British Cactus and Succulent Society

Highlands & Islands Branch

Plant Propagation


Repotting & Potting-on

What can be said on this subject without offending someone. It isn't quite in the realm of rocket-science, yet it probably is a major contributor to good flowering and a component of success on the show-bench. It therefore deserves our best attention.

On the subject itself, there are broadly three bodies of opinion. One favours re-potting in the Spring, before growth starts up again. Another re-pots at any time except when in flower or bud. The third group, which includes mesembrianthemum, lithops, conophytum, etc, favour the middle of the rest period and are particularly sensitive about the moisture-content of the compost they use as one that is too moist may trigger the plant into early growth.

A popular test is to use a small dibber to estimate how dense the compost is. Failure indicates the need for re-potting. Otherwise, the process itself varies, and invariably it will involve new compost, well over half of the old one being replaced. Care should be taken to use a mixture appropriate to the plant, and with adequate fertilisers. (See Compost). For example, some mamms may like a bit of lime, whereas epiphytes and jungle succulents probably would not. If a new, or larger pot is involved the latter is often called 'potting-on' (see below). The root system is examined for 'root mealy bug' pests, or any other soil-dwelling pest such as certain larvae. Special treatment is then required. See Pest Control. Otherwise, dead or damaged roots can be trimmed away. A top dressing may have fallen away when the plant was removed from its pot and it is an advantage to remove some of the top remaining compost in case any bug, eggs, or larvae are lurking there. The old compost may be shaken away from the roots. Further root examination may reveal problems such as rot or pests. Some growers give the plant roots a good wash in a fungicide solution such as 1% copper sulphate, or Chinosol.

Potting-on - normally the root-ball is not disturbed as much as in re-potting. Almost always, potting-on involves a larger pot, otherwise it is just re-potting. It is wise to use new drainage material. Place some new compost on top of the drainage material, place the plant on it, and dribble new compost into the gap round the side of the pot. Add new top-dressing and the job is done.

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