Houseplants forum: Christmas cactus, damp soil: Repotting emergency, or wait 'til spring?

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Name: JC
Philadelphia-ish, PA (Zone 6b)
BadAtPlants
Aug 12, 2017 12:08 PM CST
I just "inherited" a box of neglected plants (originally mine, but they've been in "foster care" for a year) that contained two Christmas cacti.
Thumb of 2017-08-12/BadAtPlants/6c15c2
Thumb of 2017-08-12/BadAtPlants/c7de87
(^ just found out this is apparently a "Thanksgiving cactus")

To me, these are healthy-looking plants. If I hadn't spent the past week poring over online care instructions, I'd go on happily ignoring them as if everything was fine.

But because I HAVE spent the past week poring over online care instructions... I am distressed that they haven't been watered in a month and a half (!), and yet the soil is still very, very wet (!). Crying

Thumb of 2017-08-12/BadAtPlants/dddf00

I repotted the white-pot Christmas cactus about 12 years ago, and I just used regular potting mix. The brown-pot Thanksgiving cactus is 5-7 years old, and it's never been repotted. Both are in plastic pots.

I keep reading about root rot and stem rot and spider mites and mold and all these nasty things that I'm sure are attacking my cacti in their swampy little pots, and I keep thinking, "OMG I need to repot immediately!!!"

...and then I keep reading how stressful it is for a plant to be repotted, especially at the wrong time of year and immediately after a drastic change in environment, and I think, "well, they *look* healthy... they've been living like this for 12 years, maybe they can handle these conditions for another 8 months until April...?"

Is this a repotting emergency that I need to address NOW, or should I wait 'til spring? Is there an in-between strategy, like somehow airing out their current soil? Am I just being a hypochondriac? What do you advise?
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
Image
WillC
Aug 13, 2017 10:19 AM CST
I think the biggest problem is all the problems you have discovered by reading from often unreliable online sources!

If the soil remains wet for a long time, that is a concern. Does the pot have a drain hole? If so, is it plugged and not letting excess water out? If there is no drain hole, then tip the plant sideways and let any excess water run out. Keep it in a warm, moderately sunny location and let the soil dry on its own.

Repotting can be done now, but I would only consider doing it if the pot has no drain hole. In that case, use a pot that is the same size so that when you repot, you don't disturb the rootball and add little or no new soil.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: JC
Philadelphia-ish, PA (Zone 6b)
BadAtPlants
Aug 17, 2017 6:21 AM CST
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer me. You're right, I'm absolutely a cyberchondriac. Smiling

The drainage hole on the Thanksgiving cactus seems reasonably clear (roots escaping and everything).
But the drainage hole on the Christmas cactus could be obstructed... it's currently covered by an attached saucer, which I'm afraid to remove to check the hole (the plastic is weathered and very brittle--I accidentally snapped off a chip last week, just picking up the pot).

They're in my sunniest window, which is not terribly sunny. Still no sign of the soil drying. Sighing!
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
Image
WillC
Aug 18, 2017 12:42 PM CST
The next time it is dry enough to water, add enough water so that some comes through the drain holes. If none comes through, you can assume the drain holes are blocked.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care

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