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