Is Your Orchid’s Pot Killing Your Orchid?

These 3 Tips Can Make All the Difference

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dark orchid pot

The Right Orchid Pot

If your orchid isn’t thriving, the pot may be the culprit. Here are 3 things to watch for to make sure your orchids have the right pot.


Dark Color

Orchids need light, which is why we set them close to windows. This is a good thing, unless the dark color of the pot absorbs too much heat from the sun. I learned this lesson the hard way.

I have two mini cattleya orchids that I re-potted. One was re-potted into a dark cobalt blue pot and the other into a shiny black orchid pot. I re-potted the orchids in pots with lots of holes on the side for plenty of drainage. It wasn’t long before the roots came snaking out the holes. I was delighted by the bright, green healthy tips of the roots.

One day I noticed how warm the pot was. Morning sun streamed in through the window and was baking my orchids. I looked closer at the orchids and noticed that their root tips were black instead of green. Rather than re-potting the orchids, I moved them under fluorescent grow-lights. (I high-jacked lights which I had given to my husband so he could get a jump start on planting seedlings for his vegetable garden.)

My experience with my cattleyas got me thinking about my other orchids. I set my orchids with high light requirements, like my dendrobium, in light colored pots. Paphiopedlium and phalaenopsis have lower light requirements and do best a few feet away from windows. Those lower light orchids are doing great in dark colored pots.

burned orchid roots

The dark colored pot absorbed the heat of the sun streaming through the window and burned this orchid’s roots.

Same Pot- New Location

Sometimes even if you’re using the right orchid pot, you may need to adjust the location-in this case grow-lights was the answer. My cattleya orchids have been under the grow-lights for several months and the roots are doing fine, putting out new growth, and, I hope, getting ready to bloom. Cattleya orchids require lots of light, so moving the orchid to a lower light location was not an option.

Cattleya orchid roots are doing fine under grow lights.png

This is the same orchid, now under grow-lights. The roots are much healthier away from the heat of the sun’s rays.

No Drainage

Another common problem that leads to orchid problems are pots without drainage holes. This happens most commonly when buying pre-made orchid displays. In this situation, several orchids are placed in the same pot–one without drainage holes.  I have purchased orchids like this. The orchids were planted in a basket lined in plastic.

To solve the drainage problem I busted the bottom of the basket-and I don’t mind telling you that it took a little muscle to get it out. Then, with a knife I sliced several holes in the plastic lining to allow excess water to drain out. I set the display on a plate to protect my furniture surface. The orchid has been in bloom for a LONG TIME, but once it finishes blooming I will re-pot them in their own separate pots, complete with plenty of drainage.

Orchid pot without drainage

Buyer Beware: this orchid arrangement had no drainage.

Too Small–Too Big–Just Right

Like Goldilocks, orchids like things “just right.” While orchids love being a little crowded in their pots, every year or two it’s time to re-pot. Just as an orchid won’t preform at their best if their pot is over-crowded, a too large pot will also inhibit flowering.

The best time  to re-pot is just after the orchid has finished blooming. This is when the orchid is ready shift gears and put their energy into their root systems. Select a pot just slightly larger than their former pot, one with plenty of drainage, and one that isn’t too dark. Generally, I like to use a clear pot so that I can see the roots. Then I slip the clear pot into another (light-colored) pot.

new growth on brassia orchid

This brassia orchid has just finished blooming and is putting out new growth, indicating a good time to re-pot.

Your Turn: Find the Right Orchid Pot

Asses your orchid pots. Are your orchids over-heated, over-watered, or over-crowded? The answer may to try a new, lighter colored pot, or it may be time to move the orchid under grow lights, or your solution may be to to re-pot your orchid in a pot with drainage. With the right orchid pot, your orchid will have the best odds for health and vitality.

  1. Raekay says:

    Helllo; I have a recycled glass vase, 8 “ in back 6”” in front basically clear. I would love to use it for a miniature or orchid I was given not in any container. I don’t know the history of this plant. It has nice blooms on 2 stems and a third stem starting with some bloom. It does have roots extending out and some moss at top. I suspect it was in a glass that was broken. Can I repot in case with lots of pebbles under it for drainage? And should I use bark or some other medium. Thank for any help you can offer RKQ

    1. Anna says:

      Hi Raekay,
      It sounds like the orchid is doing well with lots of new growth. Orchid roots will die if they sit in water. The roots will soon grow down into the pebbles and then rot. I recommend using a pot with drainage. Pot the orchid in an orchid potting mix. Bonsai Jack offers a high quality orchid mix.
      Have a great day!

    2. Carolyn says:

      Hi Raekay, have you looked at growing orchids via water culture ? Basically it’s hydroponics and you use glass vases, jars, anything transparent; my orchids converted to this a year old ago are thriving, some are on their second blooming in a few months.
      I learnt via reading a few online tutorials, its very easy. Everyone seems to make a huge fuss about it but by following a couple of easy rules you end up with lovely healthy &happy plants. Ive found it much easier than growing them in bark, soil etc

  2. Deborah says:

    I have moved from Fl to the Mts in Ga. My orchids were beautiful there. I now keep them in the house, they are not doing well. Any advice as to how to grow them in the house.

