The Why and The When of Repotting Orchids

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

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Before diving right into re-potting, it is important to know why and when to repot orchids. Knowing the answers will determine if your orchid is ready for potting.

Because orchid roots are so different from other plant roots, it can be an intimidating prospect. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be.  Instead, it can be rather fascinating. Orchid roots are thick and firm, not the web of tiny roots of other plants. (Or, at least they should be. Over-watered orchid roots will quickly become mushy and slimy.) New potting media will give your orchid a fresh start in clean media that is best suited for your orchid’s overall well-being.


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Why Re-pot Orchids

Overtime potting media breaks down minimizing airflow to the roots, and fertilizer salts build-up, creating an unsuitable growing media for orchids.

Sphagnum Moss – holds a lot of water that can easily lead to overwatering your orchid

If your orchid came in sphagnum peat moss the best time to re-pot is as soon as the plant is finished flowering.  Many plants are potted in this media because it is a great way to ship the plants.  The moss keeps the orchid hydrated and the roots in place.  But, it is not the best media for long-term plant care.  Orchid roots need air circulation, which they cannot get packed in the moss. 

Think of orchid roots like a one-way door that’s always open. If potting media is too wet the orchid’s roots cannot prevent excess water from entering their roots. Instead, the roots become overly saturated leading to limp, dead roots. Because sphagnum moss retains so much water, I recommend switching orchids potted in moss to fir bark

If you do grow orchids in sphagnum moss, just be aware that the moss should be barely damp, not wet.


Wood-Based Media

Wood-based potting mixes are a popular choice for potting orchids because they allow for airflow around an orchid’s roots. The wood-based mixes are often supplemented with materials, such as horticulture charcoal and perlite, that retain and slowly release water to the orchid’s roots as well as prevent compaction around the roots.

Orchids potted in wood-based potting mixes require watering much more frequently than those potted in sphagnum moss. If you are accustomed to sphagnum moss and switch to wood, you will be surprised by how much more frequently you will need to water. If you tend to have a heavy hand with water, then wood chips will definitely suit your care-style.

As time goes on, the wood chips become more water-absorbent and you will not need to water as frequently as you did in the beginning. Additionally, wood chips breakdown over time. Watering is a convenient time to check your potting mix. If you see what looks like coffee grounds, the wood has begun to decompose.


Salt Buildup

Salt is the carrier for minerals in fertilizer. While the minerals are necessary to support the health of the orchid, salt is not. Over time, too much salt accumulates in the orchid soil. If you notice that the tips of your orchid’s leaves are brown and dry, it may well be that the soil has too much salt.

Regularly flushing the orchid with water, and then afterward, fertilizing will help keep salt buildup at a minimum. But eventually, the soil will need to be replaced.

Now that you know why you should re-pot your orchids, let’s take a look at when to repot orchids.

When to Re-pot Orchids

There are three main indicators to watch for that tell when it’s time to pot your orchids.

The first is the hardest of all: before the soil has broken down. Waiting until the soil has actually broken down is waiting too long. Think of it this way, if you know your roof is old and it won’t be long before it leaks, it’s best to re-shingle for the leaks start. If you wait until the soil breaks down, the health of the roots will already be compromised.

The second two indicators are easier to recognize: after the orchid has finished blooming and when the orchid begins putting forth new roots.

After blooming for the first time

If you have purchased your orchid from the grocery store, chances are your orchid was potted in a minimum grade orchid potting medium. Don’t re-pot immediately.  Wait until after all the flowers die, then the orchid is ready to be re-potted.  After my orchids have finished blooming for the first time, I re-pot them using a quality orchid wood-based potting mix.


There are two exceptions to this rule.  First, I do not re-pot my dendrobiums.  They do not like to be re-potted and I don’t want to run the risk of losing my plant. Second, I think twice about re-potting orchids I’ve purchased from an orchid show.  These sellers usually care a lot about orchids and are not into mass-market orchid production and more likely to plant their orchids in quality potting media.

