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.



Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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