READ THIS FIRST!! Does your orchid have drainage?

Help! My orchid is potted in a non-draining pot. What should I do?

Updated 12/10/17

It’s happened to all of us…we are at the store and we spot a beautiful orchid in a decorative pot. “That would make an excellent gift and/or it would be amazing on my windowsill at home.” We snatch the orchid up and bring it home. To our shock and sadness, it only blooms for a short while and then the leaves start to turn yellow or wrinkle up. So we toss it. “Orchids are so hard to grow,” we think.

What we failed to realize is that this beautiful orchid was planted in a pot without a drainage hole (as shown in all the pictures above). You see, orchids NEED drainage to survive. They naturally live in a jungle environment, often times on a tree, with free-flowing water. And unlike other plants, orchids will suffer in standing water. They WILL die in this environment because these pots suffocate the roots of an orchid by trapping water. This process causes root rot, which is hard to fix. It is essential to have your orchid in a pot that allows water to flow freely out the bottom. Refer to the pictures below. Check out my favorite pots here.

So what can you do?

Don’t get confused –  most websites say to wait to repot orchids till after their blooms have fallen. NOT in this case, because they need to escape this environment. Repotting orchids in bloom can cause the blooms to prematurely fall off due to shock. But I don’t want you to fully repot it. I want you to “drop pot” or create a situation in which it has drainage.

1. GENTLY pull the plant out of the closed container. Hopefully, inside the pot with no drainage, there is another clear plastic container with drainage. If this is the case, then leave it alone outside of the “no drainage” pot. Let it completely dry out. The next time you water it, be sure to follow the watering instructions on my post, Watering Orchids. Eventually you can repot it (once the blooms have fallen) in a more substantial drainage pot. Most of the time, those inner plastic pots are pretty flimsy.

2. If there is not an inside clear pot, you will want to gently pull it out of its singular pot. If it won’t budge, then you can soak it in a tub of water for a few minutes (this softens the roots) and see if you can gently pull it out. If it still won’t budge, you may have to break to the pot in order to take it out.

Moving a currently blooming orchid from one pot to another is called “drop potting” and should only be done in extreme situations such as this. You are not going to want to fully repot it. Once you have freed the orchid from the suffocating pot you will want to “drop” (place gently) the orchid, IN ITS ORIGINAL mix, into a similar size pot with drainage. In extreme situations I cut off the bloom/stem when I realized the roots were rotting so bad that they could not support this bloom cycle and the whole plant would die. You see orchids work in a balance between their leaves, blooms and roots. Cutting off the bloom stem helps transfer the plants energy to growing new roots and new leaves.

3. Now that your orchid is in a cozy and free draining home let it rest for a bit before watering. Hopefully, the new drainage will allow it to bloom happily for months. You may lose some blooms due to “Bud Blast,” but this does not mean the plant is dying. It is just adjusting to its new home, and is protecting itself by letting it’s blooms fall off.

4. Once your orchid is done blooming, follow my repotting instructions because they will most likely need completely new mix.

Note: Here are more pictures I took at local grocery stores for your reference. These are potted in non draining pots.

Hope that helps,


Feel free to leave comments or questions here, and you can always email me at with pictures of your orchid.

54 Comments on “READ THIS FIRST!! Does your orchid have drainage?

  1. What can I do to rescue a large pot of cymbidium orchids that I planted in soil and are strangled in roots and soil, before I knew that you didn’t use soil but a special orchid medium? Please help.

  2. Thank you for your guidelines of
    orchid care. I bought the same on your picture without a bottom hole.vit a pretty glass. Can I use cactus potting soil to transplant my new orchid.
    It has plenty of purple blooms, will they drop after transplant.
    Please help.
    The nervous gal,

    • Hi,

      Orchids need orchid mix. Which is usually a variation of bark and/or sphagnum moss. I would not use cactus soil.

      You can drop pot them into another pot with drainage (without changing the soil for now) and it shouldn’t hurt the blooms. If you fully repotted it with new soil then yes the blooms could be affected.

      Purple is a unique color for an orchid. If you want to send me a picture of it to make sure everything is ok then send it to


  3. My orchid has been sick for a while now and I’ve been trying to grow new roots to no avail. It is growing a new leaf so I know it isn’t dead, but it only has one air root and it’s turning brown. Is this root rotting?

    • You can always send me a picture at but you want to make sure it’s potted in a singular pot (not two pots) with a drainage hole and only water when it’s VERY dry.

