Cactus and Succulents forum→Is it that important to remove all of the old soil when repotting?

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Name: Ross
Lancashire, England, UK
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RPK82
Apr 15, 2020 5:48 PM CST
I'm going to be repotting several of my succulents soon, I'm not sure whether to remove all of the old soil or to not bother.
Name: Thijs van Soest
Tempe, AZ (Zone 9b)
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mcvansoest
Apr 15, 2020 8:05 PM CST
Removing the soil runs you more risk of damaging the roots, so if the soil holds to the plant well and it is good soil for the plants no need to change it. If you do change it make sure you let the plants rest for a bit before putting them in the new soil in case you did damage to the roots, you want that to heal as it would be the place where the plant might start rotting or acquire some disease.
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Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Apr 15, 2020 8:13 PM CST

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I would look at the soil and see how different it is from the one you plan to use. Observe how uniform the mix is. It may need replacing and it may not need replacing. When in doubt, I opt not to replace the soil, for reasons that Thijs has mentioned (plus my admitted laziness). Soil replacement is much less of an issue if the original soil volume is small compared to the final volume in its new container (eg. with plants that are growing big fast), maybe more worth considering if a plant has been in the same pot for a while, or will not ever graduate to one much bigger.

Time your repot for when you think the soil is going dry. Not yet bone dry, but a day or two from watering time. Doing this will help you fine tune your watering and adjust accordingly, depending on your direct observations of the soil. If you have to replace the soil, doing it before the existing soil is bone dry will probably make it easier for you to accomplish the task. Having all your plants in roughly the same mix, or consciously adjusting that mix to allow for extra sensitive types, will help simplify the watering down the road.

If you do any kind of serious root wrangling, wait a week or maybe even 2 weeks afterward before you water deeply.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Apr 15, 2020 8:18 PM (+)]
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Name: Stefan
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skopjecollection
Apr 15, 2020 9:19 PM CST
I find plants that i do remove most of the old soil, have a higher chance of survival.
Regretabbly, i lost a few parodias , 2 mammillarias and a huernia by not doing this.
Its not foolproof, but improves your odds, if the soil is bad.
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Apr 15, 2020 9:22 PM CST
I try not to remove any of the soil. If it falls away, fine, but otherwise, no.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

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Name: Paula Benyei
NYC suburbs (Zone 6b)
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Turbosaurus
Apr 15, 2020 9:37 PM CST
IME Don't ever remove soil from any plant ever... (unless it is a soilless plant like bromeliads, orchid etc)
Make sure you understand your medium and water accordingly.

The plural of anecdote is not data.
Name: Sue Taylor
Northumberland, UK
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kniphofia
Apr 15, 2020 9:47 PM CST
I try to disturb the roots as little as possible when repotting. You can seriously damage the finer roots which can have a big effect on your plant.
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Apr 16, 2020 9:04 AM CST

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There is always some sort of cost benefit analysis involved when you decide whether to replace the soil when you repot, as folks have been mentioning. To those who never disturb the roots when they repot, I would say your caution may be excessive... having received dozens of plants bare root in the mail with nearly zero losses afterwards, my experience has taught me this is not a big deal. It's not necessarily helpful (see above) and it may result in some delays in growth, but it's not something to be afraid about.

That said, my typical repot involves zero soil replacement because the soil I'm adding is usually exactly the same as the mix that I used previously. It's a simple pop, drop, and fill maneuver at least 95% of the time. Soil replacement is something that I do only when I receive plants from someone else. One advantage of growing my own plants from seed or cuttings is that I'm in control of the mix from day one. When somebody else made that decision for you (eg. with store bought plants) you are vulnerable to their whim (often decisions made to save money, not to prolong the life of the plant past the time of sale).
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Apr 16, 2020 9:12 AM (+)]
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Name: Stefan
SE europe(balkans) (Zone 6b)
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skopjecollection
Apr 16, 2020 9:37 AM CST
"Soil replacement is something that I do only when I receive plants from someone else"
Thats pretty much why i do it. Wholesale soil is bad.
If it was my own soil, just tap it gently till it stops falling off, and add a new mix.
Name: Thijs van Soest
Tempe, AZ (Zone 9b)
Region: Arizona Enjoys or suffers hot summers Cactus and Succulents Xeriscape Adeniums Hybridizer
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mcvansoest
Apr 16, 2020 11:34 AM CST
Talking about having control over your soil.... (sorry to hijack the thread). I am trying to repot a lot of my plants - just too many 1 gallon pots bursting to the seems and it is starting to show in the health of the plants - many are clearly root bound and need a bigger home - but I am out of soil and am not going to go stand in line at home depot to get more (my wife is in high risk category so we are taking self isolation very seriously, which seems like a given, but here in AZ things are, well, I will call it interesting). We did get a few small bags from Target who have the drive up and put it in your trunk without any contact just a scan of a barcode from a good distance away pretty much down, but that is not going to keep me going very long.
So earlier this week I noticed that a neighbor had put out 5, five gallon buckets of pretty decent looking soil (think basic cactus and citrus mix you can get at any big box store) in the back alley - we had a bulk trash collection scheduled for this week (way to wake the dog up at 6 AM, Tempe!) - so I decided to risk it and grabbed those buckets with soil.

