How to RePot an Orchid: A Beginners Guide

For optimum health, repot your orchid every 1-2 years. Come learn how.

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how to repot an orchid

Knowing how to repot an orchid is an important part of orchid care. In this step-by-step guide, I walk you through the whole process.

Repotting an orchid has several benefits. It gives you a chance to toss a low-grade, mass produced potting medium in exchange for a top-grade potting mix to help ensure optimum orchid health. It also will eliminate salt build up that has accumulated through fertilizer. Any slugs, snails or other undesirables that may be lurking in the potting medium, will be tossed out. You will also have the chance to inspect the health of your orchid’s roots. The roots will tell you if you are over- or under-watering. Every one to two years is a good time to pot an orchid.



  1. Before the potting medium breaks down.  As the wood chips begin to decay and breakdown you will see fine pieces of wood float to the top of the water-think coffee grounds. Best practice is to repot before the potting media breaks down.
  2. When the orchid has finished flowering and the blooms have all dropped. Why ruin a good thing? You risk losing flowers if you repot too soon.
  3. After you’ve read my post on when and why to re-pot orchids. This post gives essential information on when you should repot your orchid and why you should do it.

The Why and The When of Repotting Orchids

Pottting at the right time vastly improves how well your orchid will adapt.


TIP: The exception to repotting is the Dendrobium; they do not like to be repotted. Know that if you re-pot one of these guys you risk losing your plant.

Monopodial and Sympodial Orchids

Before potting, determine if you have a monopodial or a sympodial orchid. It is important to make this distinction before potting as it will make a difference when potting your orchid.

Monopodial Orchids

If you have purchased your orchid from the grocery store, you likely have a Phalaenopsis orchid, nicknamed the moth orchid. This type of orchid grows from a single stem. Out of this stem grow the leaves, flower stalk and roots. Phalaenopsis and Vanda orchids are monopodial.

potting Phalaenopsis orchid

The Phalaenopsis orchid is monopodial and grows from a single stalk.

Growth Patterns of Monopodial and Sympodial Orchids 

Knowing this will help you better water and pot your orchids.

Sympodial Orchids

Most other orchids are sympodial. This means that they grow along a rhizome. These orchids are easy to recognize because most of them have pseudobulbs where they store water. One notable exception is the Paphiopedilum, also known as the slipper orchid. Some people mistakenly believe that it is monopodial, but it is sympodial. Despite not having pseudobulbs the Paphiopedilum grows along a rhizome.


Large, fleshy bulbs signify pseudobulbs on this Brassia orchid.



The slight bulges along the stems indicate pseudobulbs on this Dendrobium. Similar pseudobulbs grow on Cattleyas.

Growth Patterns of Monopodial and Sympodial Orchids 

Knowing this will help you better water and pot your orchids.


Here’s why it’s important to know the difference between monopodial and sympodial orchids when potting: Monopodial orchids will be placed in the center of the pot, so that the orchid can continue to grow upwards. By contrast, sympodial orchids will be placed with the oldest growth placed against the edge of the pot. The new growth will be set towards the center of the pot.


Gather Your Materials

[Full Disclosure: some of these links are affiliate links, which means that at no extra cost to you, I receive a commission if you purchase through these links.]

  • Old newspapers to lay over the workspace, to make cleanup easier
  • A pot with tepid water to soak the orchid in
  • Sterilized pruning shears, carefully wipe scissors down with rubbing alcohol to sterilize, or use a butane torch to sterilize. Pass the ends of the shears through the flame.
  • A bucket to collect the old planting media
  • New potting media. If you are potting a Phalaenopsis, Oncidium, Cattleya or Dendrobium, this is the potting mix I recommend: Bonsai Jack Universal Mix. If potting a Paphiopedilum, Cymbidium, mini orchid or seedling, this is the potting mix I recommend: Bonsai Jack Seedling & Miniature Orchid Mix.
  • A chopstick to fill in air voids
  • Pen and label
  • A cloth or paper towels for clean up

By the way, if you are interested in a list of the top tools I use to repot my orchids, click on the link below.

Top Tools for RePotting Orchids

Potting Orchids Just Got Easier


Begin by UnPotting

To make the roots more pliable, soak the plant for about 5 minutes in water. Then, ease the plant out of its pot.  Orchids can become very attached to their pots and removing them can be a little tricky.  Cut the plant out of its pot if you have to. This can be easier said than done.

Orchid roots will cling to clay.  You may have to break the pot if the roots cling too tenaciously.  Remove as much of the pot as possible, but it is okay if you leave some of the pot pieces clinging to the roots.

If the pot is plastic, you may need to cut the pot to get the plant out.


