Orchid roots are often seen spilling out of the pot or just floating in the air around it. Among them, some even grow from a higher portion of the stem.
These roots are called air roots or aerial roots.
You might wonder that something is wrong with your orchid, as we generally have the notion that roots are supposed to be inside the pot, under the ground, or maybe on the surface.
But what exactly are these roots that float? What is the reason behind such growth among them, and what should we do as plant owners when our orchids have aerial roots?
Keep reading this article to know what aerial roots are and how they should be repotted, what their importance is, and everything related to aerial roots.
Get to know how to repot orchids with aerial roots and what potting mixtures and techniques should be used.
How to repot an orchid with air roots?
Can aerial roots be potted in the potting medium of the orchid, or should they be left alone? One of the most challenging tasks as plant owners is knowing what to do with orchid plants with air roots.
Air roots on orchids are beneficial to the plant’s health and should never be cut. But that might make you wonder what to do when repotting the root?
Here are the steps you should follow while repotting orchids with aerial roots:
- Before repotting, soak the entire orchid below the stem or rhizome for around 10 to 30 minutes. This process ensures that the air roots are malleable.
- Scrutinize the roots and determine which root needs to be inserted in the pot and which doesn’t.
- Handle the air roots with caution while managing them inside or outside the pot.
- Fill the pot with the potting mixture till the part over the stem or the rhizome.
Carefully remove the orchids from their pot, making sure that you don’t damage them.
Most of the time, the roots are too tightly attached to the surface of the pot, which makes it difficult to remove. Worry not even if there is a little bit of damage; unless it is too severe, your orchids will survive.
Remove the old potting medium after getting the plant out of the pot.
Do not reuse old potting mediums. You can throw it away, or also you can reuse it.
With gentle hands, remove the old potting mixture from between the roots. Shake it lightly and loosen the mixture, letting it fall out. Be gentle, aiming not to harm the roots.
After removing all the old potting medium, soak all the roots in some lukewarm water and let it sit for 10 to 30 minutes.
Soaking the roots will then become more flexible and wash off the remaining residue of the potting mixture.
Always see if you can not get any water on the orchid’s stem.
The stem tends to rot if you leave the water inside for more extended periods of time. In case that happens, dry the water with some paper towels or cotton.
After the soaking process, everything will become very clear, and you will be able to quickly determine which roots are healthy and should be kept and which roots need to be cut off. Use sterilized scissors and cut off the damaged roots carefully and gently.
Get rid of all dry, mushy, or brow-tipped roots.
This is when you know if you have successfully kept good care of your orchids or if you should change your methods.
Greenery and freshness in the roots indicate a healthy environment, while blacked, mushy and soiled roots mean you have to change the way you take care of them.
After you have removed the dead matter, sterilize the root system with a Hydrogen Peroxide solution with a 3% concentration. More concentration of the chemical will kill your plant. Some people even choose cinnamon for this process.
Now that your orchids are clean, place them in the pot. It is recommended to use a different pot but if you use the same one, make sure to clean it nicely and well before repotting it.
If you are using a new pot, make sure it is suitable for orchids.
The drainage holes should be a maximum of 1-2 inches bigger than the previous pot to allow suitable circulation but not too loose, as orchids prefer to be more secure.
It is good if you have visual access to the roots as it will help you to determine whether or not you should repot the roots.
In this step, you have to place the potting mixture in the pot.
Hold your orchid in the pot gently, and make sure that the plant is in the middle of the pot. Do not bury the aerial roots.
Keep them out of the pot and let them breathe. If you place the aerial roots under the potting mix, it can cause the roots to rot and damage the entire plant.
Make sure you fill-up the pot completely, nice and tight, without damaging the roots. Keep space for the roots to breathe, and don’t keep the pot too dense and impenetrable.
If you are a beginner and don’t have enough knowledge about the kind of potting mix you should use, buy a premade orchid potting mix.
You can use items like clay pellets, lava rocks, sphagnum moss, coconut fiber, or a mix of these organic and inorganic matters.
The last step is watering the orchids.
Everyone has their own way of doing this.
You can either water your orchids right away after repotting them or wait for a few days or weeks. With the options, of course, dip the pot in a container of water or simply wash the plant gently with running water.
However, always remember to dry the water from the stem; otherwise, it may lead to rotting.
Can I cut air roots on orchids?
Aerial orchid roots provide essential nutrients and adequate hydration to the plants.
Not only do these roots absorb humidity from the water droplets and nutritious micro-elements that are present in the surroundings, but they also help to increase the amount of energy produced by photosynthesis.
So, cutting them will be the worst decision you ever make.
Never ever cut orchid air roots, as you will hinder the plant by depleting the number of nutrients and water absorption by your plant.
Whether the orchid roots are sunk in the potting medium or are in the air, they should not be cut.
Roots are one way by which the orchids decide if it is in a safe environment. The roots also store enormous amounts of energy to help the flower and the plant bloom beautifully.
