Orchid Care and Repotting
You can achieve the best health for your orchids by duplicating their natural habitat as closely as possible. The main ingredients to good orchid health are light, temperature, water, humidity and food; amounts will vary from plant to plant. Humidity is also important, and the temperature is sometime critical for re-blooming. Check references for the type of orchid you have. Generally, how often you water depends on the type of orchid, your growing conditions, and the time of year. Read up on your orchid type. There are no low light orchids. Most orchids like bright, filtered light; some even prefer sun. South facing windows are usually best. The amount of ideal light for orchids is between 3000 and 5000 foot candles. Most orchids are content with feeding every fourth time you water. Pender Pines carries specialized orchid fertilizers. Good air circulation is vital for orchid health. Provide fan indoors. Some plants can tolerate moving outdoors in the summer into bright, filtered area where ample air circulation exists.
When and How to Repot Orchids
Repotting is required when the plant has outgrown its existing container or the growing media has broken down. With adult plants, repotting will be required after two or three years. You can repot the plant into a larger container, but there can be limits to this, or you can divide the plants into a number of pieces, each of which is separately potted. Spring is the best time to repot and preferably after the plant has flowered. Repotting in the fall is not encouraged because the plant is resting and new roots will not begin to grow until the spring. If a plant has declined severely, often a repotting can lift its spirits regardless of the time of year. In considering the necessity to divide a plant, obviously the size is a prime consideration. With many plants, larger specimens flower more readily, with multiple spikes and which can produce a magnificent display. However, larger plants are often difficult to maintain in good condition, and there can be physical limitations to both the moving and displaying such specimens.
To Repot or Divide?
First remove the plant from its existing container. Often the plant will come away when the plant is inverted. Sometimes a quick tap on a shelf or bench will do the job. With plastic pots, alternating pressing of the sides can also release the roots. When the plant is removed, work the old mix away with your fingers or a jet of water. You may have to unwind the larger roots. Ensure all the old mix is removed. Old dead roots should be trimmed away. With the removal of the media, often the rhizome can be more easily seen. If dividing, one may separate the plant into pieces as required. You may break the rhizome by hand, which is the preferred method, as it prevents the spread of disease from a contaminated knife. After the pieces are separated, the separated rhizome should be treated or allowed to callus over by exposure to the atmosphere for an hour or so. The largest roots may have to be removed. Some growers cut the bottom third of the roots off, based on the theory that their removal eliminates any potential problems as damaged roots often die, and cutting such material away allows the roots to re-establish more quickly. Now that you have broken the plant into a number of pieces ready to insert into a new pot, you have to decide on the size of the pot. You should ensure that the roots just fill the container chosen. When in doubt, under-pot slightly. Place some rocks in the bottom of the pot to help weigh the pot down and provide drainage. Mound moistened potting mix in a small cone on the bottom of the pot. Place the plant on top of the cone and work the roots around the cone of the potting media. You are trying to encourage the roots to spread evenly around the pot. Place the plant in the container, and pour more mix into the pot. Work the mix around the roots with your fingers. You can also tap the pot on the bench, or tap the sides of the container with your hands to ensure an even distribution of the growing media. Place the plant to allow maximum forward growth, the older parts placed to one side, and the growing leads placed so they have room to grow for the next few years. The plant will grow towards the sun. The rhizome should be placed 1" below the edge of the container, with the mix just covering the rhizome. Make sure the plant is firm in the container, but not too tight. After repotting has been completed, placed the plant in a warm shaded location, and keep just damp. Once new root growth commences in 2-3 weeks, the plant can be returned to the normal growing regime. Remember that all plants, divisions and back bulbs should be labeled.
Fir or redwood bark or a prepared mix for orchids are the most popular mediums for growing orchids. Orchids are not grown in soil and orchid bark is not the common yard bark you find in the garden shops, which is mostly made from pine. The bark is available in three different grades: large, medium and small. The large size bark is good for the large rooted orchids such as Vandas and large Cattleyas. The medium size bark is used for medium sized plants such as Cattleyas, Odontoglossums and Phalaenopsis. The fine size bark can be used for your fine rooted orchids like the Oncidiums and the ones that like to be moist like Paphiopedilums. Many people like to mix charcoal and perlite with the bark. It is also a good idea to soak the bark for a day before you use it to help it absorb water and to remove any of the fine dust particles.