Pick the old planting media from the roots.  Do not reuse any of the old planting media.  Always use new media. This will help to prevent the spread of disease. New potting media will also give your orchids a fresh start, without fertilizer salt buildup. 


Inspect the Roots

With a pair of sterilized pruning shears, trim away any dead roots. These dead roots are easily identifiable because they will be black or mushy. Healthy roots will be white or green and firm. 

Wash the Roots

After picking away old potting media from the roots and trimming away dead roots, rinse the roots using tepid tap water.


Select the Pot

Orchids like to be crowded in their pot. If you do repot in a larger pot, use one that is only slightly larger. The orchid will not re-bloom as well, if at all, if the pot size is too large, and with orchids, it is all about the flowers! A mature plant can continue to live in the same pot indefinitely, though seedlings may require yearly re-potting.  

Best Orchid Pots: For Healthier Plants and Prettier Displays

Need help determining when to water your orchid? The secret is in the pot.


Potting Media

There are many types of planting media to choose from.  Everything from sphagnum moss to wood chips to coconut fiber, horticulture charcoal, perlite, aliflor or LECA (lightweight expanded clay aggregate), pumice and rock wool can be used as planting media for orchids.  I like to use an orchid potting mix sold by Bonsai Jack. This media is composed of 98% Fir bark, 1% horticulture charcoal and 1% perlite. It is carefully screened, cleaned and tested for pathogens. This potting mix will last 1-2 years.

As mentioned above, place monopodial orchids, like the Phalaenopsis in the center of the pot. On the other hand, place sympodial orchids with the oldest growth towards the edge of the pot and the newest growth towards the center.

You may be wondering how to tell the difference between old and new growth. If you have a healthy plant, newer pseudobulbs should be larger that the oldest pseudobulbs. As the orchid matures, new pseudobulbs will grow larger than the ones grown the year previous, until the orchid reaches full maturity.

Another indication is new leaf growth. Paphiopedilums do not have pseudobulbs,but the flower for the next year will always emerge from the newest leaves. Place the newest leaf growth toward the center of the pot and the oldest toward the edge. Over time, the orchid will continue to grow towards the opposite side of the pot.


Work in the Roots

Begin working in the roots until the base of the plant is at the top. 

Monopodial Orchids: If you’re potting a Phalaenopsis, place the orchid in the center of the pot.

Sympodial Orchids: Place the oldest growth towards the side of the pot and the newest growth towards the center of the pot. 

(Note: Vanda orchids are monopodial orchids and are usually placed in a wood slated basket with coarse potting media.)

Add Potting Media

Meanwhile, while working in the roots, add potting media. Tap and gently shake the pot to encourage the potting media to settle into the pot. .

As the crown of the plant prefers to stay dry, it should be above the planting media. Likewise, aerial roots, those roots that are growing out the the potting media, should also remain in the air, and out of the potting media.

Twist the pot opposite from the plant to help the roots curl into the pot, adding more soil as you go. Tamp and pat the pot to remove air voids.  Poke a chopstick around to fill in any gaps.



Now you know how to repot an orchid. To finish up, write the date on the label and stick it to the bottom of the orchid pot.

Lastly, resist the urge to water right away. Let the plant rest a day or two and then water.  All done! 

Watering Orchids: Find Out What Works

Learn how to water correctly and you'll avoid the #1 cause of orchid death



Just For You: Tips to ReBloom Orchids

Discover how to get the MOST flowers


Orchids: Cutting the Spike for More Flowers

A Step-By-Step Guide


The Top Tools I Use to Bloom My Orchids

These tools will help you too!


Check out my EBOOK: WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR GROCERY STORE ORCHID to learn how to care for you Phalaenopsis orchid.


  1. Joan says:

    Very clear instructions. Now I can try to improve my orchids. Thank you .

    1. Anna says:

      Thanks Joan!
      Best of luck with your orchids. Let me know if you have any questions!

      1. Laura Schmidt says:

        Will they come back orchids

        1. Anna says:

          Yes they will. Some orchid flowers have been dyed–the “gem” orchids you see in the grocery store for instance. When they rebloom, the flowers are usually white, but they are orchids.

  2. Leigh says:

    What do I do about roots that have grown through the holes of an orchid pot? Some of them are quite long (6-8″) Also, some of the roots are quite adherent to the sides of the pot.

    1. Anna says:

      It is perfectly fine for the roots to grow through the holes. That’s just what orchid roots do. You don’t need to do anything about those roots. And, yes again, orchid roots will stick to the pot–terracotta pots in particular. This just means that when potting your orchid you will need to use extra care.
      Have a great day!

