When and How to Repot Orchids

Repotting Orchids

Orchids are incredible houseplants. They live for years with minimal care and produce the most fantastic blooms. Keeping an orchid happy and healthy isn't difficult. It just takes a little understanding of what these special plants need, especially when it comes to repotting.

Why repot an Orchid?

Orchids don't like staying in the same growing medium eternally. The reason is really quite simple. The moss, peat, and bark that make up the growing medium break down over time. As they break down, they become compacted, limiting airflow. The compacted medium also retains excessive water, causing soggy roots and increasing the probability of a disease developing. The three most important aspects of the growing medium, the allowance of air flow, the proper drainage of water, and the ability to absorb nutrients, disappear as the medium ages. 

An orchid also, naturally, may outgrow its' container. If the orchid is young, it needs to be repotted several times to accommodate for root growth.

Plan on repotting your orchid once every one to two years to keep it healthy and thriving.

How do I know if my Orchid needs repotting?

  1. There are roots growing out of the container, either up from the plant stem or crawling over the side. Roots may also grow out of the holes in the bottom. 
  2. The roots are tightly tangled. This is not normal growth and means that the orchid has outgrown its' container and is pot-bound. It needs a larger home. Some orchids, like Phalaenopsis, naturally have overlapping and loosely twisted roots, and this is not an indication they need repotting. Tightly twisted is the key.
  3. The medium isn't chunky anymore, and is, instead, made up of small granular bits.
  4. The roots are brown or soft, indicating water damage. This occurs because the growing medium is not draining properly.
  5. The roots are grayish-white, indicating a lack of water. This occurs when the growing medium is unable to retain enough water, or the orchid is not being watered enough.
  6. The potting medium has a bad smell, meaning it is decaying and no longer providing nutrients.
  7. The orchid is new to you. Orchids often come from the store planted in sphagnum moss. Sphagnum moss absorbs moisture and may cause root rot in your orchid. If the orchid is in bloom, wait until it is done, then repot.

When is the best time to repot an Orchid?

Always wait until the orchid has finished blooming before repotting it. Unless there is a significant issue like disease, there is no reason to do it sooner. If you've just purchased or received the orchid and it is not in bloom, repot it immediately, so it gets the best start in its' new home.

After an orchid bloom, it begins actively growing. New shoots and leaves start appearing. The best time to repot is when the new growth is a few inches long. At this stage, the orchid adapts into its new home much smoother.

How to repot an Orchid easily

Have all the necessary supplies ready before you start. You'll need:

Orchid Repotting Supplies:

  • A new container that is 1-2” larger than the previous one. And, make sure it has drainage holes! The roots should easily fit into the new pot with ½”-1” space around the sides.
  • Orchid growing medium, like this Orchid Bark.
  • A sterilized cutting tool
  • A dull knife, sterilized
  • Cinnamon (yes, the kitchen spice – it is an excellent natural fungicide)
  • Easy access to a sink or tub
  • Stakes or rhizome clips

repotting materials

Orchid Repotting Instructions:

  1. Water the orchid thoroughly and let it drain before transferring to a new pot. 
  2. Gently remove the orchid from the pot, minimizing damage to the roots as much as possible. 
    • The roots often cling to the sides or otherwise stick to the container. Use the dull knife around the inside edge of the pot to loosen the root ball. 
    • Turn the container upside down and tap the bottom to release air pockets and the roots.
      • Break or cut the pot, if needed. 
      • Remove the medium around the roots.
      • Rinse the roots under lukewarm water. 
      • As you're rinsing the roots, untangle them if needed. Dried roots may snap, so do this carefully.
      • Inspect the roots for disease, rot, and pests. Use the cutting tool to remove any diseased pieces. 
      • Sprinkle cuts with the cinnamon to prevent infection.
      • Place the orchid in the new pot and carefully center it.
      • Arrange the new medium around the roots, gently nestling it around the roots to secure the plant in place. 
      • Knock the sides of the container several times so the medium settles. Add more medium if needed.
      • Secure the orchid with stakes or rhizome clips, so it doesn't move about and cause damage to the roots.
      • Do not water the orchid for two weeks. Let it adapt and grow in the new medium without disturbance.

      repotting orchids

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