How to Repot Your New Phalaenopsis
The most frequently asked question at our Orchid Show last year: “How do I repot my orchid?” The answer is with tender loving care, of course and these easy-to-follow tips.
Just got your first orchid? Chances are it’s a phalaenopsis (called the moth orchid). You’ll need to repot it right away, since most store-bought orchids are shipped with water-retaining sphagnum moss that will cause air-loving orchid roots to rot if not removed.
Gather your gear.
To get started, gather these easy-to-find items (your local nursery is a great resource for orchid accessories):
- Your phalaenopsis that needs repotting
- Gloves to protect your hands
- A clay or plastic pot with plenty of holes for drainage and air
- Orchid potting mix
- Shears or pruners
- Sturdy stakes, plus ties or butterfly clips
- An extra stake or thin, narrow spatula
Take a deep breath
Ready? Time to remove the orchid from its pot. First, gently pull out any stakes already in the pot. Hold the pot in one hand, turn it on its side, and ease the plant and root ball out. Gently remove the sphagnum moss (or bark mix) from all around the roots—check for moss that’s hiding at the center of the plant, too.
Get to the root of it!
Orchid roots are awesome! Healthy roots are fleshy and thick, with a white coating that covers the root core. This is the velamen, a one-way water barrier that lets water in, but not out. If the velamen appears dried or rotted, it should be stripped off up to where it’s healthy and white, leaving the wiry inner root to help stabilize the plant once it’s in the pot.
Do the roots look healthy and plump, with good green and white color? Or are they dried and yellowed with black spots? If the former, go on to the next step. If the latter, soak roots for ten minutes in a mix of water and liquid viricide/root wash (such as Physan 20) to kill off any potential root rot and disease.
Terra cotta or plastic?
Both clay and plastic pots are acceptable for orchids, as long as there are plenty of drainage holes. Clay/terra cotta works best for orchids that like cooler conditions; plastic is for warmth-loving orchids. Reusing the old pot? Scrub and clean it first with a mild (1:10) bleach solution and let it dry. Settle the plant deeply into the pot up to the top of the roots.
Fill it up.
Now add potting mix to the pot. Phalaenopsis’s thick roots need plenty of air spaces to move around in, so chunky bark with a bit of sphagnum moss (for humidity) and perlite (to create more air spaces) makes a good potting mix for moth orchids. Every orchid type likes different growing conditions—learn what your orchid needs before repotting so you can create the right environment.
Get settled in.
Since much of the potting mix lands on top of the roots in the pot, insert an extra stake or thin, flat spatula along the inside edge of the pot and wiggle/work it around the pot until the bark mix settles all around the roots. Be gentle and take care not to stab or cut the roots.
Using sterilized shears or pruners, cut back any spent flower stems to bark level, being careful not to nick the leaves with sharp tools—blade damage is permanent! Got a stem with buds or more than one open flower on it? Lucky you, let it bloom!
Stake, clip, tie.
Many orchids, including Phalaenopsis, have tall or arching stems. Secure them with a thin but sturdy stake, pointed at one end. Insert the point near the stem and work it down through the bark. Tie stem to stake with a coated twist tie, floral tape, or a small butterfly clip.
Wait to water.
You’ll be tempted to water your orchid immediately, but give it a few days to start setting new roots, then water a bit more than normal during the first month to stimulate root growth.
Finally, set your Phalaenopsis in the perfect spot, sit back, and admire your handiwork!