Brennan's Orchids Gesneriads
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I think I need to repot my orchid.  Help me!

Some people panic at the thought of disturbing their orchid plant.  Take a deep breath.  Eventually, it has to be done and it’s just not that big a deal.

The time to repot your plant is in the spring.  You want to repot before your plant starts growing lots of new, tender, baby roots which rip and tear easily.  In general, repotting should be completed prior to June.  If your plant is in an orchid moss blend, repot every other spring.  If it is in a bark blend, repot every spring.

If your plant is potted in moss, repotting is very easy.  Moisten the amount of moss potting mix you think you’ll need to use in tepid water for about an hour prior to repotting.  Moistening the mix is just like squeezing a new sponge under running water to get its ability to absorb started.  If the potted plant is sitting in very dry mix at the moment, water the plant.  Moist mix is much easier to work with.  Wrap your fingers around the plant right above the top of the mix and gently slide the plant out of its current pot.

Now we’ve come to the fun part.  I’m sure you have air roots flying about above the mix.  Gently wrap the new air roots down around the current ball of moss.  You’re going to snap a few, it happens.  Wrap fresh moss that you’ve squeezed the excess water out of around the new root mass.  Glide the new root mass into the next size larger pot, never increasing the pot size more than an inch at the time.  Orchids like to take baby steps, not giant leaps, in pot size.  We like plastic pots because it lets the mix dry out slowly enough not to stress the plant.  Also, the roots can’t velcro themselves to the slick pot and rip during repotting.  Plastic pots aren’t very decorative so you can just drop the plant, plastic pot and all, into something more attractive. Ta Da!  You’ve successfully repotted your orchid.

If you’re repotting an orchid that is growing in a bark blend, the rules are basically the same with one important exception.  You must shake off all the old bark and replace it with new bark that you have soaked in tepid water.  As bark ages, it decomposes.  It holds more and more water next to your roots.  Eventually, your roots could rot because of old, decaying bark.

So for plants in bark, pull the plant out of the current pot and shake off all the old bark.  Place it into the next size larger pot and fill the pot with fresh bark that you’ve soaked, firmly packing the new bark into all the nooks and crannies while taking care not to crush the root system.  We want the mix to be firmly in place but still airy.

We are often asked about switching from one mix to another.  We favor a moss blend for most of our plants, but bark is an excellent potting medium, too.  The point I need to make is that unless you have a super good reason for switching your potting mix, don’t do it.  All the roots that grew in Mix A are going to freak out about being changed over to Mix B and will die off.  It’s just less traumatic to your plant to continue in whatever type mix it has been comfortable in for years.