After purchasing at an orchid show, examine the medium,  and if looks good–if it’s not breaking down and the plant looks awesome, I recommend waiting to pot. On the flip side, many orchid growers like to re-pot their orchids right after purchasing so that they can check out the orchid’s roots.  For those of you who like to check out the orchid’s roots first thing after purchasing, try to purchase an orchid not currently in bloom.

Roots are actively growing

If you can see new roots emerging, that is the best time to re-pot.  This tells you that the orchid is actively growing and helps to ensure that the roots will become established in the new pot.  However, even when new roots are visible, wait until the plant finishes blooming before re-potting.


In Summary, When to Re-Pot Orchids

Knowing when to re-pot orchids depends on several factors. By considering the following recommendations, you will make the decision that is in the best interest of your orchids.

Before re-potting:

  • determine when the current potting media will become unsuitable, then plant to pot before it breaks down.
  • wait until the plant has finished blooming.
  • be hesitant to pot if the orchid is a Dendrobium, as they do not like being re-potted.


  • new roots are the best indicator that the plant will do well after re-potting.

Orchids can live and bloom for many years. Making the investment to re-pot an orchid that is planted in unsuitable soil will help to ensure your orchid will thrive, supplying you with the unusual beauty that only orchid flowers provide. 

Now that you know why you should re-pot your orchids – for fresh potting media without salt buildup and to allow for airflow to your orchids’ roots – and when you should re-pot your orchids – after the orchid’s flowers have faded and new roots are beginning to grow – you’re ready to learn how to re-pot your orchid.

For those of you who are looking for a premium orchid soil, make sure to check out Bonsai Jack Universal Orchid Mix. This is the soil that has helped me to grow my orchids. Full disclosure: this is an affiliate link, which means that at no extra cost to you, I make a commission if you purchase through this link. I’m always happy to answer any questions related to this product. Please feel free to comment below.

How to RePot an Orchid: A Beginners Guide

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


Top Tools for RePotting Orchids

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How to Care for Orchids

Keep reading to learn all the essentials of orchid care


  1. Ruth says:

    Can more orchids be put in a pot of reasonable size

    1. Anna says:

      Yes, several orchids can be placed together in a larger pot. Although, I do recommend keeping each orchid in its original clear, plastic pot within the larger pot. After placing the orchids in the larger pot you may need to fill in the gaps with floral foam to stabilize the orchids. Once the orchids are stabilized, add preserved moss to finish the display.

      The reason for not removing the orchids from the clear, plastic container is so that you can check on the roots and health of the orchid. Orchids like to be crowded in their pots, so a larger pot with several orchids may inhibit blooming. Also, if one orchid isn’t in bloom you can switch is out for another that is.

      That said, if you’d like to remove the orchids from their clear, plastic pot and see how they do, go ahead. Gardening is all about experimentation and you may really like the result.

  2. Bess Falls says:

    I reported mine in glass containers. Can still see roots but more decorative. When the air roots come out top and are shriveled, do they need more or less water?

    1. Anna says:

      I haven’t ever used glass containers for growing orchids. Let me know how it goes. I don’t worry too much about the aerial roots. I just let them do what they want. You could increase the humidity around your orchids to see if that helps the aerial roots to look more hydrated.

  3. Gabby says:

    Hello! I found your article very informative. I’ve had an orchid for about a year and a half now. Whenever buds form and it appears it’s about to flower, the stem dies and it never flowers (the leaves will stay green and seemingly healthy). This happens about twice a year, do you know why this is happening? I’ve always wanted to repot it and was finally going to this weekend, but buds have formed. Should I wait to see if it flowers or just repot it as soon as possible? What type of pot would be best? I’m not sure what type of orchid it is

    1. Anna says:


      How frustrating! Don’t give up!

      Bud blast, when flower buds die before opening, is the more common problem among orchid growers. When your orchid is getting ready to bloom, use care to protect the orchid from drastic environmental changes such as fluctuations in temperature, water and humidity.

