People have often associated cacti with deserts. While it is true that cacti are generally found in arid regions, given the right conditions, they can grow almost anywhere, no matter which climate you call home. The growth of the cacti depends on a lot of factors such as the potting soil, the amount and consistency with which it is watered, and the size of the pot, all of which can be easily controlled.
Planting a cactus in a bigger pot will not guarantee that it will grow bigger. In fact, planting a cactus in a bigger pot may stunt their growth and lead to disease. If the pot is too big, it will hold a lot of water, which may lead to root rot, causing the plant to die.
There are many reasons why a cactus will not grow in a bigger pot. A bigger pot does not necessarily translate into more growth in the cacti. This article will explore in detail the reasons why a cactus will not grow bigger simply by putting it in a bigger pot.
A Bigger Pot Will Have More Soil Which Is Detrimental to the Growth of the Cactus
Your cactus tends to draw its nutrition and moisture from the soil in the planter. Having a bigger pot will mean that the cactus will now have more soil to work with. It might seem to be an ideal condition where the cactus gets the minerals and moisture in abundance due to this excess soil. However, that is not the case.
The roots of the cactus will have to put in extra effort to draw the nutrients from the soil. This will make the plant work extra hard and may even cause the plant to weaken due to this excessive and unnecessary effort.
Poor Drainage in Bigger Pots Leads to More Water Retention in the Soil
Having a well-drained soil is key to the growth of a healthy cactus. In a bigger pot, the probability of water retention is higher as there is more soil. This capacity increases in the absence of proper drainage. A pot that does not allow any excess moisture to drain out may result in root rot in the cactus, causing it to eventually die.
Bigger Pots Lead to Selective Growth in the Cacti
Using a bigger pot for your cactus is likely to encourage the growth of the cactus’ roots, while the rest of the plant will suffer from stunted growth. Sometimes, when your planter pot is too big, your cactus will only be growing roots instead of growing into a whole cactus.
Bigger Pots Store More Water Causing Root Rot
If a pot is too large, more water will be stored in the soil, causing the roots of the cactus to be continuously sitting in water. With time, this can cause the roots to rot. The cactus will start to wilt and undergo severe discoloration.
Large pots should be avoided for cactus varieties that commonly experience root rot, such as the Astrophytum, Ariocarpus, and Obregonia. When choosing the container for planting the cactus, you need to accommodate for the cactus’ natural growing preferences and tendencies. This will result in happier and healthier plants in your garden.
Tall Planters Do Not Dry Out Easily
Bigger pots not just include pots that are wide but also those that are too tall. While some species of the cacti family do need tall planters as their roots tend to go deep into the soil, planting the cactus in an unnecessarily tall planter will be harmful to the health of your cactus.
I recommend avoiding unnecessarily tall planters because of the amount of soil they contain. As is the case with pots that are too large in diameter, pots that are too tall also tend to retain a lot of moisture, which is not good for the cactus. There should be enough room for the plant to grow, but not so much room that the soil will not be able to dry out. Succulents and cacti prefer containers that dry out quickly.
Higher Risk of Mold Growth in Large Pots
The water retained in bigger pots is more. This often leads to the growth of mold and mildew. In a poorly drained pot, the chances of the growth of mold and mildew become higher still. The growth of mold in the soil may lead to infection in the cactus. It starts as yellow spots, which quickly turn brown and spread until the cactus has no more water and is covered with dark brown spores.
Bigger Pots Made of Wood and Metal Retain More Moisture
While bigger containers retain more water due to higher soil content, containers made of wood or metal further add to this issue. Wooden containers tend to retain too much moisture if they are kept in the shade or in cooler weather. Metal containers are more prone to rusting, and if a bigger container is used, the resulting higher water content in the soil will further aggravate this problem.
On the other hand, porous materials, such as terracotta and ceramics, that allow moisture to escape is great for cacti. These Terracotta Shallow Succulent Pots allow air movements and stimulate root growth, which results in healthier plants. Even then, too big a pot, no matter which material it is made of, will also have a tendency to retain excess water in the soil, which will not be healthy for the cactus.
Using a Bigger Pot to Plant Multiple Cacti Will Not Help the Cacti to Grow Bigger
Planting multiple cacti in a bigger pot cannot offset the risks involved with excessive water retention in the soil. It is commonly seen that multiple succulents are grown in a single pot. It might lead one to believe that having a bigger pot will allow the plants ample space to grow. However, that is not the case.
A bigger pot will mean that more moisture is trapped in the soil. Due to this reason, not just one but all of the cacti planted in the container may suffer irreparable and irreversible damages.
Repot Cacti to Pots That Are Only One Size Larger
Cactus needs to be repotted every couple of years during its lifetime. Usually, this needs to be done when the roots begin to show through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. When selecting a new pot for your cactus, choose a pot that is only one size larger than the previous one.
This video walks us through the complete repotting process for a cactus:
An easy way to upgrade in pot size is to look for a container that is 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the current pot the cactus is in. The cactus should have a minimum of 1/4 inch of space between its main body and the pot’s rim. Anything larger may cause problems. If a container is too large, the soil may stay wet longer than is desirable for a cactus that usually likes to grow in hot and dry climates.
For the best results, avoid growing cacti in bigger pots. They grow best in pots that are sufficiently big to accommodate their growing roots and support the plant above the soil. Terracotta pots are ideal for cacti as they are porous and allow excess moisture to seep out of the pot.