From Ceramic to Plastic: How to Choose the Best Pot for Your Orchids

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There is no single answer to the question, “What type of pot is best for orchids?” There are many different types of orchids, and they have different needs regarding pots, substrate, and culture in general. 

Best Pots for OrchidsPin

For example, epiphytic orchids, such as Phalaenopsis, do best in plastic pots with lots of drainage possibilities. 

Terrestrial orchids do well in terracotta pots that protect their roots and provide good air circulation. These are by no means the only possibilities. 

In this article, we’ll explore how to choose the best pot for your orchids. Read on to learn more. 

Repotting Orchids in Orchid Pots

Excellent Drainage Is Essential For All Orchids

Both epiphytic and terrestrial orchids come from warm settings that experience frequent rains and provide excellent drainage, so soak-and-dry watering is the best plan for keeping your orchids well-watered regardless of the type of orchid or the type of pot. 

It is best to wait until the substrate is fairly dry and then thoroughly water, allowing the water to run freely through the substrate. 

Indeed, excellent drainage is key to growing healthy, happy orchids and most other plants. No matter what your orchid pot is made of, it should have good drainage that allows excess moisture to pour through the substrate. 

Even though it may seem as if the water is pouring through too rapidly for the plant to be able to use it, it’s important to keep in mind that this is natural for most orchids. 

They cannot tolerate standing in water, and root rot is bound to develop if the substrate is kept too wet. 

Orchid containers with many small drainage holes in the bottom and some on the sides are best. This arrangement allows excellent drainage and good air circulation, just as in nature. 

Even a mesh container or a plastic basket can make an ideal orchid container. In fact, no matter what material your orchid container is made of, drainage is really the most important element. 

Pots For Phalaenopsis and Other Epiphytic Orchids

In nature, epiphytic orchids live in jungle settings where daily rains are the norm. There are many types of epiphytic orchids, but Phalaenopsis, or Moth Orchid, is the most popular and readily available. 

As with air plants, epiphytic orchids glean nourishment and moisture from the air around them. In nature, they attach themselves to the bark of trees and clamber up to get the right amount of sunlight, rain, drainage, and air circulation. 

Phalaenopsis’ roots are not sunk into the soil. Instead, they are exposed to sunlight and rain and gather nutrients from the air and from bits of debris that collect around the roots. 

A good pot for Phalaenopsis should mimic these sorts of conditions. This is why epiphytic orchids do very well in clear plastic pots equipped with lots of slits and drainage holes. 

A loose, airy orchid substrate consisting of bark and fiber makes an ideal setting for the plants’ roots. This arrangement allows good air circulation and sun exposure for the roots and lets excess moisture run off freely. 

Best Pots For Cymbidiums and Other Terrestrial Orchids

Terrestrial and semi-terrestrial orchids, such as Cymbidiums, also need lots of bright, indirect sunlight and ample drainage, but their roots can uptake nutrients from their substrate. 

Outdoors, these tropical beauties typically grow in humus-rich soil on the forest floor or steep slopes with excellent drainage. 

Because they need soil, they also need solid containers to hold that soil. For this reason, a terracotta pot with ample drainage holes is ideal for a terrestrial orchid. 

These pots are strong enough to contain a denser potting substrate but are also porous and allow excess moisture to evaporate. 

Five Great Choices In Materials For Orchid Pots

1. Plastic

Plastic containers are typically inexpensive, lightweight, and long-lasting. As we’ve mentioned, clear plastic containers are absolutely ideal for epiphytic orchids, but clear plastic is not the only choice. They are also available in many attractive colors, shapes, and handy sizes. 

It’s easy to get creative with plastic containers with “off-label” use of inexpensive baskets from the dollar store or even by repurposing the clear plastic baskets in which berries are sold. 

You can use your imagination and develop many interesting ideas when using clear or opaque plastic containers for orchids. 

2. Mesh

Woven fiber or plastic mesh is also an excellent choice for containing epiphytic orchids. This material can be configured to create just the right holder for your orchid. 

You can purchase mesh basket containers, cut and shape mesh bags, or mesh fabric to suit your needs. 

