Repotting succulents used to involve a lot of swearing on my part. Succulents involve a very “Gritty” potting mix, kind of gravelly, which makes filling the pot and then “making a hole” almost impossible because the gravel falls right back into the hole. Ideally your soil is also kept dry until a few days after potting, which doesn’t help at all. Trying to keep the plant centered, the roots extending down nicely, and trying to NOT get any gravel into the folds of the plant leaves always made me wish I had three more hands. Especially because you want to keep the pot close to the size of the plant’s root system, and the crown of the plant usually is much wider than the root system.
So I wanted to share this trick. Using a spoon and two pencils (or in my case, fine brushes) you can balance the rosette of the plant across the top of the pot and center it, and then use a large spoon to fill in the mix around the edges to fill in the pot. Your root system will stay largely in place as the soil fills up around it, your plant stays centered, and happily it stays nice and level with the top of the pot. (This is very useful for succulents, which normally spread out horizontally from the base of the crown of the plant — if there’s an inch of empty pot that they’re setting down in, the offsets don’t get enough light and get crowded.)
Once you get closer to the surface, you can generally remove the supports, and it is much easier to hold the plant with one hand while you spoon or sprinkle in the last layer — which is usually top dressing. When finished, I take my fine art brushes to dust off any soil/stones/etc that I may have gotten on the leaves, and tamp it down very slightly.
With succulents, you’ll want to wait three days or so before watering…. if you nicked the roots, you want those small injuries to have a chance to callous over before watering to help avoid infections or disease. This trick works like a charm, and hopefully you can avoid a lot of the swearing I’ve had to do in the past.
Incredibly, it’s snowing here in Ohio today (after taunting us with 50-70 degree weather the last two weeks) so I figured it was a good time to pot up this haworthia retusa I picked up at the plant sale a few weekends ago. I think it looks much happier now!