How to Repot an Orchid

I have an addiction to Orchids, they would overrun my house if I wasn’t careful. I do have a secret for not going broke with this addiction though. Since most flowering orchids are $20 or more that adds up fast. After any holiday, like Christmas and especially Valentine’s Day, I start patrolling Lowes and Home Depot for their discount orchids they put out from the surplus orchids that didn’t sell and then lost their flowers. For example, I got 3 orchid plants left over from Christmas for $2-4 dollars each, I did have to wait a month and half for them to get to that price. I have found that Lowes seems to be the best about putting plants on discount, especially the orchids after they lose their flowers.

Now one of my friends asked the other day how I got one of my orchids to re-bloom since hers usually die. The very first orchid I got died and I realized only once it was too late what was killing it, so I knew the frustration of having them die. Now orchids are epiphytes meaning they live on tree limbs or other plants in rain forests so they never sit in water the get it from the humidity and frequent rain falling on them. In short my orchid came in a glass square vase packed with moss and it died because it was too wet and the roots rotted away.

Which brings me back to why you should re-pot you orchid right away to ensure it live and I’ll use this post to help guide you through!

What you need:

  • Orchid
  • Orchid Potting Mix
  • Orchid Terracotta pot or any terracotta pot
Here is my $4 orchid from Lowes packed in moss in a metal pot with no drainage.

So if you are going my way of discount orchids, look at the roots, they should be green, firm, with almost a silver shine to them.

These were the roots I uncovered and they are OK still firm and sort of green but lacking a nice silver shine.
This is one of my healthy orchids to give an example of what the healthy green/silver shine should look like.

Once you have found a suitable orchid you will want to pull it carefully out of the moss it is packed in.
This is a good time to look at the root ball and start to see what shape the roots are in. The very carefully start pulling the moss out of the roots.
Once you have all the moss out you can look at the roots and trim out any that look they may be dead or rotted out such as some of these.

These are the roots I trimmed off

Once the roots are in order choose a good pot with drainage, terracotta pots are very good for this because they will actually absorb water and keep things from getting too wet. They also make specially made terracotta pots that have three holes in the pot towards the bottom to increase airflow to insure that the roots won’t get too wet.

Orchid pot with additional drainage
The drainage holes and water soaked into the pot.

Now this orchid pot is much too small for an adult orchid but you get the idea of what it looks like. I didn’t have a large orchid pot so I pulled out a larger normal terracotta pot I had. Orchid pots run about $2.50 at Home Depot and a regular terracotta pot around $1.50. Any orchid I have grown in the orchid pots have done awesome, so I would definitely recommend using one. You will also want a bag of orchid potting mix which runs about $4 a bag for the kind I get.
The orchid potting mix I use is a tree bark, charcoal and perlite mix that will keep the roots nice and moist but not wet. A terracotta pot and combined with this potting mix is  almost impossible to over-water your orchid!
Now I take the pot I’m going to move the orchid into and then fill it up with the mix. I then dump the mix into a plastic container and fill up with water. I use water collected from our rain barrel, but if you just let your water sit out overnight the chlorine, which plants can be sensitive to, will evaporate out.

Dry mix in container
Mix soaking in water

I soak the mix so there is a good moisture to them by time they are put in with the plant, it also ensures that the mix is thoroughly soaked.
I put some mix in the bottom of the pot and then hold the plant with one hand where I want the plant to sit and then fill in the chips in and around the roots, I have found this helps spread out the roots and allow more contact with the mix.
Now if you are buying an orchid that is in bloom you will want to wait until it is done blooming to re-pot, you will just want to be very careful watering it until you can re-pot it since the plant will be sitting packed into the moss that holds water like crazy.

So I water mine by filling a bucket with rain or water that has sat for at least a day and let the water soak the bark mix until it is nice and wet. Then I pick it up and let the excess water run out and you’re done. I maybe give a good soak like this once a month with regular misting and lighter waterings in between, you just want to make sure that the roots are staying moist. The bonus with orchid bark mix and terracotta pots is any extra water will run off.
Here is a little look at how this re-potting and watering method has worked for me.
The two orchids on the left were discounted leftovers from last Valentine’s Day and are now big beautiful re-blooming orchids! The two on the right are the new Christmas leftover that will hopefully look like their siblings this time next year. The two re-blooming orchids looked exactly like the two new orchids I recently acquired.
Hope this all helps guide you on your way to having beautiful long lived orchids!.

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