Easter cactus (Hatiora gaertneri) looks very similar to the more popular Christmas cactus, except it blooms in spring instead of winter. Pink to brilliant red flowers form at the ends of flat, leaf-like green branches. These “leaves” can become wrinkled if the plant doesn’t receive proper care.
So, why are you Easter cactus leaves wrinkled? The most common cause is underwatering, which causes the plant to look shrunken and wrinkled. However, low humidity and too much direct sunlight (sunburn) may also cause wrinkled leaves.
In this post, we’ll look at an easy fix for this problem, which is not uncommon in this plant. By adjusting your environment, you can easily revive and save a wrinkled Easter cactus. This plant is hardy and long-lived, but it does need specific conditions to thrive.
Too little water is the primary cause of Easter cactus shriveling up and wrinkling. This plant needs moderate water for much of the year. For the best results, follow these watering guidelines:
- In spring, allow soil to dry out for a month after flowers have faded.
- Through summer and early fall, keep the soil consistently moist (but not wet or soggy).
- In winter, allow the soil to dry out almost completely between waterings.
After the drying period in spring (and all the way until winter), water your Easter cactus when the top of the potting soil becomes dry to a depth of 1 inch (2.5 cm). Insert your finger into the soil to test for soil moisture daily.
Another sign that Easter cactus is underwatered is if it begins to shed leaves. If you have wrinkled leaves AND shedding, this almost guaranteed to be your problem. But you might also have a combination of issues, such as too little water AND too little humidity.
How to Fix an Underwatered Easter Cactus
If you think your Easter cactus leaves are wrinkled due to underwatering, don’t worry! There is an easy fix. Just follow these three steps:
- Give the plant a light watering and mist with a spray bottle filled with room temperature water. (There’s no need to drown it in water, which will just make things worse.)
- Water again the next day, being careful not to completely drench the soil. Mist again lightly with room temperature water.
- Wait three days and water lightly once more. By now, your Easter cactus leaves should be nicely plumped up again. Resume regular care from this point on.
If for some reason, this process does not work, your cactus may be severely dehydrated. See my post on how to revive under watered plants for more help.
Another reason you might find Easter cactus leaves wrinkled is low humidity (too little moisture in the air). This plant loves high humidity levels. If you live in a very dry climate or have a centrally heated home in winter, it can be difficult to keep humidity high enough.
Here are some tips on increasing humidity around your Easter cactus:
- MISTING – Mist a few times a week (once every two or three days) using a spray bottle filled with room temperature water set to the mist setting. Alternatively, you can use a handheld mister. But in my opinion, a spray bottle is easier to use and less expensive.
- HUMIDITY TRAY – Place your cactus on a shallow, water-tight tray filled with pebbles and water. Just make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the pot. See my post on how to make a homemade humidity tray for more information.
- HUMIDIFIER – Place a high-quality houseplant humidifier in the room near your Easter cactus. This is usually only necessary in the winter months when central heating is running (or if you live in the desert where the air is very dry all the time).
If you don’t have access to a humidifier, or if you just want more ideas on how to increase humidity for your houseplants, see my post on how to increase humidity without a humidifier.
Too Much Sunlight
Are your Easter cactus leaves wrinkled due to too much sunlight? If you’ve ruled out underwatering and low humidity, this might be the answer. Easter cactus needs bright, filtered light to thrive and flower. But direct sunlight can cause sunburn.
The ideal location for an Easter cactus is in an east-facing window where it receives bright, indirect light and cool morning sun. If you must place it in a west- or south-facing window, try filtering the light by hanging up sheer, gauzy curtains.
A north-facing window will not provide enough light for your plant to thrive, but you can always supplement with artificial plant lights. Easter cactus grows well under artificial lights for 10 – 12 hours a day. In winter, provide 12 – 14 hours of darkness each night to initiate blooms.
Why Are My Easter Cactus Leaves Wrinkled?
The most common (and most likely) reason your Easter cactus leaves are wrinkled is underwatering. Keep your plant well-watered, with the soil lightly moist during active growth. Easter cactus is actually quite easy to grow if you give it enough water and keep humidity high.
If the air in your home is very dry, mist your Easter cactus a few times a week with room temperature water or place it near a good humidifier. In the winter, it’s always a good idea to mist your humidity-loving plants if you have central heating (since it dries the air out rapidly).
And finally, ensure your Easter cactus gets lots of bright, filtered light, but keep it out of direct sunlight. This can burn the delicate stems and cause the leaves to wrinkle in response. Follow these simple guidelines and you’ll enjoy your beautiful cactus for many years to come!
Here are some commonly asked questions related to “Easter cactus leaves wrinkled” that you might find helpful (plus my answers to them).
How Often Should I Water My Easter Cactus? Water Easter cactus any time the top 1 inch (2.5 cm) of soil dries out. Time between waterings will vary depending on the conditions in your home. In dry conditions, you may have to water more frequently. Test soil moisture by inserting your finger into the soil up to the first knuckle. If the soil feels dry, it’s time to water.
How Do You Know if an Easter Cactus is Overwatered? If the base of the plant near the soil turns black, this indicates your Easter cactus is overwatered and root rot has developed. Other signs include wet or soggy soil, the pot feels heavy when you pick it up, or water does not drain out the bottom after watering. See my post on how to fix overwatered plants for more help.