Repotting an Orchid

Repotting an Orchid
Most orchids need repotting every 18 to 24 months so that the potting medium does not get too broken down and drown the roots. Most of the orchids we grow are epiphytic--growing in trees with the roots exposed to the elements. It is extremely important to keep their roots in potting medium that will allow for quick drainage and aeration or the roots on your orchids will die. Eventually, the plant, too, will die.

The first step is to decide on the size and type of pot to use. I generally grow in clay pots since I grow outside and need the clay to hold moisture during the summer. Chose a slightly larger pot than the one the plant is currently in. You can use clay or one of the various plastic pots.

You should presoak your potting medium and clay pots for at least an hour prior to potting up a plant. This allows the bark portion to become damp enough to keep from dessicating the roots of the plant.

Remove the orchid from the old pot and check for dead roots. All the brown, hollow or mushy roots need to be removed. These roots will never recover and leaving them will invite rot and molds. You should only keep nice healthy roots, preferably with velamin and green growing tips. Remove as much of the old media as possible without damaging the live roots. Check the older pseudobulbs—are they still green, or are they dried up. If brown and dried up, trim these off and discard. Dust the cut with cinnamon, or spray with a fungicide such as Physan 20 or Consan.

There are a number of options for materials to put in the bottom of the pot. I prefer black lava rock. This substance is heavy and will keep most pots stable enough to keep from tipping over when your plants get top heavy. This is especially important for plants that need to be root bound in their pots, but that get tall or heavy such as Dendrobiums. You can, however, fill the pot with orchid bark mix, use pebbles at the bottom, or put in clay pot shards. Any medium that will provide quick drainage will do. Don’t be tempted to use a pot that’s too much bigger than the one the plant is in…the medium will likely break down long before the plant needs the larger pot. Most orchids actually do better pot bound.

Depending upon the kind of orchid you’re repotting, you will need to either place the plant on the side of the pot (for Cattleyas, Dendrobiums and other symbodial orchids), or in the center of the pot (for Paphiopedilum or Phalaenopsis or monopodial orchids). Spread some of the presoaked medium in the pot and then gently place the plant roots on top of the mix. For sympodial plants you want to have the rhizome just on top of the medium. It is not a root, but a runner, so it should not be buried. Hold the plant securely (I recommend a pot clip available at any orchid supply house) to hold the plant until the roots have taken hold. Then press the medium gently around the roots until all holes are filled. Tap the pot gently to settle the medium and then fill in any additional holes to the top of the pot. Lastly, write the name of the plant and transplant date on the back of the tag and replace in the pot.

You Should Also Read:
Potting Media
Specialty Pots for Orchids

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