Time To Repot Your Orchids?

Summer is here and this is the active growing season for orchids. Is it time for repotting?

 

How Know If Your Plant Needs Repotting

Are your orchids growing in bark or moss? If they are, get ready to repot with fresh media. How do I know that? Because those materials break down and decompose – and need to be replaced every year. Especially if you’re growing outdoors.

Bark and moss breakdown and decompose and need to be replaced every year.

Growing with hydroponics? The only reason your orchids might need repotting is if they’re bursting out of their grow pot.

Hydroponic orchid that’s ready for a new grow pot.

Hydroponics replaces all potting materials with LECA pebbles (Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate) a sterile ceramic that never breaks down or decomposes. With LECA pebbles you never have to worry about the roots. Hydroponics creates a clean and green growing environment for all your plants.

 

Healthy roots growing in hydroponics.

 

Thinking about moving your plants to hydroponics? Learn more here.

Roots growing outside the top of the pot are common with orchids. Only when they start covering the grow pot is repotting necessary. In nature, these roots are looking for a rock or a tree to cling to for support. They also help gather moisture from the air.

 

Example of roots growing out of the top of the pot.

 

So a few roots growing out of the top of the pot doesn’t mean your plant needs a bigger pot. On the other hand, if your plant nas a lot of roots growing out of the pot (see below) – it needs a new pot!

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Repotting Hydroponic Orchids into Larger Grow Pots

Repotting orchids into a larger grow pot is easy with hydroponics. Simply remove the plant from its exsiting pot and move it into a larger grow pot. Removing the pebbles embeded in and around the roots isn’t necessary. Unlike bark or moss – the LECA pebbles never deteriorate so they don’t need to be removed from roots.

This is a big advantage because it saves time and you don’t have to worry about disturbing the roots.

Position root ball in new grow pot.

 

Add fresh pebbles around roots.

 

Pack down pebbles – no air gaps allowed!

Choosing a New Pot Size

Resist the urge to move your plant into a really big pot.

Big pots won’t grow big plants!

Choose a pot size that is only slightly larger that the existing grow pot.

 

Big pots hold more water and take longer to dry out. That shocks the plant because the wet/dry cycle it was accustomed to has been altered. If the root zone stays wet too long, the roots won’t get the air they need to grow.

Moving your plant from a regular pot to a tall profile pot (the same diameter) might also be a good choice (we have tall profile pots in 6″, 7″, and 9″ sizes in our store).

Comparing a 6″ regular pot on left with a 6″ tall profile pot on right

Roots always grow better vertically and our “tall” pots are perfect for many types of orchids – especially dendrobiums, oncidiums, and cymbidiums.

 

 

Orchids That Don’t Need a Larger Pot

If you’re plants don’t look crowded in their pots, leave them alone. No worries about decaying media with hydroponics so repotting isn’t necessary.

You can still give them a fresh start for the summer however.

Over time, impurities collect in the grow pot. Unused fertilizer, chemicals from your water, and other impurities, accumulate around the roots over time and should be removed.

Traditional growing materials trap these impurities down inside the pot. . The only way to remove them is to repot with fresh media.

Removing impurities is easy with hydroponics. With our system impurities work their way up to the top of the pot where they’re easy to spot..

Removing them is a simple 2 step process that doesn’t disturb the plant.

 

Our hydroponic system waters from the bottom so impurities collect at the top, and form a white coating on the pebbles.

 

  1. Using a pair of scissors like tweazers,  remove the white pebbles one by one. They’re all at the top and easy to see. Removing these pebbles removes 90% of the impurities.
Removing white pebbles with a scissors

 

2. After white coated pebbles have been removed, leach the root system by running clear water through the pot for a couple of seconds. Any remaining impurities will simply wash away.

Running clear water throught the pebbles at the sink.

3. Replace discarded pebbles at the top with new. It’s impossible remove the “white stuff” from the old pebbles so discard them.

4. Return plant to outer pot.

Good work! You’ve just given your plant a fresh start!

In my next post I’ll talk about how to feed your plants during their summer growing season.

 

 

 

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Moving Orchids Outdoors for Summer

 

“Should I move my orchids outdoors for the summer?”

That’s a question I hear over and over this time of year  – and my answer is always the same – YES!

Orchids thrive on the bright light, hot days/cool nights, and abundant humidity outdoors. Compare that to the hot, stuffy windowsill they’re sitting on right now and you’ll see why they would be happier outdoors.

Even if you have a first class growing area under lights, you’ll find that your plants will do better outdoors. They’ll love the gentle breeze, extra humidity, and cool evening temperatures.

 

So I encourage you to consider moving your plants outdoors for the summer – no matter where you’re growing them now.

Not sure where to begin?

 

Make a Plan

Once you decide to move your plants to the great outdoors, a little planning is in order.

