How to Repot Succulents : The Proper Way
What are succulents?
Succulents are the beautiful and hardy type of plants at home. A landscaper or gardener chooses these types of plants because of the numerous varieties available, size, color, and shape that suit everyone’s tastes.
Workspaces and small apartments enhance the beauty and touch with small, potted succulents. The large arrangements in rock gardens or containers will add color and texture to outdoor landscapes. And these plants have vibrant blooms and leaves that make them perfect to attract pollinators.
That said, succulents are thick plants with spun leaves and stems. The leaves are thick enough to store nutrients and water while growing in natural habitats - like arid and desert environments.
Succulents can grow in different environments: therefore, they are right at home when in a decorative pot, in the sunshine, or among rocks. Some succulents feature protective characteristics, such as dying off during harsh conditions to keep water reserves and viable roots until the environment improves.
Many people are familiar with succulent plants, especially the common decorative used in offices, public spaces, and homes. These popular varieties include snake plants, aloe vera, Jade plants, "burro's tail," and "hen & chicks." Other succulents are domesticated, such as sempervivum and crassula families.
Succulents appear in diverse colors such as purples, greens, browns, and reds. Some feature flat leaves and triangular points, which form conical rosettes. Other succulents have long and tubular leaves that trail from the central stem.
Like other plants, many succulents will produce flowers in their life cycle. These flowers are yellow, white, or pink. The sheer diversity in how these succulents look makes them a common reason to be popular among landscapers and home gardeners.
Many members of the Cactaceae family or the cacti are succulents. Rather than having fleshy leaves, they have spines that store nutrients, and water in their stem. Most cacti suit home gardens: they are grown indoors and outdoors due to their unique appearance and colored blooms.
Sometimes, the term cactus describes succulent plants that aren't cacti. And a good example of such is the Christmas cactus. This succulent grows in a humid rainforest environment, requiring regular watering. Be sure to differentiate cacti from other succulents because they need particular care and management.
Cacti are associated with arid and deserts, but they can significantly contribute to indoor spaces and home gardens. They are also easy to maintain.
Succulents are easy to care for; however, the repotting process of succulents and cacti requires some basic understanding. Professional landscapers and home gardeners alike should also not treat succulents like other decorative or flower plants.
The step to repot succulents is among the most precarious stage for caring for these unique plants. Most importantly, use the right soil and heavy pots to support these ancient plants' growth.
So, prepare yourself to read throughout this guide. The guide will help you successfully repot your succulents in all conditions for these magnificent plants to enjoy years.
When to Repot Succulents
Like other plants, succulents also have signs to tell the right time to repot. These signs include root system growing via the drainage holes, weak or sagging leaves, or plants spilling over the containers. Some succulent varieties will become leggy. The problem results after the plants do not receive enough sunlight, where the leaves and branches grow away from the main stem to search for nutrients.
If you don't want to repot your succulents once more, pick an ideal place before you pot a transplanted specimen or new plant. Some succulents are usually potted in the wrong type of soil or those pots without drainage. So, they will require repotting for efficient growth.
You may want to combine various plants; you have to repot succulents together for a specific arrangement. Proper care for these plants is to know when they need another environment to grow healthy and avoid the traumatic changes that will permanently damage them.
How You Should Repot Succulents Leaves
A picked or dropped leaf from a succulent is repotted on its own to generate a new plant. If you choose to repot through leaves, the leaf must be whole with some stem parts. When a leaf segment misses or is left attached to the mother plant, the leaf does not form new roots through this process. It is an easy process that requires time and patience.
Start by drying picked or dropped leaf until it is calloused. The leaf will appear blotchy, dry, or even cracked.
Make sure the leaf is dry and brittle to touch. Some succulent leaves will take three or more days before they dry out enough to use in propagation to generate a new plant. When the leaf does not dry out properly to become calloused, it will absorb much moisture after you water and it will drown.
Once the leaf is ready, prepare the soil and add it to the new container. Use a shallow pot and well-drained sandy soil. Pick the leaf, put it on the topsoil, and support it with a popsicle stick.
After you plant, leave the pot in a warm and dry place without direct sunlight. It requires a few weeks before the leaf grows roots. Once the soil dries out, begin to water the plant and dry before the next watering.
The roots will establish themselves to hold firmly; you can move the pot into its usual spot. Many succulents require watering only once a week.
Nonetheless, "hens and chicks" plants naturally represent this process. The term refers to a mother plant (Hen) surrounded by offshoot plants (chicks).
Many offshoot plants will begin as dropped leaves collected from the mother plant. These chicks then develop roots and flourish. "Hens and chicks" are popular because potted succulents have unique patterns, natural arrangements, and diverse colors.
