Orchids For Dummies
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Don't be afraid to repot your orchids while caring for them. Despite their reputation, orchids are tough, and repotting helps them thrive. You'll know it time to repot orchids when
  • Orchid roots are overflowing the pot

  • The plant itself is going over the edge of the pot

  • Potting material is getting soggy and drains poorly

The ideal time to repot most orchids is when the plant starts new growth — usually right after it finishes flowering.

Prepare the potting mix

Choose a potting mix that suits your particular type of orchid. Whether you mix it yourself or buy it ready-made — it must be wetted before you use it. Otherwise, it'll never hold moisture properly and will always dry out.

Here's how you prepare the orchid mix for potting:
  1. Pour the amount of potting material you intend to use into a bucket that has about twice the volume of the mix.

  2. Fill the bucket with hot water.

    Hot water penetrates the material better than cold water.

  3. Let the mixture soak overnight.

  4. The next day, pour out the mix into a colander or strainer.

  5. Rinse the mix thoroughly to wash out the dust that was in the mix.

Now the mix is ready to use.

Time to repot

When you're ready to repot the orchid, spread out some newspaper over a work surface. Gather up a knife, scissors, new orchid pots (or old ones that are thoroughly cleaned), wooden stakes, and soft ties.

Now, follow these steps:

  1. Remove the orchid from the pot.

    You may need to use a knife to circle the inside of the pot and loosen the roots.

  2. Remove the old, loose, rotted potting material and any soft, damaged, or dead roots.

  3. If the roots are healthy, firm, and filling the pot, put the orchid in a pot just one size larger than the one you removed it from, placing the older growth toward the back so the new lead or growth has plenty of room.

    If the roots are rotted and in poor condition, repot the plant in a container of the same or one size smaller than it was removed from.

    If you place a poorly rooted plant in a container that's too large, the growing material will stay too damp, which will result in root rot.

    Some orchid growers like to add a coarse material like broken clay pots or Styrofoam in the bottom of the pots to improve drainage. You don't have to do this if you're using shallow, azalea-type pots.

  4. Place the plant in the pot so it's at the same depth as it was originally.

    The new shoot should be level with the pot rim.

  5. Press the fresh potting material into the pot and around the orchid roots with your thumbs and forefingers.

    The orchid should be secure in the pot so it doesn't wiggle — otherwise, the new roots won't form properly.

  6. Place a wooden or bamboo stake in the center of the pot, and tie up the new and old leads with soft string or twist ties.

    When orchids are in bloom, the staking techniques will vary, depending on the type of orchid.

    Repot your orchid for improved growing space and drainage. Repot your orchid for improved growing space and drainage.

Monopodial orchids are those with one growing point that always grows vertically, not sideways (such as phalaenopsis, angraecums, and vandas). The potting process for these orchids is similar to the process just outlined, except that the orchid should be placed in the center of the container, rather than toward the back.

When repotting monopodial orchids, place them in the center of the pot, not at the back. When repotting monopodial orchids, place them in the center of the pot, not at the back.

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