Orchid: what to do with the roots that come out of the pot?

Have the roots started to overflow from your orchid’s pot? There is no need to worry. This is a normal phenomenon. What you see protruding from the pot are aerial roots. They are common in phalaenopsis orchids and epiphytes. While terrestrial orchids are rooted in the ground, epiphytic orchids tend to grow above ground, taking advantage of their aerial roots. We tell you more in this article.
Why are the roots of my orchid sticking out of the pot?
Orchid roots outside the pot

When we see orchids grown in pots, we forget that they are epiphytic plants. In other words, they can grow on trees or rocks without problem. They have aerial roots that capture moisture from the air. Note, however, that not all orchids are epiphytes.

Orchids have two types of roots. Aerial roots and roots that grow in the ground, like all plants. Aerial roots help the orchid absorb moisture and nutrients from the air.

If you’re wondering how aerial roots absorb nutrients, take a closer look. You will notice that they are thick and covered in a spongy layer of dead cells, called velamen. This layer acts like a thin skin that helps the orchid absorb water and nitrogen, keeping it attached to the bark of the tree it grows on.

Epiphytic orchids

Epiphytic orchids need moisture to survive. If your home doesn’t have the same humidity as its natural habitat, aerial roots will grow out of the pot, seeking water vapor in the air. You may not know this, but know that orchids are tropical plants and need humidity and warmth.

If the roots are sticking out of the pot, this could also mean that your plant is growing taller and therefore its pot is starting to become narrower.

What should I do if my orchid has many aerial roots overflowing the pot?
If this is the case, don’t worry, a simple repotting is enough.

Remove the orchid from its pot
Before repotting your orchid, you can soak the pot in cool, but not cold, water for 30 minutes. This will soften the orchid’s growing medium and loosen it, making it easy to remove the roots from the potting soil. Remove the jar from the water and strain it to remove excess water.

Check what color the orchid’s roots are
Before repotting your plant, check its roots. If they are still green or white, your plant is healthy. It is also advisable to grow orchids in a transparent pot to be able to control, if necessary, the appearance of its roots.

Cut off the brown or dead aerial roots of the orchid
If you notice that the roots of the orchid are soft, gray or brown, it means that they are rotten. Cut them with clean, disinfected shears to prevent healthy roots from becoming infected.

Repot the orchid
Repot an orchid