How to Repot an Orchid with Air Roots & Best Orchid Potting Mix Recipe

How to repot an orchid with air roots or propagate orchid from air roots or from Keiki? When to repot and how to replant an orchid properly? And how about the best orchid potting mix recipe that you can make at home? You’ll have the answer today! Let’s take care of your beautiful fragile plants with useful tips and tricks in transplanting orchids.

How Do Orchids Grow? Why Are Orchid Air Roots Important?

Orchids can be categorized into two types: epiphytic, which grows in the air, and terrestrial, which grows in the ground (earth-growing). An example of a terrestrial orchid is the Lady’s slipper orchid (Paphiopedilum).

The majority of tropical orchids belong to the epiphytic category (air-growing). In their natural habitat, these plants attach themselves to trees and stumps, obtaining moisture from the surrounding mist and rain, as well as decomposing leaves.

Common examples of epiphytic orchids include Cattleya, Phalaenopsis (also known as the “moth orchid”), and Dendrobium, which is known for its diverse array of appearances.

Have you ever wondered why maintaining their air roots is so important to their survival? It’s because orchid aerial roots grow outside the potting media and serve to anchor the plant and absorb moisture from the air, making orchids different from other plants that rely solely on roots buried in the soil.

how to repot an orchid
How to repot an orchid with air roots

If you’ve noticed orchid roots growing out of pot, including aerial roots, don’t worry; it’s a natural adaptation. In fact, some orchids are even considered air plants! Understanding how orchids grow and why their air roots are essential will help you care for your orchids and ensure their health and longevity.

Read More: How to Take Care of an Orchid Indoors

How to Care For Moth Orchids

17 Different Types of Orchids With Pictures and Names

When do you repot an orchid with air roots?

For an orchid with air roots to grow and stay healthy, you must know when and then how to repot it properly. However, how do you know when to repot your orchids? There are three key indicators to look out for when orchid roots emerge from the pot.

Orchid Roots Growing Out of Pot:

When you see an orchid bravely climbing out of its pot, it’s a beautiful sign of growth. Embrace those leggy roots and don’t cut those off. Be glad and take this opportunity to re-pot it and provide the space it needs to flourish even more.

when do you repot an orchid with air roots, orchid roots growing out of pot
Orchid roots growing out of pot, or being tightly tangled

Repot Orchids When The Potting Media Goes Bad:

Over time, the potting media can break down and become compacted, leading to root rot.

If you notice that the potting media has deteriorated, it’s time to repot your orchid with fresh media. To check the condition of fir bark as the growing medium for your orchid and determine when to replace it, you can perform a simple test.

  1. Break open a piece of the bark and observe its center.
  2. If the center is dark, it indicates that it is time to re-pot your orchid. If the center appears light, this suggests that the fir bark is still in good shape and does not need immediate replacement, you can wait for few more months to repot or transplant your orchids.
  3. If you find that the fir bark of your orchid feels soft and spongy when pinched, it’s an indication that you may have waited too long to repot it.
  4. When using sphagnum moss, keep in mind that the moss usually lasts for about one year before it begins to deteriorate. Thus, you should plan on replacing the sphagnum moss annually.

Orchid Roots Are Tightly Tangled:

If the orchid roots become too tangled, they can suffocate and inhibit the plant’s growth. Repotting your orchid with air roots will provide more space and enable the roots to grow freely.

Other important tips regarding transplanting orchids:

  • Spring is the perfect time to repot your orchids, especially when you notice new growth, especially in the roots.
  • Exercise patience and wait to re-pot your orchid until after its breathtaking blooms have faded away. Not only will this allow you to fully enjoy the stunning beauty of the flowers, but it will also give the plant time to recover and thrive in its new home

When you repot your orchid with air roots, make sure to use the proper techniques and tools to ensure its health and growth. And remember, choosing a good orchid potting mix when transplanting and propagating is a crucial aspect of their care, so be sure to do it when necessary to help your orchid thrive.

How to Repot an Orchid

how to repot an orchid with air roots
Trimming dead roots is very important in transplanting orchids.

