prickly potting

prickly potting

Posted by Megan Nichols on Jan 25th 2020

There are so many different cacti to choose from and they’re all so intriguing! These prickly buggers sure are fun to grow, but they can be difficult to repot.

Click here for a tips and tricks video on how to relocate cactus. Read on for the written version.

What you need and need to know:

The best way to start is with the right equipment. Gloves are a must, and thick vinyl or leather gloves are best (not as easy for those spiny pricklies to pierce through).

  • Tongs and other types of grabbers are a great way to safely handle cactus and keep your hands out of the way. Definitely still wear the gloves, though.
  • Newspaper and cardboard are good materials to use for wrapping around or resting larger cactus on when repotting. For extremely large cactus, pieces of old carpeting work wonders. DO NOT use linens of any kind that you intend to wash and reuse. Cactus spines do not come easily out of cloth and you’ll end up getting stuck again and again.
  • An extra plastic container is a perfect tool for smaller cactus and can be used to “hold” a cactus as you prepare to repot. Put the pot over the cactus plant, tip the cactus over and gently squeeze and pull off the pot it’s growing in, exposing the soil and roots. When it’s time to put it in it’s new home, just tip the pot into the soil and gently firm around the roots, not need to touch the plant at all!
  • Speaking of soil - cactus need sharply drained soil. Choose a mix specific to desert plants – we like Espoma Organic Cactus Mix.    

Cactus are often grown in shallow containers because they have shallow root systems. Drain holes are non-negotiable, so if you’re planting into a container without holes – don’t. Or drill holes before planting (careful, not all containers will take this treatment well). As desert plants, cactus survive extreme drought conditions by holding water in their plant structure for extended periods of time. Overwatering, or allowing the plant to sit in water, is a sure way to cause a cactus’ demise. It’s best to transplant cactus when their soil is dry, water thoroughly after repotting, then conduct business as usual (let the soil dry out).  

Be sure to keep the cactus at soil level as it is in its original container. Burying cactus too deep will cause rot and death. Also, don’t have them mounded higher than original, this will cause exposed roots and water will run off the soil and all over the place.

After planting, feel free to use a decorative soil cover such as rock or glass. Moss is not a good option, though, as it will hold too much moisture in the soil.

Oops! Get some prickers in your fingers? Ouch! Having something poked into your finger is bad enough, add to that the fact that some cactus spines contain irritants and some people are more susceptible to the irritations and it gets worse. Tape and tweezers are your best bet for removing cactus spines from your skin. Be sure to have these final tools close, just in case. Happing planting!