There are many questions that orchid
growers frequently ask, and one of the top 10 is "When should I repot?"
Spring is a wonderful time of growth and rejuvenation! It is also the traditional
time to repot orchids.
Orchids may need to be repotted for several reasons: the potting mix they
are in has broken down and is deteriorating and/or they have outgrown their
To determine the condition of your potting medium, remove the top layer
and observe the material and roots that are showing. Are the roots black
and mushy? Does the bark crumble easily when you rub a piece between your
thumb and finger? If you planted in moss, has it compacted into a tight
mass? Any of these indicate that it is time to repot! If you notice fresh
root activity (succulent green root tips on the white, plump roots) it may
also be time to divide the plant or move it into a larger pot.
What Growing Medium to Use?
The potting material should allow
for water and air to move through it. You can use natural ingredients such
as bark or moss, which will break down over time, or stone (such as pumice)
that will not break down. When it doubt, repot in the same type of medium
the orchid was growing in.
Always use fresh medium. Put the desired amount
into a container with hot (almost boiling) water and cover. Allow to cool,
then drain. This will break the surface tension of the bark and allow water
to be absorbed more readily. Fir bark has been the standard potting medium
used by orchid hobbyists nationwide for over a quarter of a century. Charley's Orchid Bark is the same fir bark that is used by leading professional
growers. This bark is recommended for all medium to large thick-rooted orchids.
This very clean premium compressed sphagnum moss has long, thick fibers
for excellent water retention. Use for fantastic root growth, alone or
in a mix. Compressed block expands to hold 20 times its weight in water
Preparation of Sphagnum: Place sphagnum in a container of water
and allow moss to swell and re-hydrate completely. Using warm water can
speed this up.
IMPORTANT: The tighter the moss is packed, the less water it
holds. If the sphagnum is packed too tightly, it will shed water faster.
Never allow the moss to dry out completely. The continuously moist moss
medium provides a convenient and beneficial source of constant humidity
to the young plant.
a container that will accomodate the system of the orchid you are potting.
Generally allow only enough room for 2 years of growth. Do not overpot.
There are many different types of containers that you may choose. Good drainage
and aeration are essential. Orchid
Net Pots are popular because they drain really well and provide maximum
venting and air circulation to the roots. Translucent
Orchid Pots allow roots to have some light exposure, as in nature, and
are popular because you are able to observe and monitor root development
more easily. Whichever pots you choose, they should be clean and if they
have been used before, disinfected. We recommend Physan 20.
Once the pot and planting medium have been chosen and prepared, soak
the plant (in the old pot) in a bucket or sink of water for several
minutes. This will soften the roots, making them less likely to break,
and will make it easier to slip the plant out from the pot it has been
growing in. Gently remove the orchid and the medium from the pot. If
the plant refuses to budge, lightly tap the upside down pot on the table
a couple of times. If all else fails, you may need to run a sharp, sterile
knife around the inside wall of the pot. If the plant has been growing
in a clay pot it may be necessary to break the pot. Rather than risk
damaging the roots, leave pieces of the pot attached to the roots. Remove
as much of the old medium from the roots as you can easily, and rinse
with tepid water.
Take a good look at the root structure to determine how well the plant
is doing, and see how the techniques thus far have worked. Live roots
are usually white, plump, firm, and may have green tips. This tells
you that the medium has succeeded in providing a healthy environment
for your orchid. If the roots are mushy, soggy and/or black, the mixture
is not draining enough and may be lacking in aeration. You may need
to alter your watering or consider adding material to your mix to aid
in air and water flow.
Cut away all of the dead roots (gray, brown or black and dry, shriveled
and/or mushy) up to the base of the plant. Use a sharp, sanitized tool.
Micro-pruners are perfect for this task. Partially decayed roots should
also be cut to fresh tissue. Attempt to keep as much live root system
as possible. Observe the plant closely for signs of insects, both on
the roots and leaves. Mealy bugs and scale can hide just about anywhere!
Clean the plant with insecticidal soap if any infestation is noted.
Many orchid growers will dip the entire orchid, roots and all, in diluted
Oil. Neem oil is effective as an insecticide, miticide, fungicide,
nematacide, and combats fungal problems and many forms of root rot.
For individual orchid plants, the bottom section of the pot is filled
with bark, pumice or sphagnum moss and firmed down gently. The medium
is carefully packed between and around roots and the plant firmed into
the pot. Additional material is added to secure the plant in the pot.
It is not necessary to try to get all of the aerial roots back into
The position of the orchid in the pot depends on the type of growth
the plant makes. Some orchids grow horizontally, so you would want to
place the back of the plant against the wall of the pot, with room in
front for the new growth. Plants that grow upward should be placed in
the center of the pot.
Many orchids need some type of support
or stake. To avoid piercing the roots, put the support in place when
the material is first being added to the pot. As the pot is filled,
the medium settles around the stake.
Label the plant, either with the original label or by creating a new
one if the old one is faded or broken. It is very helpful to write the
month and year that you have repotted the orchid.
If you have a high level of humidity, lightly mist the plant after
repotting. If, however, the environment is dry, water the plant. In
either case, wait several weeks before watering the plant again. In
the meantime, lightly mist the plant every day, to encourage root formation
and growth. (If you have plants with very little root formation, they
cannot take up very much water; lightly misting the leaves will help
Place your newly potted orchids in an area that is slightly more shaded
than they are used to growing in. Gradually move them back to the light
they are accustomed to. Make sure that they are not put in a cold, damp
place with bad airflow.
Wait to begin fertilizing until you see signs of active growth, usually
4-6 weeks. Charley's offers a selection of orchid
fertilizers for balanced nutrition.