Time to re-pot that Phalaenopsis?

Don’t be skeert

Phals are one of the  go to plants in a commercial account. You see them displayed on desktops, side tables, and scattered about lobbies. Any situation where a simple splash of color or elegance is needed and where there is a limited space to work with… voila, a phal does the trick. If it was a fussy, high maintenance  plant, it wouldn’t be used in the interior-scape industry as much as it is. Economically, it wouldn’t make sense.  I say all this to re-assure you. They aren’t the fragile little things people make them out to be. If you need further reassurance, mine live outside all year-long.  One particular plant is continually being up-rooted by the squirrels as they try to replace the plant with their peanut… it survives still.  So don’t be afraid to re-pot your orchid.

Anyone can re-pot an orchid

Orchids don’t need to be re-potted every year. If your plant has out-grown its container or if the mix has broken down, it’s time to re-pot. Sometimes the health of the plant is failing and there are no clues above the surface. Re-potting is an option.  This way you are able to inspect the whole plant.

Moss or bark

There are all kinds of opinions but with some experience, you will decide what works best for you.  I don’t think one is better than the other.  Moss doesn’t dry out as fast as bark and because my orchids are outside in the Florida heat, I prefer moss.

Re-potting Phalaenopsis 

  1. When to repot:  This orchid wasn’t growing out of its pot but notice how disgusting the moss is.  It needs to be changed out.
  2. Preparations:  Make sure your container is clean.  To provide good aeration and drainage, add a layer of peanuts to the bottom of your new container.  Begin soaking your new moss in a container of water.
  3. Unpotting:  Take your orchid out of its pot.  If you can’t remove it with little or no effort, soak the whole thing in a tub of water to loosen the roots.  Sometimes the only way to get at the plant is to break the pot… sorry!  Look for dead roots and check for pests that might be hiding out.  Phals are prone to scale and mealy and now is the best time to do a thorough inspection.
  4. Trimming the roots:  Healthy roots will be firm and white with light green growing tips.  Dead roots are soft and light brown.  Use sharp, clean scissors and clip off the dead roots.
  5. Clean the plant:  If you have found scale, use your fingers to manually remove it.  Mealy can be sprayed with alcohol.  Give your plant a rinse.
  6. Hold the plant in one hand and with the other, grab a handful of moss that has been soaking.  Squeeze out all the water.  Work the moss into and around the roots.
  7. Potting:  Place the plant in the new pot having the base of the bottom leaf about 1/2″ below the rim of the container.  Steady the plant with one hand while working new moss (don’t forget to squeeze it out) into the sides of the container.  When I can turn the container over and the plant doesn’t topple out, that’s when I know I have enough moss.

If your orchid has a tag, don’t forget to replace it. I’m not talking about the generic Phalaenopsis tags but the one with your orchids information on it.  There’s all kinds of information on that little tag such as genus, species, varieties, awards.  Orchids are addictive and when you get a collection going, it’s nice to be able to know what you have.  So, keep the tag!

Check your newly planted orchid often.  At least until you start to see new growth. If you found bugs while you were re-potting it, keep an eye out. Mealy is notorious for hiding down in the foliage and just when you think it’s gone, it pops back up.

In the end, the best way to learn and become comfortable is by doing.  There will be plant fatalities.  Don’t let them rob you and make you afraid.  Sometimes they are the best learning tools.

Good luck!

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