Saturday, September 8, 2012

Taming the Wild Orchid...Repotting Epiphytic Orchids

Today, I repotting an orchid. Specifically the phalaenopsis orchid from my previous post. It's finishing its bloom so it's a good time to repot.

The phalie is an epiphytic orchid. That means when found in the wild, it grows on the side of trees, not in the ground. There are orchids that grow in the ground, the cymbidium is the most well known, and are called terrestial orchids.

Since they do not grow in soil in nature, we do not use soil when growing them in pots in the garden either. Most commonly, epiphytes are grown in chopped up chunks of bark. Some times, people will mount them on cork oak or tree fern bark and hang them on the wall too.  I'm using the bark-in-the-pot method.

First, you need to know when to repot. With orchids, it's pretty simple. When they are about to burst the seams of its pot or the potting mix is completely disintegrated is a sign that they need to be repotted. I do mine every 2 - 3 years. 

After the bloom is done is the best time unless it's the dead of winter. If it is, wait until freezing temperatures have passed and the weather is warming up.

You'll need the following to repot:

1. A pot to put the plant in. You can use the same one if there is enough room. There should be at lease 2 inches on each side of the plant. A phalaenopsis is a bit unique in that it grows up more than it grows out, so it doesn't need a whole lot of room to spread. Something else, like a catteleya orchid...which grows bulb after bulb on a creeping rhizome...will need more room to expand.

2. Pruning shears


3. Pruning seal. This is a tarry like substance that you spray on plant cuts like spray paint to prevent pathogens from entering into a plant wound.

4. Vitamin B-1 solution.  This is sold commonly as plant starter or transplanting solution.

5. A flame source like a lighter or candle.

6. A hammer

7. Orchid mix. This is sold commonly at garden centers or online. It is chopped up bark and comes in various size chunks. I prefer the small to medium chunks.

Remove the plant from it's pot. You can see that this phalie, like most that you'll find in supermarkets or drug stores, was grown at a factory nursery in a plastic bag-like pot in sawdust.  A few taps on the size of the pot will help it slide off easily.

Remove the mix from around the roots as much as you can. Pull off any dead roots. If you need to cut anything off of the plant with shears, run the blades over a flame first to kill any pathogens that might be there. If you cut off a piece of the plant, seal the wound with pruning seal.

Put an inch or two of orchid mix in the new pot. Hold the plant centered over the mix with the roots spread out with one hand and fill the pot with orchid mix with the other hand to the brim.

When filled, take your hammer with the handle down, and use it to pound down the mix to compact it (they make tools specifically for this but they're based on hammer handles need to spend money on them). Do this repeatedly...fill and compact with hammer handle...until you have a tightly compacted mix filled to withing a half inch of the rim of the pot.

Mix a half capful of B1 solution into a half gallon of water and thoroughly water the plant. Now, let sit for 5 - 7 days in a shady area with absolutely no water. If you water too soon, the damaged roots can rot. This gives the roots time to heal. After this, go ahead and put it where it will be permanently...see my phalaenopsis post for tips on where to grow it.

Other chores this weekend:

Sweep the patio...probably my least favorite gardening chore.
Prune the lavender and baby's breath.
Fertilize...for the roses, this will be the last feeding of the year.

Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment