How to Repot an Orchid With Air Roots: Give Them Some Space

How to repot an orchid with air roots is a process that should be done with care and gentleness as you should put it in a new pot with a top-quality potting medium. But be careful, as following one step wrong can hurt the air roots and lead to orchid death.

Repot an Orchid With Air Roots

Follow this step-by-step guide, and you can repot an orchid with air roots easily without facing any problems. Don’t worry; continue reading to know how to do the repotting without hassle.

How To Repot an Orchid With Air Roots The Right Way?

To repot an orchid with air roots, you should first confirm whether it even needs repotting. Then, soak it in water, remove the pot, clean its roots, and then carefully put it in a new pot. Make sure to add a nutritious medium to initiate the growth quickly.

1. Confirm It Needs Repotting

Before repotting an orchid with air or aerial roots, you should confirm whether it needs to be transplanted. Repotting an orchid when it doesn’t need to be is just a waste of time and resources. So, how to know if the time has come to transplant it?

For this, check the potting medium; if it breaks down, the aerial roots cannot function properly. Therefore, repot the orchid to a different pot with a new medium. Moreover, the appearance of aerial roots also gives you a hint of transplantation. In this case, if you notice that the roots look weak, then chances are they are facing problems and need to be repotted in a big pot.

Another sign that you would also have is seeing that the pot has been cracking, and the roots are still strong enough. The reason is that this crack can drain out the water you add, which causes the potting medium to dry out quickly. Insects can also enter the soil from this crack and hurt the aerial roots; as a result, if the orchids face any of these issues, the time has come to prepare for repotting.

2. Adjust the Right Season

The most recommended time to repot an orchid is in spring, even though, summer can work too. The key reason behind this time is that these seasons are ones that would encourage the new growth on Phalaenopsis orchids in full swing. Therefore, the aerial roots can grow quickly after repotting the orchid, and the chances of successful transplantation are high in these seasons.

But can orchid air roots be planted in winter? Yes, but the plant will take longer to familiarize themselves with the new environment and start the growth. Furthermore, you must be careful about watering after repotting in winter.

3. Gather the Equipment and Materials

When you have decided to repot, the next step to check off the list is to gather all the tools and materials you will need to do the procedure. To have a successful process, you must ensure that you have a pair of gloves, and a pair of sterilized scissors, a pruning knife and a dull knife, and lastly some quality  Sphagnum moss.

Note that it is super important to sterilize all the tools because doing this will prevent the spread of diseases and insect eggs. For sterilization of equipment, take bleach and pure water and add 1: 9, which is one bleach, and nine parts water.

Then, immediately soak all the tools for a bit of time. The reason is that the solution’s effectiveness starts to decrease with time. As a result, the quicker you put in the tools, the better they will disinfect.

4. Get a Right Pot

Choosing the right pot is a critical part of repotting. You should not use a small one as it does not let the roots stretch properly. Furthermore, adding sufficient water is a problem in such a pot.

It is best that the repotting would be done as you buy medium-sized pots. It is better to get it in plastic or terracotta material. The reason is that orchid roots do not stick with these materials. Also, such pots do not break down or degrade quickly.

In general, you should avoid buying large containers. They are not wrong to think that bigger pots mean faster growth. However, most people must be more experienced in caring for orchids with aerial roots grown in large pots.

Get a Right Pot

They usually add more water, which causes fungal diseases to attack. Sometimes, people also apply more fertilizers, leading to root burn. Furthermore, the soil pH also changes when you add more nutrients. This causes nutrient lock, which means the roots won’t be able to uptake the vital minerals, so try to be as keen on this matter as possible.

5. Fill the New Pot With Potting Mix

After purchasing the right pot, the next thing to do is to fill it with a top-quality potting medium. We suggest adding an orchid mix because it is made specifically to fulfill the needs of orchids. You can get it easily from any gardening and online store.

Moreover, sphagnum moss is also a good choice. It is slightly acidic, which is why orchids love it. Furthermore, you can also go for orchid bark. It is a perfect soil amendment for orchids because it improves drainage and aeration properties.

Even thought some enthusiasts would prefer the bark, which is why the question “how to repot an orchid with bark” often gets asked. Don’t worry; the repotting procedure is the same, no matter which soil amendment you have added to the old pot.

6. Choose a Well-lighted Spot

The success of orchid repotting depends on where you put the new pot. Most people put it right back where the old pot was. On the contrary, it is better to take a good look at that spot and see whether the orchids can enjoy plenty of indirect light. If they do, it is an ideal area for them, but if not, find another spot.

7. Soak the Orchids

You may now think, what to do with orchid air roots before repotting, and well, you should soak the aerial roots first. This will make the transplanting easy, reducing their chances of getting damaged.

So, what to soak orchid roots in before repotting? Lukewarm water is the best choice. You can even go for slightly cold water, but hot and cold water is not advised for soaking roots as they can cause heat stress and cold shock. In these situations, roots will be unable to grow properly after repotting.

So, fill a bucket with lukewarm to slightly cold water. Then, put the pot in the bucket. Make sure the aerial roots submerge completely. Let the pot stay there for 10 to 15 minutes, and then, take it out and drain the excess water.

Next, dry the moisture on the vegetative parts using a paper towel. Now, the orchid is ready to come out of the pot. You can also pluck out dead or old leaves while doing so. However, if you do not wish to do it with your hands, then try a pruning knife or scissors.

8. Remove The Pot Carefully

When the aerial roots become soft due to soaking, carefully remove the orchid from the pot. You can either grab a stem and carefully start pulling it upward; however, you should be careful that make sure that the chance of the stem getting damaged is high.

