How to Repot a Cactus without a Hassle

Learning how to repot a cactus is essential for all cacti enthusiasts out there. In this article we’ll learn the basic steps of this procedure. We’ll also explore the tools, timing and the essential tips and tricks to remember.

So how can you repot a cactus without a hassle? Just follow these steps and recommendations:

  • Wear gloves to protect your hands from spines.
  • Prepare a new pot, with an adequate soil mix. Remember that drainage is key.
  • Turn the cactus on its side. Use newspaper wrapping and gently slide it out of the pot.
  • Use an appropriate tool like a chopstick to push the pot out, while you pull the whole cactus and root ball too.
  • Remove excess or rotted roots.
  • Place the cactus in its new pot and put the soil mix in.
  • Water lightly and let the cactus rest in a place with good sunlight.
how to repot a cactus
Photo by JUDY ANN DAYOT on Unsplash

Throughout this article we will discuss how to repot a cactus in greater detail. We will also examine the other elements of this procedure. 

How to Repot a Cactus – All you need to know

Tools you will need

Certain tools are quite useful when we need to repot a cactus. We need not have a vast assortment of tools, and a basic list could be the following:

  • Newspapers or towels to wrap the cactus.
  • New pot.
  • New soil mix.
  • Watering can.
  • Fork.
  • Chopstick.
cactus repotting materials
Whoops – I forgot to include the new soil mix

Steps to Repot a Cactus

Let’s examine how to repot a cactus in greater detail, from start to finish:

  • Wear gloves to protect yourself. If the cactus has very small spines or orchids, wear appropriate fabric.
  • Prepare a suitable pot. If there is a large drainage hole at the bottom, try to seal it off with some mesh screen that will allow for draining without soil loss. 
  • Remember that the point of soil is drainage. A correct mix of soil is necessary. We’ll explore this in a moment.
  • Wrap the cactus in newspaper or some similar material and quite literally just slide it out. Most people prefer to turn the cactus on its side. Use gentle but steady pressure.
cactus repotting with gloves
  • If the cactus doesn’t easily slide out, the issue is that it has probably become pot-bound. We can use some sort of chopstick (or similar tool) and insert it in the pot’s edge, essentially cutting the root ball out altogether. This will help with the sliding motion necessary to repot.
  • Sometimes the soil will be very dry and even this cutting out will not be possible. In this case, it’s useful to water the soil a little bit. Try to slide the cactus out again. Use the chopstick to push the pot out.
  • Evidently, as can be noted by all this, it’s a good idea to have some sort of large rock or rocks as the last layer of drainage. This can help with the pushing motion that we have to do with our tools, when getting the cactus and root ball out.
  • Now that the cactus is out, we have to pull away from old gravel.
aloe vera repotting
  • Now it’s time to re-soil the new pot. We have to calculate the amount of new soil mix that we will need to use.  
filling new pot for cactus repotting
  • Place the cactus in the new pot.
  • When repotting, avoid covering any part of the cactus which was not covered before. The idea is to prevent rot by not surpassing the root line used in the previous pot.
placing repotted cactus
  • Lightly water the repotted cactus. Avoid excessive watering though. Place the cactus in a warm, sunny place again and let it rest.

Repotting a Cactus Tips & Recommendations

When should you repot a cactus?

The idea is to repot a cactus about every two to three years (in fast-growing species) and every three to four years (in slow-growing species). Ideally, repotting is to be done in spring, while in the cacti’s growth period.

There are some telltale signs to know when we should repot a cactus. The most evident of such signs is if we see roots seeping through the drainage hole.

When we get a cactus out of its pot, check the roots. If the root ball is smaller than the container, repotting is not necessary. If the roots have no more room to grow, then repotting is necessary.

Considerations Recap


When choosing a new pot, there is quite a bit of leeway. Remember that drainage is essential and at least one drainage hole is needed.


Watering a repotted cactus is fine. Do so lightly and let it rest in a sunny place. Remember that cacti shouldn’t be left sitting in water.

Before repotting, it’s ideal to water the cactus as well. The best time to do it, is about two days before repotting. This way, the roots are going to be moist, flexible but definitely not saturated with water.

Soil Mix

When it comes to the soil mix, there are several options. It’s possible to create our own soil mix or to buy a commercial blend.

Creating a soil mix is quite simple. We need to add a porous material. An example of such material can be volcanic rock. Coarse sand is also a popular alternative. We need to use about 2/3 potting and about 1/3 coarse sand. Some cacti though, can prosper in a simple mix of 50% potting soil and another 50% coarse sand.

When it comes to fertilizing, it’s best to avoid a nitrogen-rich mix. We want to alkalize the soil as much as possible with a fertilizer such as pulverized eggshells, thus enhancing the color of our cactus.

Cactus repotting
Photo by Mikkel Bech on Unsplash

Related Questions

How do you repot a cactus without it hurting?

Wear gardener’s gloves when handling cacti, particularly when repotting a cactus. When handling small glochids, though, we need a specific type of glove. Glochids are essentially hair-like spines or extremely small barbed prickles found in some types of cacti. The problem with these glochids is that they detach very quickly and can be lodged within the skin. Some gloves will be useful and others won’t. Make sure the fabric will not allow glochids to go through.

We can also use a newspaper or a similar material to wrap the cactus that we are manipulating. This is an effective way of sliding the plant out of its pot.

Should you water a cactus after repotting?

Yes, this is fine. The key though, is to do it lightly. After watering, make sure that you place the cactus in a sunny place and you let it rest.

Remember that, as usual, watering a cactus is best done during the early morning or late in the evening. The idea with this timetable is to try to shelter our cacti from getting scorched by the sun. This is important if they are covered in droplets during the day. 

Sebastian Moncada

I’m also a plant enthusiast and researcher. I’ve been privileged to have lived my whole life around the wilderness of Colombia and I’m happy to share everything I learn along the way. “Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience” – Emerson.

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