Trim Orchid Roots: The Right and Easy Way of Handling

Trim orchid roots is a matter that you may be looking to do so on the dead parts of the roots. Well, for trimming, you only have to moisten the roots and cut them with a sharp knife or scissors.

But it’s more complex than many other things, which you should do step-by-step. Don’t worry; stick to the end as we share how we cut the roots in the easiest way possible.

How To Trim Orchid Roots Easily?

To trim an orchid’s roots, you should first sterilize the tools. Next, clean the roots and identify which ones need to be trimmed. Clean these roots, dry them, and trim them. Take care of the healthy roots, and place the plant back in the pot.

Trim Orchid Roots Easily

The reason why you should trim the roots is if they have grown a lot. This will help you manage the plant better. Also, it is keen to know that you should cut off dead or dull roots, as they are useless to the orchids and are taking up some space. Similarly, mushy roots do not absorb water or minerals, so removing them will benefit the plants.

1. Make Sure You Have All the Tools/Materials

Before you begin the journey to cut orchid roots, you should gather all the tools and materials to make your task easy. All of them are affordable, and you don’t have to buy anything expensive. Also, if you have been growing plants for some time, you may already have most of the tools in your gardening cabinet, which means that the process will not be as challenging.

To trim the roots, you may need the following a pair of disinfected trimming shears or scissors; you may also use household scissors as they are acceptable as long as they are sharp and sterilized. You also need a spray bottle, sharp knife, bleach, antiseptic, potting soi, and paper towel.

2. Sterilize Every Tool

Sterilizing your tools before trimming the roots is very important if you want the plants to stay healthy. It is because if such tools have pathogens on them, they can easily penetrate through the cut and infect the roots. They may harm the plant, in th long run, if they are infected in any way.

Ethanol or isopropyl alcohol is the ideal disinfectant for pruning equipment as it is inexpensive and does not want you to soak the tools in its solution for hours. From any gardening store, most items marketed as “rubbing alcohol” contain 70 percent of isopropyl alcohol, and as you buy it, you can now use it to sterilize the tools.

If you have bleach in your home, you can use it too; what you must do is first, add nine cups of water to a bowl or a bucket. Then, pour the same cup with bleach into the bowl or a bucket, and after doing this mix carefully and put all the tools in the solution.

Let them stay there for about 30 minutes to be set properly and cleaned well. It would be best to immediately put the tools in the bleach solution after mixing. This is because the bleach solution’s sterilization properties decrease with time.

You may also open and shut the shears while sterilizing to ensure no area gets left out, which means cleaning it thoroughly. Then, place the tools on a dry paper towel and let them dry, and now you can also wipe the moisture using a dry towel, and make sure it is clean as well.

3. Remove the Pot

Now, carefully remove the orchid from the pot, as it is also super easy to remove the pot of an orchid plant. First, water the soil to moisten the root balls, and after doing so use a chopstick to pull the orchid upwards. If you don’t have a chopstick, remove the pot by pulling it from your hands, but if you are a beginner, try to go with the tools because you don’t want to harm the roots.

Although you can also invert the pot after applying water and giving gentle strokes on the back. The orchid will then come out easily. As a result, make sure you catch it and don’t let it drop on the ground.

If you want to trim aerial roots, then there is no need to remove the pot of the orchid, as many orchid species grow roots in the open. Most people prefer to grow Phalaenopsis orchids, because these are ones that have beautiful aerial roots. Moreover, you can also go for vanda orchid, as they are also a popular choice, and it also has roots coming out from the junction of different parts, which is why if you want to trim the air roots, ignore this step and jump to the next one.

4. Identify Which Roots To Cut

It is super important to identify which root to trim, or else you may cut healthy air roots, which can damage your orchid. In this case, you should be very conscious and know that healthy or fit roots are those that swell up when watered; however, not all healthy roots have the same appearance. A root in good shape also feels robust when you touch them, on this matter, there are hints of “greenness” on them.