Repotting Succulent Cuttings
The other method of repotting succulents is through cuttings from established succulent plants. Some types will not produce new plants only from leaves but also cuttings like the aeoniums. However, cuttings are the only way to create a new plant from the mother plant.
Cut a small section from the succulent mother plant with a sharp knife, garden shear, or scissors. The cutting you get must-have new growth at the top and near the rosette. These should be a section of the stem and leaves.
Allow the cutting to dry in a place with good air circulation and no direct sunlight. Ensure the area you cut is exposed to air to allow the wound to heal before the following process. Once ready, the rest of repotting procedure is similar to repotting succulents from leaves.
So, the next thing is to prepare the soil to use in a new pot. Add into a shallow container and add well-drained sandy soil. Depending on the size and base of the succulent, it may need additional support with a popsicle stick.
The container with a new plant should be left in a dry and warm place without direct sunlight. After a few weeks, the succulent cutting begins to form its roots.
Start to water the plant after the soil completely dries out. Once the roots establish themselves to hold firmly, move the pot to the required spot. Most succulents will need you to water once a week after they are well-established.
Check out How To Water Your Succulents
How to Repot Cacti and Succulents
Like other plants, succulents and cacti can be repotted as cuttings or leaves. But for a successful repotting, you have to follow specific procedures.
Cacti and succulents are among the plants that are generally easy to care for, where their primary concern is adequate water.
Cutting and repotting succulents weakens the plant, so they need special care to re-establish new root systems and restore essential nutrients. If done correctly, a landscaper or home gardener can repot cacti and succulents successfully; and proudly display them indoors.
Repotting Cactus Cuttings
Other types of cacti, such as barrel cacti, will produce tiny cacti at the mother plant's base. Those tiny cacti are easy to cut off and propagate to form bigger plants. If the variety you want to use has sharp spines, take care not to get poked. Someone can use a sharp knife, garden shear, or scissors to cut the small parts of the cactus.
Once you use cuttings for repotting, allow them to dry in a warm place. It should have good air circulation and be away from direct sunlight.
The area cut must be exposed to air to allow the wound to heal before you plant. Allow it to dry overnight before moving to the other step of the process.
The other procedure steps on repotting cacti from cuttings are similar to repotting succulents from leaves. Begin the process by preparing the soil in a new pot. The soil must be well-drained, sandy soil mixture.
Press the cutting segment gently into the soil and use a popsicle stick to support the new plant until roots establish to hold the plant. If the cutting has a broad base, press the base gently to allow the cutting in the soil, at least a quarter inch. Cactus cuttings with wide bases may not require popsicle stick support; they support themselves until their roots form.
Once transplanted, leave the pot in a warm, dry, and away from direct sunlight place. After a few weeks, the cuttings begin to form new roots.
Water the new plant regularly, but after the soil dries out completely. After the roots of the new cactus plant firmly establish themselves, move the pot into its usual spot and arrangement.
Most established cacti require watering once a week. These plants thrive in semi-arid and desert conditions. That makes them susceptible to overwatering.
Repotting Succulents in Glass
A transparent glass orb is easy to suspend on wires or set on small shelves to display the shape and color of succulents. Many people also use the glass pot to maintain a modern look indoors.
However, the hassle is learning how to repot cacti or other succulents in glass containers. And the most important thing is not to allow excess water to build up inside the glass container.
The roots of cactus or succulents are sensitive to excess water. If these roots sit in water for some time, they rot, and the plant suffers. This is a problem easy to resolve with these few steps:
First, use small pebbles to create a thin layer on the bottom. The pebbles must be small and light because the glass container is small and fragile, unlike other materials used to make containers.
Pick pebbles that can perfectly complement the indoor space, perhaps with contrast colors or vivid accent colors of succulent plants. Next, choose a place with plenty of sunlight.
The sunlight provides heat that will warm the excess water collected in pebbles at the base of the glass pot, causing it to evaporate. An advantage of a transparent glass pot to repot succulents is the easiness of gauging the water amount in the soil. It makes root rot or over-watering less likely to occur.
Repotting Succulent Arrangements
You must consider a few things when repotting succulents already arranged in specific groupings.
First, when the plan is repotting all succulent plants from different varieties, consider one variety at a time. Next, consider the shape and size of the succulents.
Repot succulents and cactus that grow taller first as they need more support before establishing roots in their new pot. Also, repot succulents with broad bases or smaller sizes last since they support themselves while their roots mend.
Maybe your plant involves changing the arrangement of your succulents in a new environment; you need a sketch of the desired arrangement. Begin to repot the succulents and cactus that will be at the center of your arrangement and work outward. Make sure there is space between each succulent plant to allow them to grow and fill the spaces in the design.
Repotting Succulents with Rocks
Rocks provide a healthy growing environment for succulents. These rocks are essential as they provide an efficient drainage layer when used at the bottom of a container. The gaps between the rocks will allow water to evaporate or drain away. So, water will not saturate the bottom surrounding the plant's roots which causes root rot.
