Transplanting Your Succulent
Transplanting Your Succulent
By Rob Sproule
You’ve fallen in love and brought it home, but now what? Transplanting your succulent from the plastic pot you bought it in, to a garden or nicer pot shouldn’t be scary. Here’s everything you need for this simple surgery:
“Say aloe to my little friend.“
– Seen written on the side of an Aloe Vera pot
If you’re reading this article, chances are that succulents have seduced you. Whether it was their elegant shapes, their “I’m beautiful and I know it” colours, or their endless versatility, you’re hooked. Now your new baby is sitting in an unremarkable plastic grower’s pot, and you want to give it the pot it deserves. Don’t feel intimidated; let’s walk through the steps you need to give your new little family member a new wardrobe.
Succulents aren’t difficult to transplant, but they do need a gentle touch. Their roots are fibrous and close to the surface to best catch rainfall as there is no deep water where they come from. Never grab a plant and tug it out of the pot. Cup your fingers around the stem and flip upside down. With your other hand, squeeze the sides gently until it slips free.
Check the soil. If it’s chocked full of sand and chunky goodness, it’s good to go. Chances are it’s mostly peat moss depending on where you bought the succulent. If so, remove the soil gently from the roots – don’t worry if you don’t get it all – and mix up a fresh batch (see below).
If you ask a thousand succulent growers what mix they use and you’ll get a thousand different answers. And they all work. Here are the basics: Succulents needs organic matter in the soil, but they need excellent drainage, too. Organic matter tends to stay wet, and the roots need to dry out quickly.
Start with a base of either all purpose potting mix or cactus soil. You’ll need to add some drainage components to both. Even the cactus soil needs a boost, because manufacturers tends to cheap out on the sand. To the potting mix, take 3 parts mix and add 2 parts horticultural (not play) sand and 1 part either perlite, pebbles, or other rocky bits. You’re starting with the organic matter in the potting mix and balancing it with drainage. The cactus soil is almost at the mixture that you need. Add a little sand, at about a 3:1 ratio.
If your roots are wet, leave it out a few hours to a day to let them dry. Fill your pot 2/3rds full with your succulent mix. Remember these are surface roots, so you don’t shove the roots down to the bottom and backfill as with other plants.
Nestle the roots in a circular fashion on top of the soil mix. Feel free to push some down a little, and backfill the pot over the roots until it’s almost full. The roots should be just under the surface, but not visible. Succulent-specific pots tend to be shallow to match their shallow roots. You might feel like you wasted the bottom half of a regular pot, which is absolutely normal.
Don’t jam your fingers in to pack the soil. Rather, grab a chopstick and poke gentle across the soil surface. This will compress large air pockets while leaving smaller ones intact. Make sure that none of the green stem is buried.
Sprinkle some pebbles across the top of the soil. This has the dual advantage of looking good and keeping any opportunistic furry paws from digging in. If you’re new to succulents and uneasy about when to water them, skip this step as you’ll want to see how dry the soil is.
Normally we’d follow transplanting any other plant with a good shot of water to settle the roots in. Not so with succulents. Wait a day or two to let the roots acclimatize to their new home instead. They’re in a little shock, and aren’t pulling any water up. If you water your succulent too soon as they’ll be waterlogged and could rot.