Remove The Pot Carefully

To be on the safe side, you should invert the old orchid pot and give a few taps on the back. You can also run the knife down from every side to loosen the soil. Just make sure you don’t hurt the roots in doing so.

9. Clean Roots

When you unpot the orchid, you must clean the roots. This is your best chance to eliminate all the debris on them, and you can moisten the cotton swab or towel paper and easily scratch the dirt on the roots. Even though you may try soaking the roots again for cleaning, but yet again, that shouldn’t be done because of the inefficiency, as it may increase the risk of leading to root rot.

It would be best if you also trimmed orchid roots that are discolored, dark, soggy, or dead. It is because such roots are of no use for orchids. Orchids spend a big share of energy on trying to revive such roots. Therefore, cut those roots and let the orchids grow new ones.

When trimming air roots on orchids, ensure you don’t cut the healthy roots or trim properly, because only the dead ones need to be removed. As a result, how to tell if orchid roots are dead? If the roots are brown, mushy, or emitting a bad odor, they have died, and the decomposition has started.

After you have done so, the orchids will only have healthy roots, and now the plant would be best to sterilize them to ensure they are free from harmful pathogens. For this, a three percent hydrogen peroxide solution is enough. You should fill it in a spray bottle and mist the roots thoroughly, and now you can finally transplant the orchid to its new pot.

10. Transfer to New Pot

Lift the orchid and carefully put it in a new pot. The roots should be downwards, and the leaves should be upwards, and now you should add some perlite, bark chips, and orchid potting mix to fill the remaining gaps. Carefully pat down the orchid and let it settle, be sure that you don’t apply any unnecessary pressure on any aerial root while doing so.

After you repot orchids, you should closely monitor them for one week. In the meantime, you should not apply water, and this matter is because you have already moistened the roots a lot in the previous steps, and adding more water can lead to a fungus attack. During this week, the aerial roots will get familiarized with the new potting medium.

11. Water Sufficiently

After one week of repotting, add sufficient water. You can pour enough water to moisten the root balls. However, the chances of overwatering are more when you do this. That is why we suggest you either spray or use the ice cube method.

Misting orchids via spray bottle is a common method of watering. In this, you can easily mist leaves, stems, and potting media of orchids without fearing overwatering. You may also go for the ice cube method, you place two or three ice cubes on the soil, as this also depends on the orchid’s size. When these cubes melt, water becomes available for roots, which they absorb.

However, you should remember that you have to only irrigate a newly repotted orchid when it needs it. As mentioned above, adding more water than needed can lead to fungal diseases. Don’t worry; you can also easily know when to water orchids.

For this, now you must go ahead and check the air roots: if they seem thirsty, and if you sense the orchid aerial roots drying out you would conclude that they have already dried. The potting soil also gives you an idea, so if it feels dry, then add water but if it is wet, then wait.

12. Help Orchids Deal With Transplant Shock

When you are done repotting orchids, there are chances of transplant shock- a condition in which a newly transplanted orchid feels stressed due to the new environment. It only occurs if you do everything correctly. Still, a lot of gardeners need help with this problem.

In this case, you may notice how roots stop absorbing moisture and minerals from the soil. As a result, the newly repotted orchid starts turning yellow, and the leaves droop down.

Help Orchids Deal With Transplant Shock

To deal with this, we suggest adding a little fertilizer, and the best fertilizer in this situation is made specifically for orchids. You can also go for any liquid fertilizer, and when you apply nutrients, the roots will be tempted to uptake them, which will kick-start the growth.

Another great way to end the transplant shock is by adding root-boosting hormones. When you apply them to the potting soil, the roots will start to grow and perform their role. This will help orchids get acclimatized to the new pot faster. Furthermore, it would be best to keep the roots moist, as dry soil can aggravate the damage to transplant shock.

13. Provide Good Care

Orchid care is also a part of repotting. When you transplant an orchid, you cannot leave it alone. You have to follow care measures to ensure the repotting succeeds.

Add fertilizers once a month to fulfill the orchid’s nutrient need, especially in the growing phase. Also, note that orchids like humidity levels to be between 55 and 70 percent. If they are low, spray water on them at least thrice daily.

If the humidity levels are high, then increase the distance between the two pots. In addition, you should prune old leaves and stems to improve air circulation. For healthy air roots, make sure you water once every week.

Keep a check on the pest population; generally, aphids, thrips, spider mites, snails, and slugs attack orchids. Newly repotted orchids are already prone to their infestation. This means that, whenever you see any of them, use organic repellents like neem oil, diatomaceous earth, sulfur, etc. but if lots of pests attack, then apply chemical pesticides.

Lastly, if you see leaves and stems wilting after repotting, then chances are the diseases have attacked. In this situation, separate the orchid from the rest of the plants, cut off infected parts, and replace the top layer of soil with a well-drained and dry potting mix.


All in all, it is really easy to repot an orchid with air roots if you know the steps. Here, we explained all the steps in detail, so just remember to follow these points carefully whenever you start to have to transplant an orchid:

  • First, confirm whether the orchid with aerial root needs repotting. For this, check the medium, root health, and pot condition.
  • Choose a medium-sized plastic or terracotta pot, as roots feel most comfortable.
  • Soak the roots before repotting, as it will help them to detach from the old pot and come out safely.
  • Cut any dead roots you see and sterilize the healthy ones to ensure orchids thrive quickly after transplantation.
  • Carefully put the orchid in a new pot with leaves facing upwards. Then, follow proper watering schedules and care measures after this.

You are now ready to repot an orchid with air roots.

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