Planting Cactus

Cactus houseplants are often content to stay in the same pot for several years, but they will need a new container eventually. Repot severely rootbound cacti to encourage more growth. Overwatering is the most common problem these houseplants face, and you can save an overwatered cactus by repotting it in fresh, dry soil and using a pot with drainage. Unglazed ceramic or terra cotta are the best container materials for cacti because they are porous and allow the soil to dry more quickly.

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Potting Cactus

Inspect a new cactus houseplant when you get it home to determine if it can stay in the nursery pot or if it needs to be transplanted into a new container. Gently remove the cactus from the pot, and be careful of spines when handling a desert variety. Look to see if the roots are tight in the container or if there is room to grow. Ideally, give a new plant time to acclimate before repotting, but severely rootbound plants will benefit from a larger container. 

Repotting Cactus

Cacti are slow-growing houseplants that generally need to be repotted every few years. Rootbound plants are more likely to bloom, so it’s okay to let the roots become snug in the pot. It’s time to repot a desert or forest cactus when the roots grow through the drainage holes or if growth becomes abnormally slow. 

Repot cactus houseplants at the start of the growing season in the spring or at any time if you need to replace a broken pot. Cacti can easily live in poor-quality soil but refresh the soil when repotting to support new growth.

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Best Soil For Cactus

All cacti houseplants require well-draining soil with a neutral to acidic pH. Desert cacti prefer a sandy mix that contains a lot of perlite or any medium that sheds water. Potting mixes formulated for cacti work well for desert cacti. Forest cacti can handle a medium-moisture potting mix that still promotes drainage. Use a general potting mix for forest cacti, or create your own using potting soil, orchid bark, and perlite.

Cactus Drainage

Cacti are sensitive to overwatering, so drainage is vital to keep the plant healthy and thriving. Select a container with drainage holes and use a saucer or a decorative cover pot to contain excess water. Always empty the saucer or cover pot of standing water to make sure the roots never sit in water.

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Author Alison Cotsonas - Published 12-1-2023