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What You Need To Know About Transplanting Succulents In Pots

Succulents don't mind being transplanted at all. I know, I've been doing it for years! Here's all you need to know about transplanting/planting/repottting succulents in pots (indoors & out) including time of year to do it, mix to use, & factors to consider.

close up of a colorful tray of mixed succulents in manyl colors & textures

If you’ve read any of my posts then you know I love succulents. Yes it’s true, both fleshy succulents and succulents with spines have a place in my garden and home.

Over the years I’ve planted and repotted many succulents all of which have survived and taken hold. If you’re new to the world of these wacky and wonderful plants, I want to share with you all I know about transplanting succulents in pots.

Check out my video on transplanting succulents in pots:

Hint: don’t be hesitant to transplant &/or move them! The main reason succulents transplant so easily and readily is that their root balls tend to be smaller and resilient. Sometimes they aren’t easy to transplant (especially the ones with spines) but they don’t mind being moved and root in just fine. Although I had a garden full of succulents when I lived in Santa Barbara, this post and video are all about transplanting, repotting or planting (whatever you wish to call it!) succulents in pots.

Transplanting Succulents in Pots

This is the planting you’ll see me put together in the video below. The Variegated Aloe & Cat’s Tail Euphorbia were new plants, the Haworthia came from my Santa Barbara garden, & the Optunia Joesph’s Coat was in the pot next to my kitchen sliding glass door.

close up of the small root ball of an opuntia cactus

Not the most interesting picture I’ve posted but I wanted to show the size of the roots coming off the 3′ Optunia. Not extensive at all.

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    Important things to know about transplanting succulents:

    The plant & its requirements for sun

    Most succulents with spines & needles (like cacti) can take full, hot sun. Fleshy succulents do best in “cooler”, less intense sun. When I lived in SB (along California’s coast) my succulents grew fine in full sun. Here in Tucson, my fleshy succulents need to grow in bright shade or they’ll burn. All do best with protection from the hot afternoon desert sun.

    The location

    This ties directly with the above. You don’t want to grow cacti in the shade indoors or outdoors nor do you want to grow fleshy succulents in hot sun.

    My Pencil Cactus, which was on the covered side patio, had grown to over 12′ & was about to hit the ceiling. It blew over a few times & needed staking. I moved it to the back garden (we can still see it when on the patio) in a shaded corner so it can grow away as it please.

    Indoors, most succulents require high light to do their best.

    The soil mix

    This is important – more details below.

    The best time of year to plant succulents

    Spring & summer are the best times to plant/transplant/repot succulents. I live in a climate with warmer winters so fall is fine. If you transplant your succulents in winter, they won’t die. Just know it’s not the optimum time so you might want to wait until spring.

    The soil mix for succulents:

    I use a locally produced organic succulent & cactus mix available only in the Tucson area. It’s very chunky, drains well & is comprised of pumice, coconut coir chips & compost. I also add in a few generous handfuls of compost when planting & top the pot with 1/8″ of worm compost.

    I usually add in more worm compost & compost but it’s late in the year.  I’ll top with more worm compost & compost in early spring. You don’t need to add compost or worm compost to your mix but it’s how I feed all my container plants, both inside & out. You can read about it here.

    I recommend that you use straight succulent & cactus mix or 1/2 succulent & cactus & 1/2 potting soil.

    If you use any potting soil, back off on the watering frequency because it’s a heavier mix. With cacti, don’t use  potting soil.

    Succulent & cactus mixes really vary depending on the brand.

    Many people have a mix that they prefer & use on a regular basis & it works for them. What’s most important the mix drains well.

    If you think your mix needs the drainage & lightness factors elevated, add pumice or perlite.

    Succulent mix/additive options to purchase online:

    Bonsai Jack (this 1 is very gritty; great for those prone to overwatering!), Hoffman’s (this is more cost effective if you have larger containers but you might have to add pumice or perlite), or Superfly Bonsai (another fast draining 1 like Bonsai Jack great for indoor succulents).

    Pumice or Perlite.

    Worm Gold worm compost.

