Orchids Care and Repotting

Orchids (Orchidaceae) are a very diverse family of plants which includes approximately 20,000 different species. While orchids are grown as natives in tropical climate, here in gardening zone 8b, it is a house plant. The most commonly grown houseplant orchid is of variety “Phalaenopsis“. It is also the easiest to take care of and blooms off and on throughout the year. They come in a lot of different colors. When in bloom, they look stunning and lasts for a long time.

While the orchids are easy to care for, they have certain needs that make them thrive. The repotting topic is the broadest and varies widely.

  • Light : The primary reason Orchids don’t flower is when they don’t get sufficient light. They need bright, indirect sunlight to bloom, but direct sunlight makes their leaves scorch. I usually keep mine in a south (or east) facing window sill during winter and a north facing window sill during summer.
  • Water: When someone tells me that their orchid died, I am almost certain that there was root rot involved. The orchids must NOT sit in water or their soft tender roots will rot. I water them thoroughly once a month and that is sufficient in our humid Seattle weather. The clear indication that the orchid are healthy comes from their roots. Bright green roots tell us that the orchid has sufficient water, when the root turns brown, it is telling us that the orchid lacks moisture and when they are slimy silvery color, the root rot has set. If in doubt, it is better to under water than over water. It is very hard to recover a plant if the root has started to rot. In this context, it is worth mentioning that the reason why orchids should never be planted in a potting mix or soil is because they hold on to too much moisture and the roots will rot in a matter of weeks.
  • Feeding: I do not give any fertilizers to any of my indoor plants including Orchids and they have not complained thus far.
  • Repotting: Orchids are usually sold potted in a special orchid potting mix which is very “airy”. They usually consist of bark, charcoal, sphagnum moss and contains minerals to help the orchids grow. I only repot my orchid every 3/4 years unless they show signs of distress, if bark or potting mix has broken down, or if the plant “pushes” itself up and out of the pot. To re-pot, take the plant out of the planter, and remove all the bark/mix from around its root. This is a good time to cut off dead or diseased roots. Only keep the roots that are green and plump. Then replant the orchid with fresh orchid potting mix. One thing to remember here is to make sure that the pots have a lot f drainage hole/slats. Usually the clear plastic pots that the orchids are sold in are the best pots for growing orchids. But they can also be grown in more aesthetically pleasing glazed or terracotta pots provided they have at least a few holes/slats to allow for water to drain and light to reach the roots. The Orchid roots have chlorophyll which means the roots can also photosynthesize and add energy to the plant. The plant will still survive if the roots do not get sunlight as the leaves also adds energy by photosynthesis. Most orchids prefer shallow squat pots as their roots don’t like the moisture retained in the deep pots and they don’t need the depth anyway as the roots spread out, not down. As far as the timing of repotting goes, it can be repotted any time of the year. However, it is best to repot after a flush of bloom so that there is no loss of the prized blooms. There is also an option of skipping the entire orchid potting mix and letting the orchids grow in water. Since I have no experience growing orchids using that method, I am skipping that here. There are plenty of literature available online if you want to explore that option.

You can watch the process of repotting orchids, while I do mine.

Repotting Orchids

My green house mates

I want to start this post by providing a disclaimer that I am less enthusiastic about growing plants indoors than I am about growing them out in my yard. I mostly grow plant indoors for the aesthetic they bring in my home decor and I use them for styling spaces. Thats also the reason I struggle to find the plants that fits into the conditions where I want to have them. A “plant room” concept doesn’t appeal to me – yet! I have learnt that how I decorate a room has evolved over time and I am not going to predict that I will never take a liking to a room for my plants only. I also like to style the indoor plants in containers which go with my current decorating style. I change these containers as per season and as often as my mood strikes.

This pothos is very special to me and has lived with me for more about a decade. She was a gift from a gardening friend in when I was not sure I could take care of a house plant. She gave it to me with the reassurance “you can’t kill her” and I am happy to report that I have proved her right 🙂

The planter is also special and a handmade wooden one from Indonesia. I bought her when we moved into our first house in 2006. She is absolutely gorgeous and holds a place of pride in my living room.

These Angel Plants are newly acquired. I enjoy the gorgeous foliage of these lovely plants. The one in red pot is called the Dragon’s Tongue. The foliage is grass-like, wispy and purplish green. The pot itself is recycled from an Orchid that I had once owned.

The one in the pewter pitcher is called “Purple Waffles” angel plant. I love the crinkled edge foliage of this plant. The pitcher is from my collection of water jugs.

I “rescued” this palm recently from the clearance rack. It was suffering from very dry soil, there were multiple dried/dead fronds and the foliage also had hard water residue. I cut off the dead stalks, cleaned the foliage with neem oil and watered thoroughly. Approximately 3 weeks later, I can see a fresh new frond opening. It is beautiful and for now in a beautiful basket I already had at home. Thrifty tip of the week – always check the clearance racks when you shop for new plants.

The other plants I have around me indoors are a few succulents (echeverias), a couple of Christmas cacti, bamboo and a gorgeous umbrella plant. The echeverias are housed in smaller containers like this lovely season appropriate espresso mug. The two Christmas cacti are more than a decade old and blooms in all but the Christmas season. The flowers are pink and very dainty. The bamboos live in container filled with water in my dining table and the umbrella plant is in a corner of my dining room.

I have few other plants around the house like spider plants, snake plant (aka Mother-In-Laws tongue), Dracaenas and bromeliads. They blend into the background without trying to hog attention – just as I like all my house plants to do. One thing to add, I never feed/fertilize my house plants. I do change the soil every 3/4 years and give them fresh potting mix to enjoy. They all sit close to a light source (window sills, sky light) and I water them sparingly (once a month) during the winter and more often (at least twice a month) during the summer.

Hope you enjoyed seeing some of my house plants. Let me know if you did and tell me what you enjoy growing in your house?