Cactus Transplant: Best Time, Medium, Pots, and Reporting Way

All cactus growers have their own opinion on how to properly plant a recently acquired cactus or transplant a succulent into a new pot, and everyone is sure that it is the only correct one. Of course, every collector is based on personal experience, but when carrying out these most important agricultural practices, generally accepted basic rules should be followed.

With a competent planting of cacti, any mediocre plant will look noticeably better, and with an illiterate one, even the most beautiful and well-grown collection specimen can look ridiculous and sloppy.

This article is devoted to how to properly transplant a cactus at home.

cactus transplant

when is the best time to transplant a cactus?

There are two opposing points of view as to when is the best time to replant cacti. Some amateurs believe that the best time is the period of active vegetation of plants, that is, the height of spring and the beginning of summer.

The best time to transplant cacti is during the winter dormant period from November to March.

Supporters of spring-summer transplants believe that during this period cacti are the most viable and adaptive – the root system develops rapidly, the plant actively photosynthesizes and grows.

Therefore, with some caution during subsequent watering (due to possible damage to the roots when replacing the substrate and pot), the procedure should be completely painless.

And although, in general, life experience does not strongly contradict these theses, some of the amateurs, when asked when to transplant cacti at home, still confidently answer that this should be done in the autumn-winter period.

It is worth dwelling briefly on the advantages of transplanting a cactus from a pot to a pot in the fall or winter.

  • First: cacti are in a state of deep physiological dormancy, so the inevitable loss of part of the root system does not in any way affect the state of the plants both at the time of transplantation and later. All processes are slowed down as much as possible, therefore, even the ingress of infectious agents into possible wounds on the roots will not lead to their immediate spread through the tissues of the wintering plant.
  • Second: before transplanting a cactus into another pot, an amateur should not calculate anything, because he is in no way limited in terms of planting, starting from the moment the plant is shaken out of the old container and until it is moved to a new one. If it turns out that some component of the potting mix has run out, the owner of the collection can safely postpone planting for a time sufficient to purchase or procure what is needed. Time until the next planting of a cactus in a potcan be calculated for several days or even weeks without tangible harm to the transplanted plant. The only thing that should be done before replanting a cactus with a delayed procedure is to fix the succulent in an upright position to avoid caking of the roots, especially if water or fungicide solutions were used to wash them. To do this, it is enough to put the plant on a medium-sized pot vertically with the roots down (with a wooden toothpick, straighten the roots after washing).
  • Third , in the case of an autumn-winter transplant of cacti at home, there is no need to resort to complicated calculations – when you planted it, when you can water it for the first time.
  • Fourth , there is an opportunity to actively work with the root system. Remove extra long roots, cut deeply for stronger subsequent branching. If necessary, you can wash the entire root system and root collar in order to cut off and treat all problem areas with the necessary preparations.

In the case of an autumn-winter transplant of indoor cacti, you identify and process diseased and “problem” plants long before the onset of spring. Therefore, by the beginning of the growing season, cacti have time to completely heal the wounds and form waiting roots, so that after the first watering they actively grow.

In case of late transplanting of such plants, you can lose at least a third of the warm season of the year!

In autumn and winter, the root system of plants does not suffer from overheating at all. Therefore, in cold weather, it is easier to transplant cacti at home, since during this period no problems and external factors appear that affect the potential development or suppression of the root system.

And already at the beginning of summer, such a problem in some regions may become relevant, and certain efforts will have to be made (individual shading or a separate cool parking lot) so that the adaptation period of the transplanted plant passes painlessly.

In the next section of the article, you will find out which pot is best for planting a cactus.

Want to know Yellow Christmas Cactus.

what kind of pot you need for planting cactus?

The choice of a pot in which a cactus can be transplanted, for all the seeming triviality of the task, is a matter of exceptional importance. And there are at least two reasons for this. First, you choose a container to house the root – an extremely important plant organ through which the cactus assimilates water with dissolved mineral compounds and transports them to the stem.

what kind of pot you need for planting cactus

Also, excessive amounts of water are often stored here and chemical compounds that are important for the life of the plant are synthesized. The second good reason is the need to improve the root system not for 1-2 days, but for several years!

