I'm thinking of buying a cactus. Shops have a lot of those and one of the variables is the size and density of spines. Cacti with rare huge spines (something like 15 millimeters long and about 1 millimeter thick) look appealing, but I wonder how practical such cacti are to manipulate.

For example, if I want to transplant one - will I need some super strong gloves that won't be pierced by the thick strong spines or will any gloves do?

How to manipulate a cactus that has thick long strong spines without harming hands?

  • Do you have any specific genera, species, or even cultivars in mind?
    – winwaed
    Commented Dec 6, 2011 at 13:40
  • @winwaed: No, and the shops don't usually provide any details - they just say it's "cactus mix".
    – sharptooth
    Commented Dec 6, 2011 at 14:51

4 Answers 4


There are a few different options here.

One of the easiest and readily available options is to use a towel. Wrap the cactus in the towel and gently grab it (I'd still wear good thick, possibly leather or other pierce resistant, gloves) Don't press too hard or the spines will still penetrate the towel, but this gives you a good gripping option hopefully without damaging your hands.

If the spines are very sparse than you might be able to find a hold without any help by finding a hand hold between spines, however I'd still get a good pair of gloves just in case.

  • I have opuntia (prickly pears) of varying kinds, and I can usually hold the sparse-but-large spines varieties with gloved fingers. I use a sacrificial glove for the spineless hairy ones - although those hairs won't puncture most gardening gloves, thy really are nasty and the glove is disposed of after the transplanting/pruning is done.
    – winwaed
    Commented Dec 5, 2011 at 19:43

You could try bending heavy paper across the middle and using it like you would use hot pads on a pan. Heavy canvass and leather gloves work with most cactus spine types, but if you are worried about breaking spines, you can use the towel method mentioned in Wax Eagles answer.


I use long handled pruning shears and a wheelbarrow. I use the shears to cut off pieces and then pick them up and put them in the wheelbarrow, grabbing more gently with the shears. Since they are replanted by placing them on bare dirt and ignoring them, I just use the pruning shears again to gently remove them from the wheelbarrow. And of course, I still use heavy leather sacrificial gloves, as others have mentioned.


You can use an empty pot to cover it, turn it upside down to lift the old pot and then move it to the new container. Watch a demonstration in this short video; I've searched for another link, but I couldn't find one.

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