Growing Orchids – Orchid Information
In general when you are growing orchids, it is important to gather as much orchid information as possible. There are a few essentials to know about potting for example, and obviously many other areas of orchid care besides.
Potting Procedure for Growing Orchids
The best time to repot an orchid plant is generally in the springtime or when root its growth begins. Orchid plants then have the summer duration in which to produce abundant roots and complete their growths. If possible, when you are growing orchids, the potting procedure should take place when the roots are just appearing or at least when they are extremely short. An orchid plant with very long roots is not easy to handle, especially if you are to avoid damaging it. The shorter the roots are, the less risk there is of breaking these naturally very brittle roots. Potting time totally depends upon the individual plant itself, and its growth habits will need to be studied. Some cattleyas, for example, produce a growth which matures to the flowering stage before the roots are formed in abundance, and this is usually during the middle of the summer season. Odontoglossums can be potted in springtime or in early autumn, however in either season you should always avoid the warmer days as this is the time when they are making roots. The slipper orchids (Paphiopedilum) can be potted after flowering in late winter, although only if this is done in warm conditions.
Orchid plants don’t need to be repotted every year if the compost remains in a good healthy condition, and firm and sweet. If you test is with your fingers, and the they can be readily pushed into the compost, this is the time when some attention is needed. Every other year is a pretty good rule for potting. Even then, if the orchid plant has enough room in its pot and only a small portion of the compost is soft to the touch, the bad part of the compost can be replaced with fresh new compost, or the surface material can simply be removed if it is sour and broken down, and then a top dressing of new compost can be worked in.
Growing orchids can be a little fussy – they do not like decayed compost but they equally dislike regular disturbances and this fact should always be borne in mind when an orchid plants requires attention; it could be that a treatment as drastic as a complete stripping down of all the compost, would eventually prove fatal. Orchid plants should never be over-potted, and it is better that they are under-potted if the correct pot size cannot be used. With the exception of phaius, cymbidiums, Zygopetalum mackayi and some of the thicker fleshy-rooted types of orchids which require plenty of room to grow, the smallest pot should is preferable. Three-quarter pots or pans should be chosen for most orchid types. For those with rambling stems or the ascending or pendent varieties, baskets or rafts would be much more suitable. Baskets with widely spaced spars are highly important for the stanhopeas which project their spikes downwards, with theirappearing beneath the container.
The orchid plant which requires repotting should be lifted out of its old pot by inserting a potting stick at the back of the plant and gently levering the plant upwards and out of its pot. Where the roots are adhering tightly to the outer surface of the pot, less damage can be caused by cracking the pot with a sharp blow – if you don’t have a problem with losing the pot in question that is – this can always make crocks to be placed in the bottom of the next pot for growing orchids anyway.
The new pot should have plenty of crocks from about a third to a half of its depth, depending on type, with pieces of broken pot inserted vertically over thehole. Perfect drainage is essential for growing orchids.
The orchid plant should be prepared by holding it firmly in the left hand, and, with a potting stick in the right hand, carefully remove downwards all the old soft compost, leaving the healthy compost, especially that which is at the front. You should cut away any old decayed roots to the rhizome and any old soft, brown bulb should then be removed by cutting it off. This will often allow the plant to be replaced in the same-sized pot.
Generally speaking, about four or five bulbs and the new growth should form the plant which is to be potted, again depending on the individual plant and its vigour of growth. The back part of the plant, and this will be the oldest bulb, should be placed level with the rim of the new pot, allowing about 5cm (2in) in front of the leading growth for future development. A small quantity of compost should be placed over the crocks and selected wads of compost carefully placed around the roots of the orchid plant, ensuring a good base beneath the rhizome.
Insert the plant into its new pot and carefully work in new compost, starting at the back of he plant and keeping the rhizome level with the top of the pot .The fingers of the right hand should work through the heap of compost, selecting wads of fibres and attempting to gather these in such a way as the wad has its fibres running vertically. This wad should be pressed with a potting stick inwards towards the orchid plant and, at the same time, slightly downwards. Continue this with both the lower level and then with the top layer until the compost level is just below the rim of the pot. Careful attention should be given to the inward levering of the compost towards the orchid plant, as any excessive downward pressure can create a hard, and caked mass of compost, resulting in impeded drainage.
A test for the correct firmness of the compost for potting orchids, is to pick up the potted plant by its leaves or the bulbs and they should not come away from the pot. The completed surface can then be given a trim with shears or scissors. As with all practical matters, a demonstration by an expert orchid grower really is the ideal way to learn this essentially simple procedure, and many such demonstrations can potentially be seen at specific orchid nurseries.
Stake the freshly potted orchid plant if necessary, and keep it in a shadier place than the usual position for the type of orchid, for some weeks. Attention to the cutting of the osmunda fibre when making up the compost makes for easier potting. It is cut finer for small plants and left in larger pieces if large plants are to be potted.