Help! My orchid's growing tentacles!

Help! My orchid's growing tentacles!

Fear not!  Those are just their normal roots.  If you shop at Calverts (and who doesn't!) , you probably have an orchid or two (or 6!) sitting around just hanging out being dormant.  No, it's not dead, just resting before it decides to flower again.  Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to help it make that decision! 

Most orchids, in their native tropical places, are epiphytes, which means they grow on other plants or trees for support.  Their roots settle into cracks and crevasses, getting their nourishment from whatever falls on them ...rainwater, leaves, bird poop.....yummm.  But  after a while in your home in their pot they may need to get a freshening up of their root environment.  If your orchid looks like this, it's time to repot. 

In our discussion today we are talking about phalenopsis orchids, or as we at Calverts like to call them, "phal" for short.  They are at the top of the list of orchids that are easy for beginners to care for and rebloom.  All you need it a bright window, a little orchid food, consistency in watering, and PATIENCE. A neglected orchid could take up to a year to first bloom.  Honest, you don't have to fuss over them.  (You can talk to them if you want.  Couldn't hurt. ) 

I like to use either long-fiber sphagnum moss or orchid bark, or a mixture of both.  The moss/bark combo is good because moss is lightweight when approaching dryness, making it easier to tell when to water your orchid.  Let me give you some basic steps that I use to repot an orchid.  First, soak your medium in a tub of water.  Gently work your orchid from its pot--sometimes it helps to soak it first.  Cut back the long flower stems to just right above a joint, about the second joint from the bottom.  Do this because sometimes your orchid will spike from the same stem.   Then over some newspapers or the trashcan ( makes it less messy) pull out as much of the old moss as you can.  You will find some shriveled or blackened roots, which will be soft, badly discolored, or appear as "strings".  These should be trimmed away.  (If all the roots are shriveled and rotted, it's best to let that orchid go on to plant heaven.) After your orchid has had its trim, it will usually go back in the same plastic pot.  But first I like to give that pot some extra aeration, since that is what orchids prefer. Cut some extra slits out of the bottom of your grow pots. You can also trim back excessively long roots, just leave a nice quantity of healthy ones.  If your skin is sensitive,wear "beauty shop" gloves as you wring out small handfuls of moss/bark and make a mound in the bottom of the pot.  Gently spread the orchid over it, and then continue to wring out material and work it around the roots.  It helps to soak the roots of your orchid a short time to make them less brittle.  You want to get it packed between roots to hold the plant in, but not too tight.  When you are done, the plant should sit with its bottom leaves just barely above the top of the moss.Water your orchid to settle it in its new home.  Some sources say you should let it rest in a shady spot.(You may sing it a lullaby if you wish.)  But unless you have ginormous windows, I've found I can just put it near a bright window (within 2 feet) and wait for things to happen.

I like to feed my orchids Schultz's orchid food about once a month.  In between, I either use something like fish emulsion or sea tea, or plain water.  Never let your orchid's moss dry out completely.  Lift your orchid after you give it a good drink and you will be able to get a feel for how heavy it is wet, and how much lighter it will be when it needs a drink.  Some say the moss should be like a rung-out sponge.  Mine work out to need water every 7-10 days, depending on the time of year. You don't have to mist them, ( but they like it!) but do get water on any wild roots snaking out of the pot.  They are often the happiest roots.

Give it a try--you'll be addicted!

And here for your viewing enjoyment, some re-bloomers!

41 comments (Add your own)

1. bob wrote:
wow this is really helpful information. thanks

Mon, August 16, 2010 @ 10:27 AM

2. Anne wrote:
Wonderful information. Very inspiring. Orchids make my heart sing.

Thu, August 26, 2010 @ 11:10 AM

3. Patty wrote:
Nice tutorial Tami! The flowers are very pretty!

Mon, September 6, 2010 @ 10:09 PM

4. Patty wrote:
Nice tutorial Tami! The flowers are very pretty!

Mon, September 6, 2010 @ 10:09 PM

5. saba wrote:
Wow your orchid looks lovely. I have a question. I bought schultz orchid food. How much of this food should I mix with how much water and give it to my plant for one time? I have only one orchid plant. Thanks!

Mon, January 3, 2011 @ 10:54 PM

6. Shanda wrote:
Thanks for the information, I can try to re-pot, my orchid and hope that it survives the process. It was given to me by a friend, the roots are coming out of the pot and they are hard, now I know i can cut them thanks again for all your help, and the flowers from your are pretty.

Tue, October 25, 2011 @ 1:52 PM

7. Jenny wrote:
Thanks for being on point and on taergt!

Thu, January 5, 2012 @ 11:52 PM

8. La Wall wrote:
I love your article. I do not have a green thumb but I have had success with my orchids. Yes, I talk to them daily.

Tue, September 11, 2012 @ 8:23 AM

9. Anna wrote:
Thanks for this helpful tutorial. I'm in the UK, so haven't been to Calverts (looks like I'm missing a lot!). Will keep persevering with one or two orchids I nearly threw out.

Wed, November 21, 2012 @ 1:03 PM

10. TC wrote:
I bought an orchid last year August from a farmer's market. I noticed some roots sprouting out and turning brown and dry so I decided to replant today. After replanting I saw most of the roots have rotted and I had to cut away most. Although you wrote that it's best to allow the plant to die I refuse to give up on it. I'm hoping it will hold and not die :(

Fri, January 25, 2013 @ 4:14 PM

11. Karin wrote:
THANKS!!! Roots were growing UP !! Thought it was a flower stem, but NO!

Wed, February 13, 2013 @ 5:49 AM

12. Pat wrote:
Thank you so much. I have been searching for the "dead root" solution and got nowhere. Your explanations were so clear and I will get to work right now. Thanks again.


