Caring for Orchids

To repot or not? That is the question.
Cattleya Orchid

Cattleya Orchid

Orchids require special care to thrive.

Photo by: Image courtesy of the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Image courtesy of the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

One key to maintaining a healthy houseplant is giving it enough room to breathe, grow and flourish. Like most container plants, orchids require repotting, but the question is how often and when to do it.

Most orchids should be repotted every two to three years. Can’t recall how long you’ve had yours? Take a long hard look at it. Is it about to outgrow its pot? Think how those new shoots will look a year from now once they’ve matured in the same-size pot. Time to repot.

Or maybe the orchid’s health isn’t the best, showing shriveled, wrinkled or yellowing leaves.  Again, time to repot!

And finally, check out its potting mix. Has it broken down? Most orchids sold in stores are tropical, and mostly live in trees, where their roots are exposed to rainfall, wind and drought -- but never covered in packed wet soil (a mistake many make). For that reason, container orchids require a coarse-textured potting mix that promotes air circulation, such as a combination of bark/charcoal/perlite or the premium sphagnum type. Both types last about two years. If the mix in your container takes much longer to dry out when watered than it used to, it’s probably broken down and maybe becoming waterlogged. Definitely time to repot!

But when should you do it? Ideally, at the onset of new growth because orchids re-establish their roots very quickly during the growth period of their annual cycle of growth, flowering and rest. Examine your plant for new leaf-producing shoots. When they reach the size of your little finger, it’s time to repot. For moth orchids (Phalaenopsis) and other types of orchids that don’t produce new shoots, the best time to report is within a month or two after flowering. 

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