I think I am going to drench them in some systemic pesticides just to make sure before sticking any of my plants in it, but at least it gets me started on the great repotting project of 2020... Next thing I will need more of is going to be 3 gallon pots... I'd prefer to add a lot of pumice to my soil, but I think I am just going to have to deal with not having any for the moment...
It is what it is!
Name: Stefan
SE europe(balkans) (Zone 6b)
Cactus and Succulents Orchids Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Garden Procrastinator Bulbs Foliage Fan
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skopjecollection
Apr 16, 2020 11:49 AM CST
mcvansoest said:Talking about having control over your soil.... (sorry to hijack the thread). I am trying to repot a lot of my plants - just too many 1 gallon pots bursting to the seems and it is starting to show in the health of the plants - many are clearly root bound and need a bigger home - but I am out of soil and am not going to go stand in line at home depot to get more (my wife is in high risk category so we are taking self isolation very seriously, which seems like a given, but here in AZ things are, well, I will call it interesting). We did get a few small bags from Target who have the drive up and put it in your trunk without any contact just a scan of a barcode from a good distance away pretty much down, but that is not going to keep me going very long.
So earlier this week I noticed that a neighbor had put out 5, five gallon buckets of pretty decent looking soil (think basic cactus and citrus mix you can get at any big box store) in the back alley - we had a bulk trash collection scheduled for this week (way to wake the dog up at 6 AM, Tempe!) - so I decided to risk it and grabbed those buckets with soil.

I think I am going to drench them in some systemic pesticides just to make sure before sticking any of my plants in it, but at least it gets me started on the great repotting project of 2020... Next thing I will need more of is going to be 3 gallon pots... I'd prefer to add a lot of pumice to my soil, but I think I am just going to have to deal with not having any for the moment...


You could sift out dirt...or get gravel like I do...
It does the job.. youve seen the results after all..
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Apr 16, 2020 12:56 PM CST
skopjecollection said:

You could sift out dirt...or get gravel like I do...
It does the job.. youve seen the results after all..


If Thijs' garden soil is anything like mine, he would be planting in pure alkali. Whistling
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org
Name: Stefan
SE europe(balkans) (Zone 6b)
Cactus and Succulents Orchids Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Garden Procrastinator Bulbs Foliage Fan
Purslane Bromeliad Container Gardener Houseplants Sedums Sempervivums
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skopjecollection
Apr 16, 2020 12:59 PM CST
DaisyI said:

If Thijs' garden soil is anything like mine, he would be planting in pure alkali. Whistling


Thijs is a geologist so he should be able to figure out what to use and what not to...
besides..plenty of gypsophyllic and clay loving cacti...
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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DaisyI
Apr 16, 2020 1:05 PM CST
I have used the native soil as potting soil for my Desert Peach plants. I had to add about half perlite to keep it from turning into a brick. Those pots way a ton, even when they are dry. Smiling
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org
Name: Ross
Lancashire, England, UK
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RPK82
Apr 16, 2020 1:55 PM CST
Thanks guys. I wont remove the old soil then, unless it's pretty bad.

Btw, when repotting should I carefully tease out the roots a bit to give them a good start? Or would it probably do more harm than good (because of roots being damaged)?
[Last edited by RPK82 - Apr 16, 2020 1:56 PM (+)]
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Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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DaisyI
Apr 16, 2020 2:07 PM CST
I have never repotted a cactus that rootbound! I don't think you will have to comb or tease or spray or... Take it out of the pot, give it a shake and pot it up again.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org
Name: Thijs van Soest
Tempe, AZ (Zone 9b)
Region: Arizona Enjoys or suffers hot summers Cactus and Succulents Xeriscape Adeniums Hybridizer
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mcvansoest
Apr 16, 2020 4:18 PM CST
Yeah I agree with Daisy, while I have repotted things that root bound (I actually am about to plant something that was about 90% roots and 10% if that soil in the pot. I just leave it, plants will take care of it.
It is what it is!
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Apr 16, 2020 8:46 PM CST

Moderator

RPK82 said:Btw, when repotting should I carefully tease out the roots a bit to give them a good start?


I never, ever do this (more harm than help) unless the plant is already bare-rooted.
Name: Paula Benyei
NYC suburbs (Zone 6b)
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Turbosaurus
Apr 17, 2020 5:33 PM CST
Roots work, and doing the least amount of damage is best. When you touch them you can feel and hear them crunch and tear.. there are very few plants that will benefit from this trauma

I also use native soil as one part of potting soil. ..worm castings from under fallen giant trees or the top layer of soil under the leaves from the woods next door to my house in my potting mix all the time with no hesitation. I mix it in with peat, pearlite, vermiculite, sand, turface. kind of whatever is hanging around. If it's a succulent, maybe I use old pool filter sand or aquarium gravel.. but usually only because I repot at the start of the growing season, same time my plants are going outside for the summer anyway. In soil there are grubs I know to be harmful, and I squish those.

I've never had a bug inside I couldn't eventually trace back to a greenhouse/big box store, and only when introduced during the winter. When they are outside in the summer there are tons of creepy crawlers that just kind of maintain a balance..
I have used neem oil and systemic pesticides, especially in the fall, but I usually find if I don't introduce anything new, everybody just gets along.

If you're worried about native soil, dump it on a metal tray and bake it in your oven to sterilize it. I'm okay with bugs now that I know what to look for, what's evil and who's just chillin, aerating my soil, so I don't prefer sterile potting mix.
The plural of anecdote is not data.
[Last edited by Turbosaurus - Apr 17, 2020 5:41 PM (+)]
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Name: Ross
Lancashire, England, UK
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RPK82
Apr 17, 2020 5:47 PM CST
Hi, Turbosaurus. The soil I use is Focus Succulent & Cactus potting mix.

Thumb of 2020-04-17/RPK82/35cdfa

It's interesting that you mention bugs in the soil, because recently I received a succulent that I had bought on ebay, I think the guy grows them in greenhouses or outside. But in the soil for it are other little plants or weeds growing, and there was a woodlouse and a worm in it too.
[Last edited by RPK82 - Apr 17, 2020 5:54 PM (+)]
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