The elephant’s foot, also known as the bottle tree, is not suitable for the garden for the local latitude and is mainly cultivated as a houseplant. But this also means that Beaucarnea recurvata is planted in a bucket. Here it is important that it is repotted regularly. Especially when the roots no longer fit in the pot or the soil is no longer sufficient due to a lack of nutrients. The following instructions describe how ideally to proceed when repotting the elephant’s foot.

Instructions: Repot the elephant’s foot

If the elephant’s foot needs to be repotted, then the instructions should be followed accordingly. Because it is important to do everything right so that the decorative plant is not damaged. This starts with the selection of the right pot and ends with the ideal substrate. The container must be the ideal size, waterlogging should be avoided and depending on the time the hobby gardener has, there is also the ideal substrate. In addition, the right place in the room and in summer also outdoors must be chosen.


If the new pot is chosen, it should offer enough space for the roots, but not be too big. Since the elephant’s foot is a flat-rooted plant, the bucket does not have to be particularly high. If it is too high, the optical eye-catcher of the plant, the thickened trunk at the base, disappears under the edge and can no longer be seen from afar. This should also be considered when choosing the pot. Therefore, attention should be paid to the following:

  • Roots need resistance to grow
  • don’t let it spread too much
  • is at the expense of the green hair
  • otherwise all energy is put into the roots
  • choose a wide, flat bowl
  • slightly deeper than the old vessel
  • only a little wider than the old bucket
  • use little soil
Idea: If the bucket is too deep, you can fill it up with stones or gravel. This also works as good drainage so that the pot does not become waterlogged. It is important that the pot also has drainage holes on the bottom or on the side near the bottom for excess watering.

Appropriate time

Beaucarnea recurvata hibernates even if it is a houseplant in the local latitudes. Therefore, the ideal time for repotting is before the new vegetation phase in spring. The months from late February to mid-March are the ideal time.


As a rule, the old location is chosen again after repotting. Nevertheless, a change of location could now also be considered. Because the bucket could have become too big for the old corner or the lighting conditions have changed over time, for example because a new lamp was purchased or the tree in front of the next window has grown a few meters. So when choosing a location after repotting, the following should be considered:

  • bright location is preferred
  • no direct midday sun
  • Leaves could burn
  • gradually get used to the sun after a dark hibernation
  • Corner in front of east or west window ideal
  • in summer on the terrace or balcony
Tip: Immediately after repotting, you should not place the elephant’s foot in direct sunlight. The plant should therefore be a little darker for the first three to four weeks until it has recovered from the strain. Then the pot comes to the selected place.


The soil for the elephant’s foot needs to be designed quite similar to that in the native areas of the plant. Simple potting soil from the trade should not be the first choice here. Because the plant needs barren and stony soil to grow well. The following mixtures are recommended:

  • cactus soil
  • from trade
  • you can also make it yourself
  • Komposterde
  • also make it yourself
  • Seramis granules from the trade
Tip: If you choose the small clay balls from Seramis, then this is a bucket filling that is particularly easy to care for. Because the little water that the bottle tree needs is absorbed by the beads, and the roots pull it when needed. So you can leave the plant on its own for a longer period of time, for example when you go travelling.

Step-by-step instructions: repotting

When it’s time to repot Beaucarnea recurvata, it helps if you have everything you need ready beforehand. If there is no balcony or terrace available for work, the table and the floor around it should be well covered in the apartment. For this purpose, for example, a tarpaulin or foil as well as newspaper can be used, depending on the size of the bucket and plant. If the bucket, drainage filling, selected substrate mixture and the plant are ready, you can get to work as follows:

  • create drainage
  • Remove Beaucarnea recurvata from the old pot
  • Completely remove old soil from roots
  • Cut off dried or rotten roots
  • Fill the selected substrate halfway into the bucket
  • Insert elephant foot
  • straighten
  • leave the lower stem area over the edge
  • fill in the gaps with soil or expanded clay
  • Press the soil down well and water

To ensure that the soil or expanded clay from Seramis really fills all the gaps and corners in the pot and between the roots, you can tap the pot on the ground several times. With larger pots, you can also knock against the wall all around. If necessary, add a little more soil after a few days.

Note: If you want to transplant Beaucarnea recurvata from soil to Seramis, then this is no problem at all, even with an older plant. However, you should make sure that there is no more soil on the roots. It is ideal if you give the root ball a quick shower under a shower or the garden hose so that all old soil is removed.

care afterwards

After the elephant’s foot has been repotted in a new substrate and a larger container, the plant also needs the right care. In the year of repotting, further fertilizing is not necessary. Fertilization is therefore only carried out next year, once in spring and once in summer. For this purpose, liquid cactus fertilizer from the trade can be used, which should be given according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The following care should also be taken into account:

  • water only a little
  • Keep soil slightly moist
  • often water more vigorously in summer
  • then let it dry out
  • Location rather shady in the first few weeks
Tip: The elephant’s foot can remain in a bucket for about five years after repotting before it should be repotted, provided with fresh substrate and a new and larger container.

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