Repotting Orchids – Why it Matters.
Repotting Orchids is a task that does require a little extra care, compared to repotting most other plants. This does not mean it is very difficult, so do not be put off having a go, in fact it is something that you must do if your orchid is to thrive. Follow a few general rules and you will have great success.
Why Repotting Orchids Matters
The first, most obvious reason, is the plant will simply grow too big for it’s current pot. The second reason is more specific to orchids. Orchids are always potted in composts that do not contain soil, usually mixes of bark and sphagnum moss. These potting mixes are used to keep the air flowing in and around the roots and need to be very open in nature, remember many orchids grow on trees and not in the ground. After a while these composts will decompose and break down into finer textures and so will loose their ability to let the air penetrate them. They become fine and compacted. When this starts to happen it’s time to repot your orchid.
How often to repot orchid plants?
You should aim to repot every eighteen months to two years on average. Use your common sense here and try to judge the overall look of the plant and the compost, two years may be too long if the compost has degraded rapidly. If your compost looks mushy and over wet it’s time to repot.
When it’s best to repot!
It can vary according to the orchid types, but most professional growers will repot in late spring when the plant has come to life but before it has started vigorous growth. You do not want to start repotting orchids when they are growing vigorously or when they are in full bloom. This will lead to damage of your plant. It is best to put off repotting if your plant is already flowering or has massive new growth.
Repotting orchids – what will I need?
It will pay off to be extra careful when potting orchids. The day before you start give the plant a really good soak, this will make handling a little easier. You will need a disinfectant, sharp clean pruners, a clean work surface, a clean pot – preferably new, and some fresh orchid compost. Notice I keep repeating clean. Orchids are very prone to viral and fungal diseases and you should try to protect against these. Use a disinfectant – watered down bleach will do or you can buy a horticultural disinfectant. Clean the work top, pot and pruners with this solution, this will stop any pests and diseases spreading to your prized orchid! If you have more than one orchid to repot, do them one at a time and clean everything between each one, you don’t want any cross contamination.
The orchid pot.
When choosing your new pot make sure it has plenty of drainage holes. Drainage is the most important thing to consider when repotting orchids. It is also good practice to put some stones or styrofoam pieces into the bottom of the pot to increase the drainage. I sometimes place a small upturned pot in the middle and arrange the roots around it before filling with compost.
The pot size really depends on the size of the plant, but try to guess a size suitable for about another two years growing. Orchids do not like being potted into pots that are too big for the plant so try to go up in sizes each time you repot.
Oh the experts will be at it again – using some wonderful mixture of 12.5% coconut, 20% fir tree bark from Canada 10% Egyptian wool and some other things most people have never heard of. Again my advice is keep it simple. You want a growing medium that is very coarse in texture for good drainage and will not degrade in a short time. No soil repeat no soil! Bark based composts are generally recognized as the way to go. You could even splash out on a specialist orchid compost but it’s really not necessary. Just buy some good quality bark based compost from your local garden suppliers.
Potting your orchid.
The actual process is fairly simple, much like any other plant. When repotting orchids you want to remove most, but not all, of the old compost from the roots by gently shaking and prising the roots apart a little. Then check the roots. Prune away any dead or decaying roots and dispose of them. Give the roots a light trim as this will encourage good strong regrowth. Depending on the type of orchid you have, you may be able to divide the plant at this stage and have two or more orchids. Get your already prepared pot and compost and pot that plant! Be sure to repot to the same depth as before and gently firm the compost around the pot.
As soon as you have finished it’s very important to water orchids and help bed the compost around the roots. I will usually place the newly repotted orchid in partial shade for 3-4 days and keep it a little wetter than normal. After a few days return it to its usual position and resume your normal care.
So there you have it, pretty easy really. Repotting orchids doesn’t need to be a difficult task. As with all things, you just need a little bit of care and you too can enjoy beautiful orchids.
Want to learn more about all things orchid? Check out my post detailing some great orchid books you may be interested in.