Choosing the Best Pots for Growing Orchids (with Examples)


Best pots for growing orchids

I think people underestimate the importance of choosing the right pot when growing orchids. As I’m sure you know, if you have been trying to grow orchids for any amount of time, they can be fussy about their conditions. I love to grow orchids, and I have been growing them for many years.

I am even lucky enough to have spoken at length with several expert orchid growers about this very question…which pots are best for orchids?

We need to consider the best potting material, pot size, drainage, ventilation, weight of the pot, and even whether the pot is transparent or not! Choosing the right pot for your orchid is critical to ensure your orchid survives.

The bottom line is…

Orchids grow best in transparent plastic pots with a width of 6 inches across, with drainage holes in the sides and in the base. Clear pots with holes in the sides allow light and air to circulate the roots which facilitates root respiration, and photosynthesis and prevents root rot.

What I often do is grow orchids in a plastic pot and place them in a larger, outer decorative pot to look more elegant in the home. Terracotta pots are more porous and breathable compared to other materials and are heavy enough to counterbalance a top-heavy orchid that can topple over.

This, from my years of experience, is perfect potting for my orchids…

Keep reading to learn why plastic pots are better and for the optimal pot size for your orchids…

Best Pots for Growing Orchids

Orchids can grow in any pot as long as there are drainage holes in the base, but some pots are more favorable than others because of the orchid’s unusual root system.

As we discussed, the best pots for growing orchids are clear plastic pots with decorative outer pots. This is because a transparent plastic pot with extra holes in the sides allows light and air to reach the roots. Orchids are epiphytes, so their roots require more oxygen and light for respiration and photosynthesis.

Orchids grow best in transparent pots with holes in the side and base for good air circulation and drainage.
Orchids grow best in transparent pots with holes in the side and base for good air circulation and drainage.

To understand why this is, we need to learn how orchids grow in the wild…

Orchids naturally grow on other trees or in loose gritty soils with their roots absorbing water vapor from the air around them and using the light to produce energy for the plant.

Therefore planting orchids in plastic pots with pine bark potting medium effectively emulates the natural growing conditions for the orchid in your home.

Roots are also a key indicator of orchid health, so I personally prefer having a transparent pot is beneficial to assessing whether your orchids need more water or not, with green roots indicating good health and shriveling indicating drought stress (read my article on how to water orchids).

Whenever I need to check the health of an orchid, I check the roots first, which is why a transparent pot is ideal.

Heres another critical potting factor we need to consider…Orchids are also very particular about their preferred potting medium, and pine bark chipping has the best aeraeted structure to allow for good drainage and air circulation.

However like all organic matter, pine bark decays after 2 years or so which decreases the available oxygen around the roots and reduces the porous structure that facilitates good drainage which can lead to root rot and be the cause of your orchid leaves turning yellow and dying.

Therefore, if we are using a transparent pot, we can keep an eye on the state of the potting medium so you can easily judge when it needs to be replaced before it causes a problem for your orchid as I find that a damp, decayed potting medium is one of the most common causes of dying orchids for beginners.(Read my article on how to revive a dying orchid).

Pro tip: I was taught this secret by specialist orchid growers. The best orchid pots have slits on the sides of the pot to increase air circulation around the roots further. Ever since I started growing orchids in these pots, the roots of my orchids look better than ever, and if I’ve learned one thing about orchids, the roots are happy, and the plant is happy!

Orchids are, however, a very glamorous houseplant that adds an air of sophistication to any house, and I understand that a clear plastic pot may detract from the aesthetic appeal of the plant.

Therefore, I personally prefer planting orchids in a plastic pot and placing it in a larger, decorative outer made from terracotta or ceramic. This is partly decorative and partly practical!

Ceramic and terracotta pots are quite heavy, which I find counterbalances your orchids as orchids grow very tall and can be top heavy, so they can easily topple over in a light pot.

I learned the importance of a heavy pot the hard way when my cat wooshed past my orchid at speed and caused it to topple over, much to my dismay! I thought I’m not going to let that happen again!