      Yes! Definitely wait until the orchid has finished blooming until you repot. There are two basic orchid pots, one with holes on the sides and bottom, and the other option is a plastic liner pot with drainage on the bottom. Clear pots are usually set inside an outer, decorative pot. Both types of pots work well and I use both. The advantage of the clear pot is that you can see the roots and potting medium and more easily check for signs of over-watering. I have used both.

      I am praying for your orchid to bloom for you!

  4. LaVerne Drommond says:

    What, if anything, should be done with the dry shivaled roots in the pot? Should I just leave them, or trim them off. I’m about to repot in RePotme medium. I have clear plastic pots at the ready. Please advise, ASAP. TIA

    1. Anna says:

      Sure, dry,shriveled roots can be trimmed off. Sounds like you have everything ready for repotting!
      Best of luck!

  5. Sandra Baldenhofer says:

    HI! I have an orchard plant (which I purchased in 2001 at an orchid show)…it was called Cobalt (but I don’t have the tech. name)…It has never bloomed in all these years, but last year, I told it to please bloom before I die! ( I am 78)….this is really weird, but it DID bloom with 2 flowers for me that season!!!! Probably coincidental!!!! But it has never bloomed again! I have transplanted it twice into new orchid soil…but every time I have tried to use orchid (liquid) fertilizer, it seems to turn the leaves yellow in spots. SO frustrating! What am I doing wrong? I don’t water it very often as I know it has to dry out first. Sandy

    1. Anna says:

      I am glad that your orchid listened to you when you asked it to bloom! If fertilizer is causing yellow leaves, fertilize sparingly, just once or twice a month at 1/4 strength.

      If your leaves look good, stiff and upright, you are probably watering correctly.

      The main reason orchids don’t bloom is insufficient light. If possible, place your orchid near an east-facing window. A south-facing window with a sheer curtain will also work. If you’re noticing leaf growth that is a good sign. This means the orchid is growing as it should. It may take several months, but with enough light, your orchid should bloom. Do you know the name of your orchid? I could give you more specific information based on the variety of orchid you are growing.
      Warm regards,

  6. Jess says:

    How can I tell if I have a dendrobium? Mine was bought at a grocery store 6-ish years ago. I’ve never repotted it, and it always blooms every year. Should I just leave it be? I’m almost positive it’s planted in peat moss…

    1. Anna says:

      Sounds like your orchid is doing well! Could you email me a picture: [email protected]? I love to take a look.

  7. Lillian Healey says:

    Can anything be done for Cymbidiums with scale?
    They were gifted to me, with scale. I kept it at bay, but health issues stopped me for a while!

    Thank you

    1. Anna says:

      Although scale is a my nemesis, it is treatable. I advise scrubbing the plant, especially the roots and pseudobulbs with rubbing alcohol and spraying it with horticulture oil. This link will give you more detailed information: Treating Orchid Pests & Disease
      Wishing good health for you and your orchids!

  8. Jodi Geers says:

    Hi Anna,
    I’m very new to orchid growing and I love it. Your information has been extremely helpful. Maybe you’ve answered this question in other areas of your website, but I haven’t been there yet. I found this information on Pinterest. I’ll be going to your site soon so I can understand even more, but can you tell me how often I should fertilize my plants and what you recommend to fertilize them with? Thank you so much!

    1. Anna says:

      It was so great to hear from you! Thanks for your question about fertilizing orchids. Follow this link to learn about fertilizing orchids.
      Please let me know if you have any more questions!

  9. Debbe says:

    My orchid is always blooming but the leaves on one of them seem very droopy. Is this ok?

    1. Anna says:

      Once the orchid has finished blooming, you can re-pot it. This is your opportunity to find out the condition of your roots. If your orchid is potted in sphagnum moss, you can water it every couple of weeks, Bark-based potting media needs water more frequently,at least once a week. Likely you are either over-watering or under-watering. You’ll know for sure after checking out the roots. After potting, adjust your watering schedule accordingly. You won’t notice an immediate change, but after a few weeks, you should see an improvement.

