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Materials for repotting

Safely Overpotting a Cattleya Seedling

by Charles Marden Fitch

The following article first appeared in the American Orchid Society BULLETIN Vol. 53, No. 5, May 1984. It describes a safe method of containing actively growing vigorous seedlings. While an Aircone pot is used for the demonstation, slotted so-called "Orchid Pots" will also work effectively.

ACTIVE SEEDLINGS sometimes send roots out of their pots, which in turn often fasten to nearby objects, making the plants difficult to handle. Giving these vigorous roots a confined but suitable place to grow is sometimes possible if the potting medium is very loose, thus avoiding the danger of wet or soggy conditions. The main danger of using an unsually large pot, called overpotting, is that the potting ingredients will remain so wet for so long a time that roots of epiphytic orchids contained within will rot.

To confine the roots of bench-grown seedlings, without causing them to rot, I provide a very well-drained container. In the example shown, we see a Cattleya hybrid seedling sending out healthy new roots in all directions. The new growth of this plant is just beginning, indicating that now is a good time to repot. I pot the plant into a plastic pot about one inch (2.5 cm) large than usually recommended for a plant of this size.

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Cattleya seedling potted in open potting mix

The new pot is a Rand Aircone type, designed by orchid grower Ray Rand to provide extra air circulation around roots. The potting mixture includes coarse pebbles, hardwood charcoal, wine corks, and some coconut fiber. By putting an inch of pebbles in the bottom of the pot, then using charcoal and wine corks to give roots something to grip, I am sure that air circulation is adequate. Some coconut (Husky) fiber used very loosely around the top section of the pot gives some water-retaining material for roots to encounter as they are sprouting from the new growth.
- Talisman Cove, 1120 Cove Road, Mamaroneck, New York 10543.