Of course, if we use a decorative outer pot, then this can also prevent water from spilling in the home after watering your orchid, but you mustn’t allow excess water to pool around the bottom of your orchid as they are very susceptible to root rot in damp conditions.

(Read my article, how to revive a wilting orchid).

Best Pot Size for Growing Orchids

Our houseplant orchids should be planted in pots of around 6 inches across with the same proportionate depth for optimal growth and flowering and to prevent root rot. I was taught that orchids grow best in smaller pot sizes, with the roots slightly constricted as they promote flowering.

Orchids display more flowers in smaller pots.
Orchids display more flowers in smaller pots.

I learned that the reason why orchids should planted in 6 inch pot is because larger pots contain more potting medium which has a greater capacity for holding moisture. More moisture around the roots of orchids increases the risk of root rot significantly which can causes the roots to die back and kill the orchid.

Of course, if we use a smaller pot of around 6 inches across, it holds less potting medium and provides a better balance of moisture for the orchid roots, which require good air circulation for root respiration and do not tolerate damp conditions for an extended period.

Pro tip: We all want great flowers from our orchids don’t we? Planting orchids in large pots also cause the orchid to redirect more energy into growing an extensive root system and diverts energy away from flowering.

I know this may sound counterintuitive, but I’ve learned that a smaller pot slightly constricts the roots, which actually improves the development of flowers. Orchids planted in relatively small pots display more flowers than those planted in larger pots.

Typically, orchids in 6-inch pots do not need to be repotted to a larger pot due to their limited growth and our preference as indoor gardeners for incentivizing flowering.

However, we need to remember our orchids should be repotted with a new potting medium (pine bark chipping is better than moss or potting soil) once every 2 or 3 years as the pine bark decomposes, which restricts the all important airflow around the roots that we have been talking about throughout this article.

Good Drainage in the Base of the Pot

The most important feature of orchid pots is that they should have a drainage hole in the base to allow excess water to escape after watering. Without a drainage hole in the base of your pot, water pools at the bottom of the pot around the orchid’s roots, which causes root rot and causes your orchid to die back.

As we have talked about, a lot of garden centers sell orchids are often sold in clear plastic pots that have drainage holes in the base to allow excess water to escape and holes in the side of the pot to allow more air to circulate around the orchid’s roots as orchids are epiphytes, which means they grow on trees or in loose gravel, so they have adapted to having lots of oxygen available for root respiration and to absorb water vapor from the surrounding air.

However, as I’m sure you can imagine, it is not practical to have water spilling in the house after each bout of watering, so it is a good idea to place the orchid in a decorative outer pot or on a saucer or tray.

This is as long as we remember to regularly empty the saucer, tray, or outer pot of moisture after watering to ensure it is dry and that excess water can drain freely and does not pool around the roots, preventing root rot.

(Read my article, why is my orchid dying?)

If you have any other questions about orchids or any of your own insights to share, please leave a comment below. Here at Gardener Report, we love to hear from you!

Key Takeaways:

  • Orchids grow best in plastic pots with holes in the sides and base for improved air circulation around the roots. Transparent plastic pots allow light and oxygen to reach the roots for respiration and photosynthesis to keep the orchid healthy and avoid root rot.
  • The optimal size for an orchid pot is around 6 inches in width with the same proportionate depth. A 6-inch orchid pot holds less moisture to reduce the risk of root rot and keeps the roots slightly confined, which promotes orchid flowering.
  • Always plant orchids in pots with drainage holes in the base to prevent water from pooling around the roots, which causes the orchid to die back. Empty saucers, trays, and decorative outer pots regularly so that excess water can escape from the bottom of the pot.
  • Place orchids in stylish terracotta and ceramic outer pots to counterbalance top-heavy orchids that could topple. Terracotta is porous, allowing for air circulation around the roots, mimicking the orchid’s naturally aerated conditions in their native environment.

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