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Repotting orchids: A look at the best tools for the job.

Growing and potting orchids is relatively straightforward and if you’ve got the right tools for the job then it will get even easier still. In this article we’re going to take a closer look at all of the best tools to get your garden orchid project started. There’s no better way than growing orchids in the garden to get things really looking good. They look beautiful and believe it or not, they can actually be grown very very easily.

Taking care of orchids can actually be extremely easy and they come in a wonderful range of colours and sizes and this all depends on the variety. Two of the biggest and best conditions to take into consideration when growing orchids is good quality soil, and plenty of moisture. They also really appreciate really decent drainage. My personal preference for potting is Fir bark and peat moss. This is obviously combined with a good quality potting soil.

The first step: determining whether or not you’re Orchid should be repotted.

The best time to repot your orchid is after it flowers. Normally you don’t really need to repot an orchid much more than once every 18 to 24 months. Some of the telltale signs that you need to repot your orchid are that the roots are a bit soggy, and that there’s no space for the route as well, and the biggest and easiest tell tale sign is when the plants growing over the edge of the pot.

In case you’re wondering what a orchid that needs putting looks like he is an example from wikiHow.

Make sure you really need to repot your Orchid

Please be aware that repotting your orchid is extremely stressful for the plant. You should really only repot if it’s absolutely necessary. If the plant looks healthy and well within the park then definitely leave it be. Nothing to be worse than disturbing a healthy plant and causing it it damage.

Workout what potting material you need.

The first thing to do is get your garden hand tools ready and then work out what potting material you need. As I already mentioned I really like using coal and Fir Bark. Make sure the whatever pot you are using is going to give the orchid at least a couple of years of growth time. As we already mentioned we really don’t want to overstress the plant unless absolutely necessary.

Once you decide what size pot you’re gonna use make sure that there’s good drainage holes and make sure that they can photosynthesise easily. What this means is centrally you can create a greenhouse environment, by placing clear plastic bottle over the top of the plant and allowing the sunlight in and the bit of protection for the plant. The other great thing is it’ll actually help to keep the moisture into the soil as well. Orchids really like a good bit of moisture.

To roundup this article on how to repot orchids, really make sure that you know that the plant needs the transplant. Once you’ve established that the plant really need moving and it won’t be overly stressed by the procedure then make sure you’ve got the right garden hand tools in place. From there be sure to you keep the moisture in the soil and that you keep a good eye on the orchid.

Orchid Cultivation: Growing Orchids from Flasks

Timing of the removal of the plantlets from the flask

Removal need not be carried out immediately; as long as there is room in the jar, the deflasking can be deferred for a few weeks. The ideal time to remove the plantlets will vary according to species; as a general rule it is best to deflask when mature plants of that particular species are in growth rather than dormant so that ‘synchronisation’ can occur. In practice, this will normally indicate Spring or Autumn as the best times.

Compost & Pots

It is essential that the compost used remains well aerated and free-draining.

For most hardy or Mediterranean orchids we would recommend 1 part John Innes No.1 to 4 parts of inorganic material (such as fine grit, coarse sand, perlite). The major exception to this rule of thumb is dactylorhiza, where a mix of 3 parts peat to 1 part perlite is not unusual.

On the nursery use small plastic pots which reduce the risk of overwatering.

If you are deflasking hardy or Mediterranean orchids at home you might consider larger pots with several plantlets in each (community pots); this system provides a more stable environment and gives you a little more forgiveness in watering/inspection frequency. Community pots can also be used for the smaller intermediate/houseplant seedlings

Potting procedure

Have on hand: some kitchen paper and a pencil.

Prepare your compost; it should be moist, not sodden. If using a sphagnum mix, you need rainwater. Unscrew the lid and ease the contents out onto the kitchen paper. Ease the plants apart as gently as you can and clean off as much of the gel as you can without damage.

For single planting, take an empty pot and position the plant so that the junction of root and shoot is just below the rim. Loosely fill the pot with moist compost, firming gently with your fingers.

For community planting, fill the large pot with compost and use the pencil to dib holes around the perimeter, placing a single plant in each. Lightly firm.

Stand the pots in an area where they can be given a drenching of mild fungicide and drain well.