    Note: Epiphytic Cacti, like Christmas Cactus, Hatiora & Ripsalis, like a bit of coco coir & orchid bark added to the mix.

    an elephant's food plant & violet annual vinca grow in a very colorful talavera pot

    This Elephant’s Food (which was looking sad & neglected) was left in a back corner of the garden by the previous owner. I transplanted it into this gorgeous Talavera pot this April. It’s grown quite a bit & I’ve pruned & shaped it up. It’s 1 fleshy succulent which can handle quite a bit of hot desert sun.

    close up of large aeonium succulent plants

    I brought these Aeoniums with me as cuttings when I moved from CA to AZ. They sat in a very shallow planter for about 1- 1/2 years & I finally transplanted them back in the summer. You can read all about planting them here.

    Transplanting succulents indoors:

    Many of you grow succulents indoors. I have 3 smaller pots growing as houseplants (that number will increase I’m sure!) but most of mine grow outdoors. I follow all of the what I’ve said above but back off on the amount of compost & worm compost added. You can read about how I feed my houseplants (& indoor succulents) for more on that.

    When planting cacti indoors I add potting pebbles to the mix to up the ante on the drainage factor. Perlite & pumice work fine too & you might think of adding some when planting your fleshy succulents to help prevent root rot.

    close up of 3 aloe vera plants in a purple/blue pot

    The Aloe vera mother plant produced the 2 babies in the front. I just planted these Aloes a few weeks ago & they’re already pretty firmly rooted in.

    close up of small succulent plants in a bright blue pot

    These were all cuttings I brought from my SB garden. This past year I cut these succulents all the way back because they were getting too tall & leggy. This happens to some succulents over time – just cut them back, heal the cuttings off & plant.

    When to repot succulents:

    Don’t rush to transplant them. Depending on the type of succulent, the environment, the pot size they’re in & the mix they’re growing in, every 3 to 8 years is fine. They’ll appreciate some fresh mix by that time.

    Most succulents don’t need repotting very often because their root systems are small, they don’t root deep & can grow crowded just fine. Succulents aren’t needy when it comes to fertilizing & feeding. I have 6 cacti growing outdoors in a low bowl with a 7″ opening & 3″ height – they’re doing just fine. I will transplant 2 of them soon because they’re getting too tall & it’s time for fresh mix.

    I typically repot my succulents soon after I buy them to get them into the mix I’d like them to be growing in. Another reason for transplanting is that they’re outgrowing the pot.

    Taller growing succulents, like my Pencil Cactus & Euphorbia trigona rubra, will need repotting more often. As they grow tall, they’ll need a bigger base to support them.

    a large 3-headed ponytail palm in a large blue pot sits on a patio

    I love this 3-headed Ponytail Palm which I bought in a 6″ pot at the Santa Barbara Farmers Market about 8 or 9 years ago. It’s been transplanted 4 times. You can see how planted it in this big blue pot here. I can see it from my living room & dining room which is why it gets center stage on the side patio!

    I’ve been planting and moving succulents for years and they don’t seem to skip a beat.

    If you’re a person on the go, then succulents are the ticket for you. I’m really getting into cacti now that I’ve moved to Tucson because they’re “look ma, no maintenance” in this hot, dry climate. But oh those spines make working with them a challenge. Thank goodness for pasta tongs (my secret weapon for planting cacti)!

    Much more for you on everything succulents here.

    Happy gardening,

    Nell-Foster-Joy-Us-Garden

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    7 comments:

    1. Thank you for your info and experience!

    2. Is there any way we can e mail this article to someone who has the garden full of succulents.
      Pintrest says that the article is too long to save. please have the link for email. thx

    3. Hi Nell! How do you heal the cuttings off? (Or did I miss something?) Thank you

    4. Hi Vee – Yes I did. Because it’s warmer & drier here in Tucson than where I used to live on the CA coast, I heal them off for a shorter period of time. Nell

    5. Hi Vee – Yes. You can copy the link from the website & then email it. Or, send the person to our website & they can look at our “Succulents” category to see all posts. Nell

    6. You’re certainly welcome Cynthia! Nell

    7. Hi Norma – Make sure your pruners are clean and sharp. Simply cut the stems to the length you want, peel the bottom 1/3 of the leaves off & then let those stems heal off (this is where the cut end of the stem callus over) for 2 weeks to 4 months before planting. I keep them in a bit spot out of direct sun. Nell

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