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Recommended Potting Kit

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When I first began potting my orchids, I struggled to find the right balance between allowing airflow to the roots, while at the same time providing the roots with enough water. After potting orchids for many years, I’ve come up with a go-to potting kit that helps me successfully pot my orchids – one that balances oxygen, water, and drainage.

I’m really happy with my potting kit. It basically consists of:

  • Bonsai Jack’s Ultra Premium Potting Mix. This is a fir bark based mix that contributes to the 3 essentials of healthy orchid roots: oxygen, water, and drainage. Plus, this mix is guaranteed to be free of pathogens.
  • Wool rock for added moisture. Use wool rock only if the orchid’s roots require more moisture.
  • These amazingly sharp pruning shears fit nicely in my hands make cleaning up orchid roots a cinch.
  • This butane kitchen torch is easy to use and keeps the shears sanitized to prevent spreading disease between orchids.
  • Rhizome clips are also helpful to keep your orchid in place while new roots develop.
  • A right pot is the final ingredient to potting orchids. Use a plastic pot for added moisture and a terracotta pot to reduce moisture.

This is my basic potting kit and I’m really happy with it, but I’ll give you a list of different products that will help you fine-tune potting based on your orchids and growing environment. Some orchids do not have water storage and need a slightly damp potting mix. Other orchids need their roots to dry out between watering. Likewise, some climates have high levels of humidity, while other climates are dry, with very little humidity.

Essential Potting Kit

No matter your climate or orchid, these tools are must-haves for every orchid enthusiast who plans to re-pot their orchids.

Pruning Shears

No matter where you live, sanitation is top-priority, so I recommend everyone invests in a good pair of pruning shears and butane torch to keep them clean. These pruners are the BEST! I use them all the time. They are sharp and cut cleanly every time.

pruning shears

These pruners feel just right in your hand (right or left). I use them when potting, to clean away dead roots, trimming flower spikes and for cutting away dead leaves. You can check out my favorite pruning shears on Amazon.

Butane Kitchen Torch

A kitchen torch may be the last thing you expected to see on this resource page. This torch is a fast and effective way to sterilize your pruning shears.

Before and after using my pruning shears, I pass the tips of the shears through the flame to keep from passing pathogens between orchids. The butane kitchen torch is available at Amazon.

Fir Bark Potting Mix

Some people like to change potting mix types as often as they change hairstyles. I’m a believer in tried and true. Although fir bark does break down after a year or two, it closely replicates orchids’ natural growing medium. Fir bark is an environmentally wise choice as it is a by-product of the logging industry, and would be otherwise discarded.

Bonsai Jack Universal Orchid Potting Mix

Fir bark pieces prevent compaction and are water repellant. As time goes on, the bark will break down and become more absorbent. You can tell the bark needs to be replaced by breaking a piece of fir bark in half. If the center of the bark is firm and dark, it’s in good shape. If the center is spongy and soft, it’s ready to be replaced. The fir bark I use and recommend is Bonsai Jack’s Ultra Premium Potting Mix.

Jack’s orchid mixes are formulated with top-quality ingredients and are pH tested to ensure healthy orchids. The Universal Mix is designed for mature orchids such as Phalaenopsis, Dendrobium, Oncidium, and Cattleya.

Rhizome Clips

Lastly, after potting, the orchid can sit pretty loosely in the pot. It doesn’t take much for a newly potted orchid to become “unpotted.” To keep the orchid secure in the pot while new roots develop you can use rhizome clips. These clips, available on Amazon, snap to the side of the pot and hold the orchid in place.

Fine-Tune Potting Kit For Added Moisture

Neither Paphiopedilum nor phalaenopsis orchids have water storage and need a little extra moisture – especially if you live in a dry climate. Two things you can do to add moisture to the roots, while still maintaining a free-draining potting mix, is to add wool rock to the fir bark potting mix and to use a plastic pot.

Wool Rock

I’ve found that because the air where I live is so dry, my orchids benefit from adding a few cubes of wool rock to the potting mix. Because wool rock is highly absorbent it provides a bit of additional water to the well-draining mix. The wool rock I like to use are these ones on Amazon.

Plastic Pot

Next is the pot. The pot you choose will either hold moisture – or wick moisture. To increase water retention, choose a plastic pot with slits for drainage. In addition to retaining a bit of water, clear plastic pots provide you with an unobstructed view of the roots. You will also be able to observe condensation of the side of the pot. If you see condensation, you know the potting media is still wet and providing moisture to the roots. These pots can literally be a lifesaver when watering your orchids.

I like these clear, plastic pots available on Amazon because the plastic is strong and durable and can be reused. Made of durable plastic. No flimsy sides here. With lots of drainage holes, these pots allow for plenty of airflow and water drainage.

For added stability place the plastic pot inside a heavier clay pot. This will keep your orchid from toppling over.

Fine-Tune Potting Kit For Optimal Water Drainage

Because many orchids have water storage in the form of pseudobulbs they like their roots to dry out between watering. Humid climates provide necessary water to the orchid’s leaves and also keep the potting mix damper longer. If this is your orchid’s situation, don’t use wool rock and consider using terracotta pots.

Terracotta Pot

Now for the pot. If you live in a humid climate, you need a pot that will wick moisture away from the roots so that the roots don’t sit in water. Terracotta pots are a perfect fit as terracotta absorbs moisture, wicking excess water away from the roots. Additionally, terra cotta is stable and will help keep your orchid from falling over. When selecting a terracotta pot, be sure there is a drainage hole in the bottom of the pot.

Even though terracotta is opaque and you won’t be able to see the roots or the potting media, you can heft the pot. Terra cotta will be heavier right after watering and lighter a few days later. Lift your pot following watering and a few days later to help you get the feel of a well-watered terracotta pot – and one that’s dry.

I recommend buying terracotta pots locally, rather than online. Terracotta is cheap but heavy, so you’ll pay high shipping costs if you pay to have one delivered. Look at any garden nursery for terracotta pots.