As with other houseplants, orchids need to be moved to larger pots as they grow. The process of repotting an orchid, and of orchid care in general, is a bit more complicated than caring or your typical houseplant. But taking the time to do it right will pay off in healthy, thriving and blooming orchd plants.
Does My Orchid Need Repotting?
Your plant may need repotting for one of two reasons. First, the orchid may simply have outgrown its pot. Repotting is necessary when the actual body of the plant, not just the roots, has grown over the pot’s edge.
The other reason to transplant is if the growing medium has broken down so much that air can no longer circulate through to dry the roots between waterings. Good drainage is vital to the health of your orchid, and a growing medium that is constantly soggy will lead to root rot.
The best time to repot an orchid is just after it has begun to produce new growth, but before the new roots have begun to elongate. Do not repot a plant when it is flowering or has produced a spike.
Orchid Repotting Tools
Before you repot your orchid, gather all of the supplies you’ll need:
- Old news paper
- Scissors or small garden clippers
- Lighter or rubbing alcohol (to sterilize your cutting tools)
- Plant to be repotted
- New pot (select the next size up, but not too big)
- New growing media (use a professional general purpose orchid mix)
How to Repot an Orchid
Removing the Orchid from the Old Pot
Spread out several sheets of newspaper to make cleanup easier. Turn the plant upside down over the paper and dislodge the orchid by gently squeezing the pot or giving a firm tap to the sides and bottom. Sometimes the roots will stick to the container, making it difficult to remove. If this happens, use a sterilized knife to gently loosen the plant.
To avoid the spread of disease, it is important to sterilize any tools used to cut orchid roots or leaves. You can either flame-sterilize, using a lighter, or wipe the tools with rubbing alcohol.
Preparing the Orchid for Repotting
Once the plant is free of the old pot, gently separate the roots and shake off as much of the old potting mixture as possible. If you can’t get all of the old mix off of the roots, don’t worry. It’s better to leave it than to risk damaging the roots.
Before repotting, the roots will need to be carefully trimmed. Use sterilized scissors to remove any dead or damaged roots. They are easy to spot, being either dried and crispy or wet and mushy. Healthy roots are firm and white and have light-green growing tips.
If you have a type of orchid that has pseudobulbs, you may want to divide the plant at this time. You can do this by carefully cutting through the rhizome, but make sure that each new plantlet has at least three pseudobulbs and a sufficient amount of healthy root.
Moving the Orchid to Its New Pot
If you are transplanting to a previously used pot, wash it thoroughly, and soak it in a weak solution of chlorine bleach for 30 minutes. Then rinse well. Because orchids require good drainage, be sure to put clean stones, broken crockery or plastic foam peanuts in the bottom of the pot.
Rinse the growing medium in water to hydrate it before use. Place some of the dampened mixture loosely on top of the drainage materials. Position the orchid, and then carefully pack more of the mixture around the roots, firming it with your thumbs as you go. Make sure that, when finished, the top of the rhizome is level with the top of the bark.
If you are an orchid novice, start things off right by purchasing a healthy orchid and a variety of orchid that is easy to grow. Orchids have specific needs for humidity, light, temperature, air movement, growing medium and water. But don’t get overwhelmed, see the Suite101.com Orchid Article Series for all the basics. Orchids are generally very forgiving and it’s not difficult to keep them alive long enough to stumble upon the perfect combination that will reward you with a breathtaking floral display.
Ortho Books: All About Growing Orchids and the Beginners Guide to Orchids by Geoffrey Hands.