Being quite young and tender and needing fairly humid conditions, the newly-potted plants are ideally sited in a propagator or frame. They need to be kept safe from high light levels and extremes of temperature and draughts; comfortably warm is fine.

Most importantly, they should not be allowed to dry out completely.

Begin watering after a couple of weeks but only if the compost is nearly dry. Check daily if possible for any sign of fungus; remove any infected plant with a little of the surrounding compost. If several plants have been affected, remove them and re-apply a mild fungicide drench.

After a couple of months the plants should have established a root system; include fertiliser in three out of four waterings. No feed is necessary for hardy and Mediterranean orchids for up to one year.

For the first couple of weeks no ventilation is necessary; thereafter progressively increase ventilation round the plants.

After about 6 months your plants should be ready for re-potting in fresh compost and progressive introduction to the environmental regime of the more senior plants of the species.

Cultivation of Odontoglossum


For growing Odontoglossum we would recommend:-

  • Day 15 – 23°C (59 – 73°F)
  • Night 10 – 15°C (50 – 59°F)


  • Where possible we would recommend using rainwater, particularly if your orchid is in sphagnum moss.
  • If your orchid has been grown in peat and perlite it’s important to let the compost dry out between waterings BUT if your plant has been raised in a rockwool mix, you should never let it dry out completely or the rockwool will harden. If this happens, you’ll have great difficulty getting the rockwool to hold enough water again.
  • Plants grown in a sphagnum moss mix should be allowed to dry slightly before watering once more.
  • Never stand the plant in excess water but make sure that it’s allowed to drain away. Be especially careful if the pot is placed inside another container where the water may get trapped.


Feed your plant regularly with orchid fertiliser when you water. Every fourth watering leave out the fertiliser to allow any build up of salts to be washed from the compost. Plants in poor condition should have very low levels of fertiliser, if any, until a substantial root system is reestablished.


Normally your plant will produce a single spike, although sometimes large mature plants will produce several. The flowers may last five to seven weeks. Peak flowering times are late autumn/winter or late spring.

In order to get maximum pleasure from your plant in flower, place it in a cool corner. When the plant has finished flowering cut the flower stem to within three centimetres of the base.

Other Hints

  • Never stand your plant too close to a heater or radiator, nor in a draught.

Cultivation of Zygopetalum


Ideally we would recommend temperatures of:-

  • Summer 18 – 35°C (65 – 95°F)
  • Winter 7 – 24C (45 – 75°F)

with a significant night time drop in temperature.

However, zygopetalum are extremely resilient and can tolerate much higher temperatures as well as much lower ones for short periods. They can survive short periods with night temperatures of just above freezing, provided that daytime temperatures are warmer.

Confused? Don’t worry too much. Try a minimum of 13°C at night and something between 17 – 25°C during the day and your plant should be happy.


Feed your plant regularly with orchid fertiliser when you water. Every fourth watering leave out the fertiliser to allow any build up of salts to be washed from the compost. Plants in poor condition should have very low levels of fertiliser, if any, until a substantial root system is reestablished.


Zygopetalum like a comfortable but not dry atmosphere. Good air movement will help dry the leaves after watering. If the foliage remains damp crown rot can occur at the base of the leaves.


This should be carried out in spring or early summer. Choose a container that is not too large. There should be sufficient space for only two new pseudobulbs to develop before next repotting. Your zygopetalum doesn’t like a heavy compost. A well aerated, free draining mix is best.


When mature your plant will produce several flower spikes. Peak flowering time is in the spring and early summer.

Other Hints

If you have a strong healthy plant with a new pseudobulb which is reluctant to flower, try placing it in a cooler room for a couple of weeks when a new growth is beginning to emerge.

Cultivation of Cymbidium


Cymbidium are classed as ‘cool growing’ orchids. We would recommend :-

  • Day 16 – 20°C (61 – 68°F)
  • Night 11.5 – 14°C (53 – 58°F)

It’s very important that the night temperature falls below 15°C (58°F) when the flower buds are developing otherwise they may drop off prematurely.


When indoors, keep your plant in a light position. From June to late September it should be placed outside as your cymbidium needs the light, air and most importantly, temperature differential (a reasonable drop in temperature at night) if it is to produce flowers for the following season.


If your orchid has been grown in a peat and perlite mix, allow the bulk of the compost to become dry before giving a thorough watering. Be careful not to waterlog the compost by watering too frequently. BUT if it’s in rockwool, never allow the compost to dry out completely or it will harden. It’s extremely difficult to make the rockwool hold sufficient moisture again.

Never stand the plant in excess water but make sure that it’s allowed to drain away. Be especially careful if the pot is placed inside another container where the water may get trapped.

Champagne Cymbidium Orchid

Champagne Cymbidium Orchid


Feed your plant regularly with orchid fertiliser when you water. Every fourth watering leave out the fertiliser to allow any build up of salts to be washed from the compost. Plants in poor condition should have very low levels of fertiliser, if any, until a substantial root system is reestablished
To help flower spike initiation, do not fertilise during July.


If you live in a dry atmosphere, standing the plant on a moist gravel tray will create a micro climate and assist growth. Make sure that the base of the pot is above the water level Putting the pot on an upturned saucer would help lift it slightly.


This should be carried out in March to May, or directly after flowering. If you are changing from rockwool it is important to remove all the old material before replanting in an organic mix.
Your cymbidium is a terrestrial orchid which doesn’t like a heavy compost, preferring its roots to dry between waterings. A well aerated, free draining compost is best. We recommend our Mature Cymbidium Mix.

For a small charge McBean’s experts will repot your plant – bring it to the nursery Tuesday – Friday (not weekends, please)

Yellow Cymbidium Orchid

Yellow Cymbidium Orchid


Large flowered varieties usually bloom from November to May, with flowers lasting eight to twelve weeks. Miniature varieties usually bloom from October to May, with flowers lasting six to eight weeks.

Cymbidium flower spikes need supporting as they develop to give the best effect. This is usually done by loosely tying the growing spike to a short garden cane. When the flowers have faded, cut down the spikes to around 5 cm (2 in).

Summer Care: (Flower spike initiation)

Place your cymbidium in an unheated greenhouse or out of doors from late June to the end of September as it needs the light, air and a drop in night temperature to produce flowers the following season.

When putting it out, take care to ‘harden’ your plant to the outside conditions, particularly the high light. Place it in a semi-shaded position, then gradually increase light levels. When returning your plant indoors, acclimatise it gradually. A sudden burst of heat could result in bud drop.

Other Hints

  • Never stand your plant too close to a heater or radiator, nor in a draught.
  • Plants will lose the odd leaf from time to time. Don’t worry.

Cypripedium Species

The Slipper Orchids

Note: many of the slipper orchid species can make good garden plants in the UK if individual species’ requirements are considered. As propagators and nurserymen, we do not personally grow Cypripedium in ground and would advise customers wishing to grow these lovely plants in their gardens to explore the considerable knowledge base available on the web.

Container Culture

In autumn pot mature plants into large pots. Place a layer of drainage material in the bottom of the pot to prevent waterlogging. Ensure open drainage at all times.

Many combinations of material may be used for the medium. As a general rule of thumb, a mature plant mix should comprise about 70% inorganic material to 30% organic, providing a free-draining compost. Elements could include Cornish grit, coarse sand, Perlite, pumice.

After filling the pot about a third with compost make a small mound in the centre and arrange the plant on top with its roots spread. When potting is finished the crown should be around 5 cms below the surface. A top dressing of grit is beneficial.

Mature plants will need re-potting every other year. This is best done after flowering.

Place pot in good light (but not noon sun). Cool greenhouses, garden frames are ideal. Water freely when in growth but keep just moist over Winter. Feed occasionally during the growth period using quarter strength McBean’s fertiliser.

It is essential that the potted plants experience cold conditions during the Winter (‘vernalisation’). They require no protection.

Cultivation of Dactylorhiza

Dactylorhiza plants are suitable for garden or container culture. They are hardy and herbaceous. Roots develop throughout Winter, leaves in March/April and flowers in Summer.

Garden Care

Dactylorhiza are suitable for most garden soils and prefer a shady or semi-shady spot with good drainage. Moisture is important and the plants should never dry out completely at the roots; a naturally damp, but not boggy, position is therefore desirable.

The leaves die back in Winter but the plants are fully hardy and do not require lifting or protection. They will form a large attractive clump.

Container Care

Dactylorhiza require re-potting/dividing every year in July or August; a full size tuber should double every year.. They have a large root system so use deep pots.

They are tolerant of a range of compost mixes; we would recommend a multipurpose compost (one third) and grit/sand/perlite (one third). Plant with the tip just below the surface and cover with an inch of coarse horticultural grit.

Keep the compost moist throughout the year. We do not use fertiliser on our plants. There is no need for frost protection.

Cultivation of Bletilla Striata

Purple Ground Orchid

  • Suitable for garden or pot culture.
  • An easy to grow, fragrant, cool-growing orchid which is hardy in most areas of the UK. Can also be grown on a cool windowsill or in an alpine house.

Garden Care

  • Choose a sheltered spot out of the noon sun. Bletilla striata prefers a slightly moist soil. Containerised plants in growth can be planted out any time, otherwise plant pseudobulbs in the autumn, about 5 cms deep.
  • When in growth, water freely during dry spells.
  • After flowering, the leaves will die back for winter dormancy. Leave in the ground all year.


Indoor Care

Pot/repot annually after the leaves have died down in autumn or in early spring before growth emerges.

The plant will grow best where maximum temperatures do not exceed 18 degrees C with cooler nights, so avoid placing near heat source. Likes good light, an east facing windowsill is fine. When dormant, place in a cool greenhouse or similar frost-free environment.

Water the compost carefully from the top when it is almost dry. When growth appears, water more freely but do not stand overlong in water. Rainwater, if available. Water only very occasionally during dormancy.

Feed after flowering and until the leaves begin to die down using quarter strength general garden fertiliser.

Cultivation of Ophrys, Orchis and Serapias

Ophrys, Orchis and Serapias

These general notes may be helpful for the grower of predominantly Mediterranean species of the above orchids. These are not fully hardy in the UK but are easy to grow in pots in a protected environment such as a greenhouse or plant conservatory.

Container-Growing Basics

The annual cycle commences in July/August when the dormant plants are divided and re-potted. These species do not require large pots for their roots but a larger pot does give a more stable growing environment. They are also very amenable to community planting, i.e. a number of plants in a large container.

The compost should be loam-based which should be opened up by the addition of 50% of Cornish/horticultural grit or coarse sand to ensure free drainage.

The tuber should be placed 1-2 inches below the surface of the compost which should then itself be covered with around 1 inch of grit. Do not water until the shoot appears.

Some species will put up a leaf rosette in the Autumn; keep the compost just moist through the Winter. Other species will not show above the soil until Spring.

These plants are not fully hardy. As a minimum they should be kept frost-free; a low temperature of around 3-4°C may be preferable.

Winter light is desirable but semi-shade from April on. We do not generally use fertiliser on our nursery plants of these species.

After the flower has withered, keep plant completely dry through its Summer dormancy (i.e. until re-potting).


Cultivation of Spiranthes

Spiranthes cernua var odorata (Fragrant Ladies’ Tresses)

A fragrant cool-growing herbaceous orchid which can be grown in the garden in most areas of the UK or on a cool windowsill indoors. The plant produces flower spikes of about 30 cms in height.

Garden Care

Choose a sunny, sheltered spot, but out of the noon sun. Spiranthes cernua prefers a moist, well drained soil and containerised plants in growth can be put out at any time. Otherwise plant the corm-like pseudobulbs in the early Spring about 10 cm deep. Protect the new growing tips from slugs and snails.
In early Autumn the flower stems appear from inside the young shoots, giving small, white, slightly translucent flowers which spiral around the spike. After flowering, the leaves die down for Winter.

Indoor Care

Spiranthes cernua is also suitable for indoor or alpine house cultivation. It will grow best where daytime temperatures do not exceed 18ºC with cooler nights; an east facing windowsill is fine.

Water the pot from above when the compost is almost dry and allow to drain. Water freely when the flower spikes appear.

Occasional feeding will be beneficial during the growth season; use quarter strength general garden fertiliser.

Allow a cold rest period over winter (frost free greenhouse ideal) but water only very occasionally to prevent the bulb from shrivelling.

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