Light, porous rocks are used, such as pumice or lava rocks. They are mixed with well-drained soil to repot succulents to replicate desert soils further. The need for porous rocks is to allow more air to move in the sandy soil, improve circulation of nutrients, and help prevent root rot from saturated water. When rocks are mixed with soil, they close the large gaps forming while water passes through the sandy soil. Rocks can also be a top dressing for a pot used to repot succulents.
Sandy soil is not flush within the edge of the pot but an inch below the rim. Decorative stones are then layered evenly at the top of the soil to help insulate the roots beneath from cold, wind, and heat. The top dressing also helps to disperse water throughout the soil.
Lastly, the small, decorative stones offer succulent arrangements with complementary patterns, textures, and colors. Rock plants or lithops are usually arranged with stones to display their striking look.
Repotting Succulents with Sand
Many plants thrive well in their natural environment and artificial environment. Succulents are among the plants that have shown the benefits of surviving in both environments.
Succulents' natural environment is semi-arid or desert conditions. So, the plant grows well in the ideal soil of the natural environment, which is sandy soil. When repotting cacti or succulents, plant them in sandy soil.
Fortunately, there are various options to replicate the prim soil conditions of succulents. Many garden centers and nurseries will sell "desert soil," which is a pre-mixed soil for repotting succulents. These kinds of soil have more sand consistency.
The sandier consistency will allow the proper establishment of succulent roots and adequate drainage. The soil can repot all succulents to establish a strong foothold.
Home gardeners create their "desert soil" by mixing equally sand, generic topsoil, and potting soil. The pre-mixed varieties for African violets are suitable to use for a start, while peat is mixed with sand to create desert soils.
At the bottom of the pot, a layer of volcanic rocks or small pebbles is added to help drain off water and ensure the soil will retain less water.
When to Repot Succulents
The biggest risk to succulents is to provide them with overly wet soil conditions as it causes root rot. Harsh temperatures also affect the growth of plants. Still, succulents tend to survive for some time in extreme conditions - either sweltering heat or frigid cold.
When you want to repot succulents, focus on moderation. Cold temperatures will lead to dormancy and are still better for environmental changes. Humidity is not beneficial in repotting succulents, but watering should be regulated once succulents start to establish roots in the new containers. A home gardener or landscaping professional should be patient in repotting succulents and vigilant to support them. That enables them to repot any time it suits them.
Repotting Succulents in Winter
Other cacti or succulents will even benefit when covered by snow while growing outdoor. The layer of the snow will insulate them from the harsh winter weather, such as harsh winds and excess moisture. Where there is no snow, succulents are covered with evergreen boughs or burlap for extra protection.
However, it is not good to repot succulents living outdoors during winter or cold months. Succulents and cacti will be dormant during these cold months and may not rebound from the trauma after transferring to a new pot. Succulents will give the best repotting results when transferred in the warm months. When already used to coverage from boughs or shielding by snow, a sudden exposure makes succulents extra vulnerable during the transition to a new container.
It is wise to repot succulents in warm seasons before winter and move them indoors. Succulents are prolific like ancient plants for landscaping or gardens; they are used in areas experiencing far colder temperatures that other plants will not tolerate.
A layer of snow will insulate succulents from dormancy for a short time. Still, prolonged exposure to snow would be detrimental. The best option is repotting succulents in late fall and store indoors where water levels and temperature are easy to control. When springs come, take the succulents back outdoor, and they will thrive in sunlight and heat.
It is safer and more convenient to repot succulents indoors or in places without much cold in the winter months. But the best time is late winter and early spring since succulent plants will start to initiate growth for a new season where they adapt to their new pot quickly.
Fortunately, many succulents and cacti can be transplanted at any time, and when properly cared they thrive perfectly.
Repotting Succulents Without Drainage
So, when you plant succulents in a container or pot without drainage, it is essential to use the correct type of soil. Or you have to repot the succulent once more for the plant to thrive.
Glass bulbs or pots with no drainage holes will require a thin layer of river stones, volcanic rocks, or pebbles on the bottom. Add a thin layer of soil on the top to replicate sandy constituents or desert soils.
The layer of rocks in the container provides space that allows water to settle at the bottom and evaporate quickly. The soft sandy soil allows air to circulate through your succulent plants' roots to enable them to maintain an appropriate moisture level.
How to Repot a Succulent Without Killing It
Suppose the succulent is ready to repot, water before the process. Allow the soil to absorb the water for a few minutes to allow the soil to cling to the roots after you gently lift it from the original pot. Gently, place your plant in the new pot with good drainage and appropriate soil.
