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Repotting Your Orchids

Cattleyas Every 2 to 3 years
Cymbidiums Every 2 to 3 years
Dendrobiums Every 2 years
Masdevallias Every year
Miltonias Every year
Oncidiums / Odontoglossums Every 2 years
Paphiopedilums Every 1 to 2 years
Phalaenopsis Every 2 years
When to Repot?
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 container.

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.
  • Bark  
  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.
• Charley's Best Orchid Mixes  
  Check out our exclusive Fine, Standard and Moss orchid mixes.
• Compressed Long Fiber Sphagnum Moss  

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 instantly.

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.

Which Container?
Choose 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 Neem 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 pot.
  • 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 them considerably.)
  • 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.

Happy Orchid Growing,