How to Repot a Cactus
Last week I took my daughter Chloe to visit my in-laws in California for the week. They live in Niland, which is about an hour south of Palm Springs in the Coachella Valley. Their ranch is in the middle of the desert with a spectacular view of the Chocolate Mountain range. The nice hot desert weather was a welcome change from the cold rainy Pacfic Northwest weather in Washington.
Not much grows out in the desert except thorny trees and bushes and of course cacti. We stumbled upon a number of naturally growing cacti out in the desert, many of them in bloom.
I wanted to add a few cacti to my indoor plant collection and I had the perfect spot. This area above my kitchen sink.
I have not been able to keep any kind of plant alive in this area because I am too short to reach it for watering. I tried displaying potted herbs, then flowers and then I thought I might have more luck with succulents because they require less water. Turns out it’s possible to kill those too by forgetting to water them.
I realize I could avoid this problem by simply getting on my step stool and reaching over to water the plants in that area but it just seems to require too much effort to get out the stool, reach over the sink and contort my body to get to the plants. I always procrastinate this chore to the point of the plants dying. Instead of trying to fight my bad habits I am going to embrace them and switch to a plant that never needs watering, cacti!
I bought these little cacti at Home Depot but wanted to put them in different pots which poses a unique challenge because they are covered in spikes. Make sure you have heavy gloves to protect your hands, or use a pair of tongs like I did! If the cactus is larger you can wrap it in newspaper and secure with twine to help protect yourself from the spines.
Use potting soil specifically for cacti
Make sure you have potting soil that is specifically for cacti. Desert plants need well-draining soil. When re-potting plants chose a container that is one size bigger than the current container. It is better to under pot than over-pot. Cacti are slow growing, low maintainence plants and only need to be re-potted every two-three years. Choose an un-glazed pot so that the moisture can be wicked away from the plant. Terracotta is a good choice. The best indicator that it needs to be re-potted is when the roots become root-bound. If you see roots coming out of the drainage holes it is a good indication that the roots are bound.
Cacti need a lot of light so make sure you place them in a sunny spot where they will receive the most amount of light. They don’t like moisture so keep them out of the bathroom.
I recently discovered that cacti give off oxygen at night so if you have a sunny bedroom, cacti are a great addition.
You should wait about a week after repotting cacti to water them. The number one killer of cacti is overwatering. Let the soil completely dry out between watering. Remember, they are desert plants and can go many months in hot dry weather without being watered. Or, you can take my dad’s advice and only water your cactus when you see on the weather channel that it is raining in Mexico (seems legit!)
Are you growing any Cacti? What are your best tips?