat, leaf-like segments have scalloped edges.
Persistent dampness in the soil signals an urgent need for repotting.

Have you noticed that the soil in the pot is always damp? I would consider this an immediate need to repot your plant. There are a couple of reasons this could be happening: improper watering or incorrect soil type. Either way, you could be headed for root rot if you aren’t already there. 

Remove your plant from the pot and remove as much wet soil as possible. Examine the roots and remove any dark or mushy roots. Allow the roots to dry out for an hour or so, and then replant into fresh (and dry) succulent soil. 

Try watering less frequently in the new pot, allowing the soil to dry out before hydrating again.

Your Plant has Recently Stopped Blooming

Close-up of a non-blooming holiday cactus in a large pot, indoors. The Schlumbergera is characterized by its distinctive and segmented foliage. The flattened, succulent leaves are glossy and possess a scalloped edge, creating a cascading effect along the stems.
Repot after blooming to reduce transplant shock.

If your otherwise healthy Christmas cactus has just finished its beautiful blooming season, and you know your plant is ready to be repotted, this is the time!

Repotting after blooming has ended lowers the risk of transplant shock. It also will give your plant plenty of time to get comfortable in its new home before it needs to focus on putting out that next round of blossoms in the winter. 

Final Thoughts

Christmas cacti are very low-maintenance plants, but when moving them into new homes, they can be quite sensitive. These succulents like to be in tight spaces. In fact, moving them into a pot that is too large can affect their ability to flower. If your plant is healthy and happy in its home, resist the temptation to move it into that shiny new pot you just picked up at the garden center and buy a new plant to fill it instead. 

SHARE THIS POST
A vibrant Christmas Cactus blooms in a terracotta pot on a brown table. Its red flowers, in full bloom, add festive charm. The succulent green leaves cascade gracefully, accentuating the cactus's beauty amidst a garden's lush green backdrop.

Houseplants

What’s the Best Potting Mix For Christmas Cactus?

Are you seeking information on the right kind of potting mix for your Christmas cactus? These succulents need well-draining soil to keep them healthy and happy. In this article, gardening expert Jill Drago will detail what makes the best potting mix for your Christmas cactus and why.

Pots of colorful Phalaenopsis orchids in full bloom, bathed in bright sunlight. Delicate petals are unfurled to reveal a variety of vibrant hues, including pink, purple, yellow, and white. The white pot contrasts beautifully with the flowers, and the sunlight highlights the intricate details of each bloom.

Houseplants

10 Best Orchids for Beginners

Despite their unique growth habits and interesting looks, orchid care is not as complicated as it seems. If you’re just starting out, try one of these 10 orchids for beginners, recommended by gardening expert Madison Moulton.

Close-up of a Poinsettia in a white pot on a windowsill with colorful lights. Poinsettia leaves are dark green, lance-shaped, and have a smooth texture. The distinctive feature of poinsettias is their red bracts, which are modified leaves surrounding the small, inconspicuous flowers.

Flowers

Can you Keep Poinsettias Year-Round?

After the holidays comes the question of what to do with those poinsettias. Don’t toss them just yet, because you might be able to keep those pretty plants going all year. In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss tells you how.

'Christmas Beauty Princess' poinsettia bracts dazzle with raspberry edges and pale pink variegation.

Flowers

How and When to Fertilize Poinsettias

Poinsettias are a wonderful harbinger of holiday cheer and make excellent houseplants year-round. In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss will tell you how to fertilize your poinsettias to make them bloom again next year.