How To Transplant Succulents Successfully Tips and Tricks

If you have a favorite succulent plant, you’re probably quite proud of it and you may be a little bit anxious about the prospect of repotting it. Have no fear, though. 

We will share the best tips and tricks on “How To Transplant Succulents Successfully.”

Tips on Transplanting Succulents

When Should Succulents Be Repotted?

Succulents tend to have very small root systems and don’t need to be repotted frequently. Generally speaking, slow-growing cactus and succulents should be repotted every couple of years or when they begin to outgrow their pots.

In terms of time of year, the best time to repot most plants is spring or summer. 

However, for succulents kept indoors like Echeveria plants, Barrel cactus, Aloe, and Haworthia you can really repot them anytime you begin to notice signs and symptoms indicating that the current pot and soil are inadequate. 

For example, your plant may seem to take on a listless appearance and fail to thrive. 

The reason why? As time passes, plants use up the nutrients in the succulent soil mix surrounding the roots. You can fertilize occasionally, but with cactus and succulents, fertilizing should be kept to a minimum. 

Additionally, fertilizer is not a substitute for the nutrients in the soil. It is only intended to be a supplement.

Another problem is that soil tends to become compacted over time. When you water and the roots grow larger, the particles of soil get compressed. This means that air and water cannot be dispersed evenly throughout the soil.

It’s often a good idea to repot newly purchased plants. If you buy a plant that’s in a tiny pot just intended for display, you’ll want to get it into a better looking pot that gives it room to grow. 

Additionally, brand-new plants may not be in the best soil mixture. It’s a good idea to upgrade the soil when you buy a new plant.

Another good reason for repotting is to prevent health problems. 

If your plant is ailing or infested with pests, it’s often a good idea:

  • To remove it from the pot it’s in
  • Prune away any badly affected leaves and roots
  • Give it a good rinsing 
  • Start the plant over again in fresh soil and a new pot

Do Succulents Like To Be Crowded?

No matter what reason you have for repotting your plant, be careful not to over pot. Just move up to the next size of pot. 

When planting succulents, if you choose a pot too large, the plant will put a lot of energy into growing roots and not so much into growing leaves. Since the whole point of keeping a potted plant is to have something to admire, this is not desirable.

Additionally, if you use a pot that’s too large, you’ll need to use more potting mix. This means you’ll need to use more water, and the potting soil will take longer to dry out. This can become a recipe for root rot.

What Is the Best Way To Transplant Potted Succulents?

Before planting a succulent, refrain from watering your succulent for about a week before repotting.

When the week is up, begin the repotting process by gathering together all the materials you’ll need. 

Have your potting soil close at hand and a clean pot ready.

You may also need a trowel or a table knife to loosen the soil around your plant.

If your plant has thorns, you should also have a pair of thick rubber or leather gloves to protect your hands. This is also important if your plant happens to be a Euphorbia or other type of succulent with potentially irritating sap.

Set your succulent on the table in front of you and use your trowel or knife to loosen up the soil around the pot’s edges. You may also want to tap on the outside of the pot to get the soil to let go.

If the plant is small enough, place one hand over the surface of the soil with your fingers on either side of the plant’s stem. Lift the pot with your other hand and tip it upside down so the plant and soil fallout into your hand.

If the plant isn’t small enough to lift one handed, just gently work it out of the pot using both hands.

Once you’ve removed your succulent from its own pot gently shake and rub the old soil off of its roots. Don’t transfer any of the old soil into the new pot. Start fresh with all new potting soil.

squeezing the root ball to loosen soil when transplanting succulent plants
loosening soi on a succulent prior to transplanting

While you have your plant’s roots exposed, examine them carefully. Trim off any that look damaged, decayed or otherwise unhealthy. You may want to rinse the root ball thoroughly before putting the plant in its new pot.

Set your succulent aside for a moment and fill the new pot about a third of the way with fresh soil or cactus soil. If you want to, you can place a coffee filter or a bit of window screen over the drainage holes to prevent the cactus mix from falling out.

Set the plant on top of the fresh soil mixture, position it as you wish and fill in the area around it with fresh soil. Firm the soil in place gently. 

Make sure that you don’t cover the stem of the plant with soil, and leave yourself about a half inch of space at the top of the pot so that water won’t run over the sides when watering.

If your plant tends to be top-heavy (e.g. a Jade plant) you may need to anchor it with a couple popsicle sticks (which can be removed later) or a large, artfully placed rock next to the stem. 

With very top-heavy plants, decorative use of stones also adds weight to the pot to prevent the entire thing from falling over.

Immediately after repotting, provide a thorough watering to encourage new root growth and help the plant become anchored in the new pot.

How Do You Transplant Overgrown Succulents?

When you transplant succulent and you’re dealing with a seriously overgrown plant for its container, you’ll want to begin by minimizing the size of the plant. Trim away any ungainly or unhealthy parts and remove suckers from the mother plant.

If the plant is still unwieldy and difficult to handle, you may wish to wrap it in a towel or other large cloth to protect it against damage. 

Be advised that even your best efforts may not protect a large, heavy succulent against all damage, but once the plant is in a new pot with fresh soil, it is sure to recover nicely.

When you transplant an overgrown succulent, be sure to choose a pot large enough and heavy enough to balance the plant. The diameter of the pot should be about an inch larger all around than the diameter of the plant.

In the event that the succulent is simply too large to handle at all, you may need to start over by taking cuttings from it and growing all new plants. 

When this is the case, you may be able to give the roots of the plant a new start in life by simply moving them into new soil and a new pot to start over again.

What Potting Soil Is Best for Succulents?

A soil for succulents should be light and airy, provide good drainage, and allow for good aeration and root development. You can buy a commercial cactus and succulent mix at the home improvement store, or you can make your own.

To do this, simply combine equal parts of:

When choosing your ingredients, keep in mind that peat moss is slightly acidic, and it is also not a renewable resource. Coconut coir is a more neutral substance, and it is easily renewable because it is a byproduct of coconut harvest.

adding soil to a newly transplanted Echeveria succulent
Adding soil to a transplanted Echeveria

When choosing between builder’s sand, pumice, Perlite or vermiculite keep in mind that the first three provide very sharp drainage, while the vermiculite provides some water retention. 

Do a little research on the type of succulent plant you are dealing with to determine which ingredients will work best for you.

Once you’ve determined the ingredients, mix them completely, and dampen them thoroughly before using them. 

Allow the peat moss or coconut coir to soak up the moisture completely. The mixture should feel slightly damp but not at all drippy when you transplant succulents.

NOTE:  You can also mix a bit of worm compost into the potting medium if you feel the plant is in need of fertilizing. Generally speaking, an occasional top dressing of worm compost makes the best fertilizer for succulents and cactus.

Can You Use Regular Potting Soil for Transplanting Succulents?

If you use regular potting soil, mix it half-and-half with coarse builder’s sand or one of the other materials to help improve drainage. If you do this, be very careful not to overwater because the soil makes a heavier mix that retains more water. This can lead to root rot.

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