15 Frequently Asked Questions About Orchid Repotting
Paphiopedilum Orchid Blooms
Do take the time to learn to repot orchids. Repotting your orchids annually can be a great way to keep your orchid healthy and strong. They don't grow in dirt! We love to repot our orchids, to examine them slowly and enjoy their new roots. Orchids resent being left in the same media forever. Do yourself a favor and pick a media that suits your environment and your habits. If you love to water your plants, put them in a medium that drys out quickly. If you don't have alot of time for watering, do the opposite. Figure out what works for you. The plants will tell you when they are happy. There are few hard & fixed rules and that's hard for beginners with only a few plants. Don't let that stop you. If you collect a few plants you will likely buy ones in bark, moss, rock, peat moss, etc. See which medium works best for you in your conditions and begin to transition similar plants into the same mix. Repotting when the plant is in active growth helps it to reestablish itself very quickly. Still, the plants may sulk a bit when you change media and repot but don't let that worry you, relax and they will likely recover, by & large they are pretty tough. Our Orchid Repotting Clinic page gives a pictorial walkthru of repotting an orchid.
If you take the time to learn to repot your orchids they will reward youwith years of enjoyment and blooms. Repotting orchids is really quite easy and fun. With minimal preparation and a few basic steps, you can provide your prized plants with the environment they need to thrive. Below we list some frequently asked questions about repotting orchids.
How do I select the best orchid mix for my orchids?
Selection of an orchid mix depends entirely on your environment and your orchids. Our Orchid Mixes are mixes based on the type of orchid, and are the ones we use in our own collection. Here at rePotme Orchid Supplies we also offer the ability to create your own custom blend that is as unique as your environment and orchid collection, we call it Select-A-Blend. Some orchid mixes contain small particles and are best for seedlings and fine rooted orchids. Other mixes have medium to large size particles for thick rooted orchids.
Don't believe exaggerated claims, if a mix seems "too good to be true" it probably is. Also beware of mixes with "secret ingredients" or that don't list the ingredients, it is critical to know exactly what you are potting your orchids in. Orchid mix that has been sitting around on a nursery store shelf may have already begun to decay in the bag, choose a mix for your orchids made from fresh media. If a mix contains coconut husk chips it is important that all of the residual salt be leached from those chips by a thorough soaking and washing process.
Here at rePotme we soak and wash all of our coconut husk chips thoroughly. We blend fresh mix using a specially designed slow turn mixing machine. We state clearly each ingredient that is in our Classic Orchid Mixes, no surprises and no secrets. We choose only ingredients that have worked for us and have established reputations as safe and healthy for orchids and other prized plants. Each of our different orchid media choices are available by the bag.
Which orchid mix do you recommend for my orchid?
Please visit our list of recommended orchid mixes.
How do I know if my orchid needs repotting?
Orchids cannot stay in the same mix forever, in fact, depending on the type and age of the plant an orchid should be repotted every 6 months to 3 years. Younger plants and Paphiopedilums require more frequent repotting, older plants will do ok with less. When you buy a new plant it may have been in the same medium for a long time already. A good rule of thumb is to repot a new orchid as soon as practical after it is purchased. Usually this means when it goes out of bloom. Orchids need to be repotted before their media breaks down and smothers the roots. Orchids do not grow in pots in the wild, they are in pots for our convenience so we need to do our best to make it a favorable environment. Without timely repotting an orchid will slowly decline with its growth rate and flower count reducing.
When is the best time to repot my orchid?
Orchids are best repotted when they are in active growth. Orchids are usually in active growth shortly after blooming when they send out new shoots and/or leaves and new roots begin to form. Ideally, repotting is best done while the new roots are less than a few inches long. Repotting at this time will allow the plant to settle into the new media quickly. The best time to repot an orchid varies from one type to the next. Most Phalaenopsis are very forgiving and can be repotted just about any time they are not in bloom. On the other extreme, Dendrobiums prefer to be repotted only as new growth appears. There will always be instances when an orchid must be repotted immediately (for example if the pot breaks, or the media is severely decomposed) in which case be as gentle as you can. The goal is to minimize damage to the roots, especially the new, young ones. See our detailed list of Repotting Calendar by orchid genera.
Which potting medium will my orchids grow best in?
You are most likely to be successful with a medium that suits your environment and your habits. If you love to water your plants, put them in a medium that drys out quickly. If you don't have alot of time for watering, do the opposite. Figure out what works for you, remember, you are the expert when it comes to your orchids. The plants will tell you when they are happy. Our Select-A-Blend menu allows you to experiment and try a limitless number of combinations. Individual orchid media are also available in our Potting Media section.
There are few hard & fixed rules when it comes to which media to choose and that can be difficult for beginners with only a few plants. But don't let that stop you! If you collect a few plants you will likely buy ones in bark, moss, etc. See which medium works best for you in your conditions and move all plants of that genera (ie all phals) into the same mix. You are most likely to be successful if you ease the transition a bit by making gradual changes when you can. For example, moving from bark to sphagnum is easier on the plant if you move it to 50-50 bark and sphagnum mix first. Yes, the plants may sulk a bit when you change media and repot but don't let that worry you, they will likely settle into the fresh media fairly quickly and continue to thrive.
What do I need to prepare for repotting?
A little preparation will make the repotting experience pleasant and productive. Prepare for repotting your orchid by gathering the right tools for the job. You will need the following on hand:
- Freshly watered orchid that is ready for repotting
- Clean environment to work in
- Sterilized cutting tool
- Fresh Potting Mix
- Supports for the plant
Keep some cinnamon on hand while repotting to sprinkle on newly cut areas of the plant. Cinnamon (yes, the ordinary spice from the grocery store) is a good, natural fungicide. You may substitute your favorite orchid fungicide for cinnamon if you have one. During repotting is a great time to examine the orchid thoroughly looking for bugs. Our GET OFF ME! Pest Control Spray contains cinnamon and should be used if bugs are found at repotting time.
