The last time I talked about the magical orchid, I mentioned that I intended to repot it.

Repot me

The time came and, because I knew I would blog about it, I documented the whole thing. I laid everything out so neatly and took pictures at every step. In my mind it was exactly as if I were a professional horticulturist teaching amateur orchid growers how to properly repot an orchid.

Styrofoam Packing Peanuts?

My imaginary students were amazed when I informed them that it was quite proper and good to put white Styrofoam packing peanuts at the bottom of the pot rather than terra-cotta pot shards as some would do. I showed them the handsome media containing brick marbles, sphagnum moss, and fir bark soaking in water.

I carefully cleaned the roots, cutting away the few rotten pieces. I made a pyramid of media in the center of the pot, over the Styrofoam peanuts, and gently lowered the plant into its new home. I took a few more shots and finally had to admit that I had created a colossal mess. Botched it completely.

The plant looked more in need of repotting than it did before. I had put so much media into the pot, and possibly too many Styrofoam peanuts, that there was room for little else—certainly not a lot of roots. You can see the poor roots coming out the top. I pushed down on them, but it was useless. I told myself that orchids are epiphytes and their roots like air (which is true but they don’t like to be partially smashed in medium so dense it would probably never completely dry thereby rotting the buried roots while the partially left out sections dry up.).

The Good Side

The Good Side

I photographed it from the least bad side. That did nothing for the orchid and made me notice how hard I was trying to pretend that the whole thing was okay when it wasn’t.

The next day I re-repotted the thing. It seems much happier now.

Final Repotting

The re-Repotting of an Orchid

I decided it’s only fair to include a few links to sites where you can learn to repot an orchid for real, because I am not a professional horticulturist.

How they repot orchids at Apartment Therapy
How they repot orchids at
How they repot orchids at

After looking around at these other sites, I don’t think I really did so badly. I got the basics right, I just put too much medium in the pot. So my advice, when repoting your orchid, is to not over-do the media. Did you see that big pile of media I took out?



Last August 27th, my office gave me a beautiful Phalaenopsis orchid plant with long spike of flowers. And that damn thing just kept going. New buds kept appearing at the end of the spike. It looked like it was going to last a whole year, and it nearly did, but then it didn’t. So sad.

Final Two Orchid Blossoms

Sure, I know it will bloom again, but this had been a magic spike of blossoms. Seeing those final two on the floor was a poignant sight.

I looked up the proper way to trim the spike: disinfect garden snips with a flame and trim the stalk 1/2 inch above the second node from the base, and then dab a bit of something or other on end of the cut to protect from bacteria. If you have no flame handy to disinfect your scissors, I find wiping the blades on your pants works well.

I think the plant deserves to be repotted so I’m going to get a lovely orchid pot tomorrow—and some of that blossom booster I read about when I was learning to cut the spike.