How to Repot Succulents – 4 Easy Steps

Wonderful! If you want to know how to repot succulents that means the ones you have are growing or you just added to your collection. Either way, another succulent is, or will be shortly, happier and healthy!

The great news…it is very easy!

Pre Repotting QuestionsTiny pots

Before we get into the steps, you may be wondering if you need to repot all succulents that you purchase, including the ones that come in nice pretty pots. The answer is…most likely. How is that for a commitment?

If you purchase a succulent from a big box store, it’s probably not in the right soil. My rule of thumb is, if the soil type is not mentioned, is very vague, or is a general “succulent soil”…repot! It is worth the few minutes to repot and get it in the soil you know is good than to risk it.

Also, most plants in big box stores are all watered the same amount at the same time. That means your succulent could be sitting in water AND in poor soil, every succulents nightmare! Best to make sure the roots are dry and happy.

Other reasons to repot newly purchased succulents:

  • Check for bugs and treat if necessary
  • Check the roots and trim off dead or unhealthy ones
  • Trim leaves that are dead or unhealthy

If you bought small succulents or had some delivered, they are most likely in the tiny pots (pictured). They also need repotting but probably not as urgently (I have waited a week before repotting).

You may also be wondering how to know if your succulent needs repotting. Great question!

Here are some guidelines:

  • Succulents and most plants should be repotted every two(ish) years regardless of growth, just for the fresh soil
    • If you are using soil like Miracle Grow Cactus or something equivalent, then follow the above rule. If you are using more inorganic material like bark, lava rocks, granite, etc., then repot every three(ish) years
  • If the roots are growing out of the drainage hole(s)
  • If they are getting too tall or heavy for the current container
  • If the succulent is overgrowing its container or looks like it is about to burst from the pot

One thing to consider before repotting is if the plant is dormant. If a plant is repotted during a dormant period, it will shock the plant and injure it, possibly beyond saving. If succulents are in consistent temperature and sunlight, they won’t go dormant. Some plants go dormant in the winter, others in the summer. Check out this post “Do Succulents Go Dormant” for more information including a list of plants (scientific names) and when they go dormant. One strict rule – if the plant has buds or blooms, do not repot!

And, the last question I think you may have is “What all do I need to repot my succulent”? Was I right?

Here is your shortlist:

  • A new pot – the new pot only needs to allow about 1/2 inch from the edge of the leaves to the container and it must have drainage holes. Check out this post about pots/planters
  • Soil – Check out this post on soil or follow along as we experiment with soil in this post – in general, it needs to drain well
  • Gloves if you are moving prickly cacti or if you just like them
  • Depending on the soil you use, you may need mesh or screen to keep the soil in and let the water out.
  • Mini Garden Tools – I like using them but don’t find them necessary all the time
  • Decorations such as colored rock or mini animals can make it look cute and polished – both are optional

Step 1 – Remove Succulent From Existing Container

If you just bought one, had some delivered via a succulent of the month club, or are repotting an existing one, the steps are the same.

  • If you can squeeze the current pot the succulent is in, I find it helpful, it loosens the roots and soil from the sides
  • Gently remove the succulent from its current container, try not to pull on the succulent plant or dig harshly at the soil, both can cause damage to the roots
  • Remove excess dirt from the roots by “fluffing” them
  • Inspect the plant for pests, damaged roots, and damaged leaves – treating or removing any you find
  • If you want to cut a few leaves for propagation or transplant some pups, go ahead and get those now – see this post on “How to Grow From Cuttings” for tips

Removing pot and dirt

Step 2 – Add Mesh and Soil

Before filling the pot up with your soil, do a test…put about a 1/4 container full of soil in the pot and see if it falls out. If it falls out now, you will definitely need to cover the hole.

Even if it doesn’t fall out now, once watered it may. Use your own judgment here and remember, this is fixable, not a big deal so don’t stress if you don’t have any mesh.

Place a piece of mesh over the hole. You can use mesh or a piece of screen…whatever you may have that allows water out but keeps the dirt in. I have found it easiest if I place the mesh, sprinkle just enough soil to hold the mesh/screen in place and then continue. If I try to fill it up all at once, the mesh/screen moves. You can look from the bottom through the drainage hole to see if it stayed in place.

If you think the mesh/screen holes are too big, place two pieces crisscross to make the holes smaller.

Fill your container about 3/4 of the way full with your soil. Give it a little shake to get rid of any large air pockets.

In the picture below I am using three different types of soil, this is to continue The Soil Experiment, the pots below are back-ups for the original experiment. You can read more about that in The Set Up.

Mesh over drainage and 3 almost full pots

Step 3 – Add Succulent

Alright, now the fun part!

