Orchids are exotic plants that are either terrestrial or aerial, meaning they may grow naturally in the soil or root in trees. While terrestrial orchids can tolerate heavy planting media when developing roots, aerial orchids require a light medium to prevent their roots from rotting. Depending on the variety, orchids take several weeks to more than a month to establish strong roots. Care for the orchid so it develops a strong and extensive root system before transplanting it to the selected planting site.
Things You'll Need
Hand drill (optional)
Sand or sphagnum moss
Sever rootable parts from a healthy orchid plant using a sharp, sterilized knife. Called pseudobulbs, these parts are located at the base of the plant where the leaves meet the roots, or at the end of the blooming stalk, below where the roots form. Use a sharp knife to divide clumping orchids.
Drill drainage holes through the base of the pot, if necessary, before filling it with sand or sphagnum moss. Avoid using regular potting soil, which causes root rot. Spray the potting medium with water until evenly moist and tamp with your hand to remove trapped air.
Insert the pseudobulbs -- the roots of the divided orchid or the end of a leaf clump -- in the potting medium. Cover the top of the pseudobulb lightly with the growing medium.
Place the pot in a sheltered spot with exposure to indirect, bright light and consistent temperature between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Because orchids require humidity between 50 and 80 percent to develop roots, place the pot over a tray of pebbles and water. To prevent root rot, make sure the base of the pot containing the pseudobulb is above the level of water in the tray. Keep the potting medium damp at all times.
Inspect the growing roots of the pseudobulb to determine whether you can move the plant outside. Ideally, healthy roots should be creamy white or white. Brown roots indicate excessive moisture.
Move the orchid to a spot that best meets it growing conditions once the roots grow 1 inch long. Avoid exposing the orchid to extreme fluctuations in growing conditions at once; instead, make the transition gradual, preferably over a period of two weeks, to prevent shock.
Use sand as the potting medium if growing terrestrial orchids.
If desired, use rooting hormone to help the pseudobulb develop roots. Follow label directions for dosage and application.
- Iowa State University Extension; Orchids as Houseplants; S. Schouten; 1997
- "The Complete Book of Orchid Growing"; Peter M. Black, et al.; 1988
- University of Florida Cooperative Extension; Terrestrial Orchids for South Florida; John McLaughlin; 2001
- "The Gardener's Guide to Growing Orchids"; Charles Marden Fitch; 2004