Cacti store moisture in their stems and use their spines as defense and to provide some protection from burning hot sun rays. They are low-maintenance plants for the home with a ton of character and a vast array of forms. Cacti are relatively maintenance-free except for infrequent watering and annual food. Many gardeners ask, "Should I repot my cactus?." They do not need repotting often, but once in a while, for soil replenishment and when the plant needs a larger pot. When to repot a cactus depends upon the plant and its condition.
Tools for Repotting
Cactus repotting requires a well-draining soil mix, a container with drainage holes, and some tactical protection.
The first issue to deal with is the handling of a spiny plant. There are a couple of ways to go about this. You can wrap the plant in several layers of newspaper and secure it lightly with tape or twine. You can also use a pair of leather gloves or just grab your oven mitts for smaller plants.
One of the safest repotting tips is to use kitchen tongs. You will also need a soil mix that you may purchase or make. Your container must have excellent drainage holes and preferably be unglazed so the clay can direct away and evaporate any excess moisture.
When to Repot
You will know when to repot a cactus if you see roots coming out of the container's bottom. This indicates it is overly root-bound. Most cacti find small spaces very cozy and stay in their container for years. However, the sight of roots will let you know it has overextended and will need repotting.
The next size-up container will be appropriate since they like it snug. A general rule of thumb is to repot every 2 to 4 years. If you fertilize annually, the latter is more appropriate, but repot in two years to replenish soil fertility if you do not fertilize. The best time is in the spring when cacti start enjoying active growth.
How to Repot
Once you have answered the question, "Should I repot my cactus?" it is time to gather your tools and trade in the old soil or container. Not every cactus needs a new container, but fresh soil is a good idea. Only pot-bound plants need a larger pot.
Wrap, glove, or tong the plant gently out of its pot. They usually come out readily if the soil is dry, but you may have to run a trowel around the edges to loosen the soil. Shake off the old soil and plant the cactus at the same depth as grown in the old soil. Fill in around the roots with your soil mix and place it in a sunny southeast or east window.
Among important repotting tips is not watering the cactus yet as it is adjusting to being handled and new soil conditions. Then, after a few weeks, you can water the plant and allow it to dry out before watering again.
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