On the other hand, you should now try to tackle the weak ones, and here, the unhealthy orchid roots are discolored and a lot grayer than usual, so, identify which roots are discolored and mark them. Furthermore, look for “flattened” or brittle roots and such roots are dead, and it is crucial you also cut them.

Identify Which Roots To Cut

Also, check out if there are any mushy, black, or brown roots. Such roots are also sick, which means they are a liability for the orchid. Sometimes, aerial roots stretch a lot, which decreases the aesthetic value of an orchid.

It also makes it hard for owners to relocate such a plant to other areas when needed. So, what to do with overgrown orchid roots? The answer is yes, you should cut them, and check for the quality as well.

In short, the roots’ color and texture tell you whether they are dead. They are no longer alive if the roots turn gray, brown, or black with irregular spots. Similarly, those roots that feel extremely dry or too soggy are dead too.

5. Clean the Roots Before Trimming

After finding out which roots to trim, the next step is to clean them, and in this case, you should clean all the roots, not just those you are about to cut. This will improve their health, decreasing their chances of going bad; on the other hand, you may find more unhealthy roots during the cleaning, which should have been visible earlier.

When it comes to healthy and clean roots, you have to wash them with water. Fill the water in a big container and then place the orchid carefully. Let the roots soak all the liquid and get soft. You should also ensure every part of the root ball is moist.

Ensure you keep track of when you put the orchid in the container, and ensure that you do not leave it there for hours, which means just 20 to 30 minutes of soaking is enough. Novice gardeners may forget they have submerged the roots in the water and start doing other chores.

They usually realize it when the hours have passed, but the damage has already been done. Roots underwater for hours can cause suffocated and can even face irreversible complications. Therefore, you should set the alarm to remind yourself, as timing is an important factor.

If you want to trim aerial orchid roots, mist them a lot, so keep doing this until you think the roots are getting a little soft. However, be careful about moistening leaves and stems, as fungi can attack. Furthermore, wiping out the dirt and debris from these roots using your hands or tissue paper would be best.

6. Dry the Roots

After soaking the roots, there is still a better time to cut. Before trimming orchid air roots, you should let them dry first. It is because cutting soggy roots is hard, and it can also get messy and create a favorable environment for an attack of root rot, or even different fungal diseases.

Dry the Roots

Use a paper towel, tissue, or any soft drying material, and remember never to apply too much pressure as the roots are delicate and can get damaged easily. In parallel to this, you can also use another one when the paper towel or tissue gets moist.

7. Finally, Trim the Roots

When the roots get dried, you can now finally trim them, and cut them with sterilized scissors or a knife carefully, then snip them away. Try cutting the roots as low as possible with your cutting tool. On the other hand, when it comes to dead roots, you can completely cut them off.

There is no need to trim roots unnecessarily, of course, you should not even touch any healthy and robust roots. That is why you must thoroughly double-check which roots they are about to trim. Make sure to dump the dead ones in a bucket and not to keep them along the healthy ones.

Trimming roots is important because the orchid can then grow peacefully when you do it. You must cut the dead, infected, and extremely long roots in trimming, which are useless for orchids; in short, such roots hurt the plants. They can spread the fungus, slow down the absorption, and can cause lots of other problems.

8. Sterilize the Healthy Roots After Trimming

People often wonder what to do with orchid air roots after you trim them. Well, the next step after cutting the roots is sterilization. It is done to ensure the orchid plants stay healthy and free from fungi, bacteria, or any pathogen.

For sterilization, three percent hydrogen peroxide is perfect. Fill it in a spray bottle and mist the trimmed roots. Make sure no part gets deprived of this misting, and in this case, if you don’t have a spray bottle, pour the three percent hydrogen peroxide solution into a bowl and soak the roots, and make sure to do it gently.

9. Treat the Cuts

If you can’t cut the roots properly, don’t worry, as you can treat these cuts. For this, use a fungicide powder or cinnamon powder, because these two powders have the power to prevent infections and initiate root growth.