  1. Study your outdoor growing area to see how much sun/ shade it gets throughout the day. The ideal growing area should be shaded most of the day – with only a couple of hours of sun in the early morning or late afternoon.
  2. Get supplies for outdoor growing before moving your plants. What type of growing area are you planning? Will it be a bench, plant stand, or mini greenhouse? How will you be setting up your plants? Individual pots or grower trays? (Get answers here.) How about nutrients?
  3. Setup your growing area so your plants will be on benches or hanging from trees. Don’t leave them on the ground because they’re a delicacy to slugs and cutworms. (If you use  bench, a simple method to prevent unwanted creatures from getting to your plants, is putting a pan of water under the legs of the bench. Crawling insects can’t swim so they won’t get to your plants.)
  4. Start slow. Plants need time to acclimate to outdoor weather. Start with total shade outside for all plants. Then, gradually move the high light plants into more sun. Burn spots on the leaves can happen quickly (and they’re unsightly and they never go away). Think of your first day at the beach after a long winter.

 

Can I Move All My Orchids Outdoors?

Technically, any orchid will benefit from growing outdoors. Which plants you’ll want to move  will depend on your growing area however.

Cattleyas, Dendrobiums, Encyclias, Oncidiums – they all enjoy being outside and need little (if any) protection from the weather (be careful with the sun though – more on that below). Phalaenopsis also do well outdoors but they’ll need some protection from the elements. Moving Paphiopedilums outdoors is best left to those who have experience with outdoor growering.

What About All Those Bugs Outdoors?

You’re right, nature has blessed us with all kinds of bugs and insects in the great outdoors.

The good news is healthy orchids have a natural resistance to insects so they shouldn’t be a problem.  I’ve had (a lot) more problems with insects on my plants growing indoors than outdoors.

There are only 4 types of insects that might be interested in your orchids –  aphids, mealy bugs, scale, and spider mites. Between natural predators and the weather (rain and wind) these insects have a difficult time establishing themselves outdoors and they shouldn’t be a problem.

A regular spray of Neem Oil every 4-6 weeks will control any insect population you might incur.

 

What About Growing Outdoors with Hydroponics?

Our hydroponic system is perfect for outdoor growing! It’s all about the LECA pebbles in our system. They’re a sterile ceramic that won’t compact or deteriorate in any type of weather outdoors. And they don’t attract insects. More on LECA and outdoor growing here.

With a few simple adjustments our system turns into an outdoor growing machine!

I’m Uneasy about Exposing My Plants to the Weather

It might be a little scary if you’re moving your plants outdoors for the first time. Protecting them in a mini greenhouse might be the answer. I’ve grown plants outdoors in all kinds of weather with a mini greenhouse. The key is finding a greenhouse that has a shade cloth covering instead of the usual plastic covers. Avoid those plastic covers at all costs! Your orchids will cook on the first hot day!

Shade cloth provides shelter for the plants and at the same time allows for good air movement over the leaves. Here’s a link to a mini greenhouse that I’ve used (and like).

We used to sell mini greenhouses but unfortunately we no longer carry them. I’ll describe how I setup our mini greehouses in the next post.

In the mean time, think about giving your orchids a vacation outdoors this summer. Your plants will thank you – you’ll see the difference!

 

 

Growing Outdoors with Hydroponics

Setting up the Hydroponic System for Outdoor Growing

Orchid Care for Outdoor Growing

 

 

Enjoying Cymbidiums

With their big, colorful blooms, cymbidiums are one of my favorites. And I like them even more because they can’t be grown in the tropics, where orchids seem to grow without ant help at all.

Let me explain.

For many years I traveled to Florida buying (and growing) tropical plants for our corporate interior plant business. Being interested in orchids, I visited hobby growers whenever I could.  I saw people who didn’t know all that much about orchids, growing spectacular plants in their back yard, mostly by accident, just because the climate was perfect. The same plants we struggle with because we don’t have a perfect climate.

But they couldn’t grow cymbidiums. Without cold weather ( temperatures in the 40-50 degree range) cymbidiums simply won’t bloom. As I sit here in New Jersey, in the middle of winter, and look at my cymbidiums in bloom, I get a little extra pleasure from those flowers.

Caring for Cymbidiums This Time of Year

I’ve been getting questions like, “Holly cow!, My cymbidium is blooming! Now what do I do?”

One of the biggest challenges for hobbyists is ” over doing it”.  And this applies to cymbidum care this time of year.

It’s only normal that you want to give your plants a little extra push with more water and nutrients to help those blooms along.

And that’s exactly the wrong thing to do!

There’s a rhythm to growing orchids. During the growing season they want more water and nutrients. When the bloom cycle begins and the first couple of flowers open, they’ve done their work and actually start coasting into a (well deserved) resting period.

Here’s how I mange my cymbidiums through their blooming cycle. .

