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Best Orchid Pots: For Healthier Plants and Prettier Displays

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

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orchid pots

Need help solving orchid watering problems? You’ve come to the right place. Learn how to take the guesswork out of watering orchids with clear, plastic pots.

When you think of potting orchids, think in layers.  My preference is to plant first in a clear plastic pot that is set inside an outer pot.  I want the outer pot to be narrower at the base than the plastic pot so that excess water will drain out of the clear inner pot into the outer pot. This will keep the orchid’s roots from sitting in water.  The clear plastic serves as the window to the orchid’s roots and potting medium and the outer pot discourages algae from growing.  

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Clear Plastic Orchid Pots

You may be wondering, why are orchids grown in clear pots? This is especially baffling when you can use a beautiful piece of pottery. The answer is all about visibility.

Clear Orchid Pots Help with Watering

In a clear pot, the grower can easily see if the planting medium is drying out, or if it is still wet. With a clear pot, water condensation on the sides of the pot is easily visible.

Clear Orchid Pots Let’s You See the Orchid’s Roots

Another reason orchid growers like clear pots is that the health of the roots can also be easily ascertained. Brown and mushy are dead, overwatered roots. Wet roots are bright green. Silvery roots are healthy, but not wet. Green or red root tips are healthy.

TIP: In addition to being clear, orchid pots should also have holes or slots. This allows for water drainage and air circulation.

I like to use RePotMe‘s clear pots because they are heavy-duty and have lots of slots that provide air circulation to the orchid’s roots and water drainage.

What About Stability?

Setting the plastic pot in a secondary pot will add stability to the orchid as plastic is lightweight and orchids tend to be top-heavy. Additionally, you can choose an attractive outer pot, enhancing the overall appearance of your orchid.  The grower will then need to lift the plant out of the outer pot to see what is going on with the roots an potting mix. Together, the plastic inner pot and the ceramic out pot create form and function.

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Use a clear plastic pot as a liner, which is then set inside an outer pot. This way, you can easily check to see if the roots are healthy and if the plant needs water.

Opaque Plastic Orchid Pots

I have several orchids that have come in an opaque plastic pot.  When the plants come like this, I wait until they have finished blooming and then I re-pot them. As stated above, my preference is to re-pot in a clear plastic pot and then to set the plant in a secondary clay pot.

Use extra care when switching a Dendrobium from an opaque to a clear pot. These orchids do not like their roots disturbed. Before making the switch, be sure the Dendrobium is growing new roots, then quickly, lift the orchid out of the opaque pot and set it into the new clear, plastic pot. Keep the roots and potting media as intact as possible.

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Terracotta Orchid Pots

Terracotta is another popular choice.  It is inexpensive and looks nice.  I actually like the look of the water mineral stains that build-up on the sides.  The downside is that orchid roots cling to the sides, making re-potting more of a challenge–and you can’t just lift the orchid out of the pot to see the roots. 

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Terracotta is an inexpensive and popular choice for potting orchids.

Glazed Pottery and Ceramic Orchid Pots

There are so many beautiful pots that it is hard to resist using these to house our orchids. There is something very special about a piece of hand-thrown pottery. It’s art. Unlike a terracotta or a plastic pot, pottery can be pricey.

Decorative orchid pots can be used as a secondary pot with clear plastic housing the orchid, making it easy to inspect the roots and the moisture content. I like the base of the pottery to be narrower than the plastic pot so that the plastic pot sits above the base of the pottery.  This ensures that excess water will drain out the plastic pot and catch in the secondary pot while keeping the orchid’s roots out of the water.

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Orchid Pots with Holes

When many of us think of orchid pots we think of pots with a lacework of holes in the side of the pot which allow for air circulation around the roots.  It is also easy to see how the roots are doing and to check for moisture.  

When purchasing one of these pots make sure that the holes aren’t too big. You don’t want the potting media to come out when watering. When you do water, be sure to set the pot in a deep saucer or over a drain to catch the water that runs out. When watering, water deeply. The drainage holes keep the orchid from sitting in water.

