how to take care of potted orchids

Complete Guide: How To Take Care Of Potted Orchids?

You can start by choosing a small pot size with a transparent material such as plastic or terracotta pot to ensures good drainage, which is necessary to prevent water-logging and trigger root rot.

Growing orchids in pots is not an easy task. In fact, they are one of the most challenging tropical flowering plants to grow. No wonder orchid lovers will do anything to ensure their precious flowers thrive. And for that reason, we would like to discuss how to take care of potted orchids along with some common problems during their growth.

Since their natural habitat is in the tropical rainforest, you must ensure they have similar growing conditions under the tree canopies. The most important thing to remember is that an orchid loves bright indirect light and humid environments.

Considering they grow attached to trees, the roots are exposed to sunlight. Hence, pot choices are critical to closely resembling their native habitat. So, without any further ado, let’s jump into our complete guide to potted orchid care!

Can orchids be potted?

The answer is a yes! Despite being tricky to grow, orchids grow well in containers as long as you provide the required growing conditions. Generally, orchids love warm temperatures with high humidity levels of around 65-75°F and 40-70% moisture, respectively. That said, orchids will perform best in the US hardiness zone from 4 to 6.

However, in the winter, these flowering plants are classified into three groups: the warm, the intermediate, and the cold. The warm orchids thrive in temperatures of 80-90°F in the daylight and 65-70°F at night. Meanwhile, the intermediate favors 70-80°F and 55-65°F. In addition, the cold ones prefer 60-70°F and 50-55°F for daytime and nighttime.

how to take care of potted orchids
Orchid Plants in Pots

Even though some orchids, like Cattleya, can survive temperatures above 90°F, such a warm one can stress the flowers. Symptoms that may occur when your orchids experience heat stress are black rot and dying leaf-tip due to lack of calcium.

Among all 25,000 orchid species, several orchid types grow well in containers, such as moth orchid, cattleya orchid, boat orchid, venus slipper orchid, and Dendrobium orchid. They bear beautiful flowers that bloom all year round. If you are interested in growing the orchid blooms in pots, you better look at our next section, which will explain how to choose the proper containers for your orchids.

Choosing the Right Pot for Your Orchid

The first thing you have to do before planting your orchids in pots is to choose the right one. Since orchids are epiphytes that grow attached to trees as hosts, they have a root system that is exposed to light. Therefore, the best planter for orchids is clear plastic or terracotta pots. This pot will let the light shine on the orchid roots and ensure they develop properly.

Other than the materials, the size of the pots is also important. Orchids commonly love to grow in small pots. However, if you repotting them to a new one, make sure you upgrade the size to a larger one to allow the roots to grow.

Furthermore, you must ensure that the pots have adequate drainage holes. They are crucial as the roots will rot if the water sits too long in the soil. Wet soil can also trigger fungal diseases. In addition, wash and clean up the pots before using them for your lovely orchid blooms to prevent pest infection (particularly bugs) that may live inside the containers.

Caring for Potted Orchids

Despite being a tough flowering plant to grow, orchids still gain popularity among exotic plant lovers because of their exquisite blooms. These orchids tend to be grown in pots to ensure easy maintenance. Hence, they are willing to learn how to properly care for orchids. If you are one of the fans, you better check out the step-by-step to make sure they are thriving.

Care Of Potted Orchids
Care Of Potted Orchids

1. Provide Similar Environments To Their Habitat

Providing a growing site or pot that resembles their native environment is essential to make it easier for them to adapt and survive. You can start by choosing a small pot size with a transparent material such as plastic. It will help the orchid roots get the light needed for their growth. Another alternative to clear plastic pots is terracotta. Although not translucent, this material ensures good drainage, which is necessary to prevent water-logging, which can trigger root rot.

2. Choose The Right Site

As important as choosing the size and material of the pot, choosing the right location for placing potted orchids is critical to ensure they receive the required light intensity. Indoor orchids prefer bright, indirect lights because direct sun exposure can burn the leaves and the flowers. You can place them in the east-facing areas where they can have adequate morning sun without harming themselves.

3. Offer Regular Watering

We understand that you want to give your best for your precious tropical plants. However, do not give water to orchids more than once a week because it can trigger the rotting of the roots. If you notice gray coloration in the roots, your orchids get too little or too much water. Contrary to that, the green color describes healthy roots. Moreover, do not mist the leaves as it can lead them to rot.

4. Maintain The Humidity Levels

Orchids are tropical plants used to the high humidity of tropical rainforests. Therefore, maintaining humidity levels is a concern for those who keep orchids indoors. But don’t worry! A humidifier is a one-go to solve this issue. In addition, growing sphagnum moss can be an alternative to help retain moisture. Apart from keeping humidity, it also adds artistic value to the potted orchids.

5. Let The Roots Grow, Don’t Cut Them!

So far, we know that orchids prefer to grow in small pots. As time goes by, you will spot roots overgrowing outside the container. But please, don’t cut the roots as your orchids receive extra energy from them. Let them be and keep giving as much care as they need to thrive. You can also try repotting your plants (which will be discussed in the following section!).

Potting and Repotting Orchids

Potting and Repotting Orchids
Potting and Repotting Orchids

Like other plants, orchids are a new place to keep growing. Some of the signs shown when they need repotting are as follows:

  • They grow tangled roots. Usually, it happens to the Phalaenopsis orchid, which is characterized by loose roots. If they get messy and tight, you must repot them as soon as possible.
  • Frequent water-logs. Potted orchids require good quality mix, which must be replaced yearly to ensure proper nutrient availability and improve water holding capacity. Besides improper drainage, water-logging generally occurs when the soil has been used for too long. It harms the roots as they can rot and trigger fungal diseases.

