Should I Re-Pot and Trim Off Soft or Rotten Roots?

by Anna-Marie

Hi there, I received an orchid (Phalaenopsis) back in February and it had flowered up until March when most of the flowers started drooping at which point I trimmed back the stalk right below the first bloom. I've just bought some orchid fertilizer which I've been told to use to see if it would grow back some blooms, so I did just this week. However, what I noticed as I was poking around my plant is that some of the roots beneath were dark and soft - I've come across a lot of sites that talk about repotting and that these roots should be cut-off so I figure that to some degree this must be normal? But I'm also concerned about whether or not this might be a bigger problem. Should I consider repotting and trimming off the soft roots? I'm quite tempted to since the pot that received it in does not have drainage at the bottom anyway.

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Jun 15, 2011
What To Do About Rotten Roots
by: Melissa

Thanks for your question Anna-Marie.

Yes, some root deterition might be considered "normal" as it does happen but it is not necessarily good. It indicates that the roots are rotting somewhat. This is of particular concern to me as you say the pot does not have drainage and this is particularly bad especially for Phalaenopsis. Phalaenopsis like to dry out a little between waterings. And if they do not drain at all this can be the "kiss of death" as they are prone to root rot if they do not.

You are right to be concerned that this might be a bigger problem. Yes, deifinitely you should consider repotting and trimming off the dead roots.

Take your Phal out of the pot/media it is in. Rinse off all the old media and remove it whether it be orchid fir bark or sphagnum moss. Or whatever. Remove all the old media and cut away (use a single edged NEW razor blade) and if you have some really squishy and wet rotten roots do not use the same razor blade that you used on the roten parts on the healthy parts. Or use sterile technique if that means anything to you.

Get another pot. Either get a new pot or wash the old pot with mild detergent and rinse well. Plastic is better than terracotta for Phals. MAKE SURE the pot drains (has drain holes). Get a pot that is a centimeter (about 1/2 inch) or 2 larger than the cut roots. I recommend orchid bark that you would by at a nursery. Medium or Large orchid bark depending on the size of the plant. It looks like small pieces of dark wood. Do not plant it in anything that looks like dirt.

Here is a couple of links to my site to pages that have lots of free information. Especially check out the one on Phalaenopsis.

For Orchids in General:

For Phalaenopsis Orchids:

You will need to copy and paste these links into your browser and hit Enter.

Good luck,


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