Introduction (click here to skip introduction)
If you have not already done so, I suggest and strongly recommend going through the presentation on un-potting and dividing an orchid that can be found here. Divisions do not fall from the sky, they come from breaking an over-sized orchid into pieces. If you are just re-potting an orchid, follow along below.
Gather the items you will need.
- Clean pot
- New, washed bark mix
- The orchid to be re-potted
- a friend that also has orchids that need re-potting
The Orchid Pot: I could go off on a complete tangent here discussing the orchid pot, choosing the right pot for your orchid, clay versus plastic, tansparent versus all black, tall, short, fat, etc., etc. However, I am afraid that if I did, by the time you got half way through with that discussion you decide it be so much easier to re-pot orchids but setting them at the curb with a side that reads "free" and someone drive by and make re-potting on your part a lot easier. Simply because they no longer be your orchids. So I will skip that tangent. Instead, I will suggest the following; bring the orchid you plan on re-potting to an orchid meeting and ask experienced growers for their advice. If you cannot bring the orchid, take a picture and bring that instead.
This is also where I ease the tension starting to build on the faces of experienced orchid growers about the topic of "sterilization". I'm just not going to get into it. The hobby grower is not going to care. They should, but it is not important to them. Experienced growers know that any orchid they purchase before being introduced into the main collection is isolated like a quarantine until it is properly tested. I agree, this is a good practice to get into, but for the hobby grower, it is beyond their need. In the future, I might do a focussed discussion on sterilization. In the meantime, if you are curious, just ask any experienced grower about this practice to prevent the spread of virused orchids.
Bark Mix or preferred potting medium: You guessed it, another minefield in the culkture of orchids, and another seperate discussion to be written and linked here. Once again the solution is ask experienced growers their advice on this topic, when you have your orchid or picture of your orchid in hand and seeking advice.
The orchid to be re-potted: Ah-ha, something I can include here without a seperate discussion, and it should also be obvious.
A friend: This might be a surprise, but other than the orchid to be re-potted, this is perhaps the most important tool you will need. This is not work if you share re-potting with a friend. It is also a great way to perhaps trade any divisions as a sign of gratitude. A friend can be that extra pair of hands when dealing with a cantankerous orchid
If you are new to re-potting orchids, consider this rule of thumb - each orchid from un-pot to completing the new pot, takes about 45 minutes for the beginner. So don't start thinking you will get 10 orchids done at a single potting session, unless you are really dedicated. I speak from experience on this - after 4 hours the frustration can start to set in. At first, focus on maybe 2 orchids per potting session, you will be much happier for it because re-potting can cause unexpected surprises. Not anything major, just be aware that some orchids are very easy and then there are those that were born to be a challenge.
One last comment regarding re-potting an orchid - nobody always gets it right the first time, but do not be surprised if third time is the charm. Once again I can speak on this from experience. Between level of the orchid to the level of the medium in the pot, and the position of the orchid relative to center or a side with new growth facing a specific direction, at times it seems you need 3 sets of hands. Now you see why a friend is so important. Many times I think "this time I got it right", only to dump everything and start again. It is not like I am a perfectionist, but seating an orchid just right means a great deal to the orchid. New growth is free to expand, the orchid is almost floating on the potting medium versus sinking into it. So much to consider, no wonder people bring them to a society and pay (I mean donate) to have someone else do it.
I do my re-potting in the kitchen sink with a drain guard to prevent those big chunks of debris from going down the drain and doing damage to my sink disposal blades. You can also use a large dishpan or even a cardboard box to capture the debris and make cleaning much easier.
At this point, we are starting with an orchid that is ready for re-potting. It has been cleaned, trimmed of any dead material and ready to move into its new home for the next two years.
The Process (18 August 2019)
The photos above are "front "and "back", or in this case "back" and "front" of the division. I say that because on the left, I use the pointed end of a plant tag to show the break in the rhizome, that was behind the division, thus making the image on the left the "back".
No need to comment too much on the condition of the roots, they all look green and healthy.
The side of the orchid with the broken rhizome is positioned in the new pot as close to the edge as possible creating room in the "front" for future growth.
Below is a series of 4 images showing the re-potted orchid from all four sides of the new pot.
Below, is the division as viewed from above.
With the image left, I have a chance to talk a little about the concept of semi-hydroponics. Before you decide to follow this method, you must evaluate your orchid culture habits. There is no difference in care between using the standard organic bark and clay pellets. This orchid sill desires the same amount of light, the same air movement, and same temperature tolerances.
Th drainage holes on the side of a pot allow for the establishment of a pool of water instead of drainage holes on the bottom of the pot allowing the water to mostly drain out of the pot.
The surface area of the clay pellets serve as a wick, and water will actually defy gravity based on some traits of water. The root zone is also kept very humid. Gasses can still be exchanged by the roots.
If you were to remove a few layers of the clay pellets from the top, you would notice damp surface of the lower clay pellets. This would be true even if you last watered a week ago and the water level in the reservoir below is visible.
In the above image, I have a few roots along the side of the pot, you can see the drainage holes and the level of the water in the reservoir a few hours after watering.
For me, my local environment, and culture habits, semi-hydroponics just makes sense. If plants were dying, roots all a decayed mush, I would know this is not an ideal way to care for orchids.
I have two pairs of drainage holes on opposite sides of the pot. For watering, I just slip the pot into another pot with no oles, slowly fill with water and allow to sit for about 5 to 10 minutes, then pull out the orchid pot and allow to drain. I can finger grip these easily and angle the pot allowing the water to drain a little faster.
A drawback of clay pellets, high humid environment in the pot and water is heat capture . Bright sun light combined with high temperatures the pots do get much warmer than preferred. To combat this captured heat, I just pour tepid water from a cup a few times until the draining water is "cool".
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C the North (Winterfell)