Based on this, it is necessary to envisage not only the correspondence of the pot to the current state of the root system, but also to a certain dynamics of its development during the time allotted to the next transplant.

The key parameters of how to choose a pot to plant a cactus are the upper diameter (section), height, and, as a consequence of the first two, the useful internal volume.

Less significant, but sometimes also noteworthy is the color of the plastic, the ability to transmit sunlight (for white and translucent), the presence of a retractable bottom, and a slightly conical shape.

Key parameters are extremely important in order to assess whether the current state of the root system is appropriate for the selected pot. The pot should not be much larger than the root system at the time of transplanting.

Nevertheless, the solution usually represents some kind of compromise, given the fact that very soon the developing root system can significantly and relatively quickly master the new volume.

Before transplanting a cactus with a rudimentary root system into a new pot, keep in mind that such plants are likely to have problems with the development of a large volume, in which, after watering, with insufficient drainage of the substrate, excess moisture will linger for a long time.

At the same time, you cannot choose a small cactus pot with a weak root system, but with a large and heavy stem. Such a plant in a small pot can easily overturn.

For species with a powerful turnip and radish root, tall, narrow pots with significant potential for linear root growth will be needed, without the need for a large amount of soil that can bind and retain a significant amount of water for a long time.

The color of the pots in some cases can also be an important parameter. Planting plants in black pots can be considered unsuccessful due to possible overheating of the root system if they are exposed to direct sunlight.

However, this problem disappears if the pots are tightly arranged in the trays. Slightly conical containers (round or square in the top section) are definitely more convenient for transplanting, as are pots with a pull-out bottom.

With a rare transplant or strong development of the root system, shaking out cacti from such pots is always accompanied by less trauma to the roots than when using cubic or cylindrical pots.

Best Pots to plant cactus: plastic transplant containers

The era of ceramic pots, one way or another, is coming to an end, and they are replaced by plastic ones cheaper, more practical to use, and convenient in size and shape.

Light penetration through the walls of the pot can cause algae to grow on the inside of the plastic. However, in some cases, the negative effect is not obvious.

Moreover, as mentioned earlier, when testing a new soil composition, transparent plastic (disposable) cups can be used to observe the behavior of the substrate after watering and the development of the root system of experimental plants in it.

A certain convenience of plastic pots with thin walls is their ability to easily deform (stretch). Such deformation-swelling, on the one hand, partly prevents the strong caking of the soil and the growing root system due to the increase in pressure inside the pot, and on the other hand, it serves as an indicator that it is time to replant the cactus.

Of course, the pot itself is not always the determining factor. As a rule, it “works” in conjunction with the substrate. Both the structure and the water-retaining features of the latter can partly compensate for possible mistakes or irrational choices of a pot.

So, to reduce the absorption capacity of a pot with a substrate (large volume), we may well reduce the absorption capacity of the substrate itself due to the inclusion of large and inert elements to water absorption for example, coarse gravel or balls of packaging foam.

The correctness of the choice of the pot and the accompanying substrate for planting cacti at home can always be assessed during a planned or emergency transplant of a cactus and, in case of an unsuccessful result, correct mistakes.

With normal growth of the cactus and its root system after 2-4 years, as a rule, it is necessary to transplant the plant into a pot of the next size class.

How to transplant cactus at home?

There are two main views on how to prepare the substrate to plant a cactus. Amateurs and beginners usually believe that there is a “magic” composition of the mixture, known to professionals and people with experience, which allows you to successfully grow beautiful and harmoniously developed plants.

how to transplant cactus at home

They are ready to experiment endlessly, listen to advice and often transfer their small collection from one substrate to another almost every year.

Professionals and amateurs owners of large collections usually follow a completely different approach. The large volumes of mixture required for the current activity do not allow them to frivolously rush from side to side.

They value the ease of acquiring individual soil components for planting cacti, their stable and repeatable quality from year to year, which allows them to build all agricultural technology, taking into account the characteristics of a particular substrate in specific conditions.

