Types Of Pots For Orchids – Are There Special Containers For Orchid Plants
In the wild, most orchid plants grow in warm, humid wooded areas, such as tropical rainforests. They are oftentimes found growing wildly in the crotches of living trees, on the sides of downed, decaying trees or on rough shaded slopes. The reasons they grow well in these sites is because they can absorb water from the natural humidity without intense sunlight causing too much transpiration, and also because heavy tropical rains drain away from their roots quickly when they grow on trees or slopes.
While the orchids we purchase at nurseries or garden centers have probably never experienced growing wildly in rainforests, confining their roots to a pot goes against their true primal nature. Because of this, as orchid growers, we must do our best to select pots that allow them to grow to their full potential.
About Orchid Containers
When you purchase an orchid from a greenhouse or garden center, they are usually sold in clear plastic pots with several drainage holes. These clear plastic pots may be placed inside decorative glazed pots and sold altogether or the decorative pots may be sold separately as an add-on item.
The decorative pots are purely aesthetic, usually lack proper drainage and are really not necessary at all. In fact, decorative pots without proper drainage holes can oftentimes lead to overwatering and root diseases in orchids. In addition to this, the chemicals in certain glazes that are used for ceramic pots can be very harmful to the roots of sensitive orchids.
The clear plastic pot does have some benefits for orchids and orchid growers, though. Clear plastic pots can allow us to easily switch decorative containers to correspond to different holidays or room décor. However, if you do place these clear plastic pots in decorative pots, it is a good idea to remove them during watering to allow for proper drainage.
Clear plastic pots also allow us to easily inspect the roots of our orchid plants for pests, disease or overcrowding. When left out of decorative pots, the clear plastic pots allow the orchid roots to absorb sunlight, as they would in nature growing on the side of a tree. This means the roots can also photosynthesize and add energy to the plant.
Are There Special Containers for Orchid Plants?
Do orchids need special pots? Many greenhouses or garden centers that sell orchids will also sell special pots for orchids. These specific containers for orchid plants usually have slats or cut out shapes on the sides to allow for better drainage and air flow to the roots. Slatted wooden boxes are also sold as orchid containers. However, you don’t need to spend a fortune on specialized containers for orchid plants. Any pot with good drainage can house an orchid plant. When growing orchids in containers, be sure to select pots with 4-12 drainage holes.
Most orchids do prefer shallower squat pots, as their roots don’t like all the moisture retained in deep pots and they just don’t need the depth anyway as their roots spread out, not down. When using a deep pot, place lava rock or packing peanuts in the bottom of the pot to save some money on unnecessary potting medium that the orchid roots will never use, but also to improve drainage.
Also, when repotting an orchid every 1-2 years, only choose a pot that is about an inch wider than the previous pot; it does not need to be any deeper, only wider.
Types of Orchid Pots
Below are the pros and cons of different pots for orchids:
Plastic Pots – Plastic pots retain more moisture in the pot mix. They also can help keep the roots warmer in cooler climates. Plastic pots are very lightweight and can tip over easily with tall, top heavy plants.
Clay or Terra Cotta Pots – Clay pots are heavier, leading to less tipping. They also can help keep orchid roots cooler in warm climates. Many clay or terra cotta pots have only one drainage hole, but the clay breathes and allows water to evaporate quicker; therefore, you may have to water more often.
Wooden Slatted Containers or Baskets – Depending on what potting media you use, it can spill out of slats in wooden slatted pots or baskets, so you might want to line them with sheets of moss. Wooden slatted containers or baskets allow for a lot of drainage and air flow to the roots, so you may have to water them frequently.
Another way orchid growers display their prized orchid plants is by mounting them on driftwood or actual trees.
Repot Your Orchid Successfully with These Essential Tips
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.
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.
How to Use an Orchid Pot With Holes
Most orchids (Orchidaceae) lived in subtropical and tropical trees in their native habitats, and the plant was brought to England in the 1800s. Gardeners assumed that orchids required a hot, humid environment and moist soil to thrive. Because of this mistake, orchids failed to thrive and were considered hard to grow. Today, orchids are still considered difficult. They're usually grown as houseplants, although some gardeners place their orchids outside in the summer. Many growers use orchid pots with holes in the sides that allow air to circulate through the loose medium and around the leaves and roots.
Soak the orchid medium in water overnight. Whether you choose bark or lava rock, soaking it removes dust and ensures that the orchid's roots will receive adequate moisture from the new medium.
Pour 1/4 cup of bleach into 2 quarts of water. Soak the orchid pot and your tools in the bleach solution for 15 minutes. Remove the pot and tools from the solution and allow them to air dry before you begin repotting your orchid.
Remove the orchid from the old orchid pot. Carefully brush away the old medium and examine the orchid's roots. Trim dead, broken or decayed roots with pruners.
Fill the new orchid pot one-quarter full with the moist bark or lava rocks. Suspend the orchid in the center of the pot and carefully fill in around the roots with the orchid medium. The new medium, whether bark or lava rock, should be composed of pieces at least 1/2-inch in diameter and too large to pass through the orchid pot's holes.
Water the orchid thoroughly, allowing the water to flow through the medium and orchid pot. Once the water has completely drained from the pot, replace the orchid in its normal location.
- Most orchids sold in the United States thrive in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 and 11, depending on the variety.
- Lava rock is available through landscaping vendors.
- Occasionally, a homeowner posts an ad in the newspaper or online, giving away old, weathered lava rocks. After being soaked in water, the lava rocks are ideal as orchid medium.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before repotting your orchid, especially if you smoke. Tobacco mosaic virus is easily passed from your hands to your plants.
- Keep your tools and the bleach out of reach of children and pets.
With degrees in fine and commercial art and Spanish, Ruth de Jauregui is an old-school graphic artist, book designer and published author. De Jauregui authored 50 Fabulous Tomatoes for Your Garden, available as an ebook. She enthusiastically pursues creative and community interests, including gardening, home improvement and social issues.
Common Problems with Cymbidium Orchids
Orchids benefit from very specific light – they need as much light as possible without catching direct rays. This can make it complicated to find just the right spot for them.
If they don’t get enough light the leaves will turn very dark green. If they’re getting too much light they will turn more yellow.
Both of these issues can be corrected, but sunburned damage caused by direct rays won’t heal. You’ll either have to cut off the affected foliage or make peace with the cosmetic damages.
If you overwater your Cymbidium orchid or accidentally leave it submerged in the humidity tray, the roots will surely develop root rot. Once root rot sets in it’s extremely difficult to recuperate the plant.
You can try to save it by unopotting the orchid and checking to see if there are any healthy pseudobulbs. If there are any parts that are unaffected, cut them away with a sharp sterilized knife. Then continue like you would if you were diving the plant for propagation.
Pests such as mealybugs, spider mites, and aphids
Orchids are pretty resistant to pests but it’s not unheard of. If your orchid becomes plagued with any of these insects you can simply wipe them off with a paper towel dipped in isopropyl alcohol.
On soft-bodied pests such as aphids, you can spray them down with a diluted natural detergent solution.
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.