How to know when to re pot a Cactus or Succulent plant

Re potting a cactus is something that a lot of us in the hobby dread having to do, somehow re potting a spiny sharp cactus plant does not the same appeal as if we were re potting a soft fleshy succulent or any other soft leaved houseplant, and unless you are one of the very rare few who actually love needles, then it is probably something that we put off until the Cactus plant is actually jumping out of its pot begging ‘re pot me re pot me’ haha! πŸ™‚

various sized flower pots

various sized plant pots for potting up Cacti and Succulents

In this Blog I am going to share with you these 5 simple tips to tell when its time to re pot your Cactus or Succulent plant.

1, Roots coming through the bottom of the pot

Roots coming through the bottom of the pot,

Roots coming through the bottom of the pot, time to re pot into the next size up pot.

This has to be the most obvious one that we all know, but I couldn’t write this without sharing this one haha! obviously when you see signs of the roots coming through the drainage holes its definitely time to re pot your plant πŸ™‚

2, The soil medium in the pot dries up too fast after watering.

f you notice that every time you go to water your plants that the potting medium inside their pots dries out within only a few hours, then its definitely time to re pot your plant into a different potting medium.

Succulent needs re potting

The soil in the pot of this Kalanchoe is peat based and dries out far too quickly, always pot up your cacti and succulents in a loam based potting mix with additional sand and grit or perlite for drainage,

Although we want our Cacti and Succulents to be growing in a fast draining soil medium and for the potting medium to dry out fairly fast, we also want them to have the time for their roots to fully absorb the moisture before the potting medium dries out again, so if you find that this is happening then its time to change the soil medium in the pot.

Peat based composts are very prone to drying like cardboard too and are not good for the roots of succulent plants, although peat can be useful potting medium for many other plants, and most other house plants seem to do absolutely fine with peat based potting mixes, but when it comes to cacti and succulents avoid it like the Plaque, it dries like cardboard and is very difficult to re wet again, it attracts root mealy bugs and scariad flies like a magnet, and in my 30 years experience of growing my cacti and succulents using purely peat based potting mixes in the past has been bad for my plants, and although there is no harm in using a small amount of peat if you are mixing it in with your soil medium, it is far better to use a potting mix that is higher in loam than peat.

I prefer to make up my own Cactus and succulent compost

I prefer to make up my own Cactus and succulent compost with a loam based compost such as John Innes and add horticultural sand, and either grit or perlite for extra drainage.

I make up my own potting medium for cacti and succulents and not only is it far more economical to make up your own potting medium, but you are also in control of what goes into it. I make up a potting mix of 3 equal parts of a loam based compost such as John Innes no 2 or no 3 with horticultural sand and either grit or perlite.

Here is a video I have made for my You Tube channel Desert Plants of Avalon on How I make cactus and succulent compost and you can watch this video below :


3, Your plants are top heavy and toppling over

If your plants are starting to resemble a large football on top of an eggcup or the leaning tower of Pisa then this is often a sign that its time to re pot.

Astrophytum ornatum cactus

This Astrophytum ornatum cactus is top heavy and is in need of a re pot

The reason why I say often a sign to re pot rather than it is a sign to re pot, is because sometimes the plant may not necessarily need a larger pot, because despite being top heavy the plant may only have a shallow root system, this often is the case with a lot of the very tall Cereus types of cacti that are tall and top heavy but only have a shallow root system. Because these plants store water in their stems they do not need to have an extensive root system like other plants do, but it can be a problem when growing them in a pot.

Cactus and Succulent collection at Belfast Botanic gardens, Belfast Botanic gardens, The Palm house Belfast, The Palm house Belfast Botanic gardens, Cactus plants Ireland, Cactus plants Belfast, Cactus and Succulent plants Belfast, Succulent plants Ireland,

A very tall Euphorbia planted up in a small but heavy clay pot to balance out the weight of the plant at Belfast Botanic gardens, Northern Ireland

When tall Cereus type cacti grow naturally in their natural habitats they are usually anchored in the ground by their roots, but when we try to grow them in pots we have the ‘top heavy’ problem haha!

Saguaro's in Arizona Desert

Very tall Saguaro’s growing in their natural habitat in Arizona Desert

When you have a tall growing top heavy cactus that doesn’t need a larger pot due to its small root system then there are two ways of dealing with this πŸ™‚

1, Pot up your tall plants into a heavier clay or ceramic pot/ planter, this will help to balance out the weight of the plant.