An intermediate category of cactus growers can also be distinguished, who have already been able to fully determine the substrate that is optimal for their conditions, but due to the relatively small volumes of its use, they continue to experiment with individual components without fundamental changes in their views on the composition as a whole.

When preparing land for transplanting cacti, you need to understand that this is one of the determining factors for plants to obtain water. In real life, when watering, water is always divided into that that is absorbed by the roots of the cactus, and that that is lost due to either evaporation through the capillary system, or flowing through the drainage holes of the pot.

This balance is, in fact, a subtle tool for adjusting to the conditions of our culture. If the balance shifts towards the accumulation and retention of water, the substrate is aerated worse, “swamped” for a long time, and its thermal insulating properties deteriorate.

By shifting the balance towards a rapid loss of water, we shorten the periods of its comfortable consumption and growth of the root system, create a general moisture deficit for the planted plant with a corresponding slowdown in growth.

Before planting a cactus at home, you need to understand what the soil should consist of. Potential constituents of the substrate can be divided into three main groups.

  • The first group is conventionally neutral elements, practically inert with respect to water (in small quantities). For example, coarse river sand, fine and coarse gravel. Usually, these elements are chemically neutral and are designed to maintain heterogeneity of the soil structure, hinder its caking, and also maximize drainage properties.
  • The second group is water-absorbing components. For example, zeolite, some types of fired clays, perlite, various types of volcanic lavas. These components also carry out the functions of drainage and loosening of the substrate, prevent caking and increase its aeration. In addition, they can provide individual elements of mineral nutrition. But the most important thing is the absorption of water and its gradual, slower release later, which helps the soil to maintain high relative humidity for a long time without direct flooding of plant roots with water.
  • The third group , which can be used in various proportions, is the actual nutrients. These include various types of peat, peat mixtures, as well as natural soils and clays collected in a forest, park or meadow. Usually, these elements are able to provide both plant nutrition with minerals and, to a certain extent, accumulate water during irrigation. However, the binding of water occurs in a form that is less useful for the substrate – excessive saturation with water with a loss of such useful aeration.

A clear understanding of the physicochemical nature and functions of the main components of the substrate, as well as how they behave individually and in combination, allows for a fairly fine adjustment of the soil system of the collection to the conditions of cacti culture (features of pots, temperature dynamics, minimum and maximum temperatures, frequency of watering and mineral fertilizing).

To plant a cactus, every amateur must choose for himself the optimal composition of the substrate – according to his means, if possible, regular replenishment and storage of stocks, according to his own (unique) conditions for growing cacti!

Best medium for tranplanting cactus: mineral soil for planting

Land for planting cacti is not only soil (as we in everyday life often call various types of natural soils prepared for further sowing), but also other components that in the strict sense of the word are not soil.

And since the earth ceases to be a key component of mixtures, as was observed in the practice of amateur cactus growing 10-20 years ago, then it is quite possible to imagine amateurs trying to bring the experiment to its logical conclusion, namely, to try to cultivate cacti in substrates where the earth is completely excluded from the mixture.

Such substrates are usually called mineral substrates, and their use is a trend in recent years. Theoretically, by excluding the soil with all its accompanying organic matter from the composition of the planting substrate, we get rid of a large number of problems associated with the potential development of pathogenic microflora (be it bacteria or fungi), which are especially relevant against the background of possible miscalculations with watering and weather forecasts.

At the same time, in the depths of the soul, there remains a suspicion that when using exclusively mineral components, cacti to a certain extent may suffer from the impossibility of obtaining affordable mineral nutrition or from its lack.

Supporters of mineral substrates compensate for the latter with more regular fertilizing with weak solutions of mineral fertilizers. To some extent, the mineral substrate and the culture based on it can be considered a transitional stage between traditional culture and classical hydroponics.

What are the prerequisites for using mineral substrates?

A simple experiment can be carried out. We have in our hands two imports brought from nature. It is necessary to root them since the entire peripheral root system was removed during the collection of plants, only the “turnip” or a powerful taproot remained, which by themselves are not able to absorb water with dissolved mineral compounds.

