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How To Repot a Small, Tall or Large Cactus and Aftercare

Step by step guide of how to repot Cactus Succulents

Desert Plants

Choose a larger pot size (porous materials like terracotta are best) and it is essential that the new pot has a drainage holes. Prepare a well-draining cactus mix using 30-40% organic matter (peat-free compost is eco-friendly) and 60-70% inorganic matter (Perlite/ Lava rock / Horticultural grit/ River Sand/ Pumice/ crushed granite or Limestone). Most desert plants will thrive in acidic potting soil, with a PH between 5 - 6.5. Gently remove your cactus safely, brush away the old soil and repot your cactus in new potting mix, covering its roots and firm the soil gently around the roots.

How to pot cactus and succulents guide.

How important is the pot?

"Terracotta pots are the best choice when it comes to cactus plants! They have a porous nature, great for absorbing excess moisture from the cactus soil. This reduces the risk of plants getting root rot!"

The main thing to remember when you repot a cactus is that you should use a bigger pot and the right pot should always have drainage holes. The cactus roots should be able to grow to the bottom of the pot, to absorb moisture and prevent root rot.

Different sizes of terracotta pots, for cactus & succulents.

Tools Needed For Repotting A Cactus

  • Larger pot size with drainage holes (e.g. Current pot size 9cm, repot into 12cm+ pot size)

  • Organic matter (Peat-free compost is eco-friendly)

  • Inorganic matter (Perlite/ Lava rock / Horticultural grit/ River Sand/ Pumice/ crushed granite or Limestone chippings)

  • Square piece of hessian (environmentally friendly & biodegradable)

  • Paint brush (to gently ease soil from roots)

  • Soil scoop (for transferring soil to pot)

  • Used folded newspaper or magazine (to protect hands against sharp spines)

  • Thick gardening gloves or Leather gloves

Tools for potting cactus and succulents

Protective Gloves

Consider the need for thorn-proof, cut-resistant, thick gloves when cactus repotting. Many consider cactus as low maintenance plants, but when it comes to removing cactus safely from their container, every little bit helps for this task!

How to tell when a cactus is ready for repotting

The general rule is to repot a cactus, when it has outgrown the pot it is in! You will likely see roots at the bottom of the pot and/or the width of body is within close proximity of the pot edges.

As the cactus plant grows, the roots will compact the soil overtime. The compacted soil causes the remaining space to be inadequate for roots to grow and the roots cannot absorb nutrients efficiently. It is therefore essential to consider the quality of the old soil and whether it is still light enough, for your cactus to thrive and flourish!

Although you can add additional nutrients to your current container; in some cases it is better to repot a cactus plant, in order to re-establish adequate aeration as mentioned above. Repotting cacti in the correct potting mix and new container, will allow new roots to grow, excess water to drain and roots dry in-between watering's. This is imperative, to prevent cactus root rot.

How to remove your small to medium sized cactus from an old pot for repotting

Step 1a:

Wrap a folded tea towel around the body of your cactus, to protect your hands from its small spines! Unless your cactus is spineless, like Peyote (AKA Lophophora Williamsii).

How to handle and repot a large or tall cactus with sharp spines

Step 1b:

Wrap a magazine around the body of your cacti, to protect your hands from its sharp spines!

Step 2:

Lean the cactus on its side and gently ease it out of its current pot. If the cactus does not remove with ease, it may be root bound! Gently slide a trowel around the edges to loosen the soil.

Potting a prickly cactus using a magazine or newspaper

Step 3: Inspect the Roots and Trim if Necessary

Gently brush the old soil from the cacti roots and trim the root ends with clean scissors, to encourage new root growth!

Removing old soil from cactus roots using a brush

Step 4: After you have removed your cactus from an old pot

Place a small piece of hessian over the drainage hole, in you newly chosen pot for your cactus.

Covering a pots drainage hole with hessian

Step 5: Mix cactus and succulent soil mix

Prepare a well-draining cactus mix using 30-40% organic matter (peat-free compost is eco-friendly) and 60-70% inorganic matter (Perlite/ Lava rock / Horticultural grit/ River Sand/ Pumice/ crushed granite or Limestone) Pour the new soil into the new container. You are now ready to repot your cactus!

Homemade cactus soil mix

Step 6: Place the cactus in its new pot

Use the handle of your paint brush or thumbs, to create a small indentation in the centre of your pot (careful not to make the hole too deep!) Repot your cactus into the indented soil, just enough to cover the roots. Gently compact the cactus soil mix around the plant roots.

Repotted cactus in homemade soil mix

Step 7: Decorative plant pot topper

Sprinkle your chosen top dressing onto the soil and gently pat down. This will not only help to secure your desert plants, but keep the soil in place during watering. Some top dressings such as akadama (as shown in the picture below) are a top choice for cactus/succulents, due to its porous nature.

"Akadama, also known as 'Red Ball Earth' is a Japanese baked clay. Predominantly obtained from continuous Volcanic eruptions of Mount Fuji over centuries"

Cactus decorative top soil.

Step 8: What to do after you have repotted your cacti

After you have repot a cactus, place the cactus plant in a warm, well ventilated, sunny south facing window and DO NOT WATER for a minimum of 5 days, to allow the roots to establish.

Before and after picture of repotting cactus, in a terracotta pot

Step 9: Watering your cactus

Water infrequently, cacti/succulents are incredibly drought tolerant and more likely to rot from over-watering! However; bare in mind that young plants like San Pedro Seedlings and Peyote seedlings will require more frequent watering, than when they are mature.

Watering cacti and succulents after repotting


Light requirements for cacti/succulents can vary greatly; from bright indirect sunlight, to direct sunlight. It is important to self-research your new cactus/succulent species!

Cactus light requirements with natural sunlight or artificial light source

Successfully repotting a Cactus or Succulent

Most cacti are low maintenance plants, but understanding when it is time to repot a cactus/repotting cacti is essential for healthy growth, successful blooms and seed production! Once you cacti is established in its new pot, you should see active growth in the growing season.

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Looking for Cactus for Sale Online?

We have plenty of cacti and succulents available to buy online at Desert Plants Ltd and we are established right here in the UK! We also off wonderful varieties of Agave and some of the rarest cacti in the world, just one click away!

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