Do you notice your orchids experience one of the two or maybe both of the characteristics above? Well, maybe it is time to repot your plants! Below are the step-by-step to easily repot your orchids. Check them out!

  • Pick the right pot. Small and transparent materials with drainage holes are the best.
  • Take out carefully your orchids from the old pots and observe the roots. If you see dead ones, cut them off.
  • Choose a good quality potting mix and pour it around one-third into the pot.
  • Create a hole in the center to place a single stem orchid.
  • Place a stake for support until your orchid is fully grown and established.
  • Add about half of the mix to cover the roots.
  • Water the plant thoroughly (find out how to do it below!)

Watering for Potted Orchids

Watering is one of the most important elements in the care of potted orchids. Their water requirements differ between summer and winter. In the summer, these toxic plants may need twice a week watering, considering hot weather and dry humidity. Meanwhile, they will require less watering (around once a week) when winter is approaching.

how to take care of potted orchids
Orchid Watering

This difference in water requirements also depends on the light intensity, temperatures, and humidity. The watering frequency must be increased when the light and temperatures are intense. On the other hand, the lower the humidity, the less water the orchids need.

Furthermore, some of the watering methods that you can use to provide water for your orchids are:

  1. Soaking: You can simply take out the orchids and soak them in a water bowl. Do it every time the moss dries out, around once a week or two weeks.
  2. Splashing: This one is a conventional method of watering. Splash the water to the moss once you notice it gets dry. But generally, it applies every 7 to 10 days.
  3. Pulling: It may sound intimidating, but it helps a lot with orchids potted in decorative planters. Gently remove and water them under slow-dripping tap water for around 15 seconds. Then, drain them.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Even though most people grow potted orchids indoors, it does not mean they are free of the risks of pests and diseases. Aphids, caterpillars, mealybugs, and mites are the most common orchid pests that can take a massive toll on your tropical plants.

Caterpillars and mealybugs feed on the leaves, buds, and other soft tissues, creating cavities along the surfaces. Meanwhile, aphids can make the flowers mottle and distorted. Additionally, the mites suck on the chlorophyll and sap, turning the green leaves into silvery-white colors.

Besides pests, some diseases like botrytis, fungal rots, and flower blights may infect potted orchids without proper care. Botrytis and flower blights are characterized by spots on the petals. At the same time, the fungal rots commonly attack the roots if the wet soil persists for an extended period.

Common Problems with Potted Orchids

how to take care of potted orchids
Potted Orchids

In addition to pests and diseases, orchids have common problems that interfere with their growth. These problems are generally caused by a lack of care for orchids, such as wet soil, sudden environmental change, and root rots.

1. Drooping Leaves

For some plants, drooping leaves are one sign they lack water. But on orchids, it shows something is wrong with the roots. These roots generally decay due to overflowing, causing water to sit too long on the soil. It also makes your orchids thirsty because they cannot absorb water properly.

2. Crown And Collar Rot

This issue frequently occurs in crowned orchids, particularly phalaenopsis orchids. The cause is none other than water sitting on the crown, leading to decay in the rhizome. And if left unchecked, it can quickly spread to the foliage, and worse, you lose them all.

3. Bud Blast

The growth of buds is the most sensitive stage in the life cycle of orchids. Hence, the phenomenon of bud blast is the issue that most saddened orchid fans. This is because the buds will turn yellow and shrivel even before they bloom due to sudden differences in the growing environment (e.g., too wet or dry). Although it can occur in most orchids, Phalaenopsis is the species most susceptible to bud blast.


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FAQ (Frequently Asked Question)

Do orchids like big or small pots?

The pot sizes for orchids depend on the varieties. But generally, orchid roots will grow well in smaller pots as they can take up as much moisture as they need to thrive. Bigger containers may not allow them to properly absorb the moisture from the potting soil. Thus, the mix will be too wet. It is unfavorable as the water can lower the oxygen concentration in the roots, causing them to rot.

How long do potted orchids last?

Well, there is no specific data about how long potted orchids live. However, several reports mention that potted orchids may live for 10-15 years as long as you provide proper orchid care.

These tropical plants love to grow under bright indirect light, just like in their native habitat, the rainforest canopy. They also prefer regular watering at least once a week, especially in the hot summer. But do not overflood the roots if you don’t want to let them rot.

Should orchids be in plastic pots?

Most orchids, including phalaenopsis orchids, live to attach to the trees in tropical forests, allowing their roots to be exposed to the sunlight. Hence, clear plastic pots are the best choice for growing these flowering plants.

Besides, such types of containers will also provide natural decor for your outdoor or indoor living spaces. In addition, the orchid pots must have suitable drainage holes to prevent root rot.

How should an orchid be potted?

If you wanna try to grow orchids in the pots, you can follow this simple guide to help you plant this precious flower and, of course, prevent errors:

  1. Choose the most suitable orchid pots. Small containers are better than bigger ones as the roots of orchids will easily absorb moisture from the surroundings to grow.
  2. Pick your orchids. If you are re-potted them to the new pot, you must cut off the dead roots first.
  3. Add potting medium to the pot, around 1/3 of the total volume. Don’t give it too much as you need to provide a space to plant the orchid.
  4. Dig the center to put a single stem inside. Then, carefully fill the hole to cover the roots with the potting mix.
  5. Offer water to the newly planted orchid thoroughly.

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