Cactus and Tender Succulents forum: Rootball during repot

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Name: Stefan
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skopjecollection
Apr 8, 2018 3:07 AM CST
This is a question for the more experienced growers;

Do you break the rootball apart?On which plants you do on which you dont?

How necessary/unnecessary it is? At which age/size of the plant you do it?
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purpleinopp
Apr 8, 2018 6:04 AM CST
What is the plant in question?

Generally, if you are talking about that horrible peat stuff that plants are potted in when purchased, it doesn't seem to be possible to remove it, attempts to do so just rip all of the roots off too. I've learned to propagate these before attempting to repot the roots. Very few of the root systems are able to be saved because it won't come off of roots, and not removing that stuff and just repotting them anyway leads to death at least 9 times out of 10. Frustrating having to start with leaf-babies after buying a little plant, but at least they stay alive. I wish I had known this when I started buying them.

Once you can get a normal root system growing in anything else, it should just fall off of roots when plants are removed from pots in the future, making repotting a breeze, a 1-minute activity.
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Name: Stefan
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skopjecollection
Apr 8, 2018 6:29 AM CST
Yeah, good luck trying to propagate a stenocereus or a pilosocereus. My question was more universal, not just for a type of plant(and you havent even mentioned any species). Leaf propagation fatality rate is way higher than rooted in peat, so not the response i am looking for.
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Baja_Costero
Apr 8, 2018 11:02 AM CST

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I do not generally break the root ball apart when repotting succulents. The only firm exception would be when I am lifting the subterranean caudex of a geophyte to expose it for display. It's generally easier to leave the root ball intact and riskier to break it up. Soil replacement (when you just put the plant back in the same or same size pot) does require some discretion.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Apr 8, 2018 12:55 PM (+)]
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Name: Thijs van Soest
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mcvansoest
Apr 8, 2018 11:05 AM CST
I do not really have a specific method I follow. Some times the rootball is solid enough so that it all stays together some times it does not. My main aim when repotting is to cause as little damage to the existing roots as possible, because if I do break off roots, I feel I have to let the plant sit out to have those breaks dry out before introducing the plant to a new pot/soil and while that generally does no harm it does mean the plant is sitting idle. So I prefer if the root ball stays together also means I have to use less new soil.

Now if I am convinced that the current soil the plant is in is spent and is retarding the plant's development I will try and remove as much of it as I can. I usually soak the root ball in water which tends to help things come apart. Also, I use a mix rich in relatively coarse pumice and that also makes for relatively easy soil removal.

I think the mostly peat soils you get with some plants when you buy them here are pretty irritating, but again soaking them and carefully stripping the peat away does seem to work. It just takes time and usually requires a pretty extended time where the plant needs to dry out as roots will definitely break off during the process.

Now of course I live in an area where most of the year we have single digit to low 10s of humidity so things dry out really quickly...
Name: Stefan
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skopjecollection
Apr 8, 2018 11:06 AM CST
Ok, just one more question, how much do you remove of the old soil off of it?
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Name: Jai or Jack
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Jai_Ganesha
Apr 8, 2018 11:22 AM CST
In general terms I remove as much of the old soil as possible if it is a peat-based mixture like the Sungro Sunshine Mix #4 that most nurseries/wholesalers seem to favor (they use the same mix for all their plants from primrose to cacti to fruit trees). I do break a lot of roots in the process but before re-potting I let the plant get VERY dry in the first place and leave it dry for at least a week after re-potting. Often I'm forgetful and the time period without water is easily a month (a week or two before repotting and a week or two afterwards). On most cacti and succulents during most times of year, this is not a big deal.

I've had trouble with Aeoniums doing this way, though. And I have not attempted it with Lithops because...they're precious little snowflakes. Actually, it's because I never get Lithops from wholesalers, I grow them from seed.
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Name: Stefan
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skopjecollection
Apr 8, 2018 11:26 AM CST
Ok, so i tend to remove 30-40 percent of the old soil, if its cemented or completely wasted, or organic, by tapping the roots with a blunt object, and trying to remove a small potion off with a brush. I do sometimes break portions of the roots(cant be helped if its very compacted, and dont water it for 2 weeks after repot, and even after, i water sparingly.
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Baja_Costero
Apr 8, 2018 4:04 PM CST

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I am always curious to hear other people's ways of doing things. Thumbs up I would agree with Skopje that timing is really important with watering after you really manhandle the roots.