  10. Berni says:

    Hi there..Berni here… very informative site ..thankyou.want to know what yo do with the long stems once the all the flowers gave died…di i cut them back..short?

    Thanks a mill

    1. Anna says:

      Hello Berni,
      You’ve just asked the most common question in regard to orchid care 😉 Follow this link for more specific information: CUTTING THE ORCHID SPIKE
      The short answer is: “Yes, cut the flower spike back at the base.” That’s what I recommend for the most abundant flowers.

  11. Pauline Gasper says:

    Hello Berni. I have a double stemmed orchid which flowers beautifully. I am thinking of repotting this time after flowering. At the base where old leaves and stems have died and been cut away it looks very dry. On saying that new roots are just pipping from this area quite high up and I am wondering if when I repot how deep should I go. Will it be okay if I repot a little deeper so as to hide the ugly dry bits. The rooting in the pot is all healthy looking but the base of the plant spoils the look. I have had the plant for three years and would hate to lose it now as it has gorgeous white flowers when in bloom. Pauline.

  12. Nancy Farmer says:

    I have an orchid I bought on clearance at the grocery store. I’ve had it for about 3 years, it has never been without a bloom. When the last bloom from one stem falls another stem is blooming.

    1. Anna says:

      That is ONE of the reasons I love orchids so much! They are truly flower powerhouses! Sounds like you are doing a great job caring for your orchid!

  13. Marie Peterson says:

    I just found your site and find it very informative. My situation is I live in Fl and will be leaving my orchids outside in a screen house with timed watering for three months this summer. When I return and find flower spikes, will bringing them back inside for my enjoyment cause buds to blast? Any suggestions on my summering of them?

    1. Anna says:

      Your orchids are least likely to experience bud blast if you wait until the flowers have opened. I’m just wondering if you’ve had a problem in the past. If you haven’t you’re probably okay to just bring your orchids in. But, if you’ve had a recurring problem, wait til they flower to bring them in.
      Good luck,

  14. Donna says:

    I just repotted my small orchid for the first time. I did not soak the bark first. Now I’m wondering if I should water it, or should I wait a while and if so, how long? Also, since I just repotted it, how long should I wait to fertilize it? (I’ve been very bad and have never fertilized this orchid. It had flowers when it was given to me a couple of years ago but it was knocked over and lost the flowers. Since then it has leaves but no blooms.) Thanks!

    1. Anna says:

      Yes, now is a good time to water your orchid. Also, if you are growing a Phalaenopsis orchid, you could poke some sphagnum moss in to the potting mix to help it retain more moisture. Give the orchid good light, and the potting mix damp, but not too wet and, hopefully, in a few months your orchid will give you some flowers!

  15. Doris Stinn says:

    Do Orchids have to be in a plastic pot liner or straight into a regular pot and are clay pots ok ?

    1. Anna says:

      Orchids can be grown in both plastic and clay. The advantage of clear plastic is that you can see the potting medium and the roots. Also, if you live in a dry climate, a plastic pot will keep the roots from drying out as quickly.

      Click on the link below to learn more about using plastic orchid pots.

      Clay pots are also suitable for orchids. Terracotta allows for air circulation to the roots and the pot leaches fertilizer salts away from the roots. On the downside, clay pots prevent you from being able to see the roots and roots do stick to terracotta.

      Click on the link below to learn more about using terracotta to pot orchids.

      Both clay and plastic are good for growing orchids, just be sure you have good drainage.

      Thanks for your question!
      Have a lovely day,

  16. Pauline Carrier says:

    Hi Anna.
    I have several “Phalaenopsis” orchid plants. They are facing East side .Once the flowers die the leaves become limp and shrivel up. I place 3-4 ice cubes per pot every week.

