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Mastering Orchid Repotting: A Comprehensive Guide

By Staff Writer
Share to PinterestThe Ultimate Guide to Orchid Repotting
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Growing orchids is truly an art form that leads to a majestic reward. If you're a fan of this exotic flower, then providing the right conditions will keep your precious plants going for years to come.

Repotting is one of the most important steps for orchid survival, and it's also the most intimidating factor for a lot of new growers. But don't fret. Though they can be finicky, following the proper methods for transplanting your orchids will give you successful results.

01

Why you should repot orchids

Share to PinterestWoman in gloves is transplanting orchids plant into the new pot
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Orchids are epiphytes, which means they thrive on nutrients and water taken from the air. They don't survive in soil, but instead need a host, which is their potting medium. When this medium breaks down, it's time to replant.

Another reason to repot your orchid is root growth: they'll eventually expand too much for their container. Some external exposure is fine and even necessary. But when the roots go crazy and can't be contained, it's time to upgrade to a bigger pot.

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02

When to repot orchids

Share to PinterestOrchid Coelogyne cristata with its pseudobulbs in vase
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Depending on the variety, you should transplant your orchid every one to three years. It's best to do this once it's done flowering for the season and new roots and growth begin to form. Usually May through July are the prime replanting months, but this all hinges on the species.

Orchids that produce pseudobulbs, which are pods that hold water and nutrition above the rootball, should only be repotted during this time unless there's an emergency.

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03

Prepare your medium

Share to Pinterestsoil and substrate for orchid plant
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Planting mediums include perlite, moss, charcoal, tree or coconut bark, cork, and even styrofoam. Store-bought mixes also work well. Whatever you choose, make sure it's new and fresh. Sterilize it first. Soak it in boiling water till it hits room temperature. Then drain the excess water from the medium. It should be damp, not saturated.

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04

Get your container ready

Share to Pinterestwoman holding orchid plant with plastic container with drainage holes
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As long as your container has adequate holes for airflow, you can use whatever type and material you prefer. If you're replanting due to overgrowth, go with something that's about two inches larger in diameter than the current pot. Many experts recommend a clear pot so the roots can get the light they need.

Orchids are sensitive to bacteria, so sterilizing the container is important. Soak it in a half-cup of bleach mixed with a gallon of water. Use this agent to clean any tools you'll be working with as well.

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05

Plant preparation

Share to Pinterestperson holding healthy roots of orchids
Stanislav Sablin / Getty Images

Gently remove your plant from the current container. Loosen the roots till they're untangled. Dust off any excess potting medium. With a clean blade, cut off any dead, soft, or decaying roots: healthy roots are white, firm, and often have green tips.

It's not a bad idea to soak the rootball during this process since the roots can break if they get too dry. After soaking, rinse them off and let them air dry before you replant.

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06

Put it all together

Share to Pinterestwoman transplanting orchid plant into new pot
Andrii Zorii / Getty Images

When planting your orchid, its base should be flush with the top of the container. Hold the plant at this level in one hand while you loosely add the medium around it. It helps to use a chopstick or other dull instrument to settle the mixture around the roots. Once you fill the medium to the top, stake your orchid. You might also want to include a label noting the transplant date.

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07

Water and sunlight

Share to Pinterestorchid plant
Anton Skripachev / Getty Images

After repotting, your orchid needs time to adjust, and in general, they will fare better with underwatering than overwatering. Waiting a week or two to water your transplant will stimulate healthy root growth.

While the plant is settling, it's also okay to skimp on the sun. Orchids vary in light preference but overall need a lot of indirect sunlight. Be gentle. Give your plant a couple of days to enjoy its new home without exposing it to too much brightness.

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08

Special situations

Share to PinterestA girl transplants an orchid dendrobium nobile into a new pot.
Dina Vozdvizhenskaya / Getty Images

Root health is one of the main exceptions to the standard rules of repotting. Overwatering can cause root or fungal rot, so it's imperative you replant your orchid as soon as the issue is diagnosed.