Why sterilize cutting tools?
It is absolutely essential that you take precautions to avoid spreading virus or bacteria from one plant to another. Any time a plant is cut or knicked there is an opportunity for disease to enter. Cutting tools should be sterilized prior to use by soaking in a Physan 20 solution for 10 minutes or by heating them with a flame. Between plants, wipe the blade with a paper towel and put the cutting edges of the tool into a container with Physan solution (mixed at the rate of 1 Tablespoon of Physan / gallon of water) for 10 minutes. When taking cutting tools out of the Physan solution, rinse the cutting tool before using. Having a few cutting tools available and cycling through them makes the soaking time less of a factor. Anything that is in contact with the plant can potentially spread pathogens from one plant to another, especially at repotting time. Don't reuse pots, stakes, clips, etc between plants unless they have been sterilized first. Most of the time it is safer and easier to use new than risk spreading disease from plant to plant. Sheets of newspaper or paper towel provide a convenient clean surface to work on and can be changed out between plants.
Can potting mix be used straight out of the bag?
rePotme potting mixes can be used straight out of the bag when they are first received by you. If you have dried and stored a bag of our mix, a colander works well for rinsing the mix and allowing it to rehydrate. Sphagnum mixes should be rinsed, squeezed out and then fluffed. See our Orchid Mix FAQ - How to care for your fresh potting mix.
What kind of pot should I use?
Clear plastic pots make it easy to see the roots and to see when to water. The potting mix darkens when wet and gradually lightens as it dries. It is believed that orchid roots can engage in photosynthesis and clear pots make this possible. Plastic pots can be set inside of ceramic orchid pots for display while the plant is in bloom. Ceramic pots provide apitional weight for those plants prone to tipping over.
Will one mix work for all orchids?
This is really a matter of opinion that is open for some debate but the general consensus is no. The most successful orchid growers have learned what works for them, usually through trial and error. There is no such thing as a 'miracle mix' that solves all problems. Growing orchids well is achieved by matching the orchid to the mix and the combination of the environment they grow in and the watering habits of the grower. No mix is ideal across all orchids and environments. That's why rePotme offers unique mixes for every type of orchid! We also make other potting mixes for African Violets, Bonsai, Seedlings, Herbs, and Exotic Plants too. We even make custom mixes to your specific requirements.
What do I do when I take the orchid out of the pot?
Remove the orchid from the old pot. This should be done very gently. Orchid roots may try to cling to the sides of clay pots, or to labels and often out through the slits and holes in pots. Try to get the orchid from its old pot with a minimum of damage, breaking or cutting the pot if necessary. Remove the old medium gently and rinse the roots in lukewarm water. Inspect the roots and remove any that are black or squishy. Sprinkle any cut areas with cinnamon. Take some time to look at the roots, they should be firm, free from disease and pests with a healthy growing tip. If this is an orchid with pseudobulbs, remove any completely shriveled leafless back bulbs. Plump bulbs, with leaves or not, have energy still to provide to the plant and should be left on if possible. While you have the chance to see the orchid from all angles carefully look under and between leaves for signs of bugs or disease. Spray generously with GET OFF ME! Orchid Bug Spray if critters are seen.
Should I divide my orchid?
Divide the plant now if you must but remember that larger plants are usually easier to grow and prematurely dividing a plant can leave you with multiple weak plants instead of one strong one. Sympodial orchids can be divided successfully if they have more than one lead and each division will have at least three and preferably several pseudobulbs.
How do I put the orchid and new medium in the pot?
If the orchid has pseudobulbs (sympodial) place it off center with the back bulbs near the edge of the pot and the growing lead near the center with room to grow before hitting the edge. Choose a pot that will allow for two year's growth. If the orchid has a single stem (monopodial), center it in the pot. Place some white packing peanuts (not the kind that break down) in the bottom of the pot or use an inverted net pot. Put the medium in the pot and use your fingers or a stick to wiggle the medium in and around the roots. Tamp down the medium until the orchid is no longer wobbly. The exception is peat mixtures which should not be tamped down. Knock the sides of the pot and gently hit the pot on the potting surface to cause the mix to settle in all around. Use stakes or a rhizome clip to secure the plant so that it does not wiggle and damage its roots.
What's the difference between your mixes and the mix available at the local box store?
Be on guard for store mixes that simply describe the contents as "Orchid Bark" or "Forest Products". The Box stores have little bags lined up on the shelves with pretty flowers on the bag and you can't see the contents. Is it good for your orchids? Do you really know what is in that pretty store bought bag and might that explain why it is so cheap? It might be primarily fir bark which we know is cooked at very high temperatures by regulation and that certainly doesn't "freshen" it. Heat treating bark makes it brittle and dusty. Fir bark can and usually does irritate skin by creating tiny splinters that contact unprotected skin.
We carry wonderful alternatives to store bought "Orchid Bark" that are fresh, great for your fine plants and that don't irritate your skin and are not full of dust and fines. These include sustainable harvested media like Orchiata Monterey Pine bark, Coconut Husk, Redwood chips and bark, Sphagnum mosses and plenty of other wonderful medias in our mixes and that are available individually. In fact, rePotme.com has more media and mix choices than anyone. All of our mixes and medias come in perfectly clear resealable bags so you can see exactly what you are getting. Each of our mixes list every media in them. Don't be tricked by pretty little bags at your local box store!