With respect to soil replacement, I am kind of lucky in that I am able to choose the soil from day 1... so there's no need to get rid of somebody else's soil most of the time. It's only after 10 years or so that I start seriously considering a total soil replacement for the mix that I've gotten used to. Mostly out of laziness, but the cocofiber is quite durable.

Also, as a matter of proportion and scale, it's worthwhile thinking about how much of the soil in the new pot after you've moved the plant is going to be new soil. Whether you're using a similar sized pot or going up a size. When I leave the root ball undisturbed as I usually do when I'm moving my seedlings along, I move the whole package to a new pot that is usually about twice the volume of the original. Even though it's only going 1 size up in diameter (4-5-6-8-10 inch), the amount of new soil roughly equals the volume of old soil. It may be counterintuitive, but volumetrically those pots are about 2 fold apart.

If you want to bare-root a plant in no time flat, you can put it under running water, and you'll end up clean. Maybe it's not a good idea for some sensitive plants, but for agaves and fat-rooted plants like that, it works. You just have to be extra super careful to let the whole show dry out completely before you even consider taking the next step.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Apr 8, 2018 4:18 PM (+)]
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Name: Jai or Jack
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Jai_Ganesha
Apr 8, 2018 6:12 PM CST
Oh gosh, I am not nearly brave enough to put any of my succulent plants under running tap. I think I'd collapse before they did. lol
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plantmanager
Apr 8, 2018 6:15 PM CST
I've done it, Jai, and it's not nearly as scary or damaging as it sounds. Your plants do fine if you do that!
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Name: Jai or Jack
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Jai_Ganesha
Apr 8, 2018 7:16 PM CST
Just curious, have you done it with aeoniums?

It may be something I'm doing wrong but mine seem to be more finicky than other succulents. I've often wondered if it's because I can't get all of the old (wet, peat) soil off when I buy them and they have really lightweight root systems.

I wonder if I shouldn't get a couple of cheap clearance succulents from a big box store to wash them just to see what happens.
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Name: Baja
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Baja_Costero
Apr 10, 2018 2:44 PM CST

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No, I've never bare-rooted an Aeonium. I restart them from cuttings often enough that the soil never gets old. In any case they are not particularly demanding about what kind of soil you use.

One thing that might matter: Aeoniums tend not to like the unglazed clay pots. Try using plastic or ceramic pots for them instead.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Apr 10, 2018 8:47 PM (+)]
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Name: UrbanWild
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UrbanWild
Apr 10, 2018 8:25 PM CST
I have a number of echeverias to repot. Are they sturdy enough for the root washoff of soil, or do I do somethibg different?
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Name: Baja
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Baja_Costero
Apr 10, 2018 9:34 PM CST

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Are they just going up a size? Do you need to remove the soil? I do not disturb the root balls on my Echeverias when I'm moving them to a new pot.
Name: Stefan
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skopjecollection
Apr 10, 2018 10:12 PM CST
I did see a issue though, with a stenocereus thurberii seedling rootball. It was in its pot for year and a half, and the rootball was breached in only a small outlet. The plant has been taken care of(root was healthy, so was the plant), but almost no new growth.
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UrbanWild
Apr 12, 2018 5:35 AM CST
Baja_Costero said:Are they just going up a size? Do you need to remove the soil? I do not disturb the root balls on my Echeverias when I'm moving them to a new pot.


They are in the pots they came in from the store. I assume they probably had a chemical drench. Most are also either pot bound or have become quite leggy over the winter.
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Name: Baja
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Baja_Costero
Apr 12, 2018 9:07 AM CST

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I'd leave the root ball intact then. Just be sure to choose the right size pot (not a whole lot bigger) and the right kind of soil (maybe half pumice/perlite in the mix) when you do repot.
Name: Laurie b
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lauriebasler
Apr 12, 2018 11:21 AM CST
Well, now I know why my Golam Jade has been wrinkly from the moment I got it. I noticed it's root ball when I repotted and could not penetrate the peaty hard stuff around the roots at all. I rinsed it off and potted it up, I would guess the chance it bounces back is 30-70. It's pretty much unchanged. Sad.

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