Potting Orchid Plants

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Blooming, Care and Culture, Growing Indoors, Growing Outdoors

Choosing the right size of pot is the first essential when potting an orchid. Its roots need to have ample space within the container, allowing enough space for at least one year’s growth.

Nonetheless, few plants are so intolerant of over-potting as orchids. Trying to save time by putting plants of small or medium size in a large pot is usually detrimental because too much compost can cause poor drainage. Weak roots need to be restricted and the base of the plant kept dry until healthy new roots develop. Many orchids do best in rather small pots. To ensure that drainage is efficient the container is often filled one third full with pieces of polystyrene, crock or large stones. The crocks should be packed vertically to ensure perfect drainage. Stones are particularly useful in plastic pots as the extra weight provides stability.

With the exceptions of some hardy terrestrials such as Ophrys, which may benefit from the transfer of a little of the old compost when repotting, it is essential to prepare fresh compost for each session of potting or repotting. Before use it is usually necessary to soak pine bark, and peat and other components should be moistened slightly. The synthetic materials such as perlite and rock-wool are also more pleasant to use if slightly damp.

The technique of potting is simple. The plant is held in the pot with one hand so that the crown of the plant, the base of the pseudobulbs, or the part of the plant from which the roots emerge is just below the level of the rim. Compost is filled in around the roots with the other hand and gently shaken into the spaces between them by tapping the pot gently on the bench several times. Small plants or those with a poor root system may need to be tied to a stake, a short piece of cane or stiff wire, until they become established.

After potting, the compost is usually watered thoroughly, sometimes on two or three consecutive days; to make sure that the constituents are completely moistened. Newly potted plants are then kept dry for two or three weeks to allow the roots to settle. During this time the plants must be kept in a humid place and misted over frequently to stimulate production of new roots and to make sure that the leaves do not become desiccated.

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