How To Choose An Orchid Pot

An article by Helen Wall:

The choice of orchid pot you use, the potting medium, watering, fertilizing and location will all have an impact on the success of your orchids. Let us have a look at different containers that are available for orchid growing. The choice can be bewildering if you are a beginner to orchid growing. These are most commonly made from either plastic or terracotta clay.

Plastic Orchid Pot

  • A lightweight plastic pot, which may have several drainage holes is more suitable for indoors, where it is far less likely to be blown over.
  • The growing medium tends to dry out more slowly than in a clay pot.
  • The best plastic pot has a thick wall that does not break easily, it is light in color, and does not heat up too much in strong sunlight. Clear polythene pots are becoming popular as they allow more light to reach the roots.

Terracotta Orchid Pot

  • It is heavier and therefore more stable.
  • It has one drainage hole in the bottom, although some specialist orchid pots also have drainage holes on the sides.
  • A succulent drought-tolerant epiphytic orchid fares better in a clay pot, as there is less chance of the growing medium becoming waterlogged.

Pots or large planters made from terracotta, wood, ceramic or plastic make ideal containers for large spreading orchids such as Cymbidia.

A terrestrial like the Chinese Cymbidium requires a tall orchid pot which can accommodate the very long roots (up to a meter!) that it can produce. Unrestricted root growth allows the orchid to store nutrients and water that can then sustain the development of superior flowers.

Jewel orchids such as Ludisia and Anoectochilus should ideally be grown in a shallow, broad pot as they spread over the surface. A glass terranium would be ideal, where the orchids can wander in whatever way they like.

There are also varieties of orchid that are best grown and displayed in baskets at eye level.

Basket Orchid Pot

  • A basket is very suitable for orchids with pendant flowers, or heavy- rooted, sprawling orchids.
  • A basket container is made of wire, plastic, mesh, wood or pottery.
  • It allows air to circulate around the compost and roots.
  • A mesh orchid pot is essential for the successful blooming of Draculasbecause the inflorescences find it easy to grow through the underside of the container.
  • Orchids like StanhopeaGongora and Acineta should be grown in open baskets so that their pendant flowers can be enjoyed to the full.
  • You will need to take care that the orchids do not dry out in a basket.

As an orchid pot, the basket will need support blocks for your orchid. The most suitable materials are cork, or the bark of pine or oak. To do this, place the plant compost in front and behind the roots. Tie the plant to the piece of bark in such a way that no water is able to run into the centre of the plant. You can tie up the plant with strips of ladies tights!

One tip is to be aware that the fine roots of some orchids may penetrate the support block and make it difficult to re-pot your orchid.

When a plant becomes overgrown or begins to fall apart, just tie a new piece of bark to the old one so that the orchid grows onto this. Some orchids like Oncidiums have slender roots that rapidly travel over the surface of the bark.

Lady-of-the-Night is the popular name for Brassavola nodosa, a night-fragrant white flowering orchid that grows well in a hanging basket. Position it where its night fragrance can be appreciated. It is drought-tolerant, but prefers additional water during dry spells.

The orchid Cattleya skinneri Hettie Jacobs can grow to enormous size in a basket and needs strong support. But it does produce clusters of lovely purple flowers between March and May.

The popular Bee orchid, produces a wealth of golden yellow flowers even from a modest plant. A 20inch (50cm) wire basket with substantial pieces of bark will support a large plant of this kind.

You might like to plant a selection of moth orchids in a large basket for a superb show of long-lasting blooms, but these do not like strong sunlight. Or maybe vanda orchids, that provide flowers in all colours of the rainbow with huge blooms, some of which can be the size of a saucer. Vanda will produce a mass of lengthy roots hanging below the orchid pot, which you will need to spray with water daily. Do not be tempted to cut back these roots.

Be aware also that many orchids thrive on being pot-bound. It may look as if the roots are smothering the pot, but it is their thick root system that nourishes spectacular blooms. So do not be in a hurry to re-pot too soon!

Whatever type of orchid container you want, there is a wide range from which to choose. For anyone who loves orchids, there is immense pleasure to be gained from matching an orchid with an appropriate pot, choosing the right compost, light and temperature, then watering and fertilizing. The careful balance of all these will lead to your ultimate success in orchid cultivation.

Helen Wall 

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