  3. Anonymous says:

    First you say that Phalaenopsis is monopodial and later on you say to plant it in the center of the pot, I’m confused. Also, how much bigger a bot do you recommend? Thanks

    1. Anna says:

      I appreciate your comment so much! It is my goal to be as clear as I can about caring for orchids. I have revisited this post and updated it in an effort to clarify the information. Monopodial orchids (like Phaleanopsis) are potted in the center of the pot, while sympodial orchids are potted with the oldest pseudobulbs potted on the side of the pot, leaving room for newer growth toward the center. When potting an orchid, go up just one size larger.
      Please let me know if you have any further questions.

  4. Tatjana says:

    Hi Anna,
    I agree with previous poster, there are still some parts of your instructions that contradict each other, for example in the cursive writing early on when you explain the difference between the orchid types (“Why it is important to know the difference”). I gather it’s the other way round for placement? You also call a Phaleanopsis a monopodial orchid in some places and a sympodial in others.
    That being said, I found the instructions very helpful once I figured out what is what.

    1. Anna says:

      Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention. I’ve combed through the post (again) and I think I’ve got it fixed.
      Many thanks,

  5. Rasa says:

    That’s a great guide. I had no idea orchids liked to be cramped in their pots..! May be the reason a couple of them have stopped blooming/growing. Thanks!

    1. Anna says:

      It was great to hear from you. Keep in touch. I’d love to hear how your orchids progress.

      1. Ella says:

        This was news to me too – should I repot my orchids into smaller pots or just let them grow into their existing pots? I’d rather wait to see them bloom than risk disturbing them too much, but would like to know if they’ll still be healthy in a too-large pot?

        1. Anna says:

          Great question. Once an orchid has reached maturity, it can be repotted indefinitely in the same pot. Unless it looks like its climbing out of its pot, it can stay in the same pot. If it does look like it’s climbing out, go up one pot size. For instance, go from a 4″ to a 5″ diameter pot.
          Please, let me know if you have any more questions.

  6. Rose says:

    Thanks for such clear instructions.

    1. Anna says:

      You’re welcome! Please, let my know if you have any questions about potting your orchids.

  7. Debra says:

    Do you soak the new potting medium before you replant?

    1. Anna says:

      Yes, you can soak the medium before potting, Just be sure to let it drain for a few hours before potitng.

  8. Larissa says:

    Hi Anna,

    One of my Phaleanopsis orchids has a LOT of air roots and I’m not sure what to do with them or if this is indicative of some other issue (not getting enough nutrients in the main roots, maybe?)

    Some info about the plant:
    -I have had it for about 3 years
    -I have never repotted or fertilized
    -has re-flowered every ~6 months
    -pot height (covered roots) is about 5 inches
    -air roots (probably 10-15 of them) span ~3-4 inches above pot, and then leaves are above air roots (makes the whole plant look a bit top heavy and unstable)
    -air roots looks healthy (firm greenish-silver)

    Thanks for all the help!

    1. Anna says:

      To encourage new orchid roots to grow into the potting mix, you could repot is once it has finished blooming. Just remember not to pot the aerial roots or to trim them off (only trim away dead roots). Also, after potting expect some recovery time.
      Follow this link to learn more about aerial roots: HOW TO UNDERSTAND THOSE CURIOUS ORCHID ROOTS
      Sounds like your orchid is doing great–blooming every six months for you!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hi Anna,

    The crown of my phal is sitting about 1-1/2 in. above the top of the planting medium, and has 5 leaves on either side. The top of the plant is about 6″ taller than the top of the pot. It is blooming twice a year and the leaves and roots look healthy. Do I need to re-pot as it grows taller? Tricia

    1. Anna says:


      I love that your orchid is blooming twice a year for you! Sounds like you are an excellent care-giver. And, thanks for the question about repotting your orchid.

      Repotting your Phal is a chance to pot your orchid so that the crown sits on the potting mix, rather than a couple of inches above. As you’ve observed, as more leaves grow Phals can get top heavy.

      Of even more importance, repotting is an opportunity to refresh your orchid’s potting mix. Over time, potting mix breaks down, inhibiting adequate air circulation to the roots. Repotting gives the roots a fresh start with beneficial air flow.

      I recommend using a fir bark-based potting mix. Tools for RePotting Orchids

      Thanks for reaching out!

  10. Ashleigh says:

    My orchid grew an orchid on one of the flower spikes. The parent plant and baby are both blooming so I know I need to wait until they’re done blooming before I do anything, but how do I plant an orchid from a stem???

