Orchid Repotting: When And How To Repot An Orchid Plant


By: Anne Baley

Orchids were once the domain of specialty hobbyists with greenhouses, but they’re becoming more common in the average gardener’s home. They’re relatively easy to grow as long as you find the right conditions, but almost every grower gets nervous at the thought of repotting an orchid.

Orchids don’t grow like other houseplants; instead of putting out roots in a pot of soil, they exist in a container of loose materials such as bark, charcoal and moss. Repotting can be the most finicky time for orchid plants because they are susceptible to disease and you’ll be exposing the roots, but with a little care, you can be repotting orchid plants with great results.

Repotting Orchid Plants

When to repot orchids is important in order to ensure success. There are two major ways to tell if your orchid needs repotting. First, if it’s growing out of its container, you may see white roots popping out between the spaces in the container. This is a sure sign that your plant has outgrown its home.

The other reason for orchid repotting is when the potting medium begins to break down. Orchids grow in a very chunky medium, and when it breaks down into smaller bits, it won’t drain as well. Change out the medium to give your orchids’ roots the air they need.

The other half of knowing when to repot orchids is choosing the time of year that’s best for the plant. If you have a cattelya or other orchid that produces pseudobulbs, repot it right after flowering and before the roots begin to grow.

For all other orchids, you can repot them at any time, although disturbing the plant when it’s in flower is usually not a good idea.

How to Repot an Orchid

Choose a new pot that’s an inch or two (2-3 cm.) larger than the one before. Specialized orchid planters have holes all around the surface to increase the air circulation in the roots, but you can use a traditional terra cotta pot as well.

Put your orchid potting mix into a large bowl and cover it with boiling water. Allow the water to cool to room temperature, then drain the potting mix.

One of the most important things to learn about how to repot an orchid is that they are very sensitive when it comes to bacteria and germs. Make a solution of 1/2 cup (120 ml.) of household bleach and 1 gallon (4 L.) of water. Soak the planter in this, as well as any tools you use. Wash your hands before you proceed.

Gently pull the pot away from the plant and wash off the roots. Use sharp scissors to cut off any brown or rotting roots. Fill the new planter with the soaked potting medium and place the plant so that the base is right at the top of the medium. Use a chopstick to help push bits of planting medium in between the roots. Keep the orchid misted for at least a week until the new roots begin to appear.

Repotting an orchid doesn’t have to be intimidating. Just pay attention to the timing and ensure proper growing conditions so your beloved plant will thrive.

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Tips on How to Repot Orchids

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Colorful, fragrant, indoor orchids may need repotting as often as once each year. For example, moth orchids (Phalaenopsis spp.) and slipper orchids (Paphiopedilum spp.) have root systems that need room to grow and develop. Showy, frilly Cattleya or corsage orchids (Cattleya spp.) have pseudobulbs or bulblike areas that produce new growth and roots. With the proper growing media and container, you can repot your orchids successfully and keep your plants healthy and attractive for years.


Repotting Orchids

Phalaenopsis

A Phalaenopsis, or moth orchid, is called the “gateway orchid” for beginning collectors: it requires very little care, and yields great rewards with blooms that last up to three months! Early success with a moth orchid leads growers to try other species and, finally, to orchid addiction. But how do you ensure early success?

Our first video details step-by-step instructions for repotting a Phalaeanopsis orchid.

Paphiopedilum

A Paphiopedilum, or lady slipper orchid, is another popular orchid with collectors: it prefers high humidity and indirect light, faring best in eastern early morning light. But how do you ensure early success?

Our second video details step-by-step instructions for repotting a Paphiopedilum orchid, which has different watering and culture needs from a Phalaenopsis. After your initial purchase and repotting, you should repot your orchid when your plant has finished blooming.

Anne Nies, a master’s degree candidate in the Garden and Northwestern University’s Plant Biology & Conservation program, is an expert in all things orchids, both native and tropical. She is also a member of the Illinois Orchid Society, which holds its spring and fall orchid shows at the Garden. She took some time this past fall to show me (and you) how to repot our orchids to maintain a healthy growing environment.

