6 Possible Reasons Your Christmas Cactus is Turning Purple


If you’re a fan of houseplants, you’re probably familiar with the Christmas cactus. With its vibrant pink or red blooms, it can add a touch of festive cheer to any space. However, sometimes these plants can develop an unexpected issue that leaves their once healthy foliage turning purple. In this article, we’ll explore six possible reasons why your Christmas cactus is changing color.

One common cause of a purple Christmas cactus is root health. If the roots become overcrowded or if the cactus has been in the same pot for too long, it may be time for repotting. When the roots are cramped, they may not be able to take in enough nutrients. This can lead to deficiencies that manifest as purple discoloration on the leaves.

A lack of light can also contribute to a purple Christmas cactus. These plants typically thrive in bright, indirect light. If they’re not getting enough light, their growth may slow down, and their leaves may turn purple. To keep your cactus happy and healthy, make sure it’s placed in a spot where it can receive plenty of natural light throughout the day.

Alternatively, too much light can also be a problem. If your Christmas cactus is exposed to direct sunlight for long periods of time, it may become stressed and its leaves may turn purple. In this case, it’s important to move the plant to a shadier location to protect it from the sun’s intense rays.

Fertilizing too frequently or using too much fertilizer can also cause a Christmas cactus to turn purple. These plants don’t need a lot of nutrients, and over-fertilizing can cause nutrient imbalances that result in purple foliage. To avoid this issue, only fertilize your cactus every 4-6 weeks during the growing season and follow the instructions on the fertilizer package.

Finally, if your Christmas cactus is turning purple and the leaves are becoming wilted or limp, it may be experiencing root rot. This is usually caused by overwatering and poor drainage. To remedy this situation, allow the soil to dry out between waterings and make sure the pot has good drainage holes.

In conclusion,

there are several reasons why your Christmas cactus may be turning purple. From root health to light conditions, and from nutrient deficiencies to overwatering issues, it’s important to troubleshoot the problem and find a suitable solution. By keeping your cactus in optimal conditions and addressing any issues promptly, you can ensure that it stays healthy and vibrant throughout the holiday season and beyond.


If you’re experiencing issues with your Christmas cactus, there are several common concerns you may encounter. Understanding these problems and their possible causes can help you keep your plant healthy and thriving.

  1. The color of your Christmas cactus may be a result of normal plant behavior. Some varieties of Christmas cactus turn purple or red during colder months or when exposed to excessive sunlight. If this is the case, there’s no need to worry as it is a natural response.
  2. Check the soil moisture to ensure you’re not over or underwatering your plant. Overwatering or underwatering can cause root rot or fungal issues, resulting in limp or rotted leaves. Christmas cacti prefer evenly moist soil, allowing it to dry out slightly between waterings.
  3. Inspect the roots of your Christmas cactus. If they appear brown, rotted, or overly crowded, it may be time to repot your plant. Providing adequate drainage and ensuring the roots have enough room to grow can help improve the health of your plant.
  4. Consider the amount of light your Christmas cactus receives. While they prefer bright, indirect light, too much direct sunlight can cause sunburn. If you notice sunburned patches on the leaves, move your plant to a shadier spot.
  5. Pay attention to the temperature in which your Christmas cactus is located. Extreme temperatures, whether too hot or too cold, can negatively affect the plant’s health. They generally prefer temperatures between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Nutrient deficiencies can also cause issues with your Christmas cactus. If the leaves are pale or yellow, it may be a sign that the plant is not receiving enough nutrients. Consider using a balanced fertilizer specifically formulated for cacti.
  7. If you’ve addressed all these concerns and your Christmas cactus remains unhealthy, it’s possible that there may be a viral or non-disease-related problem. In such cases, it may be necessary to discard the affected plant to prevent the issue from spreading to other plants.

By addressing these common concerns and providing the necessary care, you can help ensure the health and vitality of your Christmas cactus.


If your Christmas cactus starts turning purple, it could be an indication of fungal or disease problems. These issues can arise due to a variety of factors, including poor growing conditions or exposure to pathogens. Here are two common reasons why your Christmas cactus might be turning purple:

1. Botrytis Blight: Botrytis blight is a fungal disease that affects many plants, including Christmas cacti. It thrives in cool, damp conditions, especially if there is insufficient air circulation. To prevent this disease, keep your Christmas cactus in a well-ventilated area and avoid over-watering. Make sure to water the plant at the base and avoid getting the leaves wet. Additionally, ensure that the soil is well-draining to limit the risk of root rot.

2. Nutritional Deficiency: In some cases, a purple coloration in Christmas cactus can be a sign of a nutrient deficiency. This might occur if the plant is root-bound, meaning its roots have outgrown the current container. When a plant becomes root-bound, it often struggles to uptake water and nutrients effectively, resulting in limp or discolored foliage. To address this issue, repot the Christmas cactus into a larger container with fresh, well-draining soil. Consider fertilizing the plant with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer to ensure it receives adequate nutrients.

To avoid these fungal or disease problems, it’s important to provide your Christmas cactus with the proper care and growing conditions. Make sure it receives bright, indirect sunlight, as these plants prefer consistent light exposure. Keep the temperatures consistent and avoid exposing it to sudden temperature fluctuations. Additionally, clean any fallen leaves or debris regularly to prevent the development of fungal pathogens.

In conclusion, if your Christmas cactus is turning purple, it could be due to fungal or disease issues such as botrytis blight or a nutritional deficiency. By addressing these factors and providing the appropriate care, you can help your cactus recover and return to its normal health.


Holiday cactus stem rot is a common issue that can cause your Christmas cactus to turn purple. Stem rot is a fungal disease that affects the stems of the plant, causing them to become soft and mushy. It is caused by overwatering or allowing the plant to sit in standing water for too long.

One of the main symptoms of stem rot is the appearance of dark spots on the stem of the cactus. These spots start off as small and brown, but they can quickly grow bigger and turn gray or even purple. The stem may also become soft and mushy to the touch.

Excess moisture in the soil creates the perfect environment for fungal growth, which causes the rot. This can be further exacerbated by factors such as low light levels, low temperatures, or nutritional deficiencies.

If you notice that your holiday cactus stems are turning purple, the first step is to stop watering the plant immediately. Allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again. Discard any excess water that may be sitting in the saucer or pot.

To treat stem rot, you can try using a fungicide specifically designed for this type of disease. Follow the instructions on the packaging carefully. Additionally, remove any affected stems by cutting them off with a sterile and sharp knife. Make sure to disinfect the knife between cuts to prevent spreading the disease further.

Preventing stem rot involves providing the right conditions for your cactus. This includes placing the plant in bright, indirect sunlight and avoiding sudden temperature fluctuations. Water the plant only when the top inch of the soil feels dry to the touch.

Ensuring good drainage is also crucial. Use well-draining soil and a pot with drainage holes to allow excess moisture to escape. Limit the use of fertilizer, as excess nutrients can promote fungal growth. Keep your cactus away from drafty windows or any areas with low light and temperature extremes.

If your holiday cactus stems have already turned purple, it may be difficult to save the plant. However, by taking the appropriate steps to address the underlying issues and providing the right care, there is a chance it can recover.

In summary, holiday cactus stem rot is a fungal disease that causes the stems of the plant to become soft and discolored, often turning purple. The main causes of stem rot are overwatering, poor drainage, low light levels, and temperature fluctuations. By adjusting watering practices, providing appropriate lighting and temperature conditions, and addressing any underlying nutritional deficiencies, you can help prevent and treat stem rot in your holiday cactus.

✿ Read More About Cacti and Succulents.

Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.