Repotting and Dividing Orchids

    There are so many "big" questions when discussing orchid growing. How often do I water? What kind of fertilizer should I use? What is the best potting mix? Hobbyists feel comfortable with these questions and easily understand the answers. There are, however, questions hobbyists fear to ask because they fear the answers. Two topics that trigger this reaction are dividing and repotting orchids. Hobbyists that brave the questions usually will walk away shaking their heads knowing they should not have asked and promise never to ask again. So let us put this in writing to be which can read in private and practiced without anyone even knowing!

     Let us begin one step at a time. When do I divide and repot my orchid? That simple question has two simple answers. Part A: When does my orchid need to be divided or repotted? Part B: When is the best time to divide my orchid? These are simple questions with simple answers really!

     There are signs that indicate the need for repotting and/or dividing your orchid. One year your cattleya produced 20 magnificent 6-inch blooms. The next year it produced only 6 blooms that measured 4 inches across on only one side of the plant. Another sign is that the newest growth is smaller than the last growth. Each new growth should mature taller and stronger than the previous growth. These are the two most dependable guides.

     Would it be best for the orchid if I just repotted it into new mix or would it be best if I divided it and repotted the divisions? This all depends on how large the orchid. If the orchid is outgrowing a four-inch pot, repotting is most likely the solution. If the root mass is cracking an eight-inch clay pot (you are an excellent grower!), dividing and repotting this magnificent specimen would be the best choice.

     Another important consideration is the condition of the orchid. If the orchid is starting to deteriorate with lots of old shriveled back bulbs or if the center of the plant is dying off as the outer parts continue to thrive, then it would be best to divide the orchid, discarding the dying parts.

     If you have decided that your orchid in a four-inch pot has outgrown its container, repot it after it has bloomed. Clean off the old medium entirely and simply step it up to a new six-inch pot with new potting medium.

     Now you have grown this orchid into a specimen that even impresses you! The plant is in great condition, but i tis just too big or has moved past it´s prime. Now it is time to consider dividing and repotting. Bookmark this: The orchid is a lady. Timing is everything! Your orchid will decide when to divide and later when to repot. You are no longer in control. Your Orchid will direct you, not the other way around. Once you accept this, you and your orchids will be much happier.

    Divide only when your orchid is putting out new leads. By dividing when Your Orchid is in this stage of growth, more new growth will be activated. To divide, select the place or places to cut the orchid. Cut through the rhizome with a sharp, sterile instrument. Sprinkle a little fungicid or cinnamon on the newly cut rhizome and mark the division with a clean label or a piece of colored wire. These markers will make it obvious where the cuts were made. This completes the dividing procedure. Set the plant back on the bench and water and fertilize her as usual. Now wait for your orchid signal to repot. Be patient. Repotting is next, but it may be several months before repotting time arrives.

     Timing is everything. You are doing what is best for the orchid. Your Orchid will reward you. Watch for new roots. The time to repot is when your orchid is establishing new roots. Allow the roots to grow to two to three inches before repotting. Remove the plant from the pot, wash off all old medium, and gently separate all the divisions you have created. Now you may repot all of the new divisions.

     This two step procedure will reward you with stronger divisions that will bloom sooner than if divided and repotted at your convenience. You have lessened the stress of major surgery. Most of these divisions will bloom during their next bloom cycle. There in is your reward! Finally, if your orchid has gone way, way past prime repotting times, just repot it. Then let it gain strength before subject it to dividing. Growing orchids is a lot of fun, relaxing, and rewarding. Dividing and repotting your orchids is part of the fun. Do not let it become a chore or work. Enjoy it by letting your orchids tell you what they want - just like any lady. And if you do what Your Orchid wants, Your Orchids will reward you with incredible growth and lots of gorgeous flowers! Happy growing.

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