    1. Anna says:

      Orchids can be extremely adaptable-though waiting for them to adapt can be painful. Growing them indoors is definitely a new ballgame than growing them outdoors in an ideal environment like FL. Indoors, orchids need plenty of air circulation. While the amount of light varies depending on the variety of orchid, be careful not to set the orchid too close to your window as the intense light could burn their leaves. This post on properly watering orchids may also help you out. Also, by signing up for my email list via the Orchid Love Quiz, you will receive additional information and free downloads on caring for orchids indoors. I hope this helps! I wish you the best of everything in GA for you and your orchids.

  3. Elize Meyer says:

    Thank you very much for your helpful hints!

    1. Anna says:

      You’re welcome Elize!

    2. Anna says:

      You’re welcome, Elize!

  4. marina says:

    Me gusta mucho,me identifico con esta informacion.me gusta mucho las plantas y más las orquídeas


    1. Anna says:

      Muchas gracias Marina!
      Con Carino,

  5. Beverly says:

    I appreciate the hints on this site for my orchids.

    1. Anna says:

      Thanks Beverly! Email me with any questions: anna@orchidbliss.com

  6. Janet says:

    But a smiling visitant here to share the love (:, btw outstanding design.

    1. Anna says:

      I love it! Thanks so much Janet!

  7. Elaine Hugo says:

    I was at Lowe’s and saw these gorgeous hanging orchids with roots three and four feet long hanging straight down. They were very expensive so I couldn’t afford them. I have two mini sized Cattleya orchids that I bought……just a few baby sized roots and three or four thin little elongated leaves. Can I make these little orchids hang like the ones at Lowe’s?

    1. Anna says:

      I’m guessing the gorgeous orchids you saw at Lowe’s were Vandas. They are indeed stunning. I’m sorry to say, but Cattleya roots aren’t like Vanda roots. Cattleyas need to be potted or mounted, while Vandas grow primarily aerial roots that need daily misting or watering.
      Enjoy your Cattleyas–they are lovely as well!

  8. Barbara Francis says:

    I have been reading your comments on growing orchids very helpful. Thanks for posting.

    1. Anna says:

      Thanks Barbara!
      Let me know if you have any questions about growing orchids!

  9. Shari says:

    How do I plant an orchid in a pot with holes all over? Doesn’t the dirt fall out of the holes?

    1. Anna says:

      Use a medium size bark-based potting media. The mix is large enough that it won’t escape through the holes in the orchid pot. Fir-bark is the most popular potting medium for orchids. Fir bark is readily available and is a by-product of the logging industry. Fir bark becomes more water-retentive as time goes on and allows for air circulation around the orchid’s roots. Replace every 1-3 years, before it start to break down.
      Here is a link for the orchid mix I use:
      Universal Potting Mix

      Check out this post on how to pot an orchid:
      How to REPOT an Orchid

  10. Cheryl says:

    I have enjoyed reading all your excellent information on orchids. This is so helpful.

  11. Susan says:

    I love orchids too! (: I am an amateur to be certain, but I like to look for inexpensive but promising additions and occasionally pick up a new plant – I have 6 or 7 at the moment. My pet peeve with these new plants is that not only are the display pots sometimes impossibly inappropriate, like in your examples, but that theyre almost always potted in waaaay too much absorbant moss which holds too much moisture , and I suspect they’re over-fertilized like crazy – a bad combo if you want the plant to survivre and bloom again. And of course they are early in bloom. In my limited experience, waiting to repot the new guys until after the blooming cycle causes a lot of root damage that can be avoided if I go ahead and repot them in more appropiate conditions right away. The trade off is that this often shocks the plant a bit and arrsts the blooming stage early. How do you navigate this scenario? And what approaches might you recommend for avoiding this seemingly ubiquitous ‘orchids on steroids’ in the first place? (I live in the Chapel Hill, NC area, if that helps.). (:

    1. Anna says:

      You make a really good point. Repotting right away may be in the long-term best interest of your orchid. You are likely to lose the flowers and buds, but in the long-run, your orchid may be better off being repotted right away. Another advantage of repotting immediately is that you get a good look at the condition of the roots and it’s easier to check for pests and disease while potting. On the downside, in addition to losing the flowers, some orchids have a harder time acclimating to a new environment than others and the shock of repotting right away may be too much. (I’m thinking of my Dendrobium Green Lantern that’s been a little stinker.)

      To avoid orchids that have been over-fertilized, attend orchid shows where you can talk personally with the orchid seller. Also, by purchasing orchids on Etsy you can contact the seller and ask them what their fertilizing practices are. As far as mass-market orchids, search the orchid distributors on Google then send them an email requesting more responsible care and fertilizing of their orchids.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

  12. Frances says:

    Anna I have 2 beautiful orchids from last year lovely flowers but only one leaf some of the flowers Are now beginning to drop guess I will lose the flowers gradually what’s the best way to treat my plant so I get Flowers & leaves next year
    Thank you

    1. Anna says:

      If you are losing your flowers it is due to an environmental stress. Follow the link below to learn more about bud blast.


      It’s is such a bummer when our orchids loose their flowers and we don’t know why. These tips will help you to prevent it from happening again.

  13. Cheryl Ali says:

    The pests that I have are what they call house lizards small grey ones that eat the tips of the vandas. What can I use to keep them away and other insects that nibble on the roots.

    1. Anna says:

      I don’t have house lizards where I live, but It did find this post with 12 tips to get rid of them. Hopefully these tips will help with insects as well.


      Good luck,

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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