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A Comprehensive Guide to Repotting Succulents

Repotting an aloe vera succulent into a larger clay pot

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Are you trying your hand at repotting succulents for the first time? Or maybe you’ve has a less-than-successful attempt in the past?

Either way, the process can seem a bit fiddly, and you may be nervous that you’ll accidentally harm your plant. 

But when it comes to repotting plants, no species makes it easier on a grower than the succulent. After you learn the basics of how to repot succulents correctly, you’ll probably wonder what you were ever afraid of!

Today, you’ll discover how to determine if your plant is ready to make the move and how to choose an appropriate container and soil. 

You’ll also learn the essential steps to getting your succulent moved safely into their new home. Finally, we’ll talk about proper watering after repotting. 

Let’s jump in!

Succulents usually prefer to grow in cozy pots that keep their root systems compact. 

So what are the telltale signs that your succulent needs a roomier home?

Here are the main clues:

Your succulent’s soil is staying damp for long periods. Your plant’s roots can become compacted in a too-small pot, hampering their ability to absorb moisture. 

You’ve spotted visible root tips. If your plant doesn’t have enough space to spread their roots outwards, they will start poking through the soil surface or the drainage holes.

Your plant is too top-heavy. Has your container started to tip over from your succulent’s excessive weight? Time for a larger pot! 

You’ve had your succulent in its current pot for one or two years. Over time, your plant’s soil becomes depleted of nutrients. If nothing else, your plant needs a periodic soil refresher to continue getting the nutrition it needs.

When Should You Avoid Repotting Succulents?

There are two times you should delay your repotting plans: 

  1. During the seasonal dormant phase
  2. While your plant is actively flowering

When a plant goes dormant, it enters a hibernation state where growth is essentially at a standstill.

This resting phase is a key part of your plant’s natural growth cycle, so you don’t want to interrupt it by repotting. Also, dormancy dramatically reduces your plant’s ability to recover from the shock of moving to a new home. 

Spend some time researching the dormancy patterns for your specific species. Then, try to time your repotting project to coincide with the beginning of the active growth phase.

For winter-dormant plants, spring is the perfect time to repot. For summer-dormant varieties, plan on a fall repotting. 

Also, when you spot your succulent starting to bud, put your repotting plans on hold! You don’t want to risk losing the flower or disrupting your plant’s growth cycle. 

Choosing the Right Pot

Since many types of succulents are native to deserts, they prefer their soil on the drier side.

You’ll have an easier time achieving these dry, aerated soil conditions if you choose a container that has natural drainage. This could be in the form of pre-made drainage holes, a porous material or both.

Most plant containers available for purchase already come with drainage holes. And when it comes to porous materials, terra cotta and unglazed ceramic are two excellent choices.

There are endless options of flowerpots to choose from, in a fantastic array of colors, shapes and materials. 

To give you some guidance for your shopping trip, check out this post on 5 Adorable Cactus Planters.

Does the container you want to use lack natural drainage? No problem!

As long as you’re willing to invest a little extra effort to monitor soil moisture, you can use almost any container you want!

For example, repotting succulents in glass containers, like a Mason jar, lets you create a stunning visual effect with layers of soil and pebbles.

Teacups are another fun option for a colorful, unique planter. Feel free to get creative! 

Preparing Your Soil

Succulents need well-draining soil to thrive, so regular dirt won’t work here!

You have two options for soil:

Purchase a cactus/succulent soil mix. Given the popularity of succulents over the last several years, you can easily find specialized soil at big box stores or online. This popular soil blend is great option. 

Make your own. A homemade succulent soil usually includes a mixture of potting soil and drainage materials. 

This video from Central Texas Gardener provides a few helpful tips in making your own succulent soil! 

How to Repot Succulents Step by Step

To begin your repotting project, gather a few supplies:

  • A cloth or newspaper to cover your work surface
  • The container of your choice
  • Soil
  • Gloves, if you’re working with spiny cacti
  • A small shovel or scoop
  • Pebbles (optional)

1. Gently Remove Your Plant From Its Current Pot

Put on your gloves if you’re repotting a spiky cactus. For any other succulent variety, you can use your bare hands. 

If you’re working with a small succulent, tip the current pot upside down and carefully slide the plant into your hand.

For larger plants, you may need to use a tool, like a chopstick or small shovel, to free the root system. Remember to be gentle to avoid damaging your succulent!

2. Clean Excess Soil From the Roots

Using a delicate touch, brush away the soil trapped within the root system, as the photo demonstrates. 

To help stimulate root spreading and growth in the new pot, carefully separate any root clumps. 

Woman cleans off roots while repotting succulent

3. Plant Your Succulent in Its New Home

Fill the new pot about halfway with fresh soil, and set your succulent on top. 

Use the scoop or shovel to fill the pot to about 1/2 inch below the rim. If you don’t have small tools on hand, this inexpensive set from Amazon would work perfectly! 

Then, gently press down on the soil to dislodge any air pockets. 

If you want to add a fun finishing touch, top your soil with a layer of decorative pebbles. These jade pebbles have such pretty colors!

4. Place Your Repotted Succulent in the Sun

Once potted, be sure the arrangement has access to bright indirect sunlight.

Windowsills are great places for succulents, as are tabletops, desks or shelves where they’ll get a good amount of light.

Should You Water After Repotting Succulents?

Keep in mind that the biggest enemy of succulents is overwatering, not under-watering! 

Don’t water your newly repotted succulent for at least a couple of days after the move. This gives your plant the chance to acclimate to its new home without any additional stress.

Another point to be aware of is that succulent leaves tend to pull moisture out of the surrounding air. 

So if you decide to keep a succulent arrangement in a bathroom, where it will encounter natural moisture day to day, make sure to let the soil dry out completely before watering. 

For more information on watering, see our post on How Often to Water Succulents.

Final Thoughts

When you’ve never done it before, repotting succulents may seem like an intimidating task. 

But all it takes is the right knowledge, supplies and technique!

Armed with these, you can confidently move your little succulent friend into its new home and enjoy their company for years to come. 

What has your experience with repotting succulents been like? Do you have any helpful tips to share? Are there any questions you’re still wondering about? 

Let us know in the comments!

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