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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.