How to re-pot cacti and succulents

When it comes to re potting Succulent plants especially the cacti, it can fill most people with dread haha!

Cleistocactus baumannii

The very spiny Cleistocactus baumannii with a bright pink flower

These plants come in such a huge variety of many different shapes and sizes, that its impossible to say there is just one easy way of re-potting them.

I have found the usual suggestion of using bubble wrap and just gloves totally hopeless, as spines will go right through most gloves and certainly bubble wrap, I can just imagine the firework sounding display going off every time you try to re pot a cactus using bubble wrap haha!

My experience when it come to re potting my pricky friends is to use lots and lots of newspaper and cardboard as well as VERY thick professional gardening gloves, and I have added at the end of this page links to videos I have made on re-potting various cacti and succulents.

re- potting a succulent plant

re- potting a succulent plant

The best time to re-pot plants is always during the growing season which for most of the Cacti and Succulents is during the Spring and Summer,

if you have to re-pot a plant during the winter for any reason then make sure you only use totally dry soil medium and do not give any water at all again until the Spring, unless of course it is an Epiphytic cactus (Rainforest cacti) in which case leave the watering for at least two weeks.

plant pots

A selection of plant pots

When it comes to choosing the right pot to pot up your cactus or succulent there a number of different sizes available.

I think one of the biggest mistakes a lot of people do when growing succulent plants, is that they pot up their plant in a pot that is way too big.

A cactus or succulent will very rarely die if under-potted, especially if it is receiving regular feeding, but a plant potted up in too big of a pot for its current root system will be very prone to root rot.

When it comes to choosing either clay or plastic pots, there are advantages and disadvantages to both of them.

various sized flower pots

various sized flower pots

I have a separate page on choosing the right pot for your plants on the Growing Tips section on this website that goes into more detail, so to read this please click HERE

Succulent plants do not like their ‘feet’ to be kept damp for too long. Most cacti and succulents have shallow root systems compared to their size, and potting up a succulent plant that is in a pot with too much soil medium around it will very likely succumb to rot no matter how careful you are with its watering, because the more soil that is around the root system the longer it takes to dry out, and if you have potted up your plant in too large a pot then the root system will not be able to extract the water from the excess soil medium and thus causing rot.

Over the years I have lost many a plant from over potting but never have I lost a plant to under potting.

Opuntia cactus growing naturally in rock crevices

Opuntia cactus growing naturally in rock crevices

In their natural habitats cacti and succulents are often found growing in small rock crevices that have excellent drainage.

Tall cactus being supported in double potIf you do have a plant that is very top heavy because of its height, yet it is in the correct size of pot for its root system, I would recommend you to do what I have done with my Trichocereus scopulicola cactus in the photo to the left.

I have placed the plant in its original plastic pot that is the perfect size for it, into a tarracotta heavy pot that is the next size up, and I placed a beach pebble in between both pots to wedge them tightly together.

This method allows me to keep the plant in its original sized pot but because the heavy stone outer pot it remains in an upright position.Tall cactus being supported in double pot tight shot

A very large Opuntia at Birmingham Botanical Gardens, England U.K

A very large Opuntia at Birmingham Botanical Gardens, England U.K

As already mentioned , the soil medium should always be very well draining, this is an absolute must for cacti and succulents as these plants are very prone to rot and if kept in wet pots for too long especially during the Winter months, when most of these plants may be dormant but another very important aspect to this is the type of soil medium used as some will retain water more so than others..

John Innes compost

John Innes soil based compost

Always look for soil based composts rather than peat based. I like to use a John Innes soil based compost that only has a minimum amount of peat if any peat in the soil mediums.

I have a separate page on this website where I talk more about soil mediums in more detail, and also my reasons for why I try to avoid using peat as much as possible. You can read the page on Growing mediums HERE

Here is a video where I show you how easy and far more economical it is is to make your own cactus and succulent compost, and the good thing is you know exactly what is going into it, unlike most of the commercial cactus mixes that are often filled with cheap fillers..



Precautions after re-potting

I prefer to make up my own Cactus and succulent compost

I prefer to make up my own Cactus and succulent compost

When you re pot a Cactus and Succulent plant NEVER water it until at least 10-14 days after you have potted it no matter how shriveled up it looks.

A plant will soon recover afterwards when the roots are settled and healed and will very quickly fill out again when normal watering is given, this goes for the Epiphytic cacti too.

Keep Epiphytes that have been newly re-potted in a shady spot away from bright sunlight and heat for a couple of weeks before re introducing water again.

If stems show any signs of shriveling then lightly spray the stems with clean rainwater and after 10-14 days water can be re introduced slowly again to your newly re-potted Cactus or Succulent.

Please do check out my video below where I show you how I re pot a cactus and I have included re-potting two different common shapes of cacti, including the columnar type and the barrel type.


How often should you re-pot?

You may hear some growers saying to re-pot plants every couple of years, but personally myself as long as the plants seem happy and healthy and well fertilized, then I would only re-pot them when I see visible signs of roots coming from the holes in the bottom of the pot, or if my plant is showing signs of shriveling or yellowing.

If a plant starts to shrivel or goes yellow even though it is being watered regularly, then this can be a sign that the plant has exhausted its nutrients in the pot and is in need of fresh soil medium.

Sometimes though this can be due to other factors such as soil bugs like root mealies stopping the plant from absorbing moisture and nutrients, in this case any soil will need to be completely removed from the roots and the soil bugs will need to be completely washed off the root system until there are no traces of them left at all on the roots.

Once this is done and you are left with a bare root system and then the roots will need to be treated with a natural systemic insecticide such as Neem oil and left to dry before potting up again in fresh soil.


Natural neem oil for Horticultural use

Natural neem oil for Horticultural use


Also please check out my other videos on re-potting below, where I show you how you can re-pot a different variety of cacti and succulents.

In this video I show you how you can re pot a VERY tall and awkward cactus where I use a Brasiliopuntia brasiliensis cactus as an example

How to re-pot a Epiphytic cactus in a hanging basket.

How to re-pot a Schlumbergera Christmas/Thanksgiving cactus.


How to re-pot Gasteria’s, Aloe’s and Haworthia’s.


How to pot up and support a columnar cactus cutting.

Re-potting my Dragonfruit Cactus.

How to pot up and root an Epiphyllum cutting.


How to pot up and support a very tall cactus cutting.