Orchids (Orchidaceae) are a very diverse family of plants which includes approximately 20,000 different species. While orchids are grown as natives in tropical climate, here in gardening zone 8b, it is a house plant. The most commonly grown houseplant orchid is of variety “Phalaenopsis“. It is also the easiest to take care of and blooms off and on throughout the year. They come in a lot of different colors. When in bloom, they look stunning and lasts for a long time.
While the orchids are easy to care for, they have certain needs that make them thrive. The repotting topic is the broadest and varies widely.
- Light : The primary reason Orchids don’t flower is when they don’t get sufficient light. They need bright, indirect sunlight to bloom, but direct sunlight makes their leaves scorch. I usually keep mine in a south (or east) facing window sill during winter and a north facing window sill during summer.
- Water: When someone tells me that their orchid died, I am almost certain that there was root rot involved. The orchids must NOT sit in water or their soft tender roots will rot. I water them thoroughly once a month and that is sufficient in our humid Seattle weather. The clear indication that the orchid are healthy comes from their roots. Bright green roots tell us that the orchid has sufficient water, when the root turns brown, it is telling us that the orchid lacks moisture and when they are slimy silvery color, the root rot has set. If in doubt, it is better to under water than over water. It is very hard to recover a plant if the root has started to rot. In this context, it is worth mentioning that the reason why orchids should never be planted in a potting mix or soil is because they hold on to too much moisture and the roots will rot in a matter of weeks.
- Feeding: I do not give any fertilizers to any of my indoor plants including Orchids and they have not complained thus far.
- Repotting: Orchids are usually sold potted in a special orchid potting mix which is very “airy”. They usually consist of bark, charcoal, sphagnum moss and contains minerals to help the orchids grow. I only repot my orchid every 3/4 years unless they show signs of distress, if bark or potting mix has broken down, or if the plant “pushes” itself up and out of the pot. To re-pot, take the plant out of the planter, and remove all the bark/mix from around its root. This is a good time to cut off dead or diseased roots. Only keep the roots that are green and plump. Then replant the orchid with fresh orchid potting mix. One thing to remember here is to make sure that the pots have a lot f drainage hole/slats. Usually the clear plastic pots that the orchids are sold in are the best pots for growing orchids. But they can also be grown in more aesthetically pleasing glazed or terracotta pots provided they have at least a few holes/slats to allow for water to drain and light to reach the roots. The Orchid roots have chlorophyll which means the roots can also photosynthesize and add energy to the plant. The plant will still survive if the roots do not get sunlight as the leaves also adds energy by photosynthesis. Most orchids prefer shallow squat pots as their roots don’t like the moisture retained in the deep pots and they don’t need the depth anyway as the roots spread out, not down. As far as the timing of repotting goes, it can be repotted any time of the year. However, it is best to repot after a flush of bloom so that there is no loss of the prized blooms. There is also an option of skipping the entire orchid potting mix and letting the orchids grow in water. Since I have no experience growing orchids using that method, I am skipping that here. There are plenty of literature available online if you want to explore that option.
You can watch the process of repotting orchids, while I do mine.