No Repotting A Cactus Plant For Me

variety of cactus and succulent plants
(Image credit: Westend61 / Getty Images)

I grow a handful of cactus plants in my home. Many are harmless, like my fishbone cactus, dragon fruit cactus and Thanksgiving cactus. But some of them, particularly the various Echinopsis types, have one feature that prevents me from ever wanting to repot them… fine, hair-like spines.

I Needle Little Help Here!

Thank goodness repotting a cactus plant isn’t necessary too often. If it were, I’d be tapping out in round one. My grandfather had a way with cacti. He was like the cactus whisperer, growing some of the most beautiful plants I’d ever seen… and some of these were quite huge. I fondly remember them during my visits to Ohio.

Just in front of a large picturesque window in his basement, overlooking the backyard patio garden where I used to spend much of my childhood days plucking strawberries, sat a number of cactus plants.

There was one in particular that towered over all others and boasted the most beautiful blooms. He must’ve had to repot that one more than once, I’m sure. Unfortunately, this was not a skill passed to me. I may have acquired a “green thumb” through trial and error during my many years of gardening, but cacti and succulents (most anyway) still elude me.

Cacti rarely require repotting, but when they do, it’s not a task I look forward to doing. Even with gloved hands and tongs, it never fails. I’m always getting pricked, and it hurts! And the worst part is that I know what I’m doing, like I know how to repot a cactus, but for some reason I cannot do it without some sort of issue. Apparently, I’m just not very good at it, or maybe the plant senses my anxiety, making it more difficult to accomplish this task unscathed. The process normally takes far longer than it should. I often get frustrated. And of course, after getting stuck a few times, there’s lots of cursing going on.

Thankfully, cactus plants have shallow roots and are able to grow in confined places. To avoid repotting them at all, I try to place them in larger pots than is really needed whenever I can, which like repotting, is no fun either. But they’re slow growers anyway, so I don’t worry too much about them becoming overly large. And it’s not as if I’ll ever grow any as tall as my grandfather’s. I’ve already come to terms with the fact that, other than strawberries as tasty as his, I’ll never grow any cacti like Grandpa, so I’ll just continue to avoid repotting them as long as possible.

Nikki Tilley
Senior Editor

Nikki Tilley has been gardening for nearly three decades. The former Senior Editor and Archivist of Gardening Know How, Nikki has also authored six gardening books.