Help! My orchid is potted in a non-draining pot. What should I do?
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 on my post on Clear Plastic Pots).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org with pictures of your orchid.