The Q&A Archives: Is it possible to transplant a saguaro into a terracota pot?

Question: I have a 2 foot tall saguaro that is being shadded by a very large ocotillo. I would like to transplant that saguaro into a large terracotta pot (keep the same orientation).

Is this possible? How big of a pot? What does it take to transplant it?



Answer: Actually, your saguaro and ocotillo are doing exactly what they are supposed to do! In nature, young saguaros start out in the shade of a larger plant, called a nurse plant, that offers protection. Often it is a palo verde tree, which is why sometimes we can see a monster of a saguaro grow right up through a big palo verde's branches. I wouldn't recommend planting a 2-foot saguaro in a pot for a number of reasons. In the desert, saguaro roots grow in the top few inches of soil but spread very wide to be able to absorb rainfall. Those roots also stabilize the top heavy plant. It will soon outgrow it, and "potting up" isn't feasible because of how heavy they are. Saguaro are also susceptible to a bacterial rot if their flesh gets damaged. If your only concern is that the ocotillo is shading it, I wouldn't worry. If you still want to move it, I'd suggest moving it elsewhere in the landscape, not to a pot. Finally, don't do any transplanting now--it's too stressful for the root systems right before summer heat. Saguaro don't like their roots to be in constantly wet soil, but the transplanting would require some moisture, and it can be tricky to get the correct balance. Wait until temperatures cool in the fall, in early spring (Feb, Mar). Don't transplant in the midst of winter because of a similar issue with maintaining the appropriate soil moisture in the cool winter soil. I hope this info helps.

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