I agree that orchids can be planted in regular potting mix, but they will be much happier in orchid potting mix. Orchids are notoriously hard to read and easy to kill–why take the risk?
In the event that one of your orchids does begin to suffer, it will be beneficial if you already know how to re-pot orchids. First of all, you have to know if your orchid is even worth saving. You have a chance of bringing your beautiful orchid back to life if there are any leaves or roots left, and if the center of the stem has not become rotten. If this is the case, however, you should just throw the plant away, or use it for mulch.
In order to bring back a nearly dead or dying orchid, you will need to re-pot the plant into a nice, very tight pot which will constrain its roots. I must emphasize, use only orchid potting soil, and also use a humidity tray to make your orchid happy again.
Be patient with the plant, and remember to water it regularly. If your orchid has already lost its roots, pick up some long plastic twisties or wires. These can be wrapped around the base of the orchid in order to stabilize it just like roots–but remember to anchor the plant firmly into the pot. Three to six of these wires can be bent into place and will stabilize your orchid as it slowly returns to health.
Again, if your orchid has a rotten or mushy core, it’s best just to give up on it, unless you have a lot of money invested in your plant. (Again, why take the risk of placing expensive plants into cheap, nutrient-poor soil?)
Larger orchids have nutrients stored up in their pseudobulbs, canes, and leaves, so they may be able to return to blooming good health more quickly than a smaller one. If your sick orchid was an inexpensive one; however, it may not be worth the years you will have to spend nursing it back to health. Of course you could always get rid of your inexpensive dirt by using it to re-pot inexpensive plants!
Sometimes an orchid’s leaves will begin to turn brown, and then the brown will continue all the way down the stem–remember to keep an orchid’s soil moist by watering it weekly, and to give it good orchid fertilizer every other week.
If you’ve been re-potting orchids, the plants may exhibit some amount of stress or decide not to flower, which is normal. Give the plant some time to de-stress, and then look down its flower stem. You will see little nubs, or “pips.” If you trim the tip of one of these, a new flower will form from it.
If your plants are exposed to stress or cold, watch them closely for soft spots and rot. Trim any bulbs which develop soft or brown areas. Care for all cuts on your orchids with sulfur or dry fungicide from your nursery, and they might well recover.
These tips will help you to keep your orchids healthy, but please remember to treat them with the respect they deserve. They are majestic, special plants, and deserve the extra time and attention–and only the very best potting soil, preferably only that formulated especially for orchids! Otherwise, you will have to learn how to re-pot orchids by heart, because you will continually be trying to nurse your sad, dejected little plants back to health.
Do you have any other thoughts about repotting your orchids? If so, please leave a comment below and tell us about it.
For more information on exactly how to repot your orchid, see these 7 easy orchid repotting steps.