This is the dilemma that’s been staring at me for some time, now. I have two orchids — one in a terra cotta pot and one in a plastic pot — and they have each made themselves very comfortable in their respective homes. In fact, they’re almost too comfortable, with their roots bursting out and over the pots.
My problem is that I’ve been a coward about what I know needed to be done. Each orchid needs a new home, and although I knew where I wanted to plant them, I was intimidated to pry the roots from the pots.
Then, 2020 happened — and let’s face it, removing a cramped orchid from a pot suddenly seems like one of the easiest things to do.
When I first began tying orchids to palm trees, I really had no idea what I was doing. I literally tied the plant to the trunk and hoped for the best — only to be rewarded with a dead orchid tied to a tree.
After a YouTube search, I stumbled upon a different technique that I’ve been able to adapt to make it work for me. Not only do I have a greater success rate, it also looks a bit more attractive.
My first step is to gather all of my tools — my mise en place: a pail filled with water, some coco liner, scissors, clippers, sphagnum moss, and floral tape.
The Orchid In The Terra Cotta Pot
With patience and a thin blade, I was able to separate roots from the pot. Using some water also helped to loosen the roots. Meanwhile, I cut a triangle of coco liner and soaked a handful of sphagnum moss in the pail of water.
Once the orchid was freed from the pot, I squeezed out the excess moisture from the sphagnum moss and packed it around the roots. Then, I placed all of it onto the coco liner. I rolled the liner, like a taco, around the orchid.
When placing it onto the trunk, the idea is to create a coco liner pocket. I pressed the open side of the orchid “taco” against the tree, and then wrapped it with some floral tape, tying it tightly. In time, the roots will grab onto the trunk, the coco liner will slowly (very slowly) deteriorate, and the brightness of the floral tape will fade.
The Orchid In The Plastic Pot
The second orchid, this one planted in a plastic pot, took a lot more patience. I had to cut the pot away from the roots because they had swollen through the openings. Once freed, although some roots were damaged, I followed the same procedure as above.
The Orchid On The Metal Roof
Lastly, I turned my attention to this orchid, a gift from my friends, Rick and David. They gave it to me about a year ago and it’s never flowered. I’m told, though, it’s Vanilla plantifolia, the orchid that produces the vanilla bean.
I’ve kept the orchid in its plastic pot on the metal roof of this small house I keep near my shed and potting bench (just so I can watch it). In the time that I’ve had it, the plant has grown a single stem with roots grabbing onto the metal roof and finding their way into every crevice of the small house.
I knew I had a problem, though, when I was prepping the yard for Hurricane Isaias. When I picked up the pot to place it in a safer location, it didn’t move. When I lifted the house, it didn’t move. When I lifted the orange table and the house, it still didn’t move — and I realized several of the roots from the stem had reached down and took hold in the soil.
In many ways, the orchid reminds me of the philodendron I had as kid — the one with the single trailing stem that could stretch the length of my bedroom wall. That’s when I had an idea.
For this project, I again gently separated the roots from wherever they had attached. I then removed the orchid from the pot and cut it into sections, each with its own root or two. I was then able to fill a terra cotta pot (freed up from the first orchid in this post) with an orchid mix, and plant several of the rooted stems. My hope it that I will have multiple stems trailing out of the pot, each able to produce flowers for pollination — and to possibly, fingers crossed, produce a vanilla bean.
At the moment, it’s still too early to tell if any of the transplants have been successful. So far, leaves are still green and the roots I’m able to see are plump, which says to me that orchids may be far more tougher than we think — and perhaps that’s a lesson we can carry with us as we continue to face 2020 and beyond. . . that we are all tougher than we give ourselves credit for.
Stay safe and happy gardening!