Although the Christmas cactus loves to be root-bound, over time, the roots may outgrow the pot. In addition, the growth of the cactus may decline when all the nutrients in the soil are depleted.
Repotting the cactus in a larger pot gives the roots more space to grow and provides more nutrients which allow the plant to reach its full growth potential. For best results, you need to know when and how to repot the plant safely.
When to repot a Christmas cactus
Repotting a Christmas cactus should be done once every two to three years. However, the duration can be shorter if the cactus has outgrown the pot, and you can see the following signs of severe root-bound.
1. Roots sneaking out through the drainage holes
Christmas cactus roots will grow downwards, and when they reach the bottom of the pot, they will escape through the drainage holes. However, a few roots popping through the drainage system does not mean the plant is rootbound because it could just be they found an opening and popped out.
2. Yellow cactus stem or leaves
Turning yellow of the stem or leaves of a Christmas cactus is mainly associated with overwatering. However, if you have been watering the plant as required but it is still changing color to yellow, consider the possibility of the plant being root bound.
3. Roots showing above the soil
When you see the roots of a Christmas cactus showing on top of the soil, they have exhausted the space provided. You should repot the plant sooner.
4. Wilted leaves
The Christmas cactus wilting signifies a water shortage. A severely root-bound Christmas cactus can become dehydrated because roots in this state won’t absorb water or nutrients as required.
5. Little or no growth
A root-bound Christmas cactus will not absorb nutrients from the soil, causing nutrition deficiency. Therefore, the plant will not grow and cannot even flower. When this happens, it’s time to repot the Christmas cactus.
How to repot a Christmas cactus – Steps
A Christmas cactus should be repotted after it has finished flowering and the flowers have wilted. The best time to repot is spring when the plant enters the active growth season in spring.
When repotting, you should choose a pot two sizes bigger than the current pot. The potting soil is also critical because it will either enable the plant to thrive or die. The soil should be well-draining.
I recommend using a mixture of two-thirds potting soil and one-third of river sand. You can also use a four-part compost; bark, horticultural sand, fine grit, and pumice in equal measures.
If you intend to divide the Christmas cactus, have enough pots and potting mix.
Things Needed for Repotting
- Pot with enough drainage holes
- Potting mixture
- Water the Christmas cactus two days before repotting. A potbound plant will mostly have very hard soil. Watering two days prior will make the soil slightly moist, making the plant easy to remove.
- Prepare the new pot. Take a pot two inches bigger than the current pot and with drainage holes. Put the potting soil to fill a third of the pot.
- Remove the plant from the current soil. Put your hand over the surface of the potting soil and turn the plant upside down. If the plant is pot-bound, tap the bottom of the pot against the table or with your hand. You can break the pot if you desire.
- Place the plant in the new pot on top of the potting mixture put in earlier. Fill the pot with the potting mixture until the roots are covered. You can shake the pot gently to settle the soil.
- Water the plant until the soil is moist (not wet). You should water the cactus lightly for the first three weeks to allow new roots to develop. Normal watering should resume after three weeks.
- Place the plant in a humid spot with bright indirect sunlight.
Do not fertilize the plant immediately. Allow the plant to adapt to the new environment and fertilize a month after repotting.
A Christmas cactus should be repotted once every two to three years, but you can repot it sooner if it becomes severely root-bound. The pot should be two inches bigger to give the roots room to grow.
Repotting in a very big pot is not ideal because the pot will hold more water than the plant needs and can cause root rot. When repotting, use well-draining soil and ensure the pot has drainage holes.
“Christmas Cactus, “The University of Florida Gardening
“Holiday Cacti Care,” PennState Extension
“Repotting Christmas Cactus,” New Mexico State University
My name is Diane M Lewik, and I am the founder of this website. I am a degree holder in plant biology from the University of California – Berkeley. Over years, I have cultivated a vast collection of succulents and I have learned a great deal about how to grow and care for these unique plants.