How to Repot a Christmas Cactus if It Is Pot Bound

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How to Repot a Christmas Cactus if It Is Pot Bound
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With their waxy flowers and segmented stems, Christmas cactus (‌Schlumbergera x buckleyi‌) and other holiday cacti including Thanksgiving cactus (‌Schlumbergera truncata‌) and Easter cactus (‌Schlumbergera gaertneri‌) are usually grown as houseplants, but these succulents will grow outdoors in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11. They grow best when slightly pot-bound and seldom need to be repotted.


Watch for signs your Christmas cactus needs to be repotted, however. These include failure to flower, shriveling up soon after watering, and the top of the soil drying out quickly, all of which are signs of exhausted soil.

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Repot the Christmas cactus plants in late winter after they finish blooming. Don't do this frequently, or the plant may be traumatized and fail to bloom. But when it's time, follow this simple repotting process to keep your Christmas cactus healthy.

Things You'll Need

  • Potting soil

  • Medium-grit sand

  • Bucket

  • Pot or planter

  • Bleach

  • Sharp knife

How to repot a root-bound Christmas cactus:

1. Create potting mix for repotting Christmas cactus

Combine 2 parts fresh, unused potting soil and 1 part medium-grit sand in a bucket. Stir the two components together until the sand is integrated and the new soil takes on a uniform appearance. Don't reuse old soil.


2. Select a new container for the holiday cactus

Use a pot that is the same size as the Christmas cactus's current container, or a bigger pot that has a diameter no more than 1 in. larger. Always use pots with drainage holes, particularly when growing Christmas cactuses.


Soak the pot in a solution of 1 part bleach and 9 parts water for five minutes, then wash it in hot, soapy water to remove any debris. Rinse it well before use.


Disinfecting a used pot is important to prevent the spread of fungi and pathogens, such as those that cause root rot.

3. Remove the plant from the pot

Place your hand across the top of the plant and flip the current pot upside down to remove the Christmas cactus. Jiggle the pot until the root ball slides free. Place the plant, root ball down, on a flat work surface.


4. Crumble off excess soil

Crumble off roughly one-third of the soil from around the root ball. Massage the root ball to loosen the outer layer. Inspect the roots and cut off any with obvious defects such as mold or discolorations.


5. Make shallow root ball cuts

Make several shallow cuts through the root ball with a sharp knife if the roots are heavily coiled, dense or impenetrable. Make the cuts horizontally at equal intervals around the whole root ball. Gently loosen the cut roots so they can spread out when putting on new growth.




Sterilize the knife before making any cuts. Wipe the knife with a cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol or soak it in a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. This helps prevent the spread of disease.

6. Plant the Christmas cactus in the new pot

Hold the Christmas cactus in the new pot with the base of the stems even with the top of the pot. Add the prepared soil mix to the pot in small increments until the space between the bottom of the root ball and the bottom of the pot is filled.


7. Fill In around the root ball

Fill around the edges of the root ball with more soil until it is completely surrounded with soil. Shake the pot to settle the soil. Gently firm the soil around the root ball with your fingertips and add more soil, if necessary. Do not press the soil too firmly.

Return the Christmas to its original spot

After repotting, put the plant back in its original spot facing the same way as it was before. Withhold water for one to two weeks after repotting, so any broken or damaged roots have time to heal. Resume normal watering and plant care two weeks after repotting the Christmas cactus.

Repotting your Christmas cactus is an important aspect of plant care but fortunately, it doesn't need to be done often. Watch for signs that your plant needs to be repotted. Remove it from the pot and plant it in a new container with fresh potting mix. This keeps your Christmas cactus healthy so you can continue to enjoy its holiday blooms.



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