Repotting succulents or in fact, any plants we are fond of, is daunting for most gardeners, even the more experienced ones.
You have this beautiful Aloe that you love watching in the afternoon sun and you have to take it out of the soil and maybe kill it in the process?
Things are really not that dramatic and with a little knowledge and following instructions, repotting will become just one of those regular maintenance chores you have to perform on your plants.
In this article, we are going to look at how to repot succulents. I am sharing my best practices below.
When to repot the succulents?
You will know it is time to repot your succulent when it has evidently outgrown its pot. When the roots start growing out of the drainage hole in the pot, it will mean that there is no more space for them to grow. Succulents should be repotted just before their growing season starts, in early spring or early fall. That way, they have enough time to recover from the repotting.
What to repot your succulents into?
Most succulents grow slowly when grown indoors, but eventually, they will outgrow their pot and will have to be repotted into one size bigger than the old one.
The fresh new soil will give the plant a boost and encourage vigorous growth.
Use a free-draining mix that is nutrient-poor and contains plenty of pine bark, coarse sand, and/or perlite.
Why repot succulents?
- Your succulent will eventually outgrow its pot. Although most succulents that are grown indoors grow slowly, they do grow. The better conditions you provide, the faster they will fill their pot with roots. While leaving your plant in its too-small pot will restrict its growth, it will not make it happy and it might show on the color of its leaves, their gloss, or shape.
- Your succulent slowly but surely depletes its soil of nutrients. One of the big reasons for repotting is to replace the soil mix with fresh soil full of nutrients.
- Many succulents grow offsets or babies. Repotting is the time to separate them from mother plants and propagate your succulent with plenty of little babies.
- Changing the pot can at times become necessary. To start with, each new succulent you bring from the garden center comes in a little flimsy pot and generic soil. That pot right away has to be replaced with a decent one filled with fresh, appropriate soil mix. Do not wait with this for more than a week or two.
- Your succulents are not only living things in your home but a piece of natural beauty that has to be in harmony with the rest of the décor. You will want to repot them in the pretty new pot you have found that would work perfectly in your library or study.
Signs it is time to repot succulents
These signs indicate that it is time to repot succulents:
- When watering your succulent, you notice that water does not soak the whole pot or the water drains too fast. That is the sign that there are more roots in the pot than soil.
- The roots are coming out of the pot drainage hole or you can see them circling the pot at the surface.
- The plant stops growing. If your succulent is healthy but it is not growing although it is its growing season, it is probably not getting enough nutrients from the old soil or the roots do not have any more space to grow.
- Your succulent looks unhealthy although you give it adequate light and water. Repotting your succulent and giving it fresh soil would give it a boost and encourage better health.
- The plant is unstable in its pot and topples on its side. Some succulents are top-heavy to begin with. If the soil in the pot has been depleted and the pot is too light, it might topple over and get damaged.
- You have no clue when you repotted it last. Do not take advantage of the fact that succulents are so forgiving. If you cannot remember when you repotted your plant last, check the roots and if there are way too many of them and there is very little soil left, repot your plant.
How often should succulents be repotted?
If you had your succulent for a while and you are familiar with its habits, the way it looks, and its occasional changes, you will develop the feel for its needs.
It is impossible to come up with a rule that would work for all succulents regarding how often to repot succulents.
Some guiding principles:
- Younger plants grow faster and are still developing their root systems. They will fill their pot with roots in less than a year and will need to be repotted in order to continue growing.
- Mature plants with well-established root systems do not grow fast and will be happy with repotting every two to three years.
- Some succulents grow fast and would quickly outgrow their place in your home. By leaving them slightly root-bound, you slow their growth so you can enjoy them a little longer. Do not over-do it, or the plant will suffer.
In general, most succulent would do with repotting every 18 months to two years without suffering. But, be good to your plant, keep an eye on its needs and repot it when it needs it.
The best season to repot succulents
Repotting is a traumatic experience for your succulents and you want to give them the best chance to recover as soon as possible.
Most succulents go through a dormant period and the best time to repot them is just before they are ready to begin their season of vigorous growth.
Most succulents belong to either of two categories – those that go dormant in summer and those that go dormant in winter.
Succulents that go dormant in winter are those that grow vigorously in spring and summer.
The time to repot them is in early spring, just before they start their growth phase.
Succulents that enter dormancy in summer grow vigorously in fall and winter. They should be repotted in early fall.
Succulents for all seasons
There is a third category of succulents, those that do not go dormant at all.
