How to repot an orchid, plus top tips on when to do it

Learn how to repot an orchid and keep blooms fresh with this simple guide

 indoor repotting of orchid flowers in new planter with garden tools.
(Image credit: Maridav / Alamy Stock Photo)

It's worth knowing how to repot an orchid ahead of time. Though many species of orchids will flower best when pot-bound, there comes a point where the sheer lack of room to grow, food and space for water begins to take its toll on the overall health of the plant. 

At this point, you have the choice to move it into a bigger pot or divide the parent plant into smaller sections.

Orchids have their own particular needs when it comes to repotting. We're talking trimming, dividing and repositioning. 

But don't worry if that sounds complicated as we've broken the process down into a few simple stages so it's easy to follow. You'll be an expert on this key part of orchid care in no time. 

Repot orchid after cutting the rotten and dry roots.

Trimming rotten roots will help your orchid thrive

(Image credit: Panther Media GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo)

How to repot an orchid in 4 easy steps

Knowing how and when to repot an orchid is key if you want it to flourish and continue to produce those eye-catching blooms. 

Ensure your orchid remains one of your best indoor plants by following this simple repotting guide.

1. Soak to ease extraction 

Water the plant well before you begin repotting or dividing, to make removing it from the pot easier and to help loosen the compost. If any roots are stuck to the container, detach them by gently running a sterilized knife around the inside. 

Wash off as much of the old growing medium as possible, as it will have deteriorated over time. 

Examine the roots and trim away any that are dead or rotting, as well as carefully removing any papery dead leaves, making sure you do not damage any live tissue. 

Hands pruning rotten orchid roots with scissors

Use sterilized tools to clip back your orchid's roots

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2. Tease roots apart to divide

Look for logical places to divide the plant into as many pieces as you wish. There is no need to split away every separate plantlet: you can leave a larger clump to carry on growing and flowering while the small ones catch up. In fact, they survive better when you keep at least three young plantlets together. 

You should be able to do most of this by hand, but if you need to use a knife or secateurs, make sure they are clean. 

Discard any parts that are obviously dead or dying, but the enlarged ‘pseudobulb’ at the base of the leaves generates food and stores water, and will function even without leaves attached.

Gloved hands teasing out orchid roots above pot

Gently teasing your orchid's roots is the best way to divide it

(Image credit: Oleksandr Lypa / Alamy Stock Photo)

3. Repot for two years' growth

For best results with how to repot an orchid, make sure you choose a potting mix that is similar to the old one, and position the oldest pseudobulb towards the outside of the pot, with the youngest towards the center so there is maximum room for growth. Keep the rhizome level with, or just below, the surface. 

Liam Lapping of Flowercard (opens in new tab) suggests you push the compost mix down with your fingers near to the roots. Keep adding the mix until it is at the top of the pot, before staking your orchid to ensure it has additional support as it begins to regrow its stems and reflowers.

Do not replant into pots any larger than absolutely necessary or you risk losing the young plants to overwatering. Simply allow room for about two years’ growth after potting. Keep in mind that orchid leaves turning yellow can be one of the key signs of overwatering too. 

Repotting orchid plants in backyard

Choose a new pot with enough space for two years growth

(Image credit: Larry Crain / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

4. Water in your orchid 

Once repotted, watering plants gently with either rainwater or cooled boiled water will help settle the plants into the new compost. 

It's a good idea to keep an eye on it too. Liam Lapping explains that it will take a week or two for a repotted plant to settle down, so monitor the compost to check it hasn't dried out.

And that's it! Simply choose the perfect spot in your indoor garden for your repotted orchid and enjoy watching it grow. 

Woman watering blooming orchid from metal watering can

Once repotted, continue watering your orchid as normal

(Image credit: Mariia Boiko / Alamy Stock Photo)

When to repot an orchid

The best time to repot or divide your orchid is immediately after flowering, when all the flowers have faded. Many orchids produce a burst of new growth at this stage and will benefit from fresh compost and a general health check. Doing it when the flowers are in bud is a common indoor plant mistake as it can stress the plant and is likely to cause the buds to drop without opening. 

Although they make great bathroom plants or kitchen plants, all orchids are susceptible to fungal rots and viruses, so handle them carefully and work with clean hands, tools and pots. 

According to Liam Lapping, you should look to repot every two to three years to keep your orchid healthy and ensure growth. 'The ideal time to replant an orchid is after the end of its flowering cycle, and a good rule of thumb is when the roots start pushing outwards from the pot,' he adds. 

Another tell-tale sign is if the bark has begun to compost down, as this prevents air from reaching the roots, which can lead to your plant becoming diseased. 

What soil is best to repot an orchid?

When you go to repot your plant, always use proprietary bark-based orchid compost: never a loam-based or standard multipurpose one as these will kill your orchid.

Flora Baker
Freelance Writer

Freelance writer and author Flora Baker is a keen amateur gardener and houseplant enthusiast. Her small garden in South London is a constant work in progress as she gets to grips with snail prevention, DIY trellises and what to plant in shady spots overrun with ivy.