Another time it may be ok to transplant your orchid out of season is when you first bring it home. This applies only when it doesn't have an ideal growing environment. Sometimes, mosses or other mediums hold excess water, or the plant is already too big for the container it came in.

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09

Alternate growing method: trees

Share to PinterestPink Orchid Growing on Tree
Kirsten Dunlap / Getty Images

If you live in a climate that's warm year-round, you can liven up your landscape with orchids. Mounting them on trees is a great way to keep them thriving. Plus, once you get them going, they're low-maintenance and will take care of themselves.

To attach an orchid to a tree, you'll need a binding material like twine, nylon, or twist ties: it's best to do this on a southern exposure for the right amount of indirect sunlight. Mist the roots at first until they adapt to their new host. Spray fertilizer on the plant once a month, if you wish. After the roots take, you can remove your binding.

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10

Alternate growing method: hydroponics

Going against the grain of standard orchid care, hydroponic growing is a surprisingly simple way for plants to thrive. Instead of using the typical medium, all you need is distilled or rain water, though some people like to add some gravel for decor.

A clear round container with high sides to support the plant works best. Prep your orchid, make sure the water is tepid, and insert it into the pot or bowl. Then, through trial and error, figure out what your plant prefers. Some people change the water weekly, and others use a wet-dry cycle where the roots are submerged for a few days then air-dried.

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11

Understanding orchid pot sizes and types

Share to PinterestSet of exotic orchids in pots. Asian decorative elements collection of orchids for your interior design. Collection of different types of orchids in pots on a white background.

Choosing the right pot size and type is crucial for the well-being of your orchid. Orchids thrive in pots that complement their growth pattern—neither too large to overwhelm the plant nor too small to constrict its roots. Consider materials like clay or plastic; clay offers breathability and is excellent for moisture control, while plastic pots are lightweight and often transparent, allowing you to monitor root health easily. For most orchids, a pot that's just large enough to accommodate the roots without too much extra space works best, promoting healthy growth and preventing moisture from accumulating and causing root rot.

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12

Advanced root care post-repotting

Share to Pinterestcaring for orchid roots. woman's hand demonstrates dried out diseased roots plant in flowerpot. caring for decorative orchid in flowerpot

After you've repotted your orchid, paying special attention to root care can make all the difference in its recovery and growth. Sprinkling cinnamon on freshly cut root ends can prevent infection thanks to its natural antifungal properties. Additionally, ensuring the roots are not too densely packed allows for better air circulation, which is critical for the orchid's health. Remember, healthy roots are the foundation of a flourishing orchid, so giving them a little extra TLC after repotting can lead to happier plants.

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13

Orchid division for propagation

Share to PinterestBeautiful purple Phalaenopsis orchid flowers isolated, with dark background

Dividing your orchid during repotting offers a unique opportunity for propagation. When an orchid becomes too crowded in its pot, look for natural divisions in the plant where it can be split into two or more sections. Each section should have a good amount of roots and at least one growth point. Carefully separating these sections and potting them individually can give you several plants from one and is a great way to expand your orchid collection or share with fellow enthusiasts.

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14

The role of humidity and temperature

Share to PinterestAir humidifier near the orchid flowers at home. Ultrasonic technology, comfortable living conditions, moisture increase in the apartment.

Repotting your orchid is an opportune time to reassess its humidity and temperature needs. Orchids flourish in environments that mimic their natural habitat, with high humidity and moderate temperatures being key. After repotting, you might find your orchid benefits from a slight increase in surrounding humidity to help it settle into its new home. Consider using a humidity tray or a room humidifier to maintain ideal conditions, especially if you live in a dryer climate.

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15

Dealing with common post-repotting issues

Share to PinterestWoman’s hands spraying water and fertilizer to orchid plant.

After repotting, it's not uncommon for orchids to experience stress, which can manifest as drooping leaves or a halt in growth. This adjustment period is critical, and providing stable care during this time can help your orchid bounce back more quickly. Ensure your orchid is in an environment with appropriate light, humidity, and temperature. If you notice signs of stress, resist the urge to overwater, as this can exacerbate the problem. With patience and careful attention, your orchid will soon adapt to its new pot and return to its usual vigor.

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