Although the common window sill orchids aren’t actually delicate, many people shy away from properly pruning them. With these tips, you can remove broken roots on your orchid without harming the plant.
Orchids, especially the Phalaenopsis hybrids, are among the most popular flowering plants on German window sills. They require little maintenance and reward little effort with wonderful, long-lasting flowers. But when it comes to cutting house plants, many people are unsure. That is why quite a few of the exotic potted plants vegetate for many years in the old substrate with rotten roots. We explain what you need to look out for in care so that you don’t make a mistake when removing the overaged orchid roots.
Cutting orchid roots: this is how it works
- Use clean, sharp scissors
- Completely remove the old substrate from the root ball
- Cut off dry and rotten roots at the base
- Thinning out the root ball by a third
- Shorten the roots
Repot orchids regularly
Orchids are so-called epiphytes. They live in the rainforest at lofty heights, because in nature they do not grow in the ground, but on trees. With their aerial roots, the plants absorb water and nutrients from the air. That is why orchids are not planted in potting soil, but in a loose orchid substrate, which largely consists of bark chips.
The plant can hold on to it without its roots getting too wet. Every two to three years, when the pot is well-rooted, the orchid should be repotted. Repotting is also necessary if the orchid has a lot of aerial roots, the plant is growing crooked or waterlogging has formed in the pot. During this activity, the roots of the plants are always cut back. In this way, the flowering plant is rejuvenated and kept healthy. The best time to repot and root pruning orchids is during the resting phase after flowering.
You may rigorously cut off all discolored, dried out, or soft root strands
Which orchid roots are cut?
When you take the orchid out of its planter, you will usually notice some roots growing out of the bottom of the planter. You can cut this off directly because you cannot get the orchid out of the container without damaging it. Then carefully remove the plant from the pot and carefully shake off the substrate. Now you see a mess of brown, yellow, white, greenish-gray, and maybe black roots. Black spots on the root membrane are caused by fertilizer burns and are a sign that the fertilizer was too concentrated.
White orchid roots grew entirely in the dark and therefore did not store any chlorophyll. However, they are just as effective at absorbing nutrients and water as green roots. Everything that is brown, yellow or black, mushy or dried up can be cut off directly at the base without hesitation. Firm, green-gray, and white roots are intact. These should only be shortened a little. You should not cut off the healthy aerial roots of the orchids that have grown outside the orchid pot.
How many roots can you cut?
The most common mistake when cutting orchid roots is to cut too cautiously or to skip the cut. Orchids are not very sensitive to their roots and are extremely capable of regeneration. Rotten spots in the root ball, on the other hand, promote fungal growth and diseases. Therefore, when in doubt, it is better to cut a little more than less. A poorly cared for an orchid can be completely thinned out except for a few intact green roots. In this way, it is revitalized and stimulated to new growth.
Tip: The worse the general condition of the plant, the more courageously the root ball can be pruned. Orchids quickly drive out new roots, which offer a better supply of nutrients than old and partially dried or burned roots. So don’t worry if the majority of the roots fall victim to the scissors when repotting. Vital orchids do not have to be pruned as much. But here, too, you can thin out a third of the root mass and shorten the remaining roots by a good third.
A lot of material is generated when pruning the roots of orchids
The right tool
Orchids are prone to fungal diseases because their fleshy leaves and thick roots offer a lot of attack surfaces for pathogens if injured. Therefore, you should always make sure that you only tackle the plants with well-cleaned and sharp-cutting tools. Use well-sharpened, sturdy garden or bonsai scissors to cut orchids. The old stems and other dried-up parts of the plant can be quite hard. Household scissors are not suitable for cutting orchid roots! Blunt scissors crush the root tissue and injure it. It is ideal to disinfect the scissors with alcohol or boiling water before the maintenance cut.
Frequently asked questions
Do orchid roots need to be cut?
Yes, every time you repot or if the plant is too wet, the roots should be examined and dried out or rotten roots removed.
Are the plants recovering from radical root pruning?
Orchids are very pruning in the root area and usually recover well.
When is the right time for the root cut?
Cut back the roots after flowering, when the plant has energy left for new growth.