      No Drainage

      How to water

      Just remove it from the decorative pot (if it is in one) and don’t put it back in. Leave it in the inner pot. Orchids like air flow and clear pots also help with photosynthesis.


    • My advice for every sick plant is to clean roots, cut off dead parts, wash them with soap and put in a plastic bag with moist sphygnum moss. I use this method for keikis, young plants with only one root or ”colateral damage plants”. My oldest orchids ih with me for 14 years but 4 years after I repotted it in a wrong mix. Because of too much water root was dead. I had a plant with leaves and no root. Plastic bag and moss did a job. 6 months later it was alive again. Still have that plant, no mistakes.Instead of moss you can use grinded coconut shell.

      • Thanks for the input – I haven’t had any experience with this method but I am so glad it works for you!


  4. Thank you so much! You are giving me the best info, I wasn’t and couldnt even imagine to find. You are the best! I own alot of plants but always wanted a Orchid, thank you sooo much for your great info.

  5. I inherited an orchid that seems to be dieing. It’s been in a jar with spagnum moss, it no longer has a crown or leaves the root are yellow and brown. The branch is still green up tilliterate gets to one of the smaller branches and it is dry half way up. Is there anything I can do to save it?

  6. Hi there,
    what are your thoughts on drilling holes in the pot? I bought 3 darling mini phals in a gorgeous pot, but I was horrified to see there are no holes! There are also no clear plastic pots in the bigger one. They seem to be planted in charcoal/bark with a layer of spaghnum on top. It’s such a beautiful pot, I’d love to keep these orchids in them,

      • Hi there! Same orchids…my boyfriend threw out the mini stretchy plastic cups to keep their roots nice and tight. What do you think of vinyl gloves (with holes cut in or water bottles cut in half instead? Or should I just let their roots extend into each other and just make sure they’re well supported by the media?

  7. I received a small orchid as a gift at work. We have florescent lighting here. I followed the directions on the tab to feed it 2 ice cubes a week. Apparently the ice cubes were too large for my plant. I have lost all of the blooms and the stem is dry and dead.
    I just found this site and have removed the inner pot – it does have a hole. the leaves of the plant and the roots are mostly green. I have cut off the dead dry stem and actually removed the plant from the inner pot to let it dry out.

    The potting mix appears to be a moss like substance. the roots are wet with what appears to be white spots. I just noticed that the bottom leaf (there are 4) appears to be ripped slightly.

    Can this plant be saved? Will it ever bloom again?

  8. I got an orchid! Can’t wait for you to help me keep it alive ❤

  9. Oh gosh, this is so helpful! I recently bought a mini orchid at one of the big box stores, knowing full well that I was adopting a “rescue” orchid. It was clearly in desperate need of a repot, but it had 11 gorgeous blooms on two spikes, so I decided to bring it home and baby it.
    To my surprise, there was no clear drainage pot inside the decorative pot, and the whole root ball slid out of the pot.
    At this point, I’m unsure whether to drop pot it as you suggest or to trim the dead roots and roll the dice on a full repot. I know I’m likely to lose this season’s blooms either way, but want to give the plant its best shot at survival!

    • Hi,

      It’s really up to you. If you feel it’s really suffering then trim the bloom stems off and do a full repot. If you think the root system is ok then just drop pot it for now,


      • The roots look really, really terrible to me. I’m obviously not an orchid expert, but I think most of them are completely rotted, with a couple that are only half rotted!
        The leaves and spikes look happy and healthy, which makes me think perhaps I’m overreacting though.

      • If the roots are that bad then I would fully repot. That way you may save it for the long run.


  10. Hello, I just bought two Phalaenopsis Orchid’s, they are both in a glass pot but the plant itself is wrapped in plastic with a hole in the bottom. Do I need to take that plastic off? I don’t know if when you’re referring to a plastic container if this is what you’re talking about. My white one the leaves aren’t looking to good, kind of getting yellow spots. When I check it for dryness I can feel that it’s moist. I’m just worried about how the leaves are looking. The other one is purple and the leaves are very green and healthy looking. I’m just concerned about the plastic covering. Thank you

    • I would take it out of both containers and place it gently in a container with drainage holes (just find one that is the same size). Typically orchids are sold in two pots not one wrapped in plastic but either way you need to have total drainage. You want to drop pot it because it’s in bloom.