When using these pots, do not use a clear liner pot. If the orchid soil obstructs your view of the orchid’s roots, use the dampness, or dryness, of the orchid’s potting medium as your watering guide. These pots come in a wide variety of colors. You can purchase hand potted or mass-produced pots, but they are usually all made from ceramic. Handmade pottery is gorgeous but comes with a price tag. When watering with one of these pots, you may want to set the orchid in another, larger pot while the potting medium absorbs water. Be sure the larger pot is scrupulously clean to avoid inadvertently spreading disease.

If you are looking for hand-thrown pottery, I recommend Pottery by Jolene. Her pots come with a removable saucer, which I consider essential. I don’t like attached saucers because they don’t drain a well as removable saucers. The potter, Jolene, grows orchids and tests her pots on her own plants.

cattleya - orchid pot

Check out the roots on this Cattleya. If you grow an orchid in a pot with holes. This is what will happen. If crazy roots aren’t for you, you may want to consider a different type of pot. If you’ve embraced wild orchid roots, then this type of pot will suit you.

TIP: Note that the Cattleya is growing in a dark-colored pot. If you’re growing an orchid with high light requirements, like the Cattleya, you may want to do what I do, and grow under lights. I don’t grow all my orchids under lights, but I’ve found that my Cattleyas do best under lights where they can get lots of light, but not a lot of heat. I have some Paphiopedilums under in dark-colored pots, but they do fine as they are considered a low-light orchid.

Mounted Orchids

In its natural habitat, most orchids grow on trees and on rocks, and a few in the soil.  An orchid growing on a slab of wood can really make a statement. These plants can require high humidity levels and needs to be watered from above.  Or, you can soak a mounted orchid in a large bowl or basin of water.

Trays and Baskets

If you would like to create an arrangement for your orchids, a wide, shallow tray or basket will do the trick.  When making an orchid display, I leave the orchids in the pots they came in (both the plastic and the pottery) and set them in the tray.  To fill in gaps I place prepackaged moss between pots. 

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To learn how to pot multiple orchids in a single pot, click here.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the best the pot for your orchid will do more than maximize the orchid’s visual appeal.

If possible, use an inner clear plastic pot with plenty of drainage that will aid you in the care and maintenance of your orchid. Then, finding just the right outer pot will showcase your orchid as the living sculpture that it is.

A well-chosen pot can make the difference between an orchid and AN ORCHID.

Protect Orchid Roots: Use Pots with Drainage Holes

Orchids do not like to sit in water. Adequate drainage is a must. End of story. 🙂

Protect Surfaces: Use a Saucer

To protect surfaces, I recommend using saucers.  This will prevent water rings on furniture and window sills. Adding creative saucers are like fun accessories. The saucer pictured below was marketed as a catch-all for jewelry.

Ready to Learn More?

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16 Comments
  1. Kay says:

    Thanks for all your advice!

    1. Anna says:

      Thanks Kay! I appreciate your feedback. It’s so great to hear from you!

  2. Celia says:

    A Friend gave me a beautiful orchid and a GREAT pot that he was told was for orchids. I have never seen this type of pot and, upon research, came up empty handed. It’s clay. It’s a clay bowl with holes within a larger clay bottom. One large hole in the bottom part. The 2 parts are fired together abmnd do not separate. I would guess that the inner bowl is about 3″ deep and 4 ” across. Botto. Is rounded and about 6″ across. The ‘well ‘ between the 2 separates the 2 parts by about 1″ on all sides. Is this possibly a pot for a different plant??

    1. Anna says:

      Celia,
      My curiosity is piqued. Will you send me a picture of the orchid pot at [email protected]?
      Thanks,
      Anna

  3. Carolyn says:

    Hi Anna! Thanks to you I found out about the orchid show at Red Butte and attended the Orchid 101 class on Saturday. I asked about the cool pots I see with the holes on the side and the two instructors said that the roots will eventually become attached to the terra cotta and also I would be constantly watering. Bummer!
    I am loving your website so much because when you talk about clear pots with slits on the side, there’s a link to buying clear pots with slits on the side–thank you!! When you mention Denbrobiums there’s a link to a care sheet. This is so helpful for a newbie like me!

