Repotting Orchids - Preparing The Pot

Before repotting orchids, you need to take a few measures that would ensure that the plant gets a healthy environment for proper growth. Preparing the pot appropriately is one among them.

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Prior to undertaking the repotting process, ensure that the drainage holes of the new pot are protected in such a way that they do not get blocked - this is especially when you are using clay pots which usually have a single drainage hole.

The best and most popular way to achieve this is to cover the bottom of the pots with large pieces of broken pot, stones, polystyrene or any other similar material. These materials are known as crocks and they need to be bigger than the smallest drainage holes of the pot.

Next, you need to arrange the crocks in a sloping manner as it would allow gravity to drain all capillary water, which would otherwise be accumulated at the drainage border between the growing medium and the crocks.

At the same time, ensure that you do not put more crocks to ensure better drainage, but actually reduce the amount of the growing medium. In fact, ideally you should place a small inverted pot at the bottom of the new pot along with pieces taken from the rim.

When you do this it will provide the benefit of ample air space in the exact area which will be the last to become arid. In contrast to what many may believe, undertaking a test will reveal that putting additional crocks does not necessarily reduce the time taken by water to drain out through the pot provided the drainage holes are free from all blockages.

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Positioning the orchid

When you are positioning the orchid in the new pot, remember the type of its growth, because positioning largely depends on it. If the orchid is a horizontal grower, you should place it is such a way that the rear end of the plant touches the pot's wall - the space in the front of the orchid will then be used for the new growths and their spread in the future.

On the other hand, if an orchid has symmetrical growth and there is apparently no back end, you should leave an equal amount of space all around the plant. For instance, monopodial orchids have an upward growth and, hence, they should be positioned at the center of the pot.

In this case, you need to place the orchid in the pot before you add the potting mix in a way that the crown or rhizome eventually is placed roughly ½ inch below the rim of the pot. However, you need not push all the aerial roots of the orchid inside the pot. Instead, you may spread them out inside the pot to the extent that is possible.

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While repotting monopodial orchids, hold the plant with one hand, and start adding the potting mix with another hand. Ensure that you stir the potting mix before using it. This is necessary because the different constituents of the mix will settle down in different ways and time subject to their volume and weight.

If you are using pourable potting mixes like tree fern or bark-based mixes you can just fill them roughly a third at one time, while you gently tap the pot on the work surface every time you add some potting mix.

This will result in the mix settling without leaving any large gaps. Ingredients like rock wool and sphagnum moss usually don't settle well and, therefore, it is necessary to arrange them properly in the pot. Hence, it is advisable that you should use gloved fingers to stuff the growing medium equally all around inside the pot.

At the same time, you need to ensure that the mix is not packed too firmly on any particular side of the pot. However, you may pack osmunda tightly inside the pot. In fact, the manner in which the "grains" of sphagnum or osmunda are packed inside the pot will also determine the amount of water that the growing medium will retain.

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In case of a sympodial orchid, its horizontal rhizome is more a part of the plant's stem instead of its root. Therefore, you should not cover the rhizome of sympodial orchids with the growing medium. You should let half of the rhizome remain inside the potting mix, while the other half should remain outside.

Similarly, you should not cover the basal crown of the leaves of monopodial orchids like Phalaenopsis with the mix. Instead they should remain just on the potting mix. If you position the crown very low in the pot, such as placing it below the potting mix, or positioning it too high, for instance above the potting mix because in both cases the orchid will become excessively dry.

Once you have potted the orchid, the plant may require time to stabilize so that it does not wobble. In case the plant wobbles it may damage the new root tips. Even the root tips may be broken. There are a few ways which may help to stabilize the plants.

For instance, you may place a few stones on top of the potting mix to ensure that the plants are steady. Another way, which is considered to be better than the first one, is to stake the orchid vertically. There are several types of plant stakes available in the market - they may be made of wood or metal.

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Repotting aftercare

Having repotted your orchid, the plant needs to be taken care of properly. In fact, aftercare is necessary following repotting as it would facilitate settling the plant as well as firming up the potting mix.

In fact, there is no solid evidence that suggests aftercare is beneficial for orchids; many orchid growers give their word on adding some drops of vitamin or hormonal additives like Super Thrive to water during this period because they feel that it would give the plants an excellent start.

