How to Identify Healthy vs. Unhealthy Roots

Roots are the basis of any orchid plant. It’s very important for your orchid to have a robust root system; the orchid takes in water and nutrients through its roots which in turn allows the whole plant to grow, thrive, and ultimately put out those beautiful blooms.

First I’ll take a moment to show you what roots look like on the most common orchid, the phalaenopsis (aka moth orchid). Phal roots, when healthy and moist, are a nice green color, like so:

Healthy, dry roots are usually silvery or white in color, like these:

Photo credit: rainyfoxy, Flickr

Rotten roots are those that have turned brown; they are mushy when wet and twig-like when dry. If the roots are SUPER dead, the outer covering will sort of disintegrate and you’ll see wiry, stringy-looking things. You can see some healthy roots AND some dry rotten roots on the same plant in the image below. The rotten ones are the brown/tan color:

Photo credit: The Plant Geek Chronicles

When you bring home a new phal, it’s best to take it out of the pot right away, remove any potting medium that’s stuck to the roots, and take a look at them. If you find any rotten roots, make sure to trim them away with a sterilized cutting tool (a razor blade or gardening shears will do the trick). Then repot the plant in fresh medium and it should be much happier. Root rot can lead to mold or may even spread to the nearby roots and slowly kill the plant.

The first two orchids that I brought home had rotten roots, but at the time I didn’t know that I should unpot, trim, and repot them ASAP. As a result, those poor plants weren’t able to take in enough nutrients to survive and they each died within a month or two. Now I know better, and I’m happy that I can share this knowledge with you. Consider this my Orchid PSA…The More You Know…   :)

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42 Responses to “How to Identify Healthy vs. Unhealthy Roots”
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