When to Repot Orchids
In general, to keep orchids growing well they need to be repotted every one to two years. Repotting an orchid provides the plant’s roots with a clean and fresh growing environment. The most common reasons you would repot an orchid are:
The plant is simply too big for the current pot.
Are the new shoots growing over the edge of the pot? Are there a lot of roots outside the pot? Is the plant so big that it is now top heavy? If any of these are true, the plant requires repotting.
The current potting media is starting to break down and retain too much moisture.
Most potting media breaks down, or rots, over time and becomes water-logged. This creates two problems: 1) it retains too much moisture, and 2) it lessens the oxygen in the media, which is required for the roots to breathe – yes plants need oxygen too! This leads to rotted roots. If the media crumbles easily when you rub it between your fingers, it is time to repot.
You could also decide to repot simply to update your decor.
If your plant is still in flower, it is best to wait until it is done flowering before repotting. Repotting a blooming orchid disturbs the root system, which stresses the plant and could cause premature fading of the flowers.
It is always best to repot your orchids when they are in active growth. This is often shortly after they have flowered and starting to produce new shoots and roots. For young plants which are not yet mature enough to flower, spring is a good time to repot.
How to Choose Potting Media
The potting media you use should be based on the moisture needs of the particular orchid you are repotting. For instance Phalaenopsis orchids like a potting media which holds a bit more moisture than Cattleyas or Dendrobiums. As an example, let’s look at a couple of different orchid potting mixes from Better-Gro®.
Better-Gro® Special Orchid® Mix is an airy, quick-draining mix that is ideal for those orchids that like the media to dry quickly between watering. This media is ideal for most epiphytic orchids such as Cattleyas, Dendrobiums, Oncidiums, etc.
Better-Gro® Phalaenopsis Mix is designed to drain well but holds moisture a little longer to meet the needs of Phalaenopsis orchids, which prefer a more constant level of moisture.
Many orchids can also be planted directly into a high grade sphagnum moss, such as Better-Gro® Orchid Moss.
How to Choose Pot Size
Choosing the correct pot and proper size is very important in the repotting process. Typical orchid pots have many holes to allow for improved drainage and air to reach the roots.
Repotting orchids into too large a pot is one of the most common mistakes made in this process. Most orchids like their roots in a restricted container. A pot that is too large holds too much media and therefore stays wet longer than is ideal for the plant. The pot size should be based on the following:
If the decision to repot was made because the plant is struggling (often because of compromised roots), the pot size should be matched to the size of the plant’s root mass. No matter how large the foliage, the smaller the GOOD root mass, the smaller the pot. In these cases, it’s common for the plant to be repotted in a container the same size or smaller than the original pot it was planted in.
If the plant is otherwise healthy, the new pot should allow for only about 1-2 years of new growth. This normally equals to a pot which is 1” to 2” larger than the current one.
Repotting can be done in just 4 easy steps. For example, when repotting a Phalaenopsis:
1) Remove the plant from the old pot. To make removal easier, you should place the plant in a bucket of water to wet the roots first, for about 10 minutes.
2) Gently remove all the old mix, old, rotted roots and dried, yellowing leaves. Use sterile scissors when trimming roots. Scissors can be sterilized with a bleach mixture or by flame.
3) Place potting media in the bottom of the new pot so that when you place the plant in the center of the new pot, the bottom-most leaves will be just about level with the top of the pot.
4) Fill pot with new mix and gently, but firmly, pack it in. Mix should be filled to just below the lower leaves.
Watering & Fertilizing After Repotting
After you have repotted your orchid, it should be watered thoroughly. For the first couple of weeks after repotting, fertilize when watering with Better-Gro® Better-Bloom® Orchid Fertilizer, which is high in phosphorus and will stimulate root growth. After a couple of weeks, water and fertilize with Better-Gro® Orchid Plus® Plant Food weekly or as needed.
Repotting orchids is necessary to maintain healthy, vibrant plants and it’s easy when you follow the simple steps above!
Click here to watch our video on repotting your orchid.