Do this with every trimmed root, even if you think you did a great job, it is because no one should risk the health of the orchids. The infections can damage them severely, and sometimes the plants cannot even revive themselves.

To treat the cut roots, add a tablespoon of cinnamon powder to a plate, and mist the roots. With your fingers, sprinkle the cinnamon powder on the roots, and, make sure the cut is covered with the powder.

10. Dispose of the Dead Roots

After treating the roots, you will think about what to do with the dead orchid roots you just cut. Put all of them in a bag and carefully dispose of them far from your home.

Dispose of the Dead Roots

It is because chances are some of them might be fungal infected and can cause fungal spores to disperse in your garden.

11. Put the Plant Back in the Pot

It’s now time you repot orchids; however, before you do this, you should carefully have a closer look at the pot first. Check if there are any cracks or if the drainage hole is clogged, and if everything is fine, then you can put the orchid in it. If it has issues, then you must get a new one.

Note that your orchid requires a bigger pot every year to grow correctly. So, please purchase a slightly bigger pot than the previous one, you can also buy a transparent orchid pot. It is because you will then be able to witness orchids more clearly with your eyes, even though terracotta and plastic pots are popular choices, too, because they are light and do not degrade easily.

We also suggest you use a new orchid potting mix. The best one to grow orchids is a mixture of sphagnum moss, vermiculite, and bark. This potting medium will ensure the roots enjoy enough aeration, nutrients, and water (as it has excellent water retention capacity). Also, leveling the medium using lava rocks or gravel. Furthermore, ensure the drainage hole is unclogged, or the roots will start facing stress.

Note that orchids grow best when the medium is slightly acidic. So, it is also better to check its nature using pH strips or a Ph meter. If it is between 5.5 to 6.5, it means the potting mix is ideal for the orchid.

When you do all of this, start the repotting process, and you wish to know how to repot an orchid with air roots, gently put the orchid and tuck the roots. Fill the gaps by adding bark chips. Repotting ends here for those orchids that don’t have air roots by ensuring the aerial roots are free from any restraints.

Do not water immediately after repotting, as it is best to wait a week before pouring water. It is because you have often moistened the roots in the previous steps. So, adding more water can make them soggy, which will lead to orchid root rot.

It is better to mark the date when you repot the orchid. It will help you find out when the weekends are. If you think the potting soil/medium has gone bone dry, only then can you add water before the week’s completion.

12. Monitor the Orchid

After repotting, you should monitor how well the orchid is performing—a plant taking some time to produce new growth after root trimming is common. Furthermore, root growth also naturally slows down when you change the pot, so you should make the environment friendly again.

Note that if a number of days have passed and you see the yellow spots on the orchid instead of thriving, it faces transplant shock. It is a condition in which roots stop absorbing moisture and getting all the minerals.

If you also face this problem, don’t worry; just make sure to keep the soil moist. The moisture in the soil will lure the roots to absorb it and use it for developing new growths. You may also add a liquid fertilizer dose if keeping the soil wet doesn’t work.

Furthermore, you can also fasten up roots growing by adding root-boosting hormones. They relieve the roots of stress and encourage them to stretch.


All in all, there always comes a time when orchid gardeners have to trim the roots. It is super easy to do this if you stick to the details we have discussed above. Now, have a look at the most important points which you can’t afford to overlook while trimming roots:

  • Always sterilize the tools before you use them for trimming roots.
  • Before you cut, soak the roots in water and then clean them up. It will help you identify which roots you should cut and which are healthy.
  • You should sterilize the roots and cover them with cinnamon powder after you cut them.
  • Please ensure the soil is of high quality because the roots must feel comfortable after trimming.

Now, you are ready to free your orchid from unnecessary long roots. Just stick to these points, and you can cut the roots without complications. You can follow one or all of these plant care measures to help the roots grow again.

5/5 - (15 votes)

Leave a Comment