Dig a little groove (a shallow hole in the center of the pot) into your soil and place your succulent. Add more soil until the container is almost full (leave more room if you want to use decorative rocks or stones). Make sure your roots are covered but all leaves are out of the soil (to prevent them from rotting). Give it another very gentle shake.

If you feel your succulent is unstable, make the groove a little deeper. It should be firmly in place.

It may be weird to see the roots this way, not all pointing down, don’t worry, they will find their way in a few days.

Make sure to get any air bubbles out of the soil. If I’m using Miracle Grow (or something equivalent), I push down with my fingers around the plant and then add more soil. If I’m using something like Bonsai Jack or homemade (more inorganic material), I use the chopstick that comes with the Bonsai Jack to poke around in the soil to make sure it is settled.

Three plants, dirt with groove, one planted succulent

Step 4 – Add Decoration (Optional)

Now add top dressing, cute little figurines or animals. A note about the top dressing – it not only looks nice but keeps the soil from moving around when watered, it helps hold everything in place but is optional.

You can have a lot of fun with colors (seasonal) or themes (for a child’s room), or more classic (as a centerpiece). You can even place a larger stone on top, put a few drops of essential oils on it, and use your succulent as a diffuser (remove any stones with essential oils on them before watering).

Check out this article about how succulents clean the air.

Plants with decorative stone

That’s It!

You are done! Your succulent has a new, healthier home, you have a gorgeous plant that looks great and makes your home healthier.

Oh, you may be wondering why I didn’t mention watering your newly planted succulents. They need (especially the roots) time to adjust, so don’t water for about 5 days.

As always, keep an eye on your succulents, they will tell you if they need something.

To see these steps in an infographic, click here.

Questions or Comments? Tips of your own? Leave them below, I love to hear from you!

14 Responses

  1. I do not have an experience with this topic but looks like you do!  If I were buy succulents, your site is where I would go for info.  The visuals are nice.  Overall it looks like you have done a lot of research and it show in your verbiage.

    Great job!

  2. I have actually never had a soil type in my pots specified. This is my first clue that I should repot. The only time I did this was when the plant outgrew the pot. Other than that, I have never thought I needed to. Some plants are even two years in the same pot. Thanks for the guidelines on when to repot. Never done a soil test before but I feel the steps you’ve provided are really easy and doable.  Thank you for taking your time.

  3. This is a very detailed and well thought out article of succulents. I came across your website by accident and the word Succulent piqued my interest. I started to read the article and realize we were talking about plants but still wasn’t quite sure what a Succulent was, as I was going to comment asking you what they were I saw Glossary in the main menu and click. Turns out I did know what a Succulent was and just never heard the term before. Hey, you learn something ever day and I’m glad I didn’t have to leave your website to find the answer!

    • Hi Salvatore,

      I’m so glad all your questions were answered, that is wonderful to hear! Please let me know if I can answer any questions for you and thanks for commenting!

      Lisa

  4. It is actually a great topic and wonderful explanation about how to repot Succulents which I knew nothing about how to do that before. We always by this Succulents and we deal with them the same way we are dealing with other plants. My wife is the one that take care of them and other plants as well but there is a certain season that when we found them getting dry and we keep watering them or changing there positions and chasing the soil or transferring to another pot but for most of the times it does not work.

    Maybe we are doing something wrong but I will follow this articles and try to check how we can take care of this Succulents specially with the way of watering them and repotting them

    Many thanks for the great Ideas

    • Hi,

      You are welcome! Yes, we tend to treat all plants the same but succulents require a little different care. Let me know if you have other questions!

      Thanks,

      Lisa

  5. You have totally blown me away with this post as you have answered all possible questions I could have summoned while reading the post.  Though I read this out of curiosity but I have see the need to repot some of my succulents and the proper approach to engaging in the act. This is truly helpful and great to see. Thank you so much. I never knew that plants get shock during the period of dormancy too. I will surely adhere to all the tips I picked from here

  6. Container gardening is an act I get delighted to engage in but I have never repotted a succulent before but of recent, I noticed a decline in the rate of their growth and response and I discovered their current pot is lacking in some vital nutrients and as such, I want to repot them. This is really a great dela of information in here. I am sure I will be Kore than okay with all you have shared here

    • Hi Bella,

      Yes, they need to be repotted every 2-3 years to maintain their health (usually). Please let me know if I can help i any way!

  7. Quite simple to get done. I am not much a garden interested person,  but since my wife have started having some plants around the place, i have loved learning some few things about plants. Currently there isn’t any succulent in the compound that needs to be transplanted, but I’m pleased to have gained this knowledge of it. Is it same process to be used in transplanting other stuffs?

    • Hi Benson,

      Oh, I hope you and your wife add succulents to your mix of plants! The process for re-potting is pretty much the same, the main difference is the soil. House plants need regular potting soil and succulents need a succulent/cacti mix.

      Let me know if you have other questions.

      Thanks,

      Lisa

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