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Repotting Orchids

Hardly Rocket Science

Orchids -- yes they grow, they flourish and maybe at first when you watched the roots creep out of the pot it was cute – now the problem is ridiculous and you are going to have to take a deep breath and just do it. Repotting orchids is not difficult, but it seems to be tied with the dreaded task of cutting Fido’s toenails. Neither job is enjoyable -- but at least your orchid will not run the other way when you prep your table.


Repotting Orchids

Repotting Orchids



It is true, most orchids don’t like to be disturbed and each time you fiddle with the roots, even the most vigorous orchid needs time and energy to recuperate. So let’s get started… here’s what you will need:

  • A clean surface with newspaper spread over a table or countertop

  • A clean, sharp knife and a container of bleach and water (1 part bleach/10 parts water) to dip the knife into between plants

  • Clean pots (new or sterilized with the bleach solution)

  • Fresh potting media. The same kind the plant is growing in right now

  • Ground cinnamon to use as a fungicide

  • A bucket of water

  • Clean hands, preferably wearing latex gloves


In the bucket of water we will submerge the orchid while you prepare the repotting area; leave it in the water for an hour.


Remove the plant from the bucket and set it on newspaper. The roots should come out of the pot easily now that the water has softened them. If any are still clinging to the pot, pry them off very gently.


Remove the old media as well as you can without damaging the fragile roots. Check for dead roots and slice these off with a sharp knife. If you are dividing the orchid, now is the time to make the cut. Then sprinkle all cut surfaces with cinnamon.


Dampen fresh media and place it into a new orchid pot(s). When repotting orchids it is important to use pots just large enough to hold the roots comfortably. Too much media leads to too much moisture around the roots, which leads to rot. It is tempting to put them into a bigger pot so you won’t have to do this task often, but resist… or pay the price.


Once the plants are settled into their new pot, put more media on top of the roots. Shake the pots and bang them on the table to settle it. You can use your fingers to push the media into any empty spots. Shake off any excess.


Place the repotted orchids into the shade and wait at least a day or two before watering them. The orchid roots have just been soaked in water and the new media is damp – so they should not need any water, otherwise you risk washing away the fungicide (cinnamon) and exposing the roots to rot.


If your orchid is in bloom, wait to repot. The orchid is using its energy to sustain the flower, and repotting might cut the lives of the flowers short. Most orchids need repotting only once every year or two. Relax – you did it -- and you don’t have to think about this again until next year.


Esther Smith, author

As your orchids recoup after surgery – put them in a slightly more humid, less brightly lit place for the first week. New potting media does not absorb as much water, so increase watering frequency at first. I have found several drops of Superthrive in the water will ease your orchid back to normal: