Growing and Repotting Orchids

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Orchids are so beautiful and delicate looking but did you know how easy they are to grow. Especially the Phalaenopsis hybrids which you can now buy readily at the supermarket and big box stores. You may have seen some sold as “Ice Cube Orchids,” where all you have to do is give them 3 ice cubes a week. How easy is that? I believe the idea here is using ice allows the plant to receive the water in a slow drip and gives them a measured amount so that they are not over-watered. Not over-watering really is the key. Making sure the plant has ample drainage and watering well is the best way to care for most plants. When it comes to repotting orchids, you need to watch out for a few keys points.

Growing and Repotting Orchids

Orchid in bloom ~

I received this Phalaenopsis orchid from my sister for Mother’s day several years ago. It flowers 1-2 times a year for me and the flowers seem to last for several weeks. However, you can see that one of the plants is growing out of the pot and although they do like to be pot bound this one appears to be shriveling . Time to re-pot.

Orchids jumping out of the pot ~

Simply remove the entire plant(s) from the pot gently shake out and remove all the planting medium.

Orchid roots

Separate the two plants. Rinse the roots in cool water and cut away and dead, broken or very soft roots.

Did you know orchids were easy to grow? How do you know when it's time to re-pot?

Re-pot in a tight plastic pot with drainage. I used a plastic take-out container and poked holes in the bottom. Use fresh potting medium specifically sold for orchids. You can find this in any nursery or garden center. It is typically a bark like material that provides for fast drainage. I added a little moss at the top for decorative purposes. Place in an area with indirect light. The leaves should be a nice medium green. Dark green leaves may indicate insufficient light while light yellowish-green may indicate too much light.

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Did you know orchids were easy to grow? How do you know when it's time to re-pot?

I you’ve always admired orchids but were afraid to try them don’t be. Start with a Phalaenopsis. They’re really quite easy. They don’t bloom often but when they do, the bloom lasts for a about a month which is much longer than cut flowers.

For more information from the expert see The American Orchid Society’s notes on orchid care.

Did you know orchids were easy to grow? How do you know when it's time to re-pot?

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About Patti Estep

Patti is the creator of Garden Matter, a home and garden blog filled with projects to inspire your creative side. She loves crafting, gardening, decorating and entertaining at her home in Pennsylvania. When she is not working on a project at home or searching for treasures at nurseries and thrift stores with her girlfriends, you’ll probably find her with family and friends, at a restaurant, or home party enjoying new and different food adventures.

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  1. I love orchids! When I was younger I was a florist and when the dendrobium orchids arrived I was the first one grabbing to add to my arrangements, especially if they were the bright purple ones. I use to have orchids in the home all the time before moving to the country, I could never get them to bloom again, I think it was because I was just impatient. Great tips I might have to rethink things and find me a dendrobium orchid plant. -Carole

    • Carole,
      I always wanted to be a florist. Blogging about flowers is as close as I’ll probably ever get. I definitely think you should try one again. There are so many readily available now that are easy to grow. Especially the phalaenopsis.

  2. Andi Van Rensburg says:

    Hi there
    I have 4 orchids, but when they flower the flowers are very small. By reading your post, I see I am watering them too much. I will certainly follow your advise!

    • Hi Andi,

      Hmmmm I have heard that plants that are under stress will sometimes produce smaller flowers so the watering issue could make a difference. Maybe consider adding a little orchid fertilizer too. The fact that they are still blooming is good so hopefully they will straighten out for you and give you the blooms you love. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I have had one of these types of orchids for about a year. I did repot it because the roots were coming out the top of the pot and were drying up. I do the ice cube watering method. The leaves are a beautiful green and there are old shoots coming out the top but I have not had flowers since I received it a year or so ago. Any advice on how to get it to produce flowers? What am I doing wrong? and yes I do fertilize with orchid food and follow the instructions. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks,Kim

    • Hi Kim,

      Some orchids only bloom once a year, many in the fall, so possibly it will still bloom for you. Is it getting enough light? That could also be an issue.
      I hope they start blooming for you soon.

  4. My orchid has lost all it’s blooms. Do I need to trim it back at all or just leave it? I believe it is a Phalaenopsis.

    • Hi Joyce,

      I would leave it. I only trim any dead leaves from mine. It usually only blooms once a year for me starting in late summer or fall.

  5. Hi Patti,
    I received my first orchid 2 years ago and enjoyed it’s gorgeous blooms for several months and then made a big mistake and followed advice from a friend to clip it’s stem back right to the bottom…I was told that was how to care for them. It is still alive and has grown a new leaf or 2 and new roots since then but no new shoot has ever appeared. I would love any advice you can give me!

    • Well the good news is that it sounds really healthy. Many orchids only bloom once a year. That’s how mine works. It is typically late summer early fall with the weather is getting cooler and the days shorter. Is that when yours bloomed before? If so, it may still bloom for you. Try giving it a little fertilizer. If you use all-purpose make sure to dilute it to half the strength. Try moving it to a place maybe a window where it will feel the effects of the cooler nights. I’ve also had success with them blooming on my screened in porch but had to move them back inside once the weather turned really cold. Don’t feel bad. All gardeners have trail and errors. The key is to keep trying.

  6. I got my first orchid phalaenopsis as a gift. It has bloomed and now what do I do? One of the stems is now turning brown. Do I snip it where the brown stops? The leaves are beautiful and healthy and would hate to do the wrong thing. Please advise me.

    • Hi Anita,

      I usually cut it off closer to the base. I’ve read that you can cut it above a node where there are markings closer to the bottom and it will re-bloom there but have never tried it. Mine usually only bloom once a year though so don’t worry if it doesn’t flower for a while.

  7. Suzanne Stiles says:

    i have several orchids. When they finish blooming, I do not cut the green stem back. You may discover new shoots or buds springing out in various spots along that stem. If the stem dries up and turns brown, then you can cut it back. If you have nice green leaves on your orchid, but no flowers, just be patient. The new flower bearing shoots will grow out from the base of the leaves, or if there IS a green flower stem, from a joint in the previously flowering stem. It can take up to a year for an orchid to re-flower, so I purchased several at different times, hoping for staggered blooming periods. That didn’t work, so now I “watch and wait”! The flowers are definitely worth it!

    • Hi Suzanne,

      Thank you for confirming this issue. I had read about leaving the old stems or cutting about one of the joints. I’ll have to try it. Also, thanks for confirming patience which many (including me) do not have when it comes to waiting for more blooms.

  8. Is it alright to pot 3 orchids together in one long pot?

    • Hi Bev,

      While I have not done this I’ve seen many beautiful arrangements so I would think it is possible. My instinct is that they should be from the same variety. Another idea would be to pot them in separate pots into a larger pot.

  9. I have an orchid plant that has developed 4-5 leaves on the stem. It had beautiful blooms earlier this year but now it’s it looks like another plant in the middle of the stem! What am I to do?

  10. Patti-
    I rescued several orchids from the ‘mark-down’ rack at a big box store. I bought some orchid potting mix (bark) and brought them home. I let them acclimate to my home before re-potting. Ever since I put them in the bark material, they are not happy! They are shriveling, even though I am watering on a regular schedule and they are putting on new roots. What did I do wrong? It seems like the bark material is so big and lets the plants kind of flop over… Should I shred it up a little and start over? HELP!!

    • Hi Lori,
      Hmmm My first suspicion is root rot. Shriveled leaves sometime means that they are not able to absorb enough water as the roots have rotted. If you lift them out is it pretty wet? Is there enough drainage? Make sure they are not sitting in any water. The good news it that you are noticing new roots. I know what you mean about the large bark which is why you want to pot them in a snug pot. Usually they are in plastic with large holes that can then be placed in terra cotta or other pretty pots. Drainage is key. If they seem too wet pull them out and allow them to dry out a bit and repot. You may also find some more specific advice in an orchid forum. Good luck!!

  11. hi madam,
    phalaenopsis small plant to grow well what kind of fertilizer i have to use


    • I don’t fertilize them often. Maybe once a month with a diluted all purpose fertilizer after watering first, so the fertilizer doesn’t burn the roots.

  12. Thanks for all the orchids advise

  13. My orchid bloomed once and has since grown a little, sprouted new buds and has a couple roots poking out of the top of the pot; should I repot it soon or wait a while? Also, I read that you should cut the part of the stem above the new buds, is this true? I use the ice cube method and fertilize with orchid spikes every 3 months (like the package says).

    • If it looks healthy and is not jumping out of the pot I would leave it alone. Aerial roots are very common. Regarding cutting the stem I would only do this if the part above the buds looks dead.
      Thanks for stopping by,

  14. I am a newbie. I just purchased several orchids. I read that to water with room temperature water. But also read to use the ice cube method. I am confused on what to do.Would appreciate any advice.

    • Sharon,

      Here’s what I think. Someone came up with the ice cube method so that people do not over-water their orchids, which is probably the number one killer. Still, they are native to warm climates they probably would prefer room temp water, but obviously the ice cubes won’t kill them. I do not use ice cubes. Just make sure that they drain well and do not sit in any water. Also, know that many orchids only bloom once a year so once they are done blooming it is normal for them to not bloom again for a while. Enjoy your orchids!

  15. When my orchid blooms, after the last flower fades I clip back the flowering stem to just before the place where the first flower formed. The plant will send out another flowering stem from this spot.

  16. Sorry, that should read “clip back the fowering stem to just AFTER the place where the first flower formed”. No way to edit the post!

  17. Hi Patty,

    When you say take-out container do you mean the container soup would come in? Make holes in it and then place this with the repotted orchid inside a decorative planter? I have one orchid that has only bloomed once that is very heavy with its leaves. I know it needs a larger container and want to make sure I’m doing the right thing for it.

    Thanks for your help.


    • Hi Nancy,

      Yes, that’s what I mean. Must of the orchid for sale come in these types of plastic containers with hole in the bottom. I would also be pretty generous wit the holes as you really want the plant to drain well. You can then put it in a decorative pot. The decorative pot does not have to have holes, but be sure to check after watering that it doesn’t sit in water. I’ve read that some orchids only bloom once a year but you may also want to give it a bit a fertilizer. The orchid fertilizer usually has a high middle number to produce blooms.

  18. My mother gave me an Orchid when I had my son. He is now 18 months and have yet to get another flower. I was told to remove the flower spike when the flowers all died, so I did. The plant is still green and looks healthy. Only one small leaf has grown since I got it. Any advice? I have been using fertilizer but maybe not watering as much as I need to.

    • Hi Lindsey,
      Sounds like your plant is pretty healthy. The only thing I can think of is to try to get it to a brighter spot but still indirect light. Check the fertilizer. One with a higher middle number may help produce blooms, ie 10-30-20.

  19. Orchids have roots that grow down into the potting medium and up into the air. A happy orchid will have air roots. They should be allowed to grow and not cut off unless they shrivel. When I first got an orchid, I didn’t know what air roots were and kept trying to push them into the pot until someone clued me in

  20. I started with a couple orchids years ago and have now maybe 20 under my guidance. I only use bark as I think the moss gets too wet. A north window is where most of mine thrive. And, I snip the spike just under the bottom flower after they’ve fallen off but above the node to force another spike. My success rate is about 98%. I water my plants about once a week. I also have one that looks like a lady’s ol-fashioned slipper that blooms once per year. I love my orchids!!!

  21. My question is I have a an orchid its been in the same pot for a few years it has roots going out the top and its packed in the pot, I’m not sure when to repot it?? please help me ive been wanting to repot but wasn’t sure how or when to do it please help thank you Robin

  22. Jennifer Jonsson says:

    I received my orchid for Valentine’s Day. It has lost two blooms but the other 5 are still looking good. I’m guessing they won’t last much longer. Does the care change at all once the flowers are gone?

    • Hi Jennifer,

      You may have read the comments below that talk about cutting the flower stalks below the first bud to promote more blooms but really I do not change the care otherwise.

  23. Margie Frost says:

    Hi Patti

    I had an orchid standing outside, I cut the stem off after the blooms dropped off, but then my plant was damaged, I think baboons broke off the top two leaves ( the growing point – I guess) after that the remaining leaves died but the roots still looked alive, could it recover, any advise?

    • Hi Margie,

      Wow. That’s a tough one. Maybe try giving it a little orchid fertilizer and keep it in place with indirect light. If the roots are still alive, I’d say there’s a chance.
      Best of luck,

  24. betty jolie says:

    I received a orchid in July the flowers were very nice and healthy looking i use the ice cube method the pot looks very full there is a lot of air roots on the surface but my flowers are wilted and feeling soft and falling off. What to do

    • Hi Betty,

      I think that is pretty normal. The flowers will fade and drop off eventually. Sometimes you will get another bloom on that stalk fi you cut it back a bit, or if it dries up I just usually cut it back.
      Hope that helps,

  25. I’ve recently inherited pot fulls of orchids when we bought our house. Probably about 7 large pots and all have mostly healthy looking green leaves. But I feel as if the pots are too overcrowded, they seem to be many individual stems with new stems sprouting randomly on them. I am unsure how to go about perhaps removing some and repotting or what t do with them.

    • Hi Alexandra,
      How lucky to inherit such lovely plants. My humble opinion is to leave them be unless they are jumping out of the pot or look bad (yellow leaves, shriving leaves and roots…) Orchids really like to be pot bound and I have found that they do best if you leave them alone. Here’s a good article from some experts that make help.

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