There is something magical about orchids, right? Their elegant stems and shiny petals are appropriate for a forest habitat and yet they bloom just as well in a home with a little maintenance. Repotting orchids prevents the roots from growing too many so that this plant can continue to produce flowers for years to come.
Part 1 of 3: know your orchid
Step 1. Determine if it's time to repot
The ideal time to repot an orchid is right after flowering has finished, when it begins to produce new roots and leaves. However, you don't have to repot your orchid every time this happens. The frequency of repotting is between 18 to 24 months. If you are not sure when your orchid was last repotted and it looks like it has grown too much, it might be time to do it. The following signs are those of an orchid that needs to be repotted.
- Many roots develop on the pot. If you see a lot of roots (not just one or two) spilling out of the pot, your orchid needs more space. It's time to move on to a bigger pot.
- Some roots are rotting. If the roots appear soggy and the drainage is no longer good, you should repot your orchid.
- The plant grows outside the limits of the pot. If most of the plant is sticking out the edge of your pot, it needs more space.
Step 2. Do not repot orchids unless it is really necessary to do so
Insisting on repotting the orchid can disrupt the growth cycle of this plant. An orchid should only be repotted if the symptoms listed above are visible. If your plant appears to be healthy and growing normally in its current pot, leave the repotting for another time. Better to have an orchid a little overcrowded than to repot it too early.
Step 3. Decide what materials you will need for repotting
Now that you know it's time to repot your orchid, it's important to find the right materials that you're going to use. Most orchids used as houseplants are epiphytes. They are not terrestrial since they do not grow in the earth. Ground orchids will not survive if you put them in a pot.
- A mixture of fir bark, sphagnum moss, charcoal and coconut bark is suitable for many species of orchids. This mixture is suitable for most orchids:
- 4 pieces of pine or coconut bark;
- a small piece of charcoal;
- a piece of perlite.
- If you're not exactly sure what kind of orchid you have, orchid potting soil sold at garden stores is perfect for most epiphytic orchids.
- If you have a terrestrial orchid, you will need soil that is crumbly and holds water well. It must have a high content of perlite and organic matter. Seek advice at your garden store for the right mix for the genus of your orchid.
Step 4. Decide on the size of the pot you are going to use
When repotting an orchid, you will need a pot that is a few inches larger than the one you had before. Your plant needs just a little more space. If you use a pot that is too large, the orchid will concentrate its energy on growing the roots and this will delay flowering. Look for a plastic, clay, glass, or ceramic pot that is suitable for the size of your orchid.
- Make sure your new pot contains drainage holes. If the water collects, the roots of the orchid will rot.
- Some species of orchids have roots that are able to photosynthesize. If you have phalaenopsis, for example, consider purchasing a clear glass or plastic jar to allow sunlight to enter.
- If you need a large pot, you should consider adding pieces of broken earthenware to the bottom of the pot. This will help the potting soil in the middle of your pot to dry out faster, as it tends to stay wet.
Part 2 of 3: prepare the materials
Step 1. Measure the amount of potting soil needed in a large bucket or bowl
Fill your new pot with the potting soil and then empty it into a container about twice its size. To prepare the potting soil, you will need to soak it in water overnight. This will allow the potting soil to retain enough moisture to maintain the orchid.
Step 2. Cover the potting soil with hot water
Go ahead and spray the bucket or bowl with hot water. Avoid using cold water, as the potting soil will not absorb it as well as hot water. Make sure the soil is at room temperature before repotting the orchid.
Step 3. Drain the potting soil
You can use the drainer that you also use in the kitchen (which will of course have to be cleaned afterwards) or a piece of muslin. Empty all the water so that all you have left is the moist potting soil. Pour a little more hot water over the mixture to remove all traces of dust.
Step 4. Remove the orchid from its old pot
Carefully lift the orchid out of its old pot, untangling each root individually. For roots that get stuck in the pot, use scissors or a sterilized knife. It is very important to use clean material because orchids are prone to contracting diseases.
You can sterilize your tools using the flame of a lighter or by wiping them with a cloth dampened in alcohol
Step 5. Remove old potting soil and dead roots
Use your fingers and a clean pair of scissors to gently clean the roots. Remove the old potting soil and throw it away. Use scissors to cut away rotten or dead roots while being careful not to damage healthy parts of your plant.
- Roots that are soft are probably dead. It is therefore better to remove them.
- Untangle the roots carefully by pulling them apart with your fingers.
Step 6. Prepare the new pot
If you are going to use a pot that you have used for orchids before, clean it and sterilize it in boiling water to rid it of toxins and kill potential sources of disease. If the pot is large and deep, scatter pieces of terra cotta in it to aid in the drainage process. If you are using a shallow pot, this step will not be necessary.
Part 3 of 3: repot the orchid
Step 1. Put the orchid in the pot
Place the old roots at the bottom of the pot and place the new ones on the sides where they will have more room to spread out. The upper part of the root mass should be at the same level as in the old pot. This means that the new growth should be above the surface of the pot and most of the roots should be below that surface.
Step 2. Push the potting soil into the pot
Pour a little potting soil around the roots. Shake the pot and gently pat the sides so that the soil disperses around the roots. If using your fingers, press gently so as not to damage the roots. Make sure there are no air pockets. If parts of the roots are not covered, they will not develop properly.
- Remember to add small amounts of potting soil each time, as this can make things easier for you. Scatter it around the roots with your fingers and then pour in more mixture and continue.
- Keep pouring the mixture until it reaches the top of the jar.
Step 3. Make sure the plant is holding on properly when you are finished
Place the orchid upright or tie it to the pot so that it does not fall or grow askew.
Step 4. Take good care of your orchid
Place it in a temperate location with partial shade. Water your plant moderately or as needed for your orchid genus.
- If the orchid is too difficult to remove from the pot, dropping the pot to break it can be effective.
- Prepare your workspace by covering the area with newspaper or plastic.
- Don't change your orchid's pot on a whim. If you think a different pot may be more beneficial for your plant, wait until the right time for repotting.
- Always choose a pot with drainage holes at the bottom. If the water stagnates at the bottom of the pot, the roots can rot.