    1. Anna says:

      Thank you for your comment. It sounds like your Phalaenopsis are getting enough light. It sounds like you may need to fine-tune the amount of water you give them. Limp leaves signal both over and underwatering. Once the flowers have completely faded, that is a good time to repot. If you notice that the roots are hard and brittle, your orchids need more water. But, if many of the roots are dark and limp, you are overwatering. Follow the link below for more information on what to do about limp orchid leaves.

      Have a wonderful day!
      I wish you the best in caring for your orchids,


    I a have Phalaenopsis. It has two new roots and new leaves. It is not blooming. What to do? Should I re-pot? Advise.

    1. Anna says:

      Now, when your orchid is growing new roots, is a good time to re-pot. Here is a helpful article that will walk you through the re-potting process:

      Congratulations on your new leaves and roots, those are signs that your phal is doing what it is supposed to do – all part of a healthy growth cycle.


  18. Bev says:

    I’ve never replanted my orchids but all of them repeat flowering after a couple of months. I do feed them every 3 months. Ihave about 10. Should I replant and will this produce more flowers per pot?

    1. Anna says:

      First off, congratulations on successfully growing flowering orchids! Orchids do benefit from periodic potting every year or so. The main benefit of fresh potting media is that it does not fertilizer salts, and is not compacted, which allows plenty of air to the orchid’s roots. Keep in mind, that the orchid will need time to recover from potting and you may miss a bloom cycle. In the long run, you will grow healthier orchids.

  19. Jane Howard says:

    Anna,I have not seen this question before, so thought I would ask. What do you think about growing orchids in a vase of water with no soil or bark. On plant sites numerous people are successfully growing them. So I tried it. My Phal had not bloomed fir me after the first time so I thought I had nothing to lose. I cleaned off the roots and put them in a vase of water being careful to not set the base of the orchid in the water. Just the roots. Well, it bloomed for me after a month. Then the next year it has bloomed again. Two flower spikes this time. I had given up in the plant until I saw this post of the plant group. What do you think about doing it this way?

    1. Anna says:

      Thanks for asking about growing orchids in water culture. This is something that I have never tried, but it sounds like you have been very successful. How often do you change the water? I will definitely put water culture on my list of things to try as I am always experimenting with my orchids.
      Have a great day,

  20. MJ says:

    Hi Anna,
    When you re-pot, do you increase the pot size?
    Many thanks.

    1. Anna says:

      As orchids like their roots crowded in the pot, often the pot can be re-used. However, especially is the orchid has not yet reached maturity, then it is a good idea to go up a pot size.

  21. Amanda Martinez says:

    So my orchid is about a little over a year old, after the 1st bloom i cut the steam down and have gotten another bloom. But at the end of each steam i have what i believe is keyki but on each new plant is only one root coming out! What do i do???

    1. Anna says:

      The longer the keiki is attached to the mother plant, the better it’s chances of survival. When the roots are a few inches long you can remove the keiki and pot it up. Don’t worry about leaving the keiki on the mother plant too long. Wait a while longer to see if another root will grow.
      Enjoy your orchid babies! 🙂

  22. Solange Dirr says:

    My orchid is on water and always blooming do I need to fertilize it?

    1. Anna says:

      Sounds like your orchid is growing amazingly! Judicious use of fertilizer will enhance your orchid. Here is an article that explains all about how to properly feed your orchid:


      Have a lovely day,

  23. Irina says:

    I have several orchids but they always have issues and I’m not sure if they are under watered or overwatered at this point. One of them has fabulous flowers but the leaves are shrivelled and leathery looking- how can I help this orchid.
    Whenever an orchid gets a new stem and buds they suddenly shrivel up and die – what is happening? Thank you

    1. Anna says:

      To check to see if you are over- or underwatering, take a look at the roots – the ones growing in the potting medium, not the aerial roots. Healthy roots are plump with green or sometimes even magenta tips, underwatered roots are brittle and tan-colored. Overwatered roots are soggy, mushy and can be dark brown or black.

      When the buds shrivel and die before blooming it is called bud blast and is caused by environmental factors such as changes in watering or sudden changes in temperature and even air pollution. This article will help you know how to prevent bud blast so that you can get some flowers:

      All my best!