Repotting an orchid is a crucial step in maintaining its health and promoting new growth. Orchids require repotting every 1-2 years to ensure they have fresh potting media and adequate space for their roots to thrive. 

The process involves selecting a suitable pot, preparing a high-quality potting mix, and transplanting the orchid carefully to minimize root damage. In subsequent sections, we’ll delve into repotting an orchid with air roots, ensuring a successful transplant and thriving plant.

How to Repot an Orchid with Air Roots (Step by Step)

Repotting an orchid with air roots can seem intimidating, but with careful planning and execution, it’s manageable. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you repot your orchid with air roots while maintaining its health and encouraging growth.

Step 1: Gather materials

You’ll need a clean pot with drainage holes, a high-quality orchid potting mix, sterilized cutting tools, and gloves to protect your hands from sharp edges.

Step 2: Remove the orchid

Gently remove the orchid from its current pot, taking care not to damage the air roots. Loosen the potting mix around the roots, and carefully extract the plant.
To effectively remove the old potting media, the most gentle way is to use your fingers. Carefully dig around and try to remove as much of the old media as you can.

Step 3: Inspect and trim roots

After removing the old potting media, rinse the orchid roots thoroughly using tepid water. You can either do this by giving them a good rinse in the sink or swishing them in a soaking bowl.

Examine the root system, identifying any dead, damaged, or rotting roots. Using sterilized cutting tools, trim away unhealthy roots, leaving only the healthy air roots and terrestrial roots intact.

Step 4: Prepare the new pot

Add a layer of the chosen orchid potting mix at the bottom of the new pot. This will provide proper drainage and aeration for the plant’s root system. If you want to make the best orchid potting mix at home, keep reading!

Step 5: Position the orchid

Carefully place the orchid in the new pot, ensuring the air roots are above the potting mix. Spread terrestrial roots evenly within the pot, while keeping air roots exposed to allow them to absorb moisture and nutrients from the air.
Phalaenopsis (moth orchid), Angraceum, and Vanda orchids are known as monopodial types because they grow from a single stem. When potting these orchids, place them in the center of the pot.

Step 6: Add potting mix

Gently fill the pot with the remaining potting mix.

Simply rotate the pot in one direction while simultaneously rotating the plant in the opposite direction. This technique encourages the roots to gradually curl and settle into the new container.

Gradually add more potting media. Ensure that you firmly tamp and pat the pot in order to eliminate any air pockets. You could use a chopstick to carefully fill in any gaps can help create a well-packed and evenly distributed planting environment.

Continue tapping and gently shaking the pot. This will help the media to distribute evenly and create a stable planting environment.

Finally, keep the crown dry and slightly raised above the potting media. Any aerial roots that grow outside of the potting media should be kept in the air and not buried in the media to avoid root rot.

Step 7: Water and care

Water the newly repotted orchid thoroughly, allowing excess water to drain from the pot. Position your orchid in a spot with bright, indirect light and maintain a consistent watering and fertilizing schedule to promote healthy growth.
Do not overwater your orchids. Excessive watering is the main reason why orchids suffer from drooping leaves and rotting roots, ultimately leading to their untimely demise.

By following these steps, you’ll successfully repot your orchid with air roots, ensuring the plant’s continued growth and health. Remember to be gentle when handling the roots and to provide the appropriate environment for your orchid to thrive.

Best Orchid Potting Mix Recipe

A thriving orchid needs a specialized potting mix that caters to its unique requirements. Orchids don’t grow well in regular potting soil, so crafting a DIY mix with proper drainage, aeration, and root support is essential. Here’s a homemade orchid potting mix recipe for the best results.