  11. I have 2 plants in a glass pot so there’s no drainage they have bloomed twice but wondering if I need to repot them into different containers tho I do love them in a glass pot as opposed to a plastic container… Information on this site is really useful and hopefully my plants will continue too strive!

    • Hi Chrissy,

      Yes you do. See above. They will die in glass containers with no drainage holes. Orchids are not like normal house plants. Their roots can’t be wet all the time or the roots will rot and they will die.


  12. Hi Hannah. I am a new orchid mom and have a question. I am drop potting my plant but the bottom of my non-draining pot had a single layer (like a sheet) of moss on the very bottom below the roots. When I drop pot, should I lay this down in the new pot or toss it? I’m worried it may hold in too much moisture and the water will not drain properly…or should I leave it in case the plant is used to this layer? Thanks in advance! I love you blog!

    • Hi,

      Thanks for the compliment! I would not use the sheet of moss. Anything that traps water and slows drainage should be eliminated.


  13. I have 3 orchids in non-draining pots purchased last year or year before. 2 of them re-bloomed this spring. What I do now is fill the pot with water and immediately turn it over to drain all water out without losing the bark soil. The oldest one is root bound and has never re-bloomed. Glad I found this site and I think I will still repot them all after blooming.

  14. Hey Hannah,

    It is really great to have a read of your post, but I do have a question.

    I have just started to grow orchid. I have browsed a lot of website and it looks like everyone says I should grow it in a pot with hole underneath. However, I just rang the flowerist and the guy there told me that u dont have to buy a pot with hole as if u didnt water too much (i.e. to the amount that need a hole)

    I’m so confused, the only one can help me is either the flowerist or the internet. Dont know what I should do to better feed my orchid!


    • Hi,

      I would love to help!

      Orchid roots can not be in a container with out drainage and air flow. They are not like normal houseplants in this way.

      I would have to disagree with your florist on this. If you look at website (my favorite site) they will tell you this as well as the American Orchid Society.

      Hope this helps,


  15. I have an orchid that has starting growing keikis on 4 different stems but have just realized that it is in a pot with no drainage. My husband gave it to me last November. I assumed it was in a plastic case inside of the decorative pot, but as i was contemplating repotting it today or not, because it has babies growing on the stems, I have now realized it is in no other pot inside the decorative one. There are 3 plants in 1 pot. Should I repot them before the babies are all grown and ready to be repotted or should I repot them now? Should I leave them all together or give them all their own pot? and then add the babies to that pot when they are ready?

    • Hi Shauna,

      I would love to help!

      Yes, you should “drop pot” it as stated above in the post. Once the babies are grown – you can fully repot all of them with fresh mix.

      I have a post on keiki’s – as stated in that blog entry you don’t want to cut off and repot the babies unless their roots are at least three inches long which can take awhile. Your orchid probably produced these bc of the no drain pot. You can pot them along side the mother plant if you like at first or you can plant them separate – that is up to you. Here is the link…

      Hope that helps,


      • Thank you Hannah! I have read up on what to do with the keiki’s and when they are ready to be repotted. I appreciate your willingness to help us newbies get going:)!

  16. Hi, Hannah, I just stumbled on your blog after quite a few weeks of looking around the internet for answers to my many orchid questions. I inherited about 20 orchid plants last December. I knew NOTHING about orchids then, but I’ve learnt a lot!

    I live in coastal Florida, where we have no shortage of humidity! the plants had all been outdoors (mostly in full, direct sun or in hot shade) for about a year, and they were all still alive, so I left all the orchids in their original containers, pretty much (they all had holes in for drainage). Through the last 6 months every single one has bloomed (!), making me very happy.

    Although I did bring in three flowering orchids at a time to have in my living room, I rotate them after a month or two, putting them back outdoors. Most of the plants spend most of their lives on my covered porch, where they get a fair bit of indirect light, a lot of humidity, and no water except what I give them. I had been watering them by just giving them a few ice cubes a week, but they seemed to be getting really dry and hot. A few were limp. So, after reading on the internet about it, I recently started watering them via soaking them in a bucket for half an hour, letting the roots get really wet, and then letting them dry out for at least a week…at which pouint I resumed the weekly ice-cube treatment. I plan to dunk them in water once a month. All of them seem better now, except for one, a new baby, which has turned two leaves yellow and is losing those leaves (that’s how I found your blog today, looking up “yellow leaves”). I gather from what you wrote that it will be okay, and the leaf drop is normal as the baby starts new roots and leaves.

