Your plant is outgrowing its tiny pot. Now what? Do you need special soil? Should you trim back some roots? Here's how to repot an orchid the right way.

By BH&G Garden Editors
Updated April 03, 2020
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Your orchid will eventually start to grow roots out of its container, or even grow so big that it'll become a little top-heavy for the pot it's in. Don't worry, all that growth is a good thing! It means that your orchid is thriving because you've been taking good care of it. But it also means that it's time to repot your plant into a larger container and give it some fresh potting mix. Orchids are somewhat fragile to handle, so it's important to take the right steps when repotting to avoid damaging your plant and ensure that it will settle in well to its new home.

Choose the Best Orchid Potting Mix

In the wild, rather than sinking their roots into the soil, most orchids normally grow in trees, perched high above the rainforest floor. You can replicate that environment with a special orchid bark mix (a blend of tree bark pieces) that's available at garden centers. It provides the quick drainage and plentiful pockets for air that orchid roots require. Mostly, though, it helps anchor plants in pots so they can grow upward. You can also use sphagnum moss, which will help keep the roots moist a little longer between waterings.

Credit: David Land

Use Orchid Pots

There are specific pots on the market created just for orchids. They're full of holes to expose the roots to more air. However, no special pot is needed; a terra-cotta or plastic pot will work just fine for most orchids. Choose a pot that's 1 inch (at the most 2 inches) larger in diameter across the top than your present pot. The time to transplant orchids is just after they bloom, when new roots have appeared but haven't grown longer than a half-inch, or when the roots start to crawl out of the pot.

Credit: Carson Downing

How to Repot an Orchid

Before transferring your orchid, make sure to water it well to help it tolerate any stress from the move. Then follow these steps:

  • Gently pull the orchid out of its pot by grasping it as close to the roots as possible; avoid pulling it out by a single leaf, which could break. Carefully loosen the roots and remove as much of the growing medium (bark or moss) from the root ball as possible.
  • Trim off any dead roots, which will be soggy, shriveled, or colored brown or black.
  • Place your orchid into the new pot and add fresh potting medium, tapping the pot firmly on a table or other flat surface to distribute the bark or moss evenly around the roots.
  • When the orchid is anchored into place, arrange a layer of orchid potting mix over the top of the roots and water well.

Once your orchid is settled in its new pot, you can keep caring for it like you normally did before. Make sure you have it in a spot that gets bright, indirect light, and water when the potting mix is just about to go dry. Some orchids can grow for one or two years before they need repotting again, so you can sit back and enjoy its beautiful blooms for a while before needing to repeat this process.

Comments (2)

February 17, 2020
Do orchids need to be reported in a clear plastic pot, like what they come in?
January 29, 2019
Thank you so much for this information. I was given an orchid a year ago and I know it needs repotting, but was never sure how to accomplish this. Because of your information, I will now be able to repot it and keep it alive.