  24. Melissa Latchem says:

    I seem to have reached the biggest size of plastic pot at 21 cm do you know if I can get bigger ones? What shall I do the poor thing is pushing itself up out of the pot

    1. Anna says:

      I found a 25.4 cm (10″) orchid pot at RePotMe

      I’ve purchased products from RePotMe and their products are of high quality.

      Best of luck with your giant orchid 🙂

  25. harold p wurtz says:

    First as all thank you for all your articles and information. I sent you some pictures of my orchids last year when discussing the heat in Florida and its effect when the window AC is blowing hot air on them outside in my carport and how the fan blowing that air away was a big help. My orchids finished blooming around mid January, and I planned to check the roots & consider re-potting but – – low & behold they are all blooming again before I had a chance. each one with at least 2 spikes, and 10 – 25 blooms each. I’ll send more pictures this year, and try to re-pot next time

    1. Anna says:

      That’s fantastic! Congratulations! And, thank you in advance for the photos. I can’t wait to see them.
      Have a great day,

  26. Tracy says:

    Hi I bought 2 supermarket orchids at reduced cost nearly 2 years ago, both in my bathroom window that gets lots of light, one flowered on 3 stems 2 flowers on each the other has not flowered at all but seems healthy, what I would like to know is how do I get them to flower as good as when I bought them thanks

    1. Anna says:

      Here is an article on how to re-bloom your orchid:


      Follow these tips and there is no reason your orchid shouldn’t flower – with lots of blossoms. Remember, good things come to those who wait!

  27. Cynthia says:

    I feel my orchid is outgrowing its pot and the soil is breaking down. The leaves are so thick and heavy they are tipping the pot over. I purchased it about 1 year ago. Everyone says wait until it quits blooming but every time the blooms begin to fall off I find new ones starting. I am not sure if I should disturb it. Any advice.

    1. Anna says:

      Sounds like your orchid has gone wild on you! The very best time re-pot is when new roots first start growing. When you see the beginnings of new roots, don’t hesitate, re-pot immediately. The reason we wait until the flowers are spent is so that the flowers (and buds) don’t abort. Also, remember that after re-potting it will take a few months for your orchid to get its bearings and flower again.
      All my best,

  28. Donna Berg says:

    I am new to owning orchids question clear orchids pots where do I find them?

  29. Mark says:

    I have an Orchid that was given to my wife from a coworker. I have been watering it as I was instructed with ice chips weekly, and trying not to over water it. It is no longer producing any flowers and the bloom stems have died. I want to repot it soon. I was given an 8 inch pot by a relative, and the plant I have is in a 5 inch pot now. Is there anything wrong with using the 8 inch pot or should I purchase a 6 or 7 inch pot rather than going right into the bigger pot? Why would it not be advisable to use the bigger pot? Can you advise me on this?

    1. Anna says:

      Excellent question. The reason that orchids are often underpotted is that larger pots stay wetter longer – especially the pot’s center. As orchids generally do not like to sit in water (Phragmipediums are notable exceptions), smaller pots do a better job of providing a better environment for the orchid’s roots. It is likely that your orchid can be re-potted in the same pot, or perhaps one size larger. If you are growing a phalaenopsis orchid, these orchids like their potting media to be barely damp.
      All the best,

  30. Marion Madeya says:

    What do you think of potting Phals in volcanic rock? I am allergic to mold and I am trying to eliminate anything from my plants that may cause it. Including moss and bark. Thank you. Marion

    1. Anna says:

      Volcanic rock has several qualities that make it suitable for orchids. It is well-draining, it won’t decay and does retain some water. As phals like their potting medium barely moist, mix in a couple of cubes of wool rock, an absorbent inorganic material. As wool rock is not very pretty, bury it under the volcanic rock. Another concern is that lava rock, like many other potting materials, will absorb fertilizer salts, so just be sure to regularly flush with water to rinse away the salts.
      Best of luck,

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