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  • David Salman

Guide to Transplanting Cacti and Succulents

When planting outdoors before last frost date (early to mid-May), harden-off plants (acclimate) them to direct sun and frost by placing them outside in a place with morning sun/afternoon shade. Leave outdoors at night unless frost is forecast. If frost is coming, bring inside for the night and put back outside in the morning once it warms above freezing. Water as needed to keep soil moist but not soggy. Continue for about 10 days, then plants will be ready to plant and not be bothered by frost or sunburning.

Planting in the ground

· All the species of hardy cacti and succulents require fast-draining soil. Sandy, rocky or loam soils are best.

· Plant cacti and succulents on a slope, in a raised area of the garden (like a berm) or in a flat spot that doesn’t accumulate water after rain or snowmelt. Select a bed with full sun exposure.

· In heavy clay soils, it is essential to replace half or more of the soil from a 10”x 10” or larger hole with coarse sand and small gravel mixed thoroughly with the remaining soil to ensure adequate drainage. Add a handful or two of Yum Yum Mix to the planting hole.

Planting in an Outdoor Pot or Planter

Use a planting mix of 2 parts garden soil + 1 part coarse sand + 1 part aggregate (coarse perlite, red volcanic scoria or expanded shale). Add some Yum Yum Mix to the soil.

Planting an Indoor Pot –For indoor potted plants, use Black Gold® Cactus Mix to blend with the sand, and expanded shale (or red volcanic scoria). Use 2 parts potting soil, 1 part coarse sand, 1 part shale or scoria.

Planting Instructions For Cacti and Succulents

· Cacti, agaves, and tap-rooted succulents (Aloinopsis, Titanopsis, Nananthus) should be transplanted bare-root. Let the soil in the pot dry out for a few days. Remove the pot and gently loosen the soil so it falls away from the roots. Trim off any broken roots. Fill the planting hole 2 to 3 inches lower than the surrounding soil. Then spread out the roots evenly like a skirt and sprinkle the amended soil into the hole until full. The base of the plant should rest on top of the soil. Mulch with a 1⁄2”-1” thick layer of pea-sized gravel around the base of the plant to protect it from drying out and preventing contact with soggy soil over the winter months.

· Succulents with fibrous roots (Ruschia, Delosperma, Sedums and others) need not be transplanted bare-root, instead, the root ball should be scored and roughed out like other perennials.

When summer planting, use a tall rock or board on the south side of the cacti to shade for 7-10 days. This helps the cactus to acclimate to the strong sun and avoid sunburning the stem. Protect from rabbits with Bobbex ANIMAL Repellent 32 oz Ready-to-Use.


· Bare-root cacti and tap-rooted succulents - wait a day or two (but no longer) to water so to allow the roots to callus over any broken or damaged areas. Other succulents can be watered in right away. Add Medina Fish Blend at a rate of 1 tablespoon/gal of water as a root stimulant to encourage strong new root growth. Repeat use of Medina Fish Blend several times for the first month or two.

· New plants In outdoor beds should be initially watered once every 5 to 7 days for the first month or so after transplanting. Cacti and succulents enjoy regular watering during the heat of the summer and will grow vigorously. After the first year, most cacti species need a good soaking only once every 2-4 weeks during the spring and summer if there has not been adequate rain.

· New outdoor potted plants require regular summer watering on a weekly basis, especially if the weather is hot and dry. Indoor potted plants should be watered every 7-10 days.

© Waterwise Gardening LLC 2021


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