How can you take care of orchid air roots?
These are some tips you need to remember while potting your orchids with air roots:
You should not determine when to repot your orchid depending on the number of Air roots:
If you see that you have multiple air roots, it does not indicate that it is the correct time for you to pot. Also, remember that roots in abundance do not mean that your pot is root-bound.
It is a common mistake that people make seeing roots grow outside the pot, that the reason behind it is the absence of space in the pot. This is a false notion.
Your orchids might produce aerial roots even after having plenty of space inside the pot.
Orchids have aerial roots because naturally, orchids produce roots in all directions. In essence, the roots are made in the exact way to be potted inside the ground. There is no difference in their cell structure.
It is compulsory to soak all the roots, including the aerial ones, before repotting them:
Soaking the pot helps the orchid to release the roots from the tight grip. If the roots of your orchids have tightly attached to the pot or to the orchid bark, charcoal, or terracotta pots, soaking them will loosen the highly tight grip of the roots.
Try to soak the plant up to the rhizome and make sure to soak the aerial roots too.
Next, handle the plants very carefully because a slight manipulation can damage the plants as the roots are extremely sensitive. One wrong step and you might end up with wilted roots and brown plants.
All your aerial roots should be well hydrated before you pot them.
The roots often suffer a little bit of damage during the potting procedure as most of the time, and it is challenging to pot the orchids in a secure way yet has enough room to allow free circulation of air.
Identify the roots that should be repotted in the medium:
This is a controversial part of the process. Most orchid growers demand all aerial roots to continue growing on the outside of the pot. While most of this is prevalent, there are very few who choose to pot the air roots. Let’s take a deeper look into the situation.
Not repotting the aerial roots in the potting mixture while:
All roots, be it aerial or ground, have the same structure of growth. However, aerial roots get accommodated to the air and sunlight, and their absence will cause the plant to die.
Older roots are not able to adapt to the change and tend to die, while newer roots take time to get accommodated to the new living conditions after being repotted.
Taking a clear look at the root system will help you determine which root to keep under the potting mixture and which one to not. The roots which were already outside when you de-potted them should be kept out.
Repot the Aerial Roots Inside the Potting Medium:
Another situation is this. When your air roots are new and have not become used to the natural conditions of air and constant sunlight, you can repot them.
Chances are they will eventually adapt to environmental needs.
While with older roots, you cannot put them inside the potting mixture as they have been accustomed to one form of survival throughout their lives.
When to Never Bury an Aerial Root
Aerial roots don’t always emerge from the bottom of the stem. These roots are more likely to grow upwards than bend downwards.
When the roots grow from a higher stem or pint, it is better to leave them alone. They will accommodate themselves to the conditions and find their way to the potting mixture.
Another point that you should consider is whether or not the air roots are older roots. Just like true leaves come and go, even roots do not live indefinitely.
Roots get old and die, and new roots emerge. If your aerial roots are older, keep them as it is.
If you already know that the air root on your orchid is old and will die soon, there is no point in wasting potting material on it. Keep it as it is and wait for newer roots to come out.
Like we discussed in the beginning, younger roots are easily adaptable, but older roots will die; there is no point in repotting older roots.
If you put the old root inside the potting mixture, it is likely to rot and become a threat to your plant, while keeping it out in the air will help it to serve the job of providing nourishment.
Can orchid roots be trimmed?
You should never trim or cut the air roots of your orchids while repotting. Trimming or pruning orchids is unconventional, and you just have to let them grow.
Air roots contribute to the nourishment of the orchid. If the state of your potting medium is not very nutritious, the air roots are the only mode of nutrition in your plant.
Sometimes, the roots inside your potting mixture are in such bad shape that the air roots are the way they survive.
So cutting them off or manipulating them might kill your plant.
Try to cut roots that have been inside the potting medium as they often end up becoming threats t the orchids.
If they become mushy, brown, blackened, and rot, are full of fungus, have some kind of bacterial growth, it might lead to death. Roots with these attributes should be cut off. When you over-water the plant, problems like these are most likely to occur.
The only problem that air roots have is that they are in the constant presence of humidity and sunlight, excess of which might cause them harm.
However, with aerial roots, these problems do not take place.
Even if you overwater air roots, they will dry quickly, preventing the water from being logged, causing browning or rotting. This will eliminate all problems occurring with aerial roots.
Air roots are very important for orchids. They provide moisture and nutrients and help the plants to maintain balance in hydration. There is no need for you to cut these roots; you just have to let them be and do their job naturally without any interference.
During its active phase, it is best to repot your orchids. After the flower blooms, a lot of older roots die, and new roots emerge.
This is the best period for you to repot your orchids and take care of the aerial roots.
With this, the orchid will easily adapt to its new survival conditions, and the new air roots will get adequate time to accommodate the entire situation.
This article consists of everything you need to know about the air roots of your orchids. We hope it was of help. Hope you have a good time Gardening!