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How to Repot a Cactus Without Getting Hurt

Lyn is a horticulturist and YouTuber with over 35 years of experience growing succulents and cacti.

A beginner's guide to handling cactus without getting hurt.

A beginner's guide to handling cactus without getting hurt.

Safely Handling Cactus in Your Garden

Have you ever tried to repot a cactus and ended up with spines in your hands? With over 1,000 cacti and succulents in my garden Desert Plants of Avalon in Ireland, I repot a lot of cacti. In the video above, I show you how to repot and handle a cactus without getting hurt.

Prickly spines of a cactus.

Prickly spines of a cactus.

Supplies Needed

  • Cactus: Any cactus you have that needs a bigger pot.
  • Pot: You're going to need the next size up. Never repot a cactus into a much bigger pot because they're very prone to rot, so always use the next size up.
  • Cactus and Succulent Soil: Make sure you have some well-draining cactus and succulent soil. I have a video at the bottom of the article about how to mix your own soil, but using a commercial cactus mix works as well.
  • Newspaper: I don't like to use gloves when I repot cacti because the spines go straight through them and often stick to the gloves, and then end up in your hands. Gloves are a complete waste of time. Use newspaper instead.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Add some soil to the bottom of the new pot.
  2. Roll six or seven sheets of newspaper and about a 4" strip. This will give you a good grip for handling the cactus.
  3. Wrap the newspaper around the cactus, use the strip's ends as a handle, and grip tightly.
  4. Gently squeeze the pot to loosen up the soil; it will make it come out easier. You don't want to yank the cactus out.
  5. Turn it on to its side and gently pull. If it doesn't come out, you can push underneath the holes on the bottom to help free it up.
  6. Take this opportunity to check the root system. Make sure there are no signs of hidden root pests, such as vine weevils or root mealybugs, which cacti are very prone to.
  7. Gently loosen the root ball if it is very tight. You can use the back end of a blunt instrument such as the back of a spoon handle and gently loosen it up. This helps it to acclimatize to the new soil and pot.
  8. Using the newspaper, get a good grip and carefully lift it into the new pot.
  9. Carefully remove the newspaper from around the cactus.
  10. Prop the cactus with the newspaper to make sure it's centered in the new pot.
  11. Add a little bit of soil to the sides. I use a tablespoon because it helps get the soil down the sides, but you can use anything that's easy.
  12. Make sure you go all around the sides. Gently tap the pot while you do this, so the soil goes down to the bottom.
  13. Gently press that soil down, so it goes down to the bottom.
The replanted cactus in it's new, bigger pot.

The replanted cactus in it's new, bigger pot.

What to Do After the Cactus Is in a New Pot

When you repot a cactus, it's best not to water it for about 10 days. That lets the roots settle and prevents rot. The roots are naturally disturbed when repotting, so waiting 10 days gives the roots the chance to heal over and settle.

Have an incredible plant-powered day!

© 2021 Lyn Kimberley

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