Succulents enter dormancy to respond to unfavorable conditions such as too much heat in summer or cold in winter.
In the home environment, it is easy to create perfect conditions year-round.
With the grow lamp, you can ensure 12 or more hours of bright light and the constant perfect temperature between 65-75°F (18-24°C).
All you have to do is to continue watering as needed, every time the soil goes dry, and fertilize every 4-6 months, and your succulent will have no reason to go dormant.
Your succulents will have no clue when is winter and when is summer!
There are times when repotting is necessary because your succulents look sick. With succulents, in most cases, that means overwatering and rotting roots.
Emergency repotting might save your plant’s life if you act fast enough. Take your plant out of the pot and shake all the soil off.
Cut off any rotting roots and place the plant in the fresh succulent soil mix. If there are sufficient undamaged roots, your plant might recover.
If you are using the same pot, wash it thoroughly with water and bleach before reusing it.
Repotting for propagation
Most succulents are easy to propagate from offsets or bulbils. If you give them good growing conditions, they will grow plenty of babies that you can easily remove from the mother plant and plant in their own pots.
Propagation from offsets is normally done during repotting, but sometimes your plant will have such an abundance of babies that there will be no place for them in the same pot.
Wait for the time when your plant is ready to finish its dormancy period and repot it. When you remove your succulent from the pot, cut or twist off all the offsets or babies from the mother.
Save those with a well-developed root system. Leave them to dry off for a few days and then pot them in their individual pots.
You can pot the mother plant in the same pot unless the roots are overgrown. Replace the soil with the fresh soil mix.
Tips for repotting succulents
- If your succulent is living in perfect conditions and is blooming, cherish it and enjoy it. Even if it is bursting out of its pot, that is not the time to repot your plant. It would cause your plant to drop its buds and flowers.
- When repotting your succulent, shake off the old soil, do not wash the roots with water. If you do, dry the roots carefully.
- After repotting, water your succulent thoroughly and make sure all excess water has drained completely.
Wet roots are one of the easiest ways to kill your plant and succulents hate it!
- Always wear gardening gloves when repotting succulents. Some have sharp thorns and others, like agave, have irritating sap.
Frequently Asked Questions About Repotting Succulents
Do succulents like to be root-bound?
Succulents are very forgiving plants. They will sit in the same pot and look healthy, although they have not been repotted for years. But if you look at the roots, you will find out that they are all squished in the pot and there is very little soil left. Being root-bound means that your plant is not getting enough nutrients since all the soil has been depleted. So, your succulent is not very happy about being root-bound but is too tough to complain. Just imagine it living in its natural conditions, where it can grow its roots in all directions.
Can you plant succulents in a regular potting mix?
Succulents need soil that drains very fast. Water retention is not what you are looking for in a soil mix for succulents. Regular potting mix has too much peat moss to be good for succulent. If you have no choice but to use a regular potting mix, add about 50 percent of pine bark, coarse sand, and/or perlite. They will allow excess water to drain out of the pot and the roots will be able to get enough air.
Should I water succulents before repotting?
Many gardeners like to water their plants before repotting because it makes it easier for the plant to be pushed out of the pot. It is not a good idea with succulents because the water will make roots wet and it will be difficult to shake the old soil off. Fragile roots might break in the process. If you do water your succulent before repotting, wash the roots and dry them well before repotting in the fresh soil.
Should I fertilize my succulent after repotting it?
Succulents need very little fertilizing in general. Fertilizing it right after repotting is not only not necessary since you have repotted it in the fresh new soil, but it also might burn the roots. Wait at least a few months before fertilizing your succulent after repotting.
Can I plant different succulents in the same pot?
Succulents come in so many different shapes, sizes, and colors that they make a wonderful collection when planted together in a larger, shallow pot. Make sure that you mix only succulents that need the same conditions – the same amount of water, fertilizer and light. You might need to repot your collection more often if the pot starts looking crowded with offsets or the plants start looking too big for space.
Succulents are such easy plants to grow and care for. But for some reason, many gardeners are apprehensive when it comes to repotting.
Fortunately, there are very few rules to follow, and repotting will go well in most cases.
And even if you forget to repot your succulents.
All that will happen is that your beautiful houseplants will stop growing when the succulents get root-bound.
The best way to know when to repot your succulent is to observe it, get to know its needs, watch for the changes and check that the roots are not sticking out of the pot.
Learn more about your succulent. Find out if it is winter-grower or summer-grower.
Repot just before its growing season starts and you will give it a boost and encourage growth.
After a few successful repottings, you will feel like a pro!
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.