Are you wondering how to transplant a Christmas cactus that's outgrown its pot? Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) is native to Brazil, where it can be found growing on trees and among rocks. It's most commonly grown in the U.S. as a houseplant, although it can be grown outdoors in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 to 12. These cacti must be transplanted or repotted occasionally to give them fresh soil and room to grow.
When to Transplant Christmas Cactus
The ideal time to transplant a Christmas cactus into a new pot is in the late spring after it's done blooming. Never transplant while the cactus is blooming. The plant needs time to recover from blooming. You'll know when it's ready because it starts to grow again.
Only transplant the Christmas cactus when it outgrows its pot and needs to be repotted. You can tell if the roots are too big for the container when the soil feels hard or the roots start to grow out of the pot's drainage hole. You might also notice that the stems start to turn yellow or brown.
A Christmas cactus usually only needs to be transplanted every three to four years. They shouldn't be transplanted more often because they grow slowly and prefer to be pot bound. A pot-bound Christmas cactus will be more likely to bloom profusely. If the Christmas cactus doesn't bloom, transplant it in late winter.
Select a Container
Since the Christmas cactus likes its roots tight in the pot, you don't want to do a major upgrade on the pot size. Transplant the Christmas cactus into a new container that's 1 to 2 inches larger in diameter than the base of the plant or the current pot.
The new container must have drainage holes in the bottom so excess water can drain out. When excess water doesn't drain freely, the soil stays too wet, which causes root rot. Clay pots are best for Christmas cacti thanks to their porous nature. This allows for better air circulation around the roots, helping prevent root rot.
Choose Potting Soil
Repot the Christmas cactus using peat-based potting soil that contains perlite and/or coarse sand for fast drainage. Potting soil that's half sphagnum peat moss, one-quarter soil and one-quarter perlite or coarse sand is ideal for Christmas cacti. You can find potting soil designed for cacti, which works well for your Christmas cactus.
How to Repot
Don't water the Christmas cactus for one to two weeks prior to transplanting. Letting the soil dry out helps prevent root rot. Pour a 1- to 2-inch depth of new potting soil into the bottom of the container.
Tip the Christmas cactus on its side; grasp it gently at the base of the plant and slide it out of its old container. If it doesn't come out easily, tap the edge of the pot gently on a hard surface. Loosen the outer roots gently by hand before putting it in its new container.
Set the cactus in the new container. Fill in around the roots with new potting soil up to about 1 inch from the top rim of the pot. Give the repotted Christmas cactus a moderate amount of water. You don't want to overwater it since damaged roots can easily become waterlogged. Keep the Christmas cactus in a shady spot for a few days to help it get used to its new pot and fresh soil.
Reannan Raine worked for 30 years in the non-profit sector in various positions. She recently became a licensed insurance agent but has decided to pursue a writing career instead. Ms. Raine is hoping to have her first novel published soon.