How to Repot Christmas Cactus: A Transplanting Guide

Do you think it is time to transplant your Christmas cactus? In this article, gardening expert Jill Drago will explain when and why you should transplant your cactus, as well as steps on how to accomplish this task with ease!

On a wooden table, repotting Christmas Cacti is underway. Its segmented pads are vibrant green, elegantly curved, and adorned with fine, hair-like spines. Planted in white pots alongside other containers, a hand glove, and a brown paper bag rest nearby.

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You may not have thought about repotting your Christmas cactus; they are low maintenance and grow happily in tight spaces. However, there are a few good reasons that you should repot, depending on your plant’s health and how long it’s been in its current container. 

Houseplants, in general, do not require transplanting or repotting too frequently. It is always good for the plant to refresh the potting soil every few years. Potting soil can lose its nutritional benefits and become less effective over time. Christmas cacti need well-draining potting soil, such as a succulent mix. These mixes will allow your cacti to breathe and get much-needed moisture. 

To make repotting a quick and effective task, follow the steps below. Let’s get digging!

About Christmas Cactus

A close-up of a lush Christmas Cactus. The succulent’s fleshy, glossy green branches showcase gentle ridges and plump segments. Bright red-orange flowers and budding blooms punctuate the plant, adding a festive burst of color to the scene.
This tropical succulent thrives on minimal care, drawing moisture from the air in its natural habitat.

Behold the Christmas cactus, a beloved houseplant! This tropical plant is prized for its colorful blooms from November through January. These flowers can bloom in shades of red, purple, pink, and white. 

Despite its name, this isn’t a cactus at all! It is a succulent with the ability to hold moisture in its leaves. It appreciates humidity but not excessive watering.

As with most succulents, this plant is very low maintenance. In their natural rainforest habitat, these plants are epiphytic and grow on the bark of other plants, getting all the moisture they need from the humidity in the air. Luckily, they will grow nicely in containers, growing quickly and blooming each winter. 

Signs You Need to Repot

A close-up of a potted Christmas Cactus. Nestled in brown soil, this cactus exhibits distress. Visible surface issues and perforations hint at potential health concerns, contrasting with its otherwise verdant appearance.
Signs like pests or potential root rot may indicate the need for a new pot.

Christmas cacti do not need to be repotted frequently and grow quite happily in tight spaces. But these tight spaces can eventually cause some issues. 

If you notice roots beginning to creep out of the bottom of your pot or the plant is beginning to girdle, it is a good time to transplant

Another sign that you should transplant is pests or symptoms of root rot. Root rot shows up when you have given your cactus too much love, i.e., too much water.

Overwatering can invite mold, mildew, and pests into the soil your cactus is growing in. You will also notice that your cactus looks limp or weak and possibly discolored. Upon further searching, you may also find that the roots have begun to turn black and squishy. 

When Should You Repot?

A close-up of petite Christmas Cacti. These vibrant green cacti, ensconced in small brown-soil pots, boast charmingly delicate yet resilient features. Their tiny yet robust presence adds charm to the tableau.
The optimal time for transplanting is in spring after the flowers fade.

How often you need to repot will differ. Typically, it should be done every 1-3 years, but there are more important factors than the timeline. Is your plant healthy and growing happily? Has your plant outgrown its current pot? Consider those factors before transplanting on a whim. 

The best time to repot or transplant is in the spring, once the flowers have wilted. This is when the plant is dormant and under less stress because it has not yet produced its flower buds. Succulents are tough and tolerant of transplanting, but it is always best to perform these gardening tasks when the risk is at its lowest. 

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

A close-up of cactus soil. The brown soil, interspersed with small white stones, forms a textured bed. A small shovel rests beside, hinting at the ongoing gardening activity in this earthy tableau.
Streamline the repotting process by organizing and collecting your supplies in advance.

Getting organized and gathering your supplies before you start is a simple way to streamline the entire process

Things you may need:

Step 2: Prepare Your New Container

Gardening essentials on a smooth white table are shown. A potted cactus, a container of dark, rich soil, and a large ceramic pot take center stage. Small stones and a hand shovel accompany them against a backdrop of vibrant garden greenery.
Ensuring a clean container, whether new or used, is crucial for the plant’s well-being.

Starting with a clean container is important for future plant health, whether using a new or older container. This is done easily with some good old soap and water. This basic task may seem easy to skip, but it can prevent diseases from infecting your plant and can also remove any tiny insect eggs that could be lingering in the container. 

Once your now clean container has dried, fill the bottom of the container with soil. How much soil will depend on how large your plant is. This base layer of potting soil will give your plant support later while adding new soil around the roots. 

Step 3: Unpot

 A close-up of Christmas Cactus plants in dark soil-filled pots, nestled side by side. Their segmented stems arch gracefully, showcasing vibrant hues of green. The delicate, yet resilient, spiny edges adorn the cactuses in this close-captured botanical moment.
Be gentle during the unpotting process to avoid breaking off leaves.

This may seem silly, but being gentle while removing the plant from its original pot is crucial. Place your hand on top of the soil surface, and gently tip the container on its side or a diagonal until you feel the plant sliding out of the container. 

You may gently pull your cactus out of the pot or use a small trowel to dig the plant out. The method is up to you and your comfort level. Just keep in mind that you need to be gentle in order not to break off any of the leaves. If you do encounter some breakage, do not worry. Save the broken pieces to propagate more Christmas cactus plants!

Step 4: Clean Up The Plant

A close-up of a potted Christmas Cactus with tender buds emerging from its leaf joints. The vibrant green stems hold promising bursts of vibrant red, teasing the arrival of the festive blooms-to-be, adding a touch of seasonal anticipation to the scene.
Tidy up your plant by snipping off damaged leaves or stems during repotting.

Take this opportunity to clean up your plant a bit. Using your garden snips, you can remove any yellow or damaged leaves or stems that may be unsightly or not lend themselves to the plant’s overall shape

This is also a great time to remove soil from the roots. Remove the old soil from the leaves and the roots with your hands or a soft brush. Discard all of the old potting soil before repotting your plant. Gently move the roots around with your hand to loosen up any that may have become potbound to ensure a healthy, happy cactus once in its new pot. 

Step 5: Repot

On a brown table, a setup for repotting with potted Christmas Cactus plants. The center stage features brown soil on paper alongside miniature gardening tools—a small hand shovel and rake, a pot, a tie, and slender string, an assemblage for nurturing these plants.
Position the cactus at the center of the pot and adjust the soil depth as needed.

Now that your container and plant are in tip-top shape, let’s get that little guy planted! Situate the cactus in the center of your pot. If you need to add more soil to the bottom of the plant, this is the time to do it!

Slowly add some potting mix around the plant once your cactus is in the middle and at the correct depth. Fill until the soil is just below the rim. 

Step 6: Water

A close-up of a potted Thanksgiving Cactus, its segmented branches embracing an array of vivid colors from deep green to hints of red. A hand delicately holds a blue watering can, offering hydration to the succulent, nurturing it in its pot.
These cacti typically require watering about once a week, possibly more with increased sunlight.

When you are finished planting, water lightly. This watering will help the new soil to settle around the roots, eliminating any air pockets within the container. After this initial watering, you can return to your regular watering schedule. 

Christmas cacti can be watered about once a week, sometimes a bit more, depending on how much sunlight it receives. Watering Christmas cacti can be a fine balance. They prefer to be moist but not too moist. You can allow the soil to dry out in between waterings. 

Final Thoughts

Now that you know how to transplant your Christmas cactus, it is time to get your hands dirty! Follow the above steps, and you will have a very successful transplant on your hands! Happy potting!

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