    1. Anna says:

      Carolyn,
      I’m so glad you made it to the SLC orchid show. Maybe we saw each other and didn’t know it! Orchid roots will definitely stick to clay pot. That is one thing you can count on. It was great to hear from you!
      Anna

  4. David Rajewski says:

    Hi Anna! Thanks for your post. Do you have any specific pots that you would recommend with links to where to buy them? I’m having trouble finding pots that have both form and function, specifically in the larger variety.

    1. Anna says:

      David,
      Thanks for your question about pots. In response to your request, I have updated this post to include some recommendations for some truly stunning and functional orchid pots. Check out these links:
      RodionPresent
      PotteryByJolene
      Let me know if you need something larger.
      Anna

  5. Phyllis says:

    I use (clear or green) soft drink bottles for my orchids and they are as happy as clams. Cut drain holes in bottom and slits in sides, and take the curved top off. I have 4 containers of various sizes in one square wooden yellow box with liner. Once in a while I give them a good drink and let them drain, but a spray bottle stream is enough to keep moisture in the air and in the mulch and around the roots. Fertilizer, of course, every so often.

    1. Anna says:

      Thanks for sharing Phyllis! I would love a picture of your orchids! If you get a chance, email me at [email protected].
      Thanks again for your tips,
      Anna

  6. Patricia Houston says:

    Hi I am new to orchids my daughter bought me one from the supermarket almost 3 years ago it is in the same ceramic pot with bark chips it’s instructions said to put 3 ice cubes on the pot once a week which I do it sits in my window with southern exposure and it has bloomed 3x since I have it I would like to repot it and every web site has different instructions and it’s confusing I bought a bag of orchid repotting it’s basically bark chips I have roots grown straight up out of the pot I first thought the root was a stem that would bloom because it grew so tall up the middle of the plant then after awhile I realized it was a root when a long shoot grew and 6 flowers grew they lasted about 4 months second time it bloomed it was the same last time the stem was much shorter but had 4 flowers Ian afraid to touch this as it’s surviving but I know I should repot just don’t want to kill it can you help thanks for your time pat

    1. Anna says:

      Patricia,
      Your orchid sounds like it is doing great! Check out this post:

      WHEN TO REPOT YOUR ORCHID

      And this post:

      HOW TO REPOT YOUR ORCHID

      Before you get started here are a couple of tips:
      Don’t repot until the orchid has finished blooming.
      And, you may want to add a little sphagnum moss to the bark mix to add some extra water retention to the mix.

      You’ve got this! I’ve repotted LOTS of orchids, and though it will set it back a little initially, in the long run you’ll have a healthier orchid.
      Thanks,
      Anna

  7. Angie says:

    I have heard to water my orchids by ice cubes weekly; then I received 3 for my b-day, came with instructions to use a shot glass of warm water? I checked today to be sure they have drainage, 1 did not, but they are still blooming. Ice, or warm water?

    1. Anna says:

      Angie,
      I definitely recommend tepid water. Be really careful not to overwater the orchid without drainage. After the flowers are spent, repot your orchid into a pot with good drainage. Phalaenopsis orchids like their potting media to be barely moist. The roots should be silvery when dry, and bright green when wet. If you can see the roots, wait until they return to the silvery color before watering again. Don’t determine when to water by the aerial roots – look at the roots in the potting medium – if they are growing in a clear liner pot.
      Best,
      Anna

  8. michele says:

    Dear Anna,

    I noticed that you show a photo with an Easygro semi hydroponic system for one of your orchids. Are you happy with the easygro s/h?

    1. Anna says:

      Michelle,

      The Easygro semi-hydroponic pots are great for semi-hydroponics and I do teach how to grow orchids that way. It is fun and crazy to see the orchid roots grow right down into the water. The Easygro pots come with a convenient water meter and the outer white pot is made of high-quality plastic. The inner pot is made of cheaper, thinner plastic.

      Best,
      Anna

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the ONE email you'll open every week

Saturday mornings I send out an exclusive email sharing my best tips on how to grow healthy orchids.

YES! THANK YOU!