How to Transplant a Cactus

Saguaro Cactus and MountainsTransplanting a cactus is a bit different from transplanting any other type of plant, due mostly to its awkward shape and prickly surface. The following steps can help make the transition go smoothly.

Step 1: Choose a Healthy Cactus

If you transplant a cactus that isn’t healthy, there is a good chance it won’t survive the move. Choose one without blemishes, bruises or disease. Also check for sunburning and insect and rodent damage.

Step 2: Mark the Cactus

Mark the cactus so you’re sure to plant it in the same direction as it was before. A simple marker can be placed with a piece of string loosely wrapped around the top of the cactus.

Step 3: Dig out the Roots

Cactus roots are very fragile and close to the soil surface, so you want to dig them out very carefully. Start digging about six inches from the plant, slowly working your way around.

Step 4: Lift out the Cactus with a Shovel

Once the cactus has become loose from all sides, gently move a shovel underneath the cactus. Then lift it with gentle prying.

Step 5: Use a Hose if Extra Heavy

If your cactus is large or heavy, you may need something else to help you lift it out. An easy method is to wrap a garden hose around the cactus, slightly below the middle of the plant. Then lift the cactus out of the ground with the hose.

Step 6: Trim Damaged Roots

Trim off damaged roots while the cactus is on its side. If left alone, these roots will decompose and invite pathogens, which can harm the plant. Only trim the damaged parts of the roots, as the cactus won’t grow new roots after it’s been planted.

Step 7: Leave to Air Dry

After you’ve trimmed the damaged roots, let the plant air dry for at least two days. The air will help the roots to scab over, which will prevent pathogens from entering the roots.

Step 8: Use a Hand Truck to Move a Large Cactus

For a large cactus, move it using a hand truck with proper padding. Be sure the spine and ribs are protected during transit.

Step 9: Prepare the New Location

Dig a wide and shallow hole for the cactus. Make sure the soil has enough moisture by adding organic compost, pumice or perlite. Choose soil that drains quickly.

Step 10: Place the Plant

Place the cactus into the hole, making sure it’s oriented correctly. With the back of a shovel or a stick, backfill the soil so there are no air pockets.

Step 11: Water Thoroughly

Water the cactus thoroughly. Irrigate twice a week if needed, unless the nighttime temperature is below 60 degrees.

Step 12: Cover

Cover the cactus with a shade cloth for several weeks, unless the temperature is particularly low. The cover can be taken off when the cactus begins growing again.

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