2, Place a large rock or heavy stone on the top of your pot to weigh down the weight of the top heavy plant, just be careful when it comes to moving it so you don’t end up the emergency department πŸ™‚

4, Your plant is looking sickly and yellow and orΒ shriveling

Whenever a plant of mine is starting to look sickly and there are no signs of the plant needed to be re potted then the first thing I always do is look for signs of any disease or any insect bugs hiding between the stems, if after a thorough look there are no signs of either, then it is can sometimes be down to the root system and it could possibly be root rot or root mealy bugs, and both need to be treated before potting back up again, cut back any rotten roots right back to clean healthy tissue and thoroughly remove all traces of root mealy bugs before potting up again into fresh dry soil.

Penis cactus, Trichocereus bridgesii monsterose, Trichocereus bridgesii

A cactus looking yellow and in need of a re pot into fresh nutritious soil

If you have thoroughly checked your plants root system and there is no signs of any root rot or root insect pests, then it could be down to something as simple as the soil being exhausted in the pot, especially if you have not re potted your plant for a number of years, I have had a lot of my plants growing in the same pots for quite a number of years, and because I feed them all regularly I very rarely have a problem with them looking sickly despite growing in the same pots without a soil change for a number of years, but I do still get the odd plant that will look yellow, or shriveled and then this is a sign for me to take the plant out of its pot and thoroughly check over the plants roots system and if all is well with the root system I will pot up in some fresh potting medium and I will notice the plant starting to green back up again in just a few weeks of being re potted.

Please bear in mind that a plant taking on a yellow appearance can also be down to the plant receiving to much direct sunshine especially if the plant is being grown behind glass with no extra ventilation, so if all is well with the roots and you have re potted your plant but it still continues to look yellow after a few weeks, then check that your plant is not receiving to much sunshine, some of the Aloes, Epiphyllums, Christmas cacti, Easter cacti, Haworthias and some of the other Succulents will take on a yellow appearance if they are receiving to much sunshine, while this is not harmful to the plant it may spoil the look of the plant.

5, You haven’t re potted your plant for a very long time

In an ideal situation it is always best to re pot your Cactus and Succulent plants every 2-3 years as these plants love to have their potting medium freshened up, so if you have a plant that is well but hasn’t been re potted for many years, it is still a good idea to give your plant some fresh potting medium and you will often be amazed at the difference re potting it will do for your plant, even though there was nothing wrong with your plant before, a re pot into fresh potting mix will give it a new spark of life πŸ™‚

re- potting a succulent plant

If you have not re potted your succulent plant for years then re- potting it into fresh potting mix will give it a new spark of life.

The ideal time to re pot is during the plants growing season from early Spring until mid Fall / Autumn, the reason for this is because when the plants are actively growing they are able to repair their roots easily, but it is still possible to re pot during the Winter rest and some growers like to do this to get their plants all ready for the following Spring, and if you do decide to re pot during their resting period in the winter, then make sure you only use totally dry soil and never water at all until the following Spring when the plants comes into active growth again. Whatever time of year you re pot your Cacti and succulents remember to not water them for at least 10 days afterwards to allow for any damaged roots to repair themselves fully as these plants can rot if watered straight after being re potted.

Read more about what potting mix you can use when it comes to re potting your cacti and succulents by clicking HERE

If you want to know more about How to re pot a cactus then click HERE

Here is a video I have made for my you Tube channel Desert Plants of Avalon on How to re pot a cactus and succulent plant and you can watch this video below πŸ™‚

I have also made a video on my you tube channel Desert Plants of Avalon how to tell when to re pot a cactus and succulent plant and you can watch this video below :

I also have many other videos on my You Tube channel Β Desert Plants of Avalon on How to re pot many different types of Cacti and succulents soΒ please go and have a look at them I am sure that you will find them very helpful πŸ™‚

Thanks for reading guys and sending you all lots of love and happy growing from Ireland πŸ™‚

2 thoughts on “How to know when to re pot a Cactus or Succulent plant

  1. HELLO from UNITED STATES! Southeastern Pennsylvania to be exact!
    I love your videos and find them both entertaining and informational.
    I will continue to watch and learn.

    • Hi Pat πŸ™‚ Thank you so very much for your wonderful message πŸ™‚ I am so happy to hear that you enjoy watching my videos and find them informative and entertaining, that is so wonderful to hear πŸ™‚ thank you Pat πŸ™‚ Sendin you an abundance of love and happiness from right across the Emerald Isle to Southeastern Pennsylvania for a FANTASTIC Friday and weekend ahead πŸ™‚ Lotsa of Love Lyn XXXX <3