    1. Anna says:


      Do you know what variety of orchid you are growing? I’d love for you to send me a picture if you can: anna@orchidbliss.com

      Before removing your keiki, wait until the leaves and roots are at least a couple of inches long. In fact, the longer you leave your keiki on the mother plant, the better chance that the keiki will survive.

      Here’s how to remove your keiki (baby orchid):
      Using sterilized shears, cut about an inch above and below the keiki.

      Loosely pot the keiki in mini orchid potting mix. Be careful not to over water as these roots are used to absorbing moisture from the air.

      Here’s a link for mini and seedling orchid potting mix:

      Miniature and Seedling Orchid Mix

      Let me know how it goes!

  11. Tony says:


    You say to trim away dead roots. The roots on my Phal are pretty long and have snapped in some places… I feel as though it’s almost impossible to avoid this. So imagine this long root that has snapped in half and it’s decaying on one side of the break… is it best to just strip the decaying fleshy part? It’s obviously not the most aesthetically pleasing thing in the world since it looks like two green beans strung together on a thread, spaced an inch or so apart… but the rest seems healthy… or should I just chop off the root above the decaying part? (I hope that makes sense lol)

    Also… how do I prevent the exposed tissue from rotting after trimming a root? Even if I let it dry a bit and callus over, it seems to start rotting as soon as I get it wet.


    1. Anna says:

      Your description gave me a chuckle! If the root is bothering you, just cut it off. If the orchid is otherwise healthy, removing one root isn’t going to damage the plant. Don’t worry about watering the aerial roots. They are accustomed to getting the moisture they need from the air and will be fine without extra water. Watering from the bottom may help to keep the aerial roots dry, thereby preventing rot on a newly cut root tip.
      Best of luck with your green bean root growing orchid!

  12. Sandra Guevara says:

    i need to repot some of my orchid plants. So, where can I purchase larger plastic insert cups.

    1. Anna says:

      Here’s an affiliate link for large plastic insert cups. At no additional cost to you, I do receive a commission if you purchase through that link. Those are the liner pots I use.
      Large Slotted Clear Orchid Pots
      Hope that helps,

  13. Judith Yates says:

    I have a vanda that is in a glass vase. No potting mix or in standing water. It hasn’t bloomed in 2 yrs, what is the correct way this plant should be potted

    1. Anna says:

      I don’t grow Vandas as my growing conditions won’t suit. That said, most growers grow Vandas in wood slotted baskets specially made for Vandas. Potting mix is usually large-size Fir bark. If you live in Florida, or somewhere with a similar climate, you can grow them outdoors, watering the roots daily.

      Here is a link for Vanda baskets. If you purchase through this link, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission.
      Vanda Baskets

      I hope you get some flower soon!

  14. Anonymous says:

    Thank you very much for your clear instructions,,,,I have had orchids for many years but three years ago moved to Fl and have increased my collection …..Always looking to improve . Joan

    1. Anna says:

      It was great to hear from you! Yes, you live in the perfect environment for growing orchids! Have fun increasing your collection!
      Let my know if I can answer any questions about caring for orchids. I’m always happy to help.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Very helpful information.

  16. Lynda says:

    How do you fix the leaves if they are broken from being too heavy

    1. Anna says:

      I haven’t ever encountered this problem before where the leaves are too heavy. It is quite normal, however, for the flower stalks to become heavy. In this case you can stake the flower stalk with a thin bamboo stake and fasten the flower stalk to the stake with a hair clip. Email me: anna@orchidbliss.com. With a picture and I’ll try to help better answer your question.

  17. Katharine says:

    I have a beautiful phal orchid. The flowers have dropped after about three months. It is potted in sphagnum moss and last night the leaves toppled over. I found the crown had turned black but the leaves were strong and firm and the stem for the flowers is still green. I trimmed the black stuff off and put the leaves in water. Maybe it will root??? Maybe??? Try it if it works bonus if not I will toss it. My question is if the stem is green and the roots are ok will it grow leaves back?

    1. Anna says:

      Time will tell…Let me know how it goes. Phalaenopsis are sensitive to crown rot. As a preventative measure, when watering try to keep water from settling down inside the leaves. I’m curious to know if your orchid will grow new leaves. Keep us posted.

  18. Doris Stinn says:

    should my new pot have drain holes ? also can I just use a bigger pot without the plastic insert?

    1. Anna says:

      As orchids do not like to sit in water, your pot should have drainage holes. Plastic inserts are nice because they allow you to see the orchid’s roots and the potting media, but they are not absolutely necessary. Also, if you pot in terracotta, which some orchid growers prefer, note that the roots will stick to the clay – which can make repotting tricky.

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START HERE to Learn More About Caring for Orchids

Find Out What I Wish I Knew When I First Started Caring for Orchids