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?

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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 wet orchid root

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Rescuing an Orchid: Sphag-n-Bag

Last summer I bought a Phalaenopsis at Ikea in Red Hook that turned out to be 2 plants potted together. It took me a couple weeks to realize that there were actually 2 orchids because I didn’t immediately check the roots or repot them. I had read online that planting 2 orchids together is not recommended, so I split them up.

One of the orchids has been doing really well. Bloomed for a month or so, rested for awhile, then produced side shoots and bloomed again. Here’s how it looks today:

Phalaenopsis in bloom

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Welcome to Brooklyn Orchids

Pink Vanda Orchid
Vanda blooming at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

I’ve been obsessing about orchids for about a year now and I’m still a total newbie.  I love orchids so much that I decided to start a blog about them – and here we are. I’ll be sharing photos (my own & others’), information, links, things I’ve learned, and stories about my own orchids as I try my very hardest not to kill them.

A little bit about me: I’ve been living in NYC since December 2002. Currently, I live in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn and have been in my apartment for a little over a year. My apartment gets really great southern exposure so it has been a good environment for growing orchids. Right now, I am the proud owner of nine orchids (I’ll post photos & info about each of these separately):

  • Five phalaenopsis – two from Ikea, one from Home Depot, one from Trader Joe’s, one from a vendor at the Union Square Greenmarket (I *think* it’s Fantastic Gardens, need to find out for sure)
  • One oncidium from TJs
  • Two dendrobium – one from TJs, one from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
  • One odontoglossom from the BBG

My kill count is two, my first orchids ever (both phals).  🙁  I don’t think either of them were healthy when I bought them, because I didn’t know what to look for when buying orchids. I’ve learned a lot since then and most of my orchids seem to be doing well now!

I’m really looking forward to writing about orchids and sharing my passion for them. I hope you enjoy this blog and I’d love to hear your orchid stories in the comments.