Phalaenopsis Roots and Proper Re-potting Procedure

With its arching stems of showy flowers, the Phalaenopsis is one of nature’s most beautiful orchids.

Purple Speckled Phalaenopsis

After 3 years of pretty amazing growth, the purple phal I inherited from my mother was climbing out of its container:  the planting medium was so clogged with tree leaf debris, the roots had nowhere to go but up and over the side of the basket.  Time to repot! 

You never know what you’ll find when you shake away the old bark and perlite, so I was relieved to see this!

Phalaenopsis ready for repotting, 9/22/13

Healthy phalaenopsis roots are a plump whitish-grey and the newest ones have little green growing tips.  “Bad” roots are brittle, brown and withered looking.  Here’s a close-up to aid in the identification:

Healthy and Unhealthy Phalaenopsis Roots, 9/22/13

There are two things I suggest doing before repotting, and the first is pretty obvious: trim away the damaged/rotting brown roots until the new root zone looks like this:

Freshly pruned Phalaenopsis Roots, 9/22/13

Some orchid growers suggest cutting back the older, healthy roots (aka those without growing tips) to 4″ long, but I don’t do this for one simple reason: it isn’t natural! Phalaenopsis are epiphytes growing on tree branches without benefit of soil. In the wild, roots that aren’t acting as anchors, continue to grow and hang loose.

Phals grown in pots are very sensitive to salt build-up from water and fertilizers. Use this opportunity to flush the roots REALLY well.under rapidly running water. If your pruning was extensive, you may be able to place the plant back in it’s original pot; scrub it thoroughly first!

So you’ve done all this, and you’re finally ready to pot up!  Place your orchid in the new container with the base of the lowest leaf about ½”  below the pot rim, like so:

Phalaenopsis in Wooden Basket, 9/22/13

As you can see, I’ve fanned the roots out but haven’t used any medium this time: this is strictly because my zone is compatible with year round outdoor growing, and I’ll be hanging the container in my Bauhinia tree.

For those of you repotting phals as houseplants, I suggest spreading the roots over a layer of several inches of Better Gro’s Orchid Bark and/or Special Orchid Mix:

Finished Repotting the Phalaenopsis, 9/22/13

Keep adding medium until the mix is ½ to ¾ inch below the top of the pot. This helps facilitate rooting into the medium, not over the rim. Using your fingers, tamp the bark down lightly until it reaches the base of the lowest leaf.

The last step is to slowly water your orchid, with emphasis on the word SLOWLY!  After all your hard work, you don’t want the bark jumping and flushing all over the place, right? Yup! This happened to me! 😮

Re-potting orchids isn’t as scary as I thought it was a few years ago!   In fact, it’s really pretty simple!

Until next time…..

🙂 🙂 🙂

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16 thoughts on “Phalaenopsis Roots and Proper Re-potting Procedure

    • You’re welcome!
      Although it seems counter-intuitive, the minute you bring an orchid home from the store, it’s a good idea to pop it out of the original container and examine it for dead roots or any kind of rot/fungus. Some of the plants being sold aren’t of the best quality and are pretty much doomed from the start, UNLESS you catch the problems early and put them in good clean planting medium

  1. This is a great share… for which I thank you… I love orchards and some make it all look so easy to grow… I won’t buy one if I think it will die at home and if I have no idea how to look after it… but just the repotting would frighten the life out of me…

    • They take a little getting used to…and each one (even those in the same variety) is highly unique in terms of how they react to similar conditions! So yes, they are a bit mentally intensive. 😉

    • Thank you! they’re tougher than I thought they’d be! I’m not a big fan of orchids really…I’ve gotten most of them via other people’s toss-offs and you know how it is with gardener types: I felt obligated to nurse them back to health and now I’m sort of stuck with them!

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