In case the environment is extremely humid, just misting at the repotting is enough to keep the mix wet. On the other hand, if the situation is relatively arid, you need to water the plants. Once this is done, you should not water the orchid systematically for many weeks.

As an alternative, you may give the plants light misting daily in order to encourage growth. Orchids whose root system has been decayed badly or damaged in some way will not be able to take up enough water through their roots. In this situation, the plants actually depend on the leaves to collect water.

Such orchids require misting as it helps them immensely. Any large pot that contains more potting mix is capable of retaining more water compared to the normal pots. Hence, if you are growing your orchid in a larger pot it is suggested that you keep the plant on the arid side for sometime as this will help in avoiding rot.

At the same time, it will give time to the orchids to heal themselves. When the roots grow longer and go deeper into the potting mix, you need to water them regularly again. Often placing your orchid in a somewhat more shaded sits for the first week after repotting may prove to be beneficial.

However, some people have a different opinion and do not consider this necessary. In any case, putting the orchid in partial shade helps it to remain away from direct sunlight for some time. Subsequently, you may move the plant to its normal place gradually.

Apart from this, you should also not keep a newly repotted orchid in a place that is cool and damp, particularly if the air circulation at the place is not proper.

Specimen plants versus division

Plants that are allowed to continue growing by moving them from larger pots to even large pots every time you repot them will bear the biggest flowers. In addition, they will blossom abundantly.

Another way to allow a specimen plant to grow healthily is to rotate the mount or pot once in every few days as this will enable all sides of the orchid to receive equal amount of light continually. Moreover, it also helps in the development of the plant and induces it to bear more flowers all over, instead of having a single orientation.

Staking orchids

Staking orchids is necessary to help the plants remain steady after repotting. In commonsense, staking may just be nothing more than protecting a developing a spike of orchid blossoms when the plant itself is in transit.

At the same time, staking orchids may prove to be a happy union of art and science which results in a more attractive and subtle presentation when the orchids are in bloom.

Usually, orchid growers make use of galvanized wire stakes, which are done in a variety of configuration to suit the various sizes as well as habits of the orchids that are cultivated more widely. You will find three main types of stakes at places where they sell orchids and they include:

  • The first type of spike includes a straight wire whose length may be anything between 12 inches and 18 inches and its top is bent to form a U-shaped. This "U" actually holds the flowering spike of the orchid and impact of the stake is depends on its depth, positioning and angle in the growing medium.
  • The second type of spike is a wire whose one end is shaped in the form of a clip on top of the pot's rim. Above this wire another wire measuring about 4 inches to 8 inches in height is extended. The top end of the wire is shaped in the form of a circle with a diameter of anything between 4 inches and 5 inches; sometimes it may also be 8 inches to 10 inches across. The circle is made to support a number of or numerous mature growths of cattleyas and other orchids of the same type.
  • The third type of stake is actually a wire pot clip that is only just about the length of the wire horizontally. Normally, it is anything between 4 inches and 8 inches in length and it bends at one end to clip over the rim of the pot. This is simple equipment that is mainly used to protect sympodial orchids soon after they are potted for the first time. This stake remains in place till the roots of the orchid are establish themselves.

There is yet another variety of stake that is generally used by commercial orchid growers. This stake is made from bamboo and it may be as slender as a needle or broad like a pencil. At times, this type of stakes is inserted in the potting mix only to shield the orchid while they are being shipped.

On other occasions, you need not dress up the bamboo canes that come along with orchids when you purchase them. In such cases, you only need to remove the twist-ties or effective plastic ties and replace them with more elegant-looking organic raffia.

You need to be extra cautious while you are tying the orchid to the stakes. Ideally, you should use a finger-eight tie; first wrap the organic raffia firmly around the stake and subsequently tie it loosely around the stem of the orchid. In addition to bamboo and wire, there is a third material that is used for making stakes for orchids.

You will find them in nearly all yards and they are dry twigs from trees and shrubs. You may often cut these stakes or trim them in a way that a "U" or "Y" shape is present in the branches from before. This type of stakes is capable of gently supporting and holding the orchid spike to display the plants' beauty to their utmost advantage.

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