The Q&A Archives: Transplanting Cymbidium Orchids

Question: We had a freeze for several days and some of the Orchids did not bloom. When can I transplant?

Answer: Orchids are usually grown in a special compost potting medium. They bloom best when root-bound, so don't be in a hurry to repot. The best time to repot orchids is in the late winter and spring when the plants are in an active state of growth. Choose a clay pot the next size larger and soak it in water for about 30 minutes. Make sure you have the correct potting medium, i.e., cattleya and phalaenopsis prefer mostly bark chips, and paphiopedilum likes some peat moss or sandy loam added. Loosen the roots from the side of the pot by slipping a knife down around the inside of the pot. Remove the plant carefully and cut off all dead roots with scissors that have been sterilized in alcohol. Fill the pot about one-third full with loose material such as bark chips or perlite, then add some of the new potting mixture. Holding the orchid in the pot so the base of the leaves are at the same height as the edge of the pot, gently fill in the root area with more potting mixture. Take care not to damage roots. Your newly repotting orchids will need frequent misting during the day, but don't water for a couple of weeks. Keep the plant in the shade during this time. Thankfully, most orchids only need to be repotted every 2-3 years. The general guidelines for caring for orchids include giving daytime temperatures of about 70F degrees in the summer, or 60F degrees in the winter. It's important that the nighttime temperature drops 10 degrees lower at night. Orchids need good light, but not direct sunlight, and require 10-15 hours of light a day. You will have to supplement the light in the winter with artificial light. Keep the compost moist and use soft, tepid water. Orchids need humdity all around them. You can put your ceramic pot on a tray filled with gravel so the excess water will drain into the tray and provide moisture to the immediate environment. You can also mist the leaves occasionally. When roots begin growing out of the pot, usually on the top of the soil, you can repot the plant. Use the next-sized pot, fill with new compost or orchid planting medium and transplant into its new home. Once the blooms fade on your plant, cut the flowering stem all the way down to the crown of the plant. New stems and flowers will sprout from new growth. To keep the roots contained (for best bloom), you can plant your orchids in pots and sink the pots into a garden bed.

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