The new container to repot should have the same depth as the original pot, but the diameter can be more to allow proper growth for the new plant. The succulent roots must be moist as you have to water them before repotting. So, after moving gently to the new container, wait until the next day to water.
A new succulent plant is usually fragile; you must pay attention to water requirements over a few weeks; the root system will require time to establish.
Can Dormancy Affect Succulent Repotting?
The plants stop growing upwards or forming new leaves, flowers, and stems during the dormancy period. Instead, the succulents focus nutrients on their root development and preservation. However, the dormancy season is turned on easily.
Plants gradually become dormant after the weather cools. These plants will stay in the state of dormancy and transition back during the productive seasons. When you want to repot succulents or cacti during the dormancy period, the right time is late winter and early spring. The plants are in dormancy but on the verge of becoming productive again.
Choosing this time of the year is perfect because it will strike a balance between the growth of roots and development. So, succulents will be ready to settle in new soil and new pot.
Considerations around dormancy are important when repotting succulents that grow outdoors. But before that, check on applicable growing zone maps to garner information about dormancy seasons.
Repotting Aloe Vera
These plants have a hardy rooting system, making the aloe vera family easy to repot. Some aloe vera will require repotting after the leaves appear leggy or begin to droop.
Wait until the plant is watered to remove it from the original container. That ensures the soil is moist to cling to the roots. It should not be too wet to fall off. It also allows aloe vera to absorb water before transitioning to a new home.
Keep in mind aloe vera plants will grow large, even in smaller pots. The root systems will therefore become root-bound, requiring more attention.
When removed from the original pot and the roots are bound together, use scissors or a sharp knife to remove the thicker parts of the root system. The plant can manage the disruption of the root system, and you should not fear trimming the roots.
Aloe vera requires the same process of repotting as other succulents and cactus. Use a pot with good drainage and sandy soil. The container also should have the same depth as the original pot. The diameter can be wide to create more space for aloe vera to grow healthy. Multiple small plants can share the same pot.
The roots are moist from the original soil. So, you have to wait and water the new plants the next day. Remember, the new aloe vera plant is fragile, and it requires attention to watering needs. You should water adequately until the rooting system establishes itself.
Repotting a Snake Plant
The steps to repot some succulents, such as the snake plant, differ from cacti or other succulents. Snake plants will have sense root balls that help them support their height. When you see the roots grow to bulge the edges of the plastic pot or through the drainage holes, move the plant to a new pot.
You should easily lift it out from the pot such that when you struggle to get the root ball from the pot, use a larger container. Once you have removed the snake plant, inspect the root ball. Cut out the dark or black spots with a razor blade or sharp knife as they are signs of rot. Root rot is common when snake plants' roots lack proper drainage, thus decomposing due to moisture.
Removing the rotted roots allows the healthy root ball to expand. Like other large succulents such as aloe vera, the roots of these plants can become root-bound. Thick and long roots grow around the root ball, blocking healthy roots' growth. That prevents the roots from forming new root branches.
It is also the right time you decide whether to divide the snake plant. At the base, divide at least one or two inches under the soil, where distinct stems are visible. You can gently pull apart with individual stems and roots attached, allowing planting separately.
Remember, when you need a new container, it should be big because snake plants are tall with a heavy top. Make sure you use a deep and wider container to prevent tipping as the plant grows.
When you're selecting rocks to use as drainage at the bottom of your container, choose heavier stones to keep the container safely balanced.
When everything is set, follow the basic steps of repotting succulents:
Prepare the soil to use in a new pot. The container should be shallow; add well-drained Sandy soil.
Once you have planted the split succulent, support it with a garden stake or bamboo stick until it roots to hold in place. Avoid popsicle sticks as they are useless in such circumstances with the height of many snake plants.
Leave the pot in a warm and dry place with no direct sunlight. After a few weeks, the snake plant forms a strong root system. Continue to water the plant after the soil completely dries.
Once the roots are firmly established, move the pot to its usual spot with light and warmth. Most established snakes’ plants will require watering once a week. Many of these plants are tropical succulents, so they need more water than cacti.
Additional Guidance to Repot Succulents
Online stores have different varieties of succulents, styles of containers, or precisely mixed soils challenging to find in a local home store. You can choose what to buy, and the store will ship what you want.
Nurseries that sell cacti and succulents have knowledgeable professionals to guide gardeners and amateurs in the care of succulents. Even in rural areas, you will find public universities offering agricultural extension services, including testing soil, publishing reports, and trends in gardening.
The researchers and scientists who work with these institutions are ready to help. The good thing is you can get the right information on a specific succulent variety.
Other organizations like the CSSA will offer advice, research, education, and how-to guides for caring for succulents and cacti at home gardens or in nature. Suppose these succulent plants are more than a hobby. In that case, the organization will plan excursions where participants will find and observe cacti and succulents naturally.