When your
orchid is sick

Your orchid may become sick if it has been overwatered and the roots have rotted. Newly imported plants often have poor and/or desiccated root systems. Soaking them in sugar water (1 Tbsp of sugar in 1 liter of water) will help. Since pot size should be chosen based on root mass, a too-large or too-small pot could also be at the “root” of the problem. Plants may be nursed for a few months in sphagnum moss to encourage new roots, and then repotted in new media. Best results are achieved when the sphagnum moss is soaked in a fungicide solution (as per instructions on the container) and the water is pressed out before use. Wrap the base and roots of the plant loosely in moist, long-fiber sphagnum moss, and set it in a pot.
Each orchid genus has different requirements for potting media. It is very important to have the correct medium for each type of orchid, depending on whether it is terrestrial or epiphytic—tree dwelling. Growing media commonly include fir bark, coconut husk, sphagnum moss, tree fern fibers and perlite, and frequently a mixture of two or three of these materials. All orchids potted in a typical bark medium need to be repotted every 18 to 24 months, depending on the needs of the individual plant.

The primary purpose of repotting is to provide fresh media, not necessarily a larger pot, but pot size should be selected according to the size of the root mass. Orchids like to be a little tight in their pots. Orchids transferred to overly large pots tend to concentrate their energy on root growth and may not show new growth or foliage for several months.

Orchids may be potted in plastic, clay or decorator pots, and the type of pot selected may influence watering frequency; plants in clay pots will need more frequent watering, as they will dry out a little faster. Always select pots with drainage holes; orchid roots in contact with standing water will rot and die, killing the plant. Media in the center of larger pots may remain wet for long periods and become an unhealthy environment for roots. This can be avoided by placing pieces of broken terra cotta in the bottom of the pot. A smaller pot inverted into a larger one can also help with drainage and aeration, with the roots of the plant draped over and around the smaller pot. Some orchids, such as Phalaenopsis, have roots capable of photosynthesis. For these plants, clear pots have become popular, as they allow light to get to the roots.

THINGS TO CONSIDER: Orchids should not be repotted without a compelling reason. If, for example, aeration of the potting materials is poor because of decomposition, it must be replaced. Care must be taken to ensure that new growths and shoots are not overlapping the rim of the pot—large, neglected plants that have been potted for a long time are notoriously difficult to handle, and it is easy to break off new shoots and roots. But, when in doubt, put it off for another year!

.....ANNUAL REPOTTING: Dendrobium, Miltonia, Paphiopedilum and Phalaenopsis and their hybrids.
.....EVERY OTHER YEAR: Cattleya, Dendrobium, Oncidium, Odontoglossum and their hybrids.
.....EVERY THIRD YEAR: Vanda and its allies, Cymbidium

RECOMMENDED BOOKS: Ultimate Orchid by Thomas J. Sheehan
...................................Growing Classic Orchids by Mike Tibbs and Ray Bilton

A. In this example, the orchid is burdened by a mass of root matter and excessive top growth. Remove any dead roots or roots affected by rot with a sharp, sterilized blade.
B. Divide the remaining root matter into several sections. Each division should consist of a small number of younger, healthy shoots.
C. The new pot should be sizable enough to accommodate at least two years' growth. Choose a potting medium (fine, medium or coarse) suitable to the particular requirements of the orchid (do not reuse old bark).
D. Place the newly separated plant in its pot. The most mature growth should be positioned against the side of the pot. Fill with the appropriate potting medium.
Place the orchid label back in to the pot after repotting is done for a proper identification of your orchid.


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