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How I Repot A Cactus

How I repot A CactusI finally got around to repotting a couple of cacti that I own and decided to take some photos to detail how I repot a cactus. Normally I would recommend repotting a succulent during the early spring when it enters the active growing cycle but I didn't get around to it and there are still plenty of warm days ahead.

Step 1:
The first thing you should do when repotting a plant is to gather your plant, pot and soil in the area you will be working in.

Step 2:
Choose the right size pot for your plant. In this case the cacti is small and isn't a very fast grower so I chose a pot just slightly larger. If you choose a pot that is too large your soil will remain wet longer which could be detrimental to plants like cacti.

Step 3:
Lift the cacti from it's pot. You can use a thick pair of gardening gloves or tongs if you are worried about getting pricked by the spines. I didn't have any handy so I made a strap out of newspaper to lift the cacti and not get poked by it. Take this time to examine the roots and make sure you don't have any mealy bugs living in the soil. If you look closely at the top right photo you'll see that this cacti was severely root-bound, so I broke up the roots a little to encourage them to spread in the new soil and pot.

Step 4:
Add a small amount of soil to the bottom of the new pot and place your cacti inside. Check to see if the bottom of the plant is level with the rim of the pot. If it isn't lift the plant and add more soil until it is level. Finally, fill in soil around the plant making sure that soil fills in the pockets created by the roots. I like to stick a bamboo skewer in the soil around the plant and jiggle it to make sure the soil settles in. You can also tap the sides of the pot or lift and swiftly (but gently) tap it on a firm surface to make the soil settle in between the roots.

Its not rocket science but maybe this will be helpful to someone out there.

Related: How to Repot Lithops "Living Stones."


  1. I love cacti and have a couple of beautiful specimens. I always dread repotting because I invariably end up with injuries. Glad for the info!

    (BTW, I loved the Chicago Botanic Garden! Do you ever find time to visit, since you're so close?)

    --Robin (Bumblebee)

  2. oh yes they always tell you 'use newspaper' but fail to get specific. so here's one person helped ...

  3. Anonymous1:48 PM

    The newspaper strap is a great idea!

  4. Luckily, cactuses love a crowded pot, so repotting is infrequent. Is that a Gymnocalycium?

  5. Thanks for these tips ... too often I have tried transplanting my cacti without using some implement - and now I know I can use a newspaper strap - and my hands have been filled with those nasty miniscule little prickles.

  6. Anonymous12:29 AM

    Good informative post.
    Thank you.
    Happy GTS.

  7. Hey,
    thanks for a great how to!

  8. Hi everyone thanks for stopping by and taking a moment to comment, I appreciate it.

    Robin, I'm ashamed to admit that I have only been there once in my life and this was about 10 years ago. Part of the reason I don't go up there is the driving. But I will make a resolution this New Years to visit the garden.

    (if anyone is interested in the Chicago Botanic Garden visit Robin's blog for some nice photos of her recent visit)


    Yes it is a gymno unfortunately it was so root bound that it wasn't taking up water and was sunken in as you can see in the pic.


    I can totally relate and I'll post later on my other blog about different things that you can use to help repot them.

    Acey, Beth, Chigiy and italman.

    Thanks for stopping and I'm glad the info was helpful.

  9. That's a neat trick. Thanks.

  10. glad you liked it Ki.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  11. Anonymous11:54 AM

    Does anyone know a website I can use to look up what species my cactus is?

  12. anonymous,

    I'd upload a pic of your cacti and show it to some cacti growers to get an ID of your plant. try the cactus forum on Nice folks with a lot of knowledge.

  13. Anonymous6:54 AM

    what soil do i use .from butsie

  14. Just what I was looking for!! As a result, I've decided not to repot just now but simply wedge the somewhat top heavy little pots in a dish of small stones and leave them for a bit longer. Thanks for the info!


  15. Anonymous,

    I just use an all purpose soil designed for Cacti and Succulents. You can find it in almost all garden centers soil as cacti and succulent soil.


    That's a good idea.

  16. Anonymous9:45 AM

    I received a beautiful cactus as a gift unfortunately it came in a pink pot. As I hate pink, it is imperative to change pots. I really appreciate all your steps and photos. I am a plant girl but never worked with a cactus before.... your the hero of the day!


  17. Anonymous4:43 AM

    What kind of cactus is in your picture

  18. Stacy,

    Thanks for the feedback.


    I'm sorry I don't remember what kind of cactus it is.

  19. Anonymous7:06 PM

    Ok, I have a really strange question here. I was recently given a very large cactus from a friend. This friend had the plant for years, and no longer had space. It seems "happy" enough and I have had it for 3 or 4 weeks now. The problem is this-- the "plant" (pot? soil? plant?) smells strongly of cat urine. The previous home was shared by a lot of cats, and admission was made that some cats had "attempted" to urinate on or near this plant. So, I believe the soil may have been used as a cat toilet for some time. I want to see if repotting will solve this problem. My only concern is that the soil is likely what's saturated by this smell, and short of stripping the plant from all existing soil, I fear it won't be solved. And I know that's damaging to the plant to have all soil removed. Any suggestions are appreciated!!! Thanks!

  20. Anonymous12:57 PM


    I received a cactus from a good neighbor of mine about eight years ago before they moved. The Cactus must be about 35-40 years old and is about 6 feet tall. I love the cactus, but have no idea what type it is. Also, within the past year it started to get a brown coloration and was leaning. We thought it was too big for the pot, so we placed it in a bigger pot.

    It is now leaning even more after five months of putting it in a larger pot! I was going to try and put it in an even bigger pot this Saturday with the help of my dad and brother. It weighs a ton and is very difficult to move and not hurt us or the cactus. Last time we broke the pot to get it out and after moving it the cactus did have white puss seep out for a little bit. It does appear to have new growth on the top of it.

    I have pictures and maybe with your expertise you can help me. We love the cactus, but I’ am sure what to do. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.

  21. Hi, I'm not sure how big the pots are that you are using to repot your cactus, but I suggest not putting in a larger pot. The problem could be that the plant doesn't have enough roots to support it upright. Placing it into a larger pot isn't going to help matters, if anything, it may make the situation worse. Cactus roots are slow to grow and fill out a pot and the reason yours falls over is because the roots can't hold it upright.

    I'd suggest using some kind of stakes like you see added around young trees planted outdoors. This will help stabilize the cactus and keep it from tipping over while the roots grow and support the tree.

  22. Anonymous3:10 AM

    This helped as i am in the process of doing that tomorrow. Thank you!


  23. GC, you're welcomed! Good luck with the repotting.

  24. Anonymous4:35 PM

    I have 2 cacti that needed repotting. I like the idea of the newspaper strap, but can you be more specific?
    V in Albuquerque

  25. Thanks for the info. Just re-potted my husband's cactus plant (from when he was in kindergarten) with lots of TLC.

  26. Anonymous12:30 PM

    Thank you for the information.I thought it was much more involved.I am starting a rock garden and this information will be benificial.

  27. Picdriver9:29 AM

    Hi just wish to add to your article & feel free to correct me etc..I've just repotted my cacti into slightly larger pots,watering them a day beforehand.. however after removing the old soil I put the cacti to one side for a couple of days to let the roots dry & heal. I then repotted but DID NOT WATER for two weeks(important I believe to give roots time to heal & not cause rot) & left in a shade. I tend to water my cacti once every two weeks & give them a good soak..imitating a downpoar after drought. They do fine. I think a lot of people kill their cacti by watering little amounts too much.

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