    My main question now is, should I be feeding the orchids so they will bloom again for me in fall? I have a worm farm and I have sometimes put some of the liquid from the worm farm on my orchids, but I don’t know if that’s too strong for them or just right or not enough. I could also put the worm castings (sort of like soil) into the pots, but I think it might be too rich. Do you recommend buying commercial “orchid food”? thanks in advance for your advice on feeding my orchids!

    I will be following your blog from now on — maybe you’d like mine, too — it’s a travel blog called BLOGODONIA: BLOG WITHOUT BORDERS.

    • Hi,

      Thanks for reading:)

      I use only true orchid fertilizer on my orchids because they require special fertilizer (not just normal plant fertilizer).

      They also require special orchid mix – not normal soil that you would plant let say a tomato plant in.

      I get both mine from But you can get it anywhere…

      I have heard of soaking your orchids like this but I like to water them by flooding then with water when they are dry.

      I have a post on this. How to water orchids.

      And I don’t like using ice cubes because they are a tropical plant and are not use to really cold water.

      I think your set up sounds good but I would consistently water them the same way. I also don’t like the soaking method because many times people “forget” they were soaking them and do it for hours which can cause root rot.

      Orchids don’t like to be sitting in standing water – this is one of the main differences between orchids and normal hours plants.


  17. I just got a little orchid (it is quite small) and it has 4 flowers one it but the pot has no hole

    • Amber,

      I would love to help. Most times inside the pots with no holes there is a small plastic pot that is inside.

      See if this is so.

      If it is pull it out of the “no hole” pot and water in the small plastic pot and wait for ALL the water to drain out before putting it back until the next watering. Or you can just choose to not out it back in the old pot at all. Eventually when the blooms are done blooming you can repot it in a better container with holes.

      If not.

      You either need to poke holes in the bottoms of the “no hole pot” or drop potted into a similar size pot.

      Drop potting is used with a blooming orchid. It is different then repotting because the orchid is in bloom and its less shocking to it. Sometimes when you repot a blooming orchid it will loose it blooms as repotting can be shocking to it. Drop potting is just placing it in its original soil in an new pot.

      Hope that Helps,


  18. I bought a phalanopsis for my wife’s birthday and it bloomed and flourished for 2 weeks. I put some miracle grow fertilizer sticks in (10-10-10) and added some extra support structure ( bamboo ladders), and now I am getting bud blast. I figure that the fertilizer sticks is what has caused the bud blast. However I have been reading up on your blog and I am worried that I might have a non draining pot and am beginning to worry about the root system. The care card that came with the orchid said to let it dry out completely before watering again. So I have been testing the potting media ( moss). It has been moist but it is starting to get hard to find a moist spot now and I am wondering if the bud blast is from not watering it enough. Or am I just so lucky that I have multiple problems at one time? Please help. This orchid was not cheap and it is very beautiful and I would love to save it if possible.

    • Franklin,

      Hi! I would love to help. I recently got an orchid for Mother’s Day which did the same thing…

      Most of the time this happens, with a newly purchased orchid, because of the extreme conditions it goes through when being shipped. Which is not your fault!

      This is different things that happen to it while being shipped…
      No natural light.
      Over watering.
      Shaken around.
      Different drafty air.

      So I would not be concerned about it reblooming next year – it will probably be fine.

      As far as this year is concerned. I have a few questions..

      1. You said you were concerned about it not have a drainage hole. Does it?
      2. As far as watering goes. Are you waiting till its completely dry? I know you said its hard to tell but if its packed in moss it should get crunchy showing its dry.
      3. Are some of the blooms open or did they never open at all?

      Let me know and we can figure this out:) you can also send a pic to and I can take a look at it,


      • I dug around a bit and found that the orchid is in a smaller pot inside of the larger one so I removed it from the larger pot (I took the whole small pot with the orchid in it out of the larger pot). Some of the buds that were on the plant when I received it did open up and a few new ones formed. But the new ones are the ones that are shriveling up. As for watering when I took the smaller pot out I could tell that the moss is still moist so I’m gonna hold off on watering for a bit also some of the roots were exposed and they were green and looked healthy. Let me know if you would like some more pics beside the ones I sent already and I will send more.

      • I responded via email but it definitely has bud blast and is most likely caused by the shipping process. Did you read my post on Bud Blast? If not I can explain it further. I am terribly sorry – so frustrating!!


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