Repotting Orchids, Part 1: Phalaenopsis

Julie McCaffrey —  December 23, 2013 — 13 Comments

A Phalaenopsis, or moth orchid, is called the “gateway orchid” for beginning collectors: it requires very little care, and yields great rewards with blooms that last up to three months! Early success with a moth orchid leads growers to try other species and, finally, to orchid addiction. But how do you ensure early success?

PHOTO: Phalaenopsis 'Timothy Christopher' moth orchid in bloom.

Phalaenopsis ‘Timothy Christopher’

As a new orchid grower, I was not aware you had to repot your orchids shortly after purchasing them because they are often packed in sphagnum moss, which provides too much moisture for the plant. I was also not aware that you should repot your orchids every one to two years to maintain healthy plants. 

Anne Nies, a master’s degree candidate in the Garden and Northwestern University’s Plant Biology & Conservation program, is an expert in all things orchids, both native and tropical. She is also a member of the Illinois Orchid Society, which holds its spring and fall orchid shows at the Garden. She took some time this past fall to show me (and you) how to repot our orchids to maintain a healthy growing environment.

Our first video details step-by-step instructions for repotting a Phalaeanopsis orchid. Stay tuned for part two next week, when Anne reviews the different approach used in repotting a Paphiopedilum orchid, which has different watering and culture needs. 

Video note: soaking the orchid you are repotting in virucide should not be a replacement for watering. After soaking the plant in the solution, repot and water well. Make sure your container has good drainage holes, is planted in a well-draining bark media (not moss), and the plant is never allowed to sit in a saucer of water.

Mark your calendars for the Garden’s newest exhibition, the Orchid Show (purchase tickets here). Orchid lovers of all levels are sure to learn a lot more about orchids at the show. Can’t wait! 

©2013 Chicago Botanic Garden and

Julie McCaffrey


Julie McCaffrey is media relations manager at the Chicago Botanic Garden and is responsible for promoting the Garden's programs and events through traditional and social media. Julie holds a B.A. in English from Northern Illinois University and an M.S. in Communications from Northwestern University.

13 responses to Repotting Orchids, Part 1: Phalaenopsis

  1. I am having trouble finding the link to the video. Thanks.

  2. Cathi, sorry for the glitch! We just updated the video link in the post. If you still can’t see it, you can find it on youtube at

  3. What is in the bucket of water that the orchid sat in for 10 minutes before repottinng?
    Didn’t catch the word.

  4. Years ago we used to live on a street named Orchid Drive. Since that time, orchids have become my favorite flower but they are very delicate.

  5. What was the liquid you cleaned the roots with ?

  6. Note: When using a product such as this, it is important to follow all label directions carefully. The label on Physan 20 virucide reads:

    ORCHIDS: Adult plants, use 2 tsp. Physan 20 per gallon of water. Spray anytime disease other than rot is evident. Spray once per month as preventative maintenance. Soak compost when fungus is evident. For other uses of PHYSAN 20 with orchids, refer to Insert #2.

  7. Hi. I have white thing on my orchids. What should I do. Is it bad or I can spray something on it.

  8. Hi- What items are in the red bucket?

  9. Julie McCaffrey August 13, 2018 at 8:20 am

    Hi, April. The mix in the bucket is sphagnum moss, perlite, and bark.

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  1. Repotting Orchids, Part 2: Paphiopedilum | My Chicago Botanic Garden - December 30, 2013

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