Everything You Need to Know About Orchid Pots

Whether you're repotting or in search of the perfect pot for your orchid, follow this guide to help your blooms thrive.

Flowers beckon all the attention when it comes to orchids, but the butterfly-like blooms are supported by a cast of essential elements. A great pot is near the top of the list of orchid support staff. The best orchid pots promote growth, making way for the long-lasting blossoms to unfurl.

various orchids in pots and boxes on table

How Orchids Grow in Nature

Take cues from how orchids grow in the wild when selecting an orchid pot for your favorite bloomer. Most orchids are epiphytes in their native jungle-like environments. These tenacious growers cling to the trunk or limb of a tree and gather moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, and debris that accumulates around their root zones. In the jungle, you'll find a Phalaenopsis orchid growing on a tree branch with its roots exposed to air movement, rain, and humidity. The best orchid pots mimic these moist yet well-drained conditions while encouraging oxygen to easily flow in and out of the pot.

Why Do Orchid Pots Have Holes?

Orchid pots are primarily designed for great drainage. When plants are watered, excess moisture should be able to freely flow out of the orchid potting mix in a good container. It may seem like the water is flowing out of the container too quickly, faster than the roots can absorb it. This is normal activity for a great orchid container. Orchids and houseplants are most often killed by overwatering. A quick-draining container helps prevent well-meaning orchid owners from killing their orchid with kindness.

Look for an orchid container that has many small drainage holes in the bottom. A great orchid pot may even have holes on the sides of the container. These sidewall holes promote water drainage and encourage the air movement around the plant's root system. Air movement around a potted plant's root system mimics the wind and breezes that would constantly flow around an orchid root system in nature. Drainage holes on the side of the container are not essential, but they are a great addition to an orchid pot.

Orchid Pot Materials

From plastic to mesh to ceramic and terra-cotta, orchid pots are made out of all kinds of material. Don't be overwhelmed by the selection. As long as the pot has many drainage holes, it is likely a good pot for growing orchids. There are some advantages to different types of material. Here's a rundown of some of the most popular.

Terra-Cotta Orchid Pots

Porous terra-cotta allows air and water to freely pass through the walls of these stone-like pots. Their porous nature means orchid media will dry out faster, so you'll likely need to water more often. Terra-cotta pots are especially popular with orchid enthusiasts.

Plastic Orchid Pots

Lightweight, nearly indestructible, and inexpensive, plastic orchid pots are available in all shapes, sizes, and colors. When choosing a plastic orchid pot, be sure to select one that has a large number of drainage holes for the size of the container.

Clear plastic pots are popular with some orchid growers. In nature, orchid roots are often exposed to light. Clear plastic pots mimic these conditions. These types of pots are especially helpful if you are prone to overwatering your orchid. A clear plastic pot makes it easy to see if the potting media is moist before watering.

Ceramic Orchid Pots

Decorated with colorful glaze or artwork, ceramic pots make lovely additions to any room. If the ceramic container isn't equipped with drainage, plant the orchid in a simple plastic pot and set the planted container inside the ceramic pot. When watering, remove the orchid from the ceramic pot to allow excess water to drain.

Mesh Orchid Pots

Woven plastic or fiber pots most closely resemble how many orchids grow in nature. These basketlike containers loosely hold orchid roots and potting media, allowing air and water to easily pass through. Mesh pots are best in humid environments to ensure plants do not dry out too quickly.

Best Size for Orchid Pots

Orchids grow best in tight living quarters. When choosing a new pot for an orchid, look for a container that is just slightly larger than the previous pot. Ultimately the pot should be about the same size as the tangled mass of roots. Pots that are too large will be filled with excess planting media which has the tendency to hold water and keep the orchid root zone too moist.

person placing orchid plant in terra cotta pot

How to Repot an Orchid

Orchids benefit from repotting every 1 to 3 years or so. The potting mix will break down in time, preventing it from physically supporting the plant as well as providing nutrients. Also, healthy, actively growing orchids will produce fleshy new roots and outgrow their pot in time.

Repotting an orchid is simple and takes just a few minutes. Think of it more as disassembling the plant and reassembling it in a new pot rather than a traditional potting process. Here are the quick steps.

  1. Use pruners to clip away the flower stem at the base of the plant.
  2. Remove the plant from the pot, pulling the roots apart gently to free the plant from the pot.
  3. If the roots are tightly packed together, gently loosen them and spread them out.
  4. Remove any dead or damaged roots. Healthy roots are firm and gray or green in color. Brush away any potting mix that is clinging to the roots.
  5. Fill the new pot with a potting mix designed for orchids.
  6. Place the orchid in the pot and gently pack the potting mix around the roots. Water the plant well.
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