Repotting a cactus can seem pretty daunting, especially if it produces thick, sharp spines. The good news is that cacti grow slowly and do not need to be repotted as frequently as your tropical house plants. However, it is still recommended that you repot your cactus once every 2-3 years to replace old, nutrient-depleted soil.
Today, we are going to guide you through 4 steps for repotting your cactus. To assist with visuals, here is a 4-year-old Gymnocalycium Saglionis with a whole lot of attitude!
1. Choose a new pot
Firstly, it is important that you choose the right size pot. Just like all other plants, we recommend that you only increase the pot size by 1-2 inches maximum. As a visual guide, place the current cactus pot into the pot you wish to repot the cactus into. There should be about an inch of space on all sides between the old and new pot. Why is this important? Cacti, like all other succulents, are sensitive to moisture. If the new pot is too large, the roots of the cactus will not be able to absorb moisture fast enough after watering. If the soil stays damp for too long, your cactus is at a high risk of getting root rot. As always, a pot with drainage holes is optimal for plants, especially for succulents and cacti.
Tip: if you are a notorious over-waterer, consider using terra cotta pots as they wick moisture much faster than plastic or glazed ceramic pots.
2. Prepare the cactus
Very gently and carefully remove your cactus from its old pot. Be patient and take it slow, you don’t want to hurt yourself or your plant. Below are 3 easy hacks to help you avoid getting hurt by sharp cactus spines:
Use heavy-duty gardening gloves. Regular gardening gloves are still penetrable so make sure you are using landscaping quality gardening gloves. Double up if needed!
Use kitchen tongs. Gently grab the cactus near its base. Careful not to apply too much pressure as it can damage the plant.
Use a kitchen towel. Roll up the towel lengthwise and wrap it firmly near the base of the cactus. The thicker the towel, the better. Any thick fabric or even newspaper will also do the trick.
Choose the method that works best or is most accessible to you. Once the cactus is out of the pot, gently massage the root ball to help remove as much old soil from the roots as possible.
3. Prepare the pot
Add a layer of soil to the bottom of the new pot. Make sure you are using porous, well-draining succulent soil.
4. Transplant cactus into the new pot
Gently place the cactus into the new pot. Fill the pot up with succulent soil using a gardening trowel or a spoon.
Optional: Add a layer of decorative rocks on top of the soil. This is not required but it helps give a clean and neat appearance and can also help serve as a protective barrier between your cactus and damp soil after watering!
And that’s it! Your cactus now has a little more room to grow with fresh soil to keep it happy. We hope that you found this article useful and are a little less nervous about repotting your spikey friend. Happy planting! 🌵