We plant one plant in a traditional mixture with a high proportion of soil, and the second is a purely mineral one (a mixture of river sand, gravel, perlite, etc., or simply in beams). After a while, we will see markedly different results. The first plant has difficulty rooting. Roots appear, then stop growing and rot.

At best, we are in for an extremely underdeveloped root system, which can hardly be assessed higher than “satisfactory”. The second plant, as a rule, does not even always need to be shaken out of the pot to make sure how much the root system has recovered.

Its recovery and work can be seen both by the plastic pot that was fairly distributed from the abundance of roots and by how the initially shriveled cactus poured and increased in size during rooting.

In fairness, the following should be noted. Some colleagues have tried to grow plants on monomineral substrates (for example, pure beams or lava). If we take their experience as a whole, and not for individual species or plants, then the result (not to mention the high cost of this material in Russia!) Is rather negative.

Many types of cacti clearly do not like this planting, although, perhaps, the matter is somewhat different for monomineral substrates, it is also necessary to adjust the conditions of watering and maintenance.

The departure from the traditional “earthy” culture of cacti (even a share of land of 30-50%, as recommended by some modern publications) has significantly enriched the amateur practice, making it possible to simplify and make sustainable the self-rooted culture of a significant number of species traditionally considered rather difficult for amateur cultivation.

Processing before transplanting cactus after purchase

Buying is one of the most common questions for newbies. And a potential problem that is often underestimated by some experienced hobbyists.

If the collection is actively developing not only due to its own crops, then weekly or monthly we receive new plants – bought in a store, at an exhibition, sent by mail by colleagues, donated by friends or relatives.

Cacti that come to us can be in pots or without pots, they can be wrapped in paper, but contain the remnants of “foreign” planting substrate on the roots. Sometimes some of us are too lazy to immediately process such a plant, others simply do not know that any “newbie” purchased or received as a gift should be immediately carefully examined, washed from the residues of the substrate and prophylactically treated.

Such lovers immediately establish a new plant among others, forgetting about the necessary precautions for weeks and months.

The consequences of such negligence are, as a rule, the following: the spread of pests introduced with the plant or soil in a pot throughout the entire collection or part of it ; the death of the acquired plant after the first watering due to the fact that this composition of the substrate is not suitable for your conditions, for example, it dries out longer than your own.

Rule number one! Wherever you buy a cactus in the market, in a store, from a well-known amateur in your city, from a friend or girlfriend, in a world-famous nursery once in a collection, it must be isolated before the first and earliest inspection, the necessary processing and mandatory transplantation …

First of all, shake the plant out of the pot to inspect the root system. If the soil crumbles well, then we carefully examine the stem and roots (you can use a magnifying glass). If the earthen lump has caked, we carefully try to wash off the soil with water at room temperature or warmer.

If there are pests, we carry out the treatment with appropriate preparations, completely washing the roots and stem from the substrate and dust. If pests and traces of their activity are not found, then we simply wash the plant with water.

If the root system is healthy and strong, after treatment, you can trim the roots with scissors to the approximate size (height) of the new pot. If the root system is weak, the roots are rotten, it is better to cut out all decayed and problem areas (with incomprehensible nodular thickenings, brittle, reddish color).

Places of cuts should be treated with fungicides. After cutting the root system of the plant, it is better to dry it for 1-5 days, depending on the extent of the “surgical intervention”. For this, any place with room temperature will do, except where the direct rays of the sun fall.

The final stage of buying a cactus is to transplant a new plant into a clean pot with a planting substrate, which is constantly used by an amateur. In this case, all the nuances of the structure and size of the root system should be taken into account.

I am an avid plant enthusiast and horticulture aficionado with a deep passion for houseplants. With years of nurturing green companions, my expertise in caring for indoor foliage is well-rooted. Through my journey, I've cultivated insights into optimal plant care, propagation techniques, and creating vibrant indoor ecosystems. Join me as we explore the verdant world of houseplants together. Let's turn your living space into a thriving oasis of botanical beauty. Connect with me on and Facebook and explore more at Houseplantspro. 🌿🪴