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Guide To Repotting Orchids
When to repot
Clean up time
Into the new home
The finished product
- On this page you will find general
instructions for repotting orchids. Our specimen today is
- There are some variables but the general concept is the
- As for vandas most of mine are in wood or plastic baskets
with no medium. When the plant gets too big you can place
the basket and all in a larger basket. (soak first to
make the roots easier to work with.)
- Potting mediums - A mixture of orchid bark, charcoal and
sponge rock is a common mix. Aliflor, sphagnum moss, rock
wool, tree fern, osmunda and redwood are some mediums
that can be used alone or in mixes. Some work better for
some orchids (and or people) than others. I you are not
sure what to use, check with some of your local growers.
Most growers are more than happy to help. If you have a
local Orchid Society, attend a meeting or two and ask
some questions. You may even decide to join.
- Use what works well for you and your orchids.
- Please, if you use a particular mix with good results DO
NOT change just because someone tells you one medium is
better than what you are using. You can get disasterous
- I experiment with different mixes only on specimens
of which I have more than one of, or if a plant is not
doing well I may change the mix and or container.
- If I have good results with a new mix, I might change on
the next repot.
- There are also options when it comes to containers.
Plastic pots, clay pots and wooden baskets are the most
When to repot. Back To Index
- Most orchids need to be repotted every few years
depending on the medium used.
- There are two main reasons to repot. (I may also repot as
a last effort if a particular specimen is not doing well)
1. The plant grows out of the pot (above left). It is
normal for some roots to grow on the outside of the pot as
most orchids are Epiphytic - growing on
but not feeding on another plant, usually trees. While
we are at it, Terrestrial - orchids that
grow rooted in the ground ( terrestrials are usually
grown in a peat based mix which may or may not contain fine
bark, charcoal, sponge rock or tree fern. Lithophytic
- grow on the surface of rocks.
2. The potting mix breakes down (above right). Note the
osmunda fiber on the top of the pot still looks fine. But
look closely in between the roots in the lower right corner
of picture and you can see the osmunda is completely broken
down. This, (if let go) can cause root rot and possible loss
- Also note (above right) I broke the pot and carefully
removed the pieces from the roots. In some cases I think
it is better to sacrifice the pot to keep from disturbing
the root system any more than necessary. (roots come
loose from plastic pots easier than clay pots or baskets)
- The best time to repot is after flowering and or when new
Get prepared. Back To Index
- Pick a clean comfortable work area.
- Select container and medium .You may need to use pot
clips, hangers or support stakes (above right).
- Start by soaking the medium. Your mix should be
thoroughly saturated but not dripping wet. If you are
using a clay pot or a wooden basket, soak it as well. If
you use the mix and or the pot when they are dry, they
will draw moisture from the plant. If you use dry
materials, it can cause stress and damage to the plant.
The plant is already stressed due to the repotting
- Have a lighter, or some means of sterilizing your tools.
- Most likely you will have to do some cutting. Scissors or
razor blades work well (always sterilize tools after each
use, you could transfer contaminants from plant to plant)
- You will need something to put in the bottom of the pot
for good drainage and aeration. Styrofoam packing peanuts
or broken up clay pot pieces work well.
- I use one or more of the following, RD-20, cinnamon,
superthrive and osmocote when repotting most orchids.
- The roots are easier to work with and to separate from
container when thoroughly wet. I soak the whole plant for
about 15 minutes. I use a few drops of Superthrive and
RD-20 (per instructions)
- You want to feel out the situation. Sometimes the plant
will pop right out of the pot, though more often, as with
our specimen today, will take more work. As you can see
in the pictures above, the roots are growing around the
outside of the pot.
- As I said earlier, I thought it best to break the pot.
- After carefully removing the broken clay (you have to
separate the roots from the clay as best you can. You
will most likely break a few roots. Although you don't
want to lose many roots, a few can be tolerated and
- Next carefully remove the old medium. Again, care should
be taken not to damage the roots and or new growth.
Clean up time. Back to index
- Now you will need to trim away the dead roots (above
- Remove any old pseudo bulbs (stems) that are brown and
soft (above right).
- Peel off any old (gray or brown) growth from the canes
(Only take off what peels off easily. Do not rip off what
wants to stay)
- Some say it is not necessary but I like to use a
fungicide on any place a cut has been made whether the
cut was on the root system or the plant. (There are many
good fungicides on the market, however I use one that
most people already have in their kitchen cabinet -
Ground cinnamon is a great fungicide, and not as costly
Into the new
home. Back to
- Do not use too big of a container. Normally go one size
larger. (if dividing, in most cases you will use a
smaller container for each division)
- I only divide plants which will have 5 or more pseudo
bulbs (stems) per division.
- Place some packing peanuts or shards (broken clay pot
pieces) in bottom of the pot.
- Position plant in pot with old growth up against side of
pot. (this will allow new growth more growing room).
Phalaenopsis and most Terrestrial's should be placed in
center of the pot.
- Carefully pack medium around roots keeping roots buried
and plant above medium.
- You will want to keep plant firm and not falling over.
(you can use plant supports and or rhizome clips to
- I use osmocote time release fertilizer on all my adult
plants (it's too strong for seedlings) and will now
sprinkle some on.
- Keep them healthy and happy and they will reward you with
lots of flowers.
- I hope this has helped. Keep in mind you are the expert
when it comes to your orchids.
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