How to Transplant a Cactus and Not Get Hurt: A Step-by-step Guide

If you have no idea how to transplant a cactus, we'll tell you the proper way to do this without getting hurt in the process.
How to Transplant a Cactus and Not Get Hurt: A Step-by-step Guide

Last update: 12 May, 2023

Cactaceae have long ceased to be outdoor plants. It’s common to see them in living rooms, adorning shelves, or on a desk. The popularity of these plants has only increased people’s interest in knowing about the care required by the species and how to transplant a cactus without damaging it or getting hurt in the attempt.

What’s striking about this variety of plants is its spines, described by the University of Minnesota Extension as scales ranging from microscopic to large. They serve to protect them from predators and held them to resist the sun. In this regard, the U.S. National Park Service argues that the spines are responsible for breaking evaporation winds and shading the stem.

But it’s precisely their spines that make handling difficult. So, how can you pick up the cactus without getting pricked? How can you hold it with a tool without damaging it? In this article, we’ll tell you the answers.

Cactus: A thorny, beautiful, and practical lant

Cacti are plants of great resistance and a peculiar appearance that makes them an attractive decorative element. Their maintenance is simple; they can survive both outdoors and indoors in most locations.

They’re typical specimens from arid and semi-arid regions, as explained in an article from Research and phytotherapy. In fact, according to the same publication, these plants also have many different uses, including:

  • Food
  • Medicine
  • Decoration
  • Landscaping

Another text in Food Chemistry speaks of cacti as a kind of succulent with a leafless stem and very many thorns, agreeing with the previous magazine in its qualities of benefit to the food and pharmaceutical industries.

The shapes of cacti range from flattened to cylindrical or even round. The hardiness of the species doesn’t mean that it doesn’t flower. In fact, cactus buds are usually hermaphrodites. Although cacti can be planted directly in the ground, if you prefer to have them in pots, it’s OK; you just have to handle them with care to prevent any incidents.

Risks when transplanting a cactus

Although cacti don’t require constant transplanting in their scarce maintenance, when they need it, it must be done in the right way. This way, you don’t damage the plant and you don’t get hurt, either.

Changing pots is necessary if the roots protrude from the drainage holes, but this is something that happens between 2 and 4 years, depending on the plant’s speed of growth.

Pulling out the cactus with your bare hand is almost impossible without getting hurt. If such an incident occurs, the wound is quite painful. Inflammation can also occur, as reported in a publication of Actas Dermo-Sifilográficas. Likewise, the pads and roots of the cactus are prone to damage if you don’t use the proper instruments to remove them.

We think you may be interested in reading this, too: How to Plant Nopal Cactus at Home: A Complete Guide

How to transplant a cactus without getting hurt

In order to avoid incidents when transplanting a cactus, we’re going to summarize and share a guide that will surely be useful in the process. Take note.

1. Get your tools ready

It’s clear that you should never pick up a cactus with unprotected hands; you need some gardening tools. Thick gloves that cover the forearm and tweezers if the cactus is small are a must. Other implements for the task are the following:

  • Newspapers
  • A thick cloth
  • Substrate
  • A pot

2. Loosen the soil

Using a trowel, loosen the soil with light pressure. Make sure to cover the entire area of the pot, not forgetting the inner edges.

3. Remove the cactus

You already have the gloves on, but it’s also necessary to cover the cactus with several sheets of newspaper or a thick cloth to avoid punctures. Then, slowly lift the plant so you don’t damage its pads or break the roots.

4. Shake the root ball and check the roots

Once the cactus is out, shake the root ball so you don’t carry any of the old soil mass to the new pot. Take advantage of this step to inspect the roots and clean them with a brush or larger paintbrush, depending on the size of the plant.

Look for fungus or any signs of disease starting to show up on the rhizomes. Get rid of any dead ones and spray fungicide if needed.

5. Move the cactus to the new pot

For this step, the receiving pot should be ready. Clay pots are advisable for this kind of plant because they help to absorb excessive humidity. It has to be larger than the previous pot, with drainage holes, and allow the roots to remain at the same depth as in the previous container.

Insert the clean cactus and gradually add the clean soil. Hold the cactus throughout this process, protecting yourself with gloves or a cloth. You can release the plant when the pot is filled and the specimen is upright.

6. Don’t water your cactus right away

When finished, don’t water the cactus immediately. It’s best to give the cactus a chance to adjust to the new environment.

After a week, you can start watering.

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Know the best time to transplant a cactus

Early to mid-spring is the recommended stage for transplanting a cactus. It’s at this stage that the plant experiences its active growth. Therefore, it will use this energy to adapt to the new environment and recover from the transplanting process.

Don’t forget to cover your hands with thick gloves and use special tweezers when the cactus is small. This is the only way to avoid puncturing yourself with long prongs and to relieve the plant from the stress of improper handling.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.