Cactus delights the eye with its other-worldly appearance and striking flowers, but it also requires repotting from time to time. This task is often avoided by home gardeners who are generally either unsure how to do it or fear they'll kill the cactus. But the reality is that repotting cacti isn't all that difficult.
Here are some easy steps to repot a cactus:
Step 1: Find Right Size Pot for Cactus
When it's time to repot a cactus, look for a container that's about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the one the cactus is currently in. If the container is too large, the soil will stay wet longer than desirable for a cactus, which likes heat and dry elements that are normal in the desert where it grows wild.
Step 2: Assemble Materials for Repotting Cactus
Have all the necessary materials on hand: cactus soil, larger pot, protective gloves or tongs to handle the cactus, and a bamboo skewer or long, slender stick. It's also best to have a newspaper or protective covering on the bench or area where the repotting takes place.
A word about cactus soil is necessary. Most garden centers carry cactus soil, which is a mixture of peat, perlite, horticultural vermiculite, and added nutrients. For a cactus garden, it's important that the right soil is used. A small bag costs about $4 to $5 and goes a long way.
Step 3: Spread Small Amount of Soil in New Container
Place a small amount of cactus soil in the bottom of the new container.
Step 4: Remove Cactus From Old Container
Wearing gloves, and possibly a long-sleeved shirt if the cactus is large, gently lift the cactus from the old container. Tongs can also be used if the cactus has long and very sharp spines that may go through the gloves. For very small cacti, a newspaper can be used.
Examine the bottom of the cactus to see if there are mealy bugs. Also check to see if it's root-bound and, if so, gently break up some of the roots. This will permit them to spread and grow in the new pot.
Step 5: Place Cactus in New Container
Carefully set the cactus in the new container. If the bottom of the cactus is not level with the rim of the pot, remove it and add a little more soil. Keep doing this until the cactus is level with the rim.
Step 6: Fill in Soil Around Cactus
Make sure to fill in soil all around the cactus. Use the bamboo skewer or a long, slender stick to check around the sides of the pot. Shake or jiggle the pot to fill in the soil in areas where there may be a pocket. A gentle tap on the counter or surface will also help the soil settle in the voids between the roots.
Step 7: Wait a Day Before Watering
Give the cactus a day after repotting before adding any water. Use care when watering, since overwatering is one of the biggest problems with cacti. Let the soil dry out completely between watering and occasionally give the cactus an overall spray of water.
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