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Orchid Repotting Time

In March, my orchids are never doing much during this dry time of the year. Many of them need repotting so they will have room to grow in the summer.

I have Vanda orchids which have completely escaped their hanging wood baskets, and I have Oncidium, Phalaenopsis, Cattleya, Dendrobium, Brassavola and various other orchids which all want attention, and I also have quite a few Calanthe vestita and Calanthe rosea orchids.

I have tried all kinds of potting mixes and methods. I have used conventional clay pots with slit sides and orchid mixes of peat, bark, charcoal, and foam which you can find in any store. It works well, but if you have many orchids and limited time, problems emerge. The materials deteriorate, and are attractive to insects and vulnerable to fungus if kept too wet.

I found that even with well drained clay orchid pots, some area inside would remain wet in some cases, and there would be problems. I tried adding more Perlite to orchid mixes, but it did not make any difference. I decided to try putting the potting mix in hanging wood baskets for better drainage. An additional advantage was that I had run out of orchid bench space, but I can always hang another chain from oak tree branches, providing plenty of new space for orchids. To keep the orchid mix from falling out the sides and bottom of the basket, and to help it retain a bit of moisture, I made a nest of sphagnum moss inside the basket before adding the orchid potting mix.

This has worked well, but now some of the plants have outgrown the basket, and the potting mix has been largely replaced by roots. Now what? I don't know.

Is Hydroponic Orchid Growing the Solution?

I tried mixes containing coconut husks, and also used coconut husk nests as pot liners. It works well, and the plants seem to like it for a while, but again I ran across the deterioration problems.

I got tired of all the problems I was having with deterioration of potting mix and wood baskets over time, so I planted some of my orchids in clay pots using aliflor and coarse lava rock. It's kind of like hydroponic orchid growing. The plants need more water and more nutrients more frequently, but insects seem completely uninterested, and I have had few problems with fungi. I'm adding an automatic watering system to my greenhouse, and slowly switching much of my collection to this method of potting. I have had fewer problems and they need repotting less frequently than with biodegradable materials.

Punta Gorda, Florida