June 19, 2024

How to Safely Transplant a Cactus

Repotting a Cactus Without Touching the Spines


What You’ll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Protective gloves
  • Newspaper
  • Rolled up towel


  • Cactus/succulent soil mix
  • Potting container


Prepare Your Tools and Supplies

The tools required for transplanting a cactus depend on the size and spikiness of the plant. For example, when transplanting smaller cacti, towels and/or newspapers may not be necessary whereas larger cacti may require a full arsenal of protective equipment.

Regardless of the size, wearing thick, protective gloves is always recommended when handling cacti.

Remove the Cactus from the Old Pot

Loosen the soil around the edges of the pot with a dull knife or trowel if necessary. If needed, you can wrap the cactus in several layers of newspaper to make it easier to grab, or you can use the towel to handle the cactus. Gently wiggle the root ball out of the old pot and lay the cactus flat on your working area.

If you’re replanting a cactus pup without roots, you can simply cut this section off the plant with clean, sharp gardening shears. For a tall cactus, it’s best to recruit a friend to help you lift the cactus safely while both people wear thick gloves.

Loosen the Root Ball & Discard the Old Soil

Once the cactus has been removed from its old pot, the root ball should be loosened and the old soil discarded. Depending on how root-bound the plant is, this can sometimes be a delicate process. Take it slow and be careful not to break too many roots.

Inspect the Roots and Trim if Necessary

While the roots are exposed, it is a good idea to check them over for any signs of pests or diseases. Cut back any dead or diseased roots and apply a fungicide if needed.

Choose the New Pot

If you are prone to overwatering, choose a clay/terracotta pot for your cactus. While cacti can grow in any potting container, unglazed clay pots help to absorb excess moisture in the soil and prevent overwatering. Regardless of the type of pot that you choose, ensure there is a drainage hole at the bottom.

Plant the Cactus in the New Pot

Fill the bottom of the new pot with the cactus soil mixture (you can buy cactus soil in-store, or make it yourself), ensuring that the cactus will be planted at the same depth as its previous container. Using the towel or newspaper, gently place the cactus in the pot and hold it in place while you fill the remainder of the pot with soil.

Do not water the freshly transplanted cactus right away, as it needs time to adjust to its new conditions. After a week or so you can resume your regular watering schedule.

Cacti are hardy and adaptable, and most varieties handle transplanting well as long as they were healthy prior to being repotted. Ensure that you place your freshly repotted cactus back in its original location so it can continue to receive the same amount of light and ventilation that it was before it was transplanted. 

As cacti are desert plants, they require a significant amount of sunlight to support new growth. A sunny south- or west-facing windowsill is ideal for most cacti varieties. If you live in an area that receives warm summers, placing your cactus outdoors for the summer in full sun is one of the best ways to encourage new growth!

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