  • Orchid bark: A crucial ingredient, it offers drainage and aeration while anchoring the roots. Medium-grade fir or pine bark works well for most orchids.
How to Repot an Orchid: Orchid bark
  • Sphagnum moss: This component holds moisture and creates a humid environment, resembling orchids’ natural habitat. Opt for high-quality, long-fiber sphagnum moss.
How to Repot an Orchid: Sphagnum moss
  • Perlite: This airy, porous material enhances aeration and drainage in the mix, warding off root rot.
How to Repot an Orchid: Perlite
  • Horticultural charcoal: Although optional, it can help filter impurities and maintain a slightly acidic environment that orchids prefer.
How to Repot an Orchid: Horticultural charcoal


1. Mix equal parts orchid bark, sphagnum moss, and perlite in a large container, ensuring even distribution.

2. Add horticultural charcoal, about 1/4 of the total volume, and mix well.

3. Dampen the potting mix with water, but avoid making it too wet.

Your homemade orchid potting mix is now ready for use. With the ideal balance of drainage, aeration, and moisture retention, your orchids will experience healthy growth and stunning blooms. Monitor your plant’s progress and adjust the potting mix ingredients as necessary to accommodate its specific needs.

Propagating Orchids from Aerial Roots (Guidance)

Sometimes propagating orchids requires repotting, and understanding the techniques can be helpful. One way to propagate orchids is by utilizing their aerial roots. Here are two techniques to propagate orchids from aerial roots:

  1. Trimming and potting aerial roots: Aerial roots often grow from the main stem of monopodial orchids, hanging from nodes along the vertical stem. These roots can be trimmed and potted to sprout new growth, resulting in a brand-new orchid plant. To encourage new growth, keep the aerial root cuttings in a humid environment with indirect sunlight, using a humidity tray and positioning the pot in a bright, south-facing room.
  2. Layering aerial roots: This technique involves bending an aerial root into the potting mix and covering it with an additional mix. Over time, the covered section will develop into a new plant with its own root system. Ensure the new plant is securely anchored and provide proper care, including consistent watering and fertilizing, to promote healthy growth.
How to Repot an Orchid From Air Roots & Best Orchid Potting Mix Recipe (2)

By understanding these propagation techniques, you can successfully propagate your orchids from their aerial roots, creating new plants and expanding your orchid collection.

How to Propagate Orchids by Repotting a Keiki

Keiki (pronounced Kay-Key) is a small plantlet that grow off the stem of some orchids, allowing for easy propagation. Repotting a keiki is a simple process that can be done with a few basic tools and materials. Here’s how to propagate orchids by repotting a keiki:

how to repot orchid from KEIKI
This is how I propagate my Dendrobium orchids from Keiki. Credit: Edward Nguyen, TheLittle.Garden
  1. Identify the keiki: Look for a small plantlet growing off the stem of your orchid.
  2. Prepare a pot and a propagation box: Choose a clean pot and fill it with a high-quality orchid potting mix. Make a DIY propagation box with a lid, let say a clear plastic bin or a styrofoam box. I use styrofoam to keep the moist inside the box as my garden is quite hot. Keep in mind to put the box in a bright indirect light.
  3. Detach the keiki: Carefully detach the keiki from the parent plant using sterilized cutting tools.
  4. Position the keiki: Place the keiki in the potting mix, positioning the keiki above the surface. Put the pot into your DIY propagation box. Cover the box with its lid.
  5. Water and care: Thoroughly water the newly repotted keiki, allowing excess water to drain from the pot. Check on the heat with a soil thermometer if possible.
how to repot orchid from Keiki
Repotting Dendrobium orchids from Keiki in my garden. Photo: Edward Nguyen, TheLittle.Garden

By repotting a keiki, you can easily propagate your orchids. Be sure to handle the plant gently, maintain consistent watering and fertilizing practices, and position it in bright, indirect light to promote healthy growth. With a little care, your orchid collection will flourish with new, vibrant plants.

Summary – Orchid Repotting & Propagating

Repotting and propagating orchids are important steps for maintaining healthy and thriving plants. Whether you’re dealing with orchid roots growing out of the pot or repotting an orchid with air roots, there are techniques and tools you can use to ensure successful transplanting. 

The best orchid potting mix recipe involves a blend of orchid bark, sphagnum moss, perlite, and optional horticultural charcoal, providing the ideal balance of drainage, aeration, and moisture retention. Propagating orchids can be done by repotting a keiki or utilizing aerial roots, such as trimming and potting them or layering them in the potting mix. By following these tips and techniques, you can keep your orchids healthy and beautiful, expanding your collection and enjoying their stunning blooms.