Is It Important to Clean Soil Off Succulent Roots Before Repotting?

Repotting succulents seems like such a simple task. However, the process is a little risky because there’s no way of knowing whether the plant will adjust to the new soil or not.

Though succulents are resilient plants, they do need to be maintained.

Cleaning the old soil off the roots ensures they do not die due to transplant shock. This term refers to the stressors that newly transplanted shrubs and trees experience.

It involves plants failing to take root, compromising their strength, and making them a target of diseases in the landscape.

Repotting does not just offer your succulent a brand new, spacious abode.

It’s also an excellent way to examine the roots, ensure they are not rotting, and freshen up the soil.

In our previous blog post, “How to Clean Cactus Roots,” we discussed using DIY solutions such as soapy water for cleaning cactus roots.

The same steps apply to succulents.

Use your hand to separate the roots and remove clumps of dirt, dip them in a bowl of soapy water, use a paintbrush to scrub them gently, rinse the roots with clean water, and leave the plant out on a paper towel to dry. Repot it after 3 hours.

The following guide will discuss in detail why you need to clean soil off succulent roots before repotting:

When Should I Repot My Succulent?

There’s a good and bad time for repotting your succulents. The ideal season for transferring a succulent to its new pot is during the dormancy period, which runs from fall to winter. You can also repot in early spring.

If you want your succulent to take to the new soil immediately, you need to find out your specie’s growing season.

For example, summer-dormant succulents must be repotted before winter, ideally in the fall, whereas winter-dormant succulents can be repotted in early spring.

The season is not the only factor that decides a succulent’s best repotting period. There are a few things you need to consider before taking this.

Following are the signs of your growing succulent struggling to adjust to the old pot:

Signs Indicating Your Succulent Needs to Be Repotted

Visible Roots

If you see roots growing above the soil or sticking out from the potholes, know they are too tightly packed.

With no room to grow in the right direction, the roots fill up any empty space they can find.

This stunts the growth of the succulent and prevents the plant from reaching its full potential.

The Succulent Looks Unhealthy

Your succulent can face issues like tilted leaves, squishy roots, and color changes to red, pink, blue, purple, or black.

These issues might indicate that your plant is not receiving enough sunlight, not getting adequate watering, or has been exposed to pests like mealybugs.

In most cases, the cause of an unhealthy succulent is root rot. In this case, not only do you need to clean the roots and replace the soil but also trim the roots to ensure they do not carry the rot with them to the new pot.

Newly Purchased Succulent

Some succulents have a fast growth rate. They can reach a height of 7 to 10 inches in 6 months or more.

When you purchase a succulent, it comes in a small plastic container.

The cramped space can hinder the succulent’s growth, which is why you need to transfer it (not repot) into a bigger pot.

This will help the succulent with proper drainage and allow it to absorb more moisture.

The Soil Drains Out

On non-winter days, a succulent needs to be watered once a week. Let’s say your succulent dries out in just two days.

What could the problem be? Either the drainage hole is too big, causing the water to leak out fast, or the soil is compacted and does not absorb water.

The Succulent Leans to One Side

If your succulent starts to tilt to one side, it means the plant has outgrown the pot. You don’t need to change the soil in this situation.

The plant is just not getting enough space to grow in its original pot, which can be easily fixed by transferring it to a new one that is 10 inches bigger in size.

The Succulent Has Grown Babies

Succulent babies are often referred to as offsets. They sprout from the base of the plant, which happens when roots with leaves become clustered.

This also indicates that the succulent is ready for propagation. So, after transferring the plant to a new pot, cut off its head and plant it in a new pot.

The Succulent Falls Out of Its Pot

You watered your succulent a week ago, and today, it’s on the verge of falling out of its pot. This usually happens when the top is too heavy.

After shifting it to a bigger pot, if the succulent still leans to one side, consider propagating it to lighten the load.

In most cases, the above-mentioned signs not only indicate that your succulent needs to be repotted but also that it has a problem that needs to be fixed immediately.

Things to Consider When Repotting Your Succulent

Now that you know how easy it is to clean succulent roots, let’s take a look at some factors you need to consider when repotting the plant:


Apart from the size of the pot, you need to make sure it has the perfect-sized holes at the bottom for the water to drain easily. They should be small enough to let water trickle out at a slow pace.

Soil Type

Every plant type has a different potting mix. For succulents, half should consist of well-draining soil, and the other half should be a combination of two-thirds sand, one-third pumice or perlite, and turface.

Size of Container

Most people think that the bigger the container, the more freely the succulent will grow.

This is not true! The size of the pot should be one size bigger compared to the succulent’s current pot.

If the pot is too big, the soil will dry out slowly, which can lead to root rot.

Moreover, the roots might not get the water they require if the soil absorbs most of it.


You need to make a watering schedule, so you don’t overwater your succulent.

Nutrients get lost in excess water, compromising the plant’s growth rate.

So, make sure to fertilize the soil to help the succulent reach its full potential.

Trim the Roots

It’s the weekend. Armed with your rubber gloves, a small hand shovel, and shears, you set out to clean your plants.

As you take out your succulent from its pot, the roots look mushy and dark brow rather than white and firm. These are indications of root rot.

There’s no natural remedy for reviving your succulent roots, but you can save the plant by trimming them.

Cut only a few centimeters of the infected area and then clean the stem to remove any bacteria.

Place your plant in a safe spot where it can’t be reached by insects or rodents, and let the cuttings lie out in the open for a while. This step increases the succulent’s chances of survival.

Trimming the rotten stem is necessary. If the damage is caused by mealybugs, they will continue to multiply and spread from one plant to another.

Don’t worry about chopping off too much of your succulents. Once the cutting receives proper care, the succulent will start to grow again.

How Often Does a Succulent Need to Be Repotted?

Succulents grow at a slow pace compared to other plants. This is why they will stay happy in their first pot for 2 to 3 years unless the plant grows bigger than your expectations.

After sufficient time has passed, you can repot the succulent in a new soil

Sterilizing Plant Pots

Earlier, we mentioned that it’s not necessary to change the pot. In some cases, the soil is the culprit. In such a situation, you need to know how to properly sterilize the pot:

Although we are completely against using the same pot if you don’t have a new one at hand, you can reuse the old one. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Remove the succulent from the soil and clean the roots
  • Place the pot upside on the ground and tap gently to dislodge any dirt
  • Use a brush to remove any soil residue
  • Wash the pot with soapy water and then rinse it with clean water
  • Fill a bucket with bleach or a cleaning product that contains hydrogen dioxide, quaternary ammonium compounds, peroxyacetic acid, or hydrogen peroxide
  • If using bleach, mix it with water. The ratio should be 10% bleach and 90% water
  • Soak the pot in bleach for 20 minutes

Leave the pot on your windowsill to fry it out.

Final Thoughts

Many gardeners unnecessarily repot the plant, which causes succulents stress. Never plant your succulents too deep.

This plant has a different structure compared to other plants. While the roots will survive, the stem won’t.

As a result, the stem won’t be able to transfer the necessary nutrients, which will make your plant die within a month.

In conclusion, you need to repot your succulents every 2 to 3 years to keep the plant healthy.

This process will help you identify the cause of your dying succulent and allow you to take action immediately.