Open weave mesh securely holds your plants’ substrate and roots in place and protects them while allowing free air, water, and sunlight flow.

3. Terracotta

Terracotta is available in many shapes and sizes and is designed with varying drainage levels. If you can find terracotta pots with side drainage slits and bottom drainage, they will be fine for your epiphytic orchids. 

Standard terracotta pots with one or more drainage holes on the bottom are excellent for your terrestrial orchids.

4. Glazed Ceramic 

Glazed ceramic pots can work for terrestrial orchids if they have ample drainage holes in the bottom and drainage slits or holes in the sides. 

Glazed ceramic does not provide enough air circulation and drainage for terrestrial orchids without this feature. 

If you want to use a glazed ceramic pot for its pretty color or design, just use it as a decorative sleeve. 

Plant your orchid in a plastic basket or mesh container and then place it inside the ceramic container for display. 

Remove your orchid from the decorative sleeve when watering so that excess water can run off completely. Don’t return your plant to the ceramic sleeve until most excess water drains. 

5. DIY 

DIY options are always a possibility. You can create your own pots from clear plastic bottles and containers, clear plastic berry baskets, wood, or as in this video, coconut shells! 

Use your imagination, and be sure to provide plenty of drainage. 

How To Make A Hanging Planter Out Of A Coconut

How Do You Choose The Right Pot Size For Your Orchid? 

When you select a new pot for your orchid, increasing volume by only a single pot size is usually the wisest. 

Most orchids like to be securely held, so the pot you choose should just contain the plants’ roots with only a little wiggle room. 

If your pot is too big, your plants’ roots will be surrounded by lots of moisture-holding substrates, increasing the chances that root rot will develop. 

Excessive amounts of substrate may also encourage your plant to grow more roots and leaves and discourage it from blooming. 

How to Repot an Orchid

Take care not to repot too often. Orchids prefer not to be disturbed. When you see that the plant’s roots are poking through the drainage holes or reaching out of the surface of the substrate, you know that it’s time to repot. 

Generally speaking, orchids do not need frequent repotting. Most can be happy in their established containers for one-to-three years. 

During this time, a healthy plant will grow lots of new roots. Simultaneously, the plants’ substrate will begin to break down, so it cannot physically support the plant. 

When this happens, it’s time to repot. This is a simple matter if you follow these six steps: 

Six Steps For Repotting

1. Generally speaking, waiting until your plant has finished blooming is best before you repot it. When it’s time to repot, trim away the spent flower spike at its base. 

2. Place one hand over the surface of the plants’ substrate and see if you can remove it from the pot by simply tipping it upside-down. If it just falls out into your hand, that’s best. If not, wiggle a spade or table-knife blade around the edges to loosen it up and remove it from its existing pot as gently as possible. 

3. Shake excess substrate away from the roots and examine the roots carefully. Use your fingers to loosen and spread them gently if they are very packed. If the roots are clinging tenaciously to the pot or the bark medium, you may need to soak them overnight to soften them up so you can disengage them without damaging them. Rinse the roots thoroughly to remove debris and degraded bark. 

4. Use a very sharp, sterile cutting implement to trim away discolored, damaged, or dead roots. If you see any signs of root rot or other fungal growth, treat the roots with an antifungal preparation, such as copper sulfate powder. You may wish to let the plant air overnight before repotting. 

5. Using a new or sterilized container add a layer of potting mix that is designed for the type of orchid you have. Gently place the orchid on the potting mix and fill in with the substrate, packing it lightly around the roots. 

6. Water thoroughly and allow excess moisture to drain away. This may cause the substrate to settle, so you must add a bit more to provide good support for your plant. 

Make A Smart Choice When Choosing the Best Pot For Your Orchids

It’s easy to see that the choices you make in orchid containers will depend very much upon the type of orchid you have, the types of materials and containers you have available, the amount of money you want to spend, and your own personal preferences and creativity. 

No matter what type of container you choose, be sure to remember that all orchids like excellent drainage, good air circulation, and just the right amount of sunshine. 

Refer to this information and follow the tips to choose the perfect containers to give your orchid collection a happy home. 

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