New Orchids: To Repot or Not? That is the Question

Most orchid nerds will tell you that you should repot any brand new orchid almost as soon as you bring it home. This is recommended so that you can take a good look at the orchid’s root system and cut away any rotten roots (see my post on identifying healthy vs. unhealthy roots). Conversely, you may find a really nice set of roots like these:

Healthy Phalaenopsis orchid roots
Photo credit: velvetdahlia, Flickr

You may have also heard not to repot an orchid while it’s in bloom. So, what exactly are you supposed to do with these two conflicting pieces of advice when you bring home a new orchid that is in bloom, like my latest orchid purchase?

I posed this question on the Orchid Board and got some good feedback. Basically, the consensus is to think long term. The problem with repotting an orchid while in bloom is that the blooms may shrivel and fall off more quickly than they would if you left it alone. But, if you don’t repot that orchid you won’t have the chance to check out its root system, so the plant as a whole might not last long if the roots are in bad shape.

So if you’re super attached to those blooms RIGHT NOW, don’t repot. Just be aware that your orchid may or may not  be healthy. If you want your orchid to live as long a life as possible, repot it and get rid of rotten roots. You might lose the blooms, you might not. To me, this is a risk worth taking. If I can maintain my orchid’s overall health, I’ll be able to enjoy its pretty blooms again and again in the future.

That Paph I bought yesterday? I repotted it this morning, and I’m so glad that I did. About half of its roots were rotten so I cut them away.

Paph roots
My Paph’s roots, pre-trimming

Plus, the orchid came packed super tightly in moss, a situation that restricts air flow and increases the likelihood of root rot. Therefore, when I repotted the plant I only used about half the moss that it came in. Fingers crossed that it keeps its blooms!

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  1. Repotting is very important to orchids. Different people use different things to repot – we’re going to recommend fine, medium and large bark depending on what kind of orchid you’ll repot. Sometimes, when an orchid likes more moisture, we’ll mix in some sphagnum moss. Soak bark in water before using for a couple hours.

  2. Hi my son got me an orchid for mothers day. It is a mini orchid. I am trying to decide whether it should be re-potted now while its in full bloom so I can check out the roots. I also need to know what size pot I should get. And I need to know what would be the best potting soil mix. Any information you could provide would be very great full . I know it takes moss and bark I just don’t know what kind and how much to use.

    1. Hi Melissa, I do recommend repotting even though it’s in bloom right now. That way you can see how healthy the roots are and trim off any unhealthy ones — your orchid will thank you later. It’s hard to say what size pot you should get without knowing exactly how big your orchid is, but these plants do like to be pretty pot-bound, that is, there shouldn’t be a lot of extra space in the pot around the roots. I recommend using bark mix created specifically for orchids, which you can usually find in the gardening section of home improvement stores like Lowe’s. Hope that helps — happy growing!

  3. I have a mini phal to and I think I’ve convinced my self to repot and risk loosing my blooms early. It can in a mini pot, but the plant it self was in a clear plastic pot. I think I can spy an unhealthy root. How do I trim the root though and what I mean by that is when I clip it how far up theroot should I go?

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