Easter Cactus (Schlumbergera Gaertneri) are hardy and beginner-friendly houseplants, but they aren’t entirely immune to the occasional problem that can result in dropping leaves.
Easter Cactus leaves can drop due to overwatering, underwatering, a lack of sunlight, pests like mealybugs or fungus gnats, or shock due to extreme temperature or environmental changes.
Once you identify why your Easter Cactus is dropping leaves, you can take a few steps to fix the problem and help your plant recover.
Why Are the Leaves of My Cactus Falling Off?
Water tends to be the area that most people struggle with, so if your Easter Cactus is suddenly dropping leaves, first inspect your plant for signs of overwatering. Easter Cacti grow under the canopy of trees in the tropical forest in the wild. These Cacti are relatively unique because they are low light tolerant. This means that soil is more likely to dry out slowly, making overwatering quite common.
How to Tell if a Cactus is Over or Under Watered?
If your Easter Cactus is underwatered, the leaves will begin to pucker or even shrivel. Your Easter Cactus may eventually drop those leaves if the underwatering is severe. The tips of the leaves can also turn brown and have a cardboard-like texture.
What Does an Overwatered Easter Cactus Look Like?
If your Easter Cactus is overwatered, it will not only begin to drop its leaves, but you may also notice some leaves yellowing. In addition, the base of the stems will turn brown and become soft.
If the overwatering is severe, the bottom of the stems may also become mushy. It isn’t uncommon for these mushy parts to develop mold as well. As a result, your Easter Cactus will also droop because the stem isn’t strong enough to hold itself upright.
How Often Should You Water Easter Cactus?
Easter Cactus prefer to dry out between watering. This is because they are epiphytic, which means they live on trees and other vegetation in the wild, making them very drought tolerant.
In addition, their thick, succulent leaves can retain water even after the soil has become dry. With that said, once the soil has dried, you shouldn’t wait too long to water your Easter Cactus as it might lose a couple of leaves due to underwatering.
Depending on your light conditions, the frequency you water your Easter Cactus will vary from once a week to only once a month. If you struggle to determine when your Easter Cactus’ soil has dried out, consider purchasing a moisture meter. This will help you prevent both overwatering and underwatering.
How Do I Revive My Easter Cactus?
How to Revive Your Easter Cactus From Underwatering
Some people are so afraid to overwater their Easter Cactus that they refrain from watering it for months on end, or they will only give it a small sip of water every so often. It’s a common misconception that overwatering means giving your Cactus too much water in one sitting.
On the contrary, overwatering happens when the Cactus sits in saturated soil for too long. If your Easter Cactus is potted in a well-draining soil mixture and has a pot with adequate drainage, you should water it thoroughly when the time comes. Luckily, in most cases, correcting the underwatering problem will help it make a full recovery.
How to Revive Your Easter Cactus From Overwatering
If your Easter Cactus is dropping leaves due to overwatering, you will have to act quickly to fix the problem. First, swap the wet soil in your pot with fresh, well-draining soil. Make sure that the pot you use also has plenty of drainage.
You can use a pre-made cactus soil mix and add additional orchid bark and perlite for extra drainage. If you notice that the roots are dark and slimy, they may be suffering from root rot. In this case, trim the affected roots before repotting. You can also use hydrogen peroxide to kill off any bacteria on the roots.
Why is my Easter Cactus Dying?
Sometimes the root rot is too severe, and your Easter Cactus may not be able to recover from the damage. If your entire plant seems to be dying, you can trim a few leaves and stems and attempt to propagate your Cactus to salvage the healthiest leaves and stems and start over.
How to Propagate Easter Cactus
Since Easter Cactus and many other “Holiday Cacti” are epiphytic plants, they are unique among many Cacti in that you can successfully propagate them with either soil or water.
- Cut off part of the stem with 2-3 segments (these are called cladophylls). The more segments attached to the cutting, the more energy your Easter Cactus will have to grow healthy roots.
- Let your cuttings callus over by allowing it to sit for a day or two. This will lower the likelihood that your cuttings will rot before they can grow roots.
- Then you can place those cuttings in moist soil or distilled tepid water.
- Give your propagation bright indirect light.
- Roots will eventually begin to grow, likely after a couple of weeks.
Of course, it’s best to propagate your Easter Cactus during the growing season, but if you are propagating to save your Easter Cactus, you should not wait until spring.
Reasons Why Your Easter Cactus Could Be Dropping Leaves
If you have ruled out the possibility of overwatering and underwatering, but your Easter Cactus is still frequently dropping leaves, there could be a few other reasons:
Many people hear that the Easter Cactus is very low light tolerant and assume that it means they can place it in extremely low light to zero light, and it will survive just fine. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Easter Cacti need 200-400 Foot Candles of light, which range from low to medium light conditions.
No house plant can survive for very long with zero light. If your Easter Cactus is not getting enough light, it may endure for a while, but eventually, it will drop leaves because it no longer has the energy to maintain them.
Extreme Environmental Changes
While Easter Cacti are very hardy houseplants, if it is mysteriously dropping leaves, it could be a sign of shock due to any extreme environmental changes. These could include:
- Fluctuations in temperatures, such as being suddenly exposed to extreme cold or heat.
- Physical damage, such as getting knocked over by a pet or a child.
- Transportation shock and sometimes even transplanting them can cause them to drop a few leaves.
If your Cactus is dropping leaves from shock, it’s best to give them time to recover before altering their conditions further.
Lastly, Easter Cactus are relatively pest-resistant plants, but you may find mealybugs, fungus gnats, or scale on your plant, which could cause it to drop leaves.
Fungus gnats resemble fruit flies that lay eggs in moist soil and are a nuisance but likely won’t cause too much damage to your Easter Cactus. Mealybugs are white fuzzy pests that tend to hide in the crevices of plants, while scale are small, round, and brown. Scale can often be confused for scabs of imperfections on the leaves and stems, allowing them to go undetected until the plant is infested.
If the infestation is severe, you will notice some leaf discoloration, and eventually, your Easter Cactus will start dropping leaves.
If you notice pests on your Easter Cactus, you will want to isolate it from other nearby houseplants and treat the leaves and stems with insecticidal soap or neem oil. You can treat individual leaves by hand with a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol.
Keep your Easter Cactus in isolation for a few weeks and monitor it for repeated outbreaks before bringing it around other plants. Depending on their life cycle, you may have to repeat pest treatments a couple of times before they are completely gone.
Easter Cactus is an excellent houseplant for beginners since they tolerate drought conditions and low light, making them very low-maintenance. This is why it can be very concerning to find that your Easter Cactus is dropping leaves suddenly.
While there are a few reasons your Easter Cactus could be dropping leaves, the most likely reason is that it has been overwatered or underwatered. However, there could be a few other reasons your Easter Cactus is unhappy and they include insufficient sunlight, pests like mealybugs or scale, or extreme temperature changes and physical damage.
As soon as you determine the cause of the leaf loss, you can start your Easter Cactus on the road to recovery.