As a new orchid grower, I was not aware you had to repot your orchids shortly after purchasing them because they are often packed in sphagnum moss, which provides too much moisture for the plant. I was also not aware that you should repot your orchids every one to two years to maintain healthy plants. --Anne Nies


Repotting Orchids, Part 2: Paphiopedilum

A Paphiopedilum, or lady slipper orchid, is another popular orchid with collectors: it prefers high humidity and indirect light, faring best in eastern early morning light. But how do you ensure early success?

Just as we learned in our first video, Repotting Orchids, Part 1: Phalaenopsis, it’s always best to repot your orchids shortly after purchasing them—the sphagnum moss in which they are sold provides too much constant moisture for the plant, and can damage the delicate, epiphytic root system.

Anne Nies, a master’s degree candidate in the Garden and Northwestern University’s Plant Biology and Conservation program, is an expert in all things orchids, both native and tropical. She took some time this past fall to show me (and you) how to repot our orchids to maintain a healthy growing environment.

Our second video details step-by-step instructions for repotting a Paphiopedilum orchid, which has different watering and culture needs from a Phalaenopsis. After your initial purchase and repotting, you should repot your orchid when your plant has finished blooming.


Gather Your Materials

If you have determined that the time is right to re-pot your orchid, here is a list of materials you will need:

  • Old newspapers to lay over the workspace, to make cleanup easier.
  • A bowl with tepid water to soak the orchid in to make the roots more flexible.
  • Sterilized pruning shears . Thoroughly clean scissors down with rubbing alcohol to sterilize, or use a butane torch to sterilize. Pass the ends of the shears through the flame.
  • Snug-fitting garden gloves.
  • A pot for the orchid. More information below on how to choose the right orchid pot, including size.
  • A wastebasket to collect the old planting media.
  • New potting media. More information below on how to choose the right potting media for your orchid.
    • Additives to customize the potting mix to make it more water retentive or draining. Again, see below for more information.
  • A chopstick to fill in air voids.
  • A rhizome clip to secure the orchid. More information below.
  • Pencil and label .
  • A cloth or paper towels for easy cleanup.


How to Repot an Orchid

Like all plants, these tropical beauties need some TLC in order to thrive and survive.

Once the specialty of only an exclusive group of gardeners, Phalaenopsis (moth) orchids are, more and more, becoming a familiar, common houseplant. As exotic as they look, they are relatively easy to grow as long as you maintain the right conditions, but almost every new orchid grower gets a little skittish when it comes time to repot their plant. As a general rule of thumb, orchids should be repotted every one to two years to keep the plant healthy and help it grow.

When to Repot an Orchid

Timing is important in order to ensure success. There are three major signs to look for when determining if you should repot or not.

If you see white roots popping out between the holes in the container, this is a sure sign that your orchid has outgrown its home.

Repotting is also necessary when the potting medium begins to break down. Instead of putting out roots in a pot of soil like most houseplants, orchids survive in a container of large, loose materials such as bark, moss, and charcoal (potting medium). Over time, the larger chunks break down into smaller pieces causing inadequate drainage. Change out the potting medium to give the roots the air they need.

The last sign to look for is tightly tangled roots. A gardener new to growing orchids might mistake the naturally tangled growing pattern of the roots as a sign that their orchid is root-bound and in need of repotting. As long as roots are loosely twisting and overlapping, which is the normal growth pattern for moth orchids, you can wait to repot. Tightly tangled roots, however, indicate that your orchid needs repotting, which will provide the plant with the nutrients it needs to flourish and bloom.

How to Repot an Orchid

Choose a new pot that’s an inch or two larger than the one before. You can use a traditional terra cotta pot but look for specialized orchid planters which have holes all around the surface these are designed to increase the air circulation in the roots.

Place your potting medium in a large bucket or bowl and cover it with about twice as much boiling water. Allow the mixture to come to room temperature, then drain the potting mix. Orchids are very susceptible to disease, so be sure to sterilize everything - gardening tools, new pot, etc. - that will come in contact with your orchid during the repotting process.

Gently pull the old pot away from the plant and wash off the roots. Use sharp scissors (that have been sterilized) to cut off any brown or rotting roots. Fill the new planter with the soaked potting medium and place the plant so that the base is right at the top of the medium. Use a wooden skewer or chopstick to help push bits of planting medium in between the roots. Keep the orchid misted for at least a week until new roots begin to appear.


Watch the video: How to Repot an Orchid with Sharon Byrom at Bents Garden u0026 Home


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