Using a sheet of newspaper to repot a cactus. Photo taken from the book Houseplants for Dummies by Larry Hodgson.

So, you just love your cactus to death. It’s so cute and prickly that it is just adorable. But it’s been in the same pots for 2 years now and is looking just a bit stressed out. And it is repotting season, after all. Great, but…


How do you repot a spiny desert cactus without getting jabbed?

Better Than Gloves

Maybe you have a pair of truly puncture-resistant gloves (gloves specifically designed for pruning roses would work, for example), in which case, you can easily pick up and move your cactus, but most gardening gloves – even leather gardening gloves! – easily let sharp needles slide right through. Ouch!

It is less risky if you repot the plant without actually touching it yourself. And that’s easy enough to all. In fact, all you need is a sheet of newspaper.

Take the sheet, fold it in 4 or 5 and bring both ends together to form a loop. Now place the loop around the stem and squeeze the two extremities of the loop against one another at the base of the stem, forming a handy and surprisingly solid holder. You can use it to manipulate the cacti as you wish, without ever having to touch it.

If you don’t have newspaper, a sheet of paper towel can be used for small cacti while you can use a strip of polystyrene sheeting to handle a larger one.

Of course, you can also lift and handle a cactus with a pair of kitchen tongs… but be carefully not to squeeze too hard or you could damage the plant. Newspaper is much safer.

Easy Repotting

281_2.KRepotting a cactus is easiest if you apply the “fast and easy” method, where you use an empty pot to create a mold of the shape and size of the plant’s root ball, then simply drop the root ball into the resulting hole. You can find details on this ultra-easy technique here.



Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, laidbackgardener.blog will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

2 comments on “How to Repot a Cactus and Live to Tell the Tale

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