  1. When I see a flower spike emerge I still keep the plant in it’s growing area. I start watering a little less – to only 1/4 on gauge – with a “Bloom” fertilzer. I always wait until the system is completey dry before rewatering. (Use the water gauge as a handle and lift inner pot to check for dryness at the bottom.)
  2. .After the first flowers open move the plant from its growing area and display it wherever it looks its best. It has all the energy it needs to complete the bloom cycle and no longer needs sun. In fact, cool temps away from sun prolongs the blooms.
  3. Cut back even more on the water. Simply pour nutrient solution over the pebbles until the little red indicator in the water gauge moves – then stop.

Sit back and enjoy the blooms!

 

After the Blooms Are Gone

Cymbidiums take a well deserved rest after blooming so don’t expect much until the new growing season begins next spring.

  1. Cut the flower spikes all the way back to the bottom of the plant.
  2. Move the plant to a cool spot were it will get good light.
  3. Water even less with no nutrients – just wet the stones every week or so. Nothing shows on the water gauge.

Next spring we’ll move them outdoors again for another season of growing.

That’s the rhythm of growing cymbidiumss.

What If My Plants Didn’t Bloom?

I feel your dissapointment! After trying to get everything right – and waited all year for blooms – you get nothing!

If your cymbidiums didn’t bloom it’s usually because 1) they didn’t get enough sun last summer or 2) they didn’t get enough cool temperatures in the fall to initiate a bloom cycle.

It’s like what Cubs fans used to say when I was growing up in Illinois, “there’s always next year”.

Grower Tip: If your plant(s) are growing in traditional media, this is a good time to think about transfering to hydroponics. I have several videos describing this at

 

 

 

How To Get Your Amaryllis to Bloom Again Next Year (it’s easy!)

I hope you’ve enjoyed your amaryllis this winter as much as we have! Their big, colorful blooms never fail to brighten up dreary winter days.

Unfortunatley, this is the time when most Amaryllis blooms fade away.

 

amryllis-dying-flower02

 

Most people think of Amaryllis as “disposable” and discard them after blooming.

But wait a minute!!!

I want to show you how easy it is to regrow Amaryllis year after year. The plants actually get better every year because every year the bulbs get bigger and produce more flower stems than the year before –  with even more flowers! And it’s sooo easy with hydroponics.

 

 

amaryllis-growing-in-glass03
Amaryllis “Red Lion” from Home Depot after 2 years.

 

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Grower Tip: If your amaryllis are in soil, now is a good time to transfer them to hydroponic growing. You’ll be glad you did! See more here.

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Step 1 – After Blooms Have Faded

 

amarylis50

 

After all the blooms have faded, carefully cut the flower stalk all the way back to the top of the bulb. Be careful – don’t cut the leaves.

 

amaryllis-cut-flower01

 

Your plant might look a little disheveled but no worries it’s ready to begin a new growing season for next year’s blooms.

Move your plant to a sunny window. Find the sunniest spot possible – you can’t over do it. Don’t wory about floppy leaves and repotting isn’t necessary    . . .    if you’re growing in LECA pebbles.

Start watering to 1/2 on gauge with a light dose of fertilizer.  Wait until system is completely dry before rewatering. I use and recommend Dyna-Gro “Grow” 7-9-5 or Orchid-Pro 8-9-6 at half strength (1/4 tsp per gallon).

Step 2 – When Spring Arrives – Move Plant Outdoors

When warm weather arrives move your plant outdoors. This is when it really gets a boost! Choose a spot that gets some sun but protect it from hot midday sun. Don’t worry if some leaves wither and die.

Proper setup for outdoor growing is important. If your setup is right, the bulb will practically take care of itself all summer. See www.hydro-orchids.com/orchid-care-outdoor-setup.html for details. Simply substitute “amaryllis” for “orchid” in directions and you’ll be all set.

Leave the plant outdoors until temperatures drop into the high 40’s for a several nights. As the leaves turn brown cut them off. Your plant has stored up all the energy it needs to rebloom and it’s going dormant.

About a month before bringing it back indoors  start cutting back on water and fertlizer  – sometime around early September.  Water just enough to keep the plant from dehydrating – no fertlizer. Just pour water through pebbles until it runs out the bottom – then stop. No standing water at the base.

Step 3 – “Preparing” Bulb For a New Blooming Season

“Preparing” the bulb for a new blooming season is easy. Simply store it in a cool dark place (40-50 degrees if possible) for at least 6 weeks. Basements are perfect for this. I like to take the bulb out of its pot and store it in a paper bag tomake sure it’s not affected by light.

In a week or so, a new shoot will appear at the top of the bulb which means it’s waking up. Gradually increase the water to 1/4 on gauge and apply a “Bloom Formula” nutrient (Dyna-Gro Bloom 3-12-6 is a goood choice). In another 6 weeks (or so) your plant will start blooming all over again.

After the 6 week dormant period, repot the bulb into fresh pebbles and place it where it gets direct sun and warmer temperatures again. Moisture and sunlight will bring it back to life. Be careful with the water at first – pour water over the pebbes until the red indicator in the water gauge moves – then stop.

 

amaryllis-water-usage01

 

That’s it! I said it would be easy.