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With its sometimes luxuriant cactus of shoots and its full flowers that shine in winter, the Schlumbergera - usually better known by the more common name Christmas cactus - is one of the most popular and widespread types of cactus in domestic living rooms, even outside of the Christmas season. The concern is all the greater when you look at your Christmas cactus and realize: Oh dear, the leaves are falling off. The reasons behind this and how easy and quick a remedy can be found are explained here in a comprehensible and simple manner.

loss of leaves and flowers

Why do Schlumbergera leaves and flowers fall off?

Before you specifically deal with the question of the causes of and measures against leaf loss, you should first look at the location requirements look at the Christmas cactus. In the vast majority of cases, plant problems result from insufficient or unsuitable locations and, as a result, an under- or oversupply of light, water or nutrients.

The ideal location

The home of the Schlumbergera is primarily in tropical areas, where the popular cactus thrives naturally in the humus accumulations in the forks of large trees, or in depressions or holes in rock formations. There the plant usually finds the following conditions to which it has adapted perfectly:

  • Moderate to warm temperatures without periods of frost
  • Shady to semi-shady locations without direct summer sun
  • High humidity, as well as good water supply in the soil and root area, usually very low-lime to lime-free water
  • Good nutrient supply in the hummus
  • Due to tropical climatic periods, mostly short dry periods in which the formation of flowers is promoted

Causes of shedding of flowers and leaves

If plant parts fall off, situations in the living room that deviate from the location requirements mentioned are almost always responsible. Depending on the changed location factor, the reasons why the plant loses its parts can be of different kinds.


Too much of: Shedding of plant parts due to overheating of the cells, or dehydration of the plant due to increased evaporation

Too little: The plant's protective mechanism, in the event of a lack of supply, peripheral components that are less important for survival are shed


Too much of: Death of leaves and flower parts through burning of the upper cell layers and thus the protective plant skin

Too little: lack of photosynthesis and the associated lack of energy supply


Too much of: Mold and rot possible, but only very rarely the case with plants of tropical origin due to humidity alone; especially problematic when the root ball is waterlogged; in case of excessive moisture during flowering (usually September and October), buds or flowers are shed

Too little: Dehydration of the plant and death from the extremities to the stem

nutrients / soil

There is seldom an under- or oversupply of nutrients, but mostly the wrong composition or a different pH value. A pH value of 5 to 6 is ideal. Too much lime in the substrate is critical.

Consequence: Under- and oversupply can hinder plant development and is associated with slower growth and possible rejection of peripheral components.


Of course, diseases or pests can also cause the Schlumbergera to drop parts of its shoots. However, no relevant diseases or parasites are known for the Christmas cactus and the plant is considered to be quite robust and insensitive. Should a disease or an infestation actually occur, it cannot be assigned to common pathogens from the outset. In these cases, the cause should be specifically identified and counteracted accordingly.


Ways to counteract leaf shedding

The possibilities of counteracting the falling off of shoots are obvious.

  • Temperatures: look for a suitable location, not directly on the heating, but also not in areas at risk of frost or in areas that are completely unheated
  • Exposure: choose a semi-shady location, cover if necessary in the evenings and at night, especially during winter, avoid permanent exposure to artificial light during the flowering period
  • Water: Keep the root ball constantly moist, like to pollinate the plant frequently with water, rainwater or decalcified tap water is particularly suitable
  • Nutrients / soil: Choose soil with a suitable pH value between 5 and 6, e.g. cactus soil, or substrate made with your own mix, avoid too high a lime content

Preventing leaf and flower shedding through good regulation of all site factors is ideal. In this way, the undesirable phenomena can be avoided from the outset. But once the time has come, the falling off of the plant parts cannot usually be stopped immediately. Because before a flower or a leaf falls, a phase of damage precedes it that is not immediately visible. If the causes are eliminated, further leaf and flower parts can be expected to fall off for a certain period of time. However, you can assume that all healthy shoots will remain intact if the growing conditions are good and that no further damage will occur.

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