Just Wet

by Colleen Rochette

Ah, when life becomes gloriously messy. I am smitten, kitten!

After a very necessary round of grooming, trimming and a brief rest, my Cattleya skinneri, Brassolaelia Yellow Bird and Maxillaria tenufolia are ready to move into their new homes. The vanda baskets and mixed media that had been ordered from Repotme.com had arrived days ago. These super-fresh mixes are always well mixed and reasonably priced. They are also located in the Delaware area, so normal ground shipping to Brooklyn usually breezes in the next day. I absolutely adore this!

Sometimes it can be hard to anticipate whether or not your orchid will actually need to be re-potted when it arrives, but my rule of thumb is always Y-E-S! Some vendors ship bare-root to cut down on shipping costs. Conveniently, this allows you to directly examine the roots and re-pot the orchid in your medium of choice. Other growers ship orchids in their original pots. This is ideal for finicky plants, such as Psychopsis orchids, who dread having their roots disturbed.

Either way, I want to see those roots, so take it all off! The condition of an orchid’s roots reveal whether or not the plant is happy and healthy. Always check to see if any roots are rotten, especially towards the center of the bunch. They may need to be groomed and treated with fungicide to ensure that existing rot does not spread any further.

You should also take a moment to consider a few things when it is time to re-pot your plant: Will the medium allow water to run freely? Will the root system receive an adequate amount of air? Which medium is suitable for my orchid in combination with my specific growing environment, watering habits and my orchid’s needs? How long will the medium stay wet after watering? What kind of pot will I use? As a note; before uprooting, unwrap your newbie and let her sit in a relaxing place for at least a day. Keep the light on the lower side and comfort with some humidity.

Colleen Rochette Orchid DirtSo, I definitely use plastic cat pans to soak my potting medium. I only soak briefly to remove any natural dust and to give the medium a final rinse, not to rehydrate medium because it is old, dry or poor quality. The size of these pans are perfect for this purpose. They are also lightweight and heavy duty. Normally, I will not use all of this mix. To preserve the remainder, the wet remnants should sit out for a few days until they are completely dry. Then the mix can be repackaged and stored.

Because the mix from Repotme.com is always freshly made, there is usually some moisture in the bag that you receive. If you are not going to be using it within the next few days, it should also be laid out to dry and then repackaged for future use. This helps prevent any musty growth.

The blue pan in the photo above contains a mix that was suggested for Cattleyas. Due to their larger roots, larger pieces of medium can be used when potting them. This helps ensure adequate water and air flow around their roots, along with stabilizing them in their pot. Remember, you don’t want your medium hugging their roots too tightly! Orchid roots love air, they are epiphytes! We only put them in pots because it is convenient for us.

Colleen Rochette Orchid Dirt 2The medium in the purple pan was mixed specially for Oncidiums, seedlings and other fine-rooted orchids. I chose to pot my Maxillaria in this. Her fine root system appreciates the smaller-sized particles.

Colleen Rochette Orchid Dirt DrainingSo what do you do after you soak all of this messy stuff? Well, the water needs to go somewhere! To strain, I simply recycle a produce bag from the grocery. Use your finger to poke a hole in the bottom, dump the watery mix into the bag and you are golden. Maybe someday I will invest in a really large colander, but this method works just fine for me! It also looks funny?

Colleen Rochette Coconut FiberTo prevent the potting medium from slipping through the cracks or from being washed away during watering, I stretched some coconut fiber and placed it in the bottom of the vanda baskets.

Colleen Rochette Maxillaria OrchidOn top of the coconut fiber, a small amount of moistened medium has been laid down. But not too much! We don’t want this to remain soggy for-eva.

Colleen Rochette Maxillaria Orchid 2After the plant is comfortably positioned in the basket, add a bit more medium on top of the roots! With the slats in the basket, the air flow will dry this little layered cake out nicely between waterings.

Colleen Rochette Skinneri OrchidAs you can see, the potted roots of the orchid only occupy about half of the depth of the basket. The orchid will eventually grow and grow and decide to poke her roots out, which is great. Orchids are allowed to let it all hang out! No need to smother her in needless amounts of potting medium.

Colleen Rochette Yellow Bird Orchid
Colleen Rochette Maxallaria Orchid 3Three Gals, as happy as little clams!