Thu, July 4, 2013 @ 9:16 AM

13. Meaghan wrote:
I am nursing my Orchids back to health and wanted to give them new moss. I prefer using moss because it hold the moisture in more. Is this a bad way of thinking? Should I switch to half bark and half moss? Where can I order this life saving mixture? Thank you so much

Wannabe Orchid Doctor

Sun, July 7, 2013 @ 1:43 PM

14. Mary wrote:
Very informative and your explanation is perfectly descriptive. I was so lost and am thankful for your help! Thanks so much!

Thu, July 11, 2013 @ 4:34 PM

15. Bernie wrote:
This is a great article for someone like me who knows very little about orchids or for that matter very little about most plants. It is very informative and easy to follow.

Sat, July 13, 2013 @ 4:47 PM

16. Theresa wrote:
Very helpful to this new orchid grower! Thanks for sharing!

Sat, August 10, 2013 @ 12:37 PM

17. Mandy wrote:
This is very good information, also helpful and clear, AND as it was my maiden name Calvert, I trust your expertise. I have never had an orchid before and had no idea what to do with it, it was given to me on 20/4/13 and had upto about 18 blooms, this week the last flower dropped.

Sat, August 24, 2013 @ 5:39 PM

18. JMC wrote:
Thanks! This was great info and made the process very simple. I've only had one re-bloom, so I hope this does the trick.

Wed, August 28, 2013 @ 5:03 PM

19. BOZ wrote:
''Help! My orchid's growing tentacles!''...Thanks for your help in figuring our what these snakes were that just recently started growing out of the base of my orchid that had flower a second time after the blooms that came on it had run their course and fallen off. I just about passed over your hit on Google because I first misread your reference to tentacles as testicles...probably because since mine have just begun to grow and are less then a inch long and look more like another part of the male body. To help with drainage I usually put a layer of tree bark chips in the bottom of my pots before adding potting soil. Do you think this will work in place of the moss ? And do orchids like a little sand in the mix ? Thanks again for your info and photos.

Wed, September 18, 2013 @ 10:32 AM

20. Jessica hughes wrote:
Ok so l accidentally broke the leaves off( all together) from the roots and stem, l didn't want to give up so l put them in a glass of water and it has been 3 weeks now and it's still healthy and alive, but not growing roots :( does anyone know what to do to make it get roots?

Thu, September 19, 2013 @ 5:42 PM

21. Jennifer wrote:
Great article, Tami! But I do have a couple of questions: Got my orchid for Mother's Day, started with 5 but ended up with 18 blooms, dropping them in early August. Sits on my kitchen table in front of south-facing glass doors. Recently I noticed 6-8 roots growing out the top of the pot, some are now a good 6 in. long, all growing straight out, away from window. They're looking a bit wrinkly, so I want to know if that means they want more water or are they begging me to cut back on water? Next, do I HAVE to repot it? Or can I leave it be in the pot it came in? And I cut the spike once the flowers were all gone, but not too far back (it's ~12" long now). How do you know where to cut it back & is that why it hasn't rebudded yet? When can I expect it to flower/bud again? Finally, its blooms were initially very deep purple, with each subsequent flower a lighter & lighter shade till they were almost white. Does this mean it was fed colored water? And will I harm it if I do the same? How strong do I make it?? Wish we lived near a Calverts...we're in northern KY so pretty far away! Thanks so much in advance for your help; will send you pics when I get reblooms! :)

Thu, September 26, 2013 @ 9:27 PM

22. Vicki wrote:
Great information, but some of my tentacles are over two feet long. Can I cut them back before re- potting and do you always have to use a plastic liner for the pots?

Fri, November 8, 2013 @ 3:27 PM

23. Elvira wrote:
Wow, Really helpful. It's November now, and I really need to replant. Where can I find, Long-Fiber Sphagnum Moss, or Orchid Bark?

Thu, November 21, 2013 @ 8:44 AM

24. Tony wrote:
my orchid seems to have all of the leaves hanging over one side of the pot almost lifting the roots out of the pot.Have I re potted it incorrectly?
Does the plant need supporting initially to keep it upright untill sufficient roots have developed to hold in position.

Fri, November 22, 2013 @ 9:54 AM

25. Debbie wrote:
Thank you! Just what I needed to know. Time to repot my orchid.

Thu, January 2, 2014 @ 8:10 PM

26. Denise wrote:
Thank you! The photos were very helpful. Now I know exactly what to do!

Sat, January 18, 2014 @ 11:50 AM

27. AJ wrote:
This information was really helpful, especially with the pictures. Just curious...My mom had her orchids for about a year, I know how important the aerial roots are, but the ones coming out of her plants are now about 8"-12" long. They are running into other plants and such, they crack if you try to redirect them. Is it just something you have to let be? Or can you prevent them from getting that long in the future?

Thu, January 23, 2014 @ 9:02 AM

28. AJ wrote:
My email is listed above, Thanks!

Thu, January 23, 2014 @ 9:10 AM

29. Pauline wrote:
This is great information, very helpful and just what I was looking for. How to care for an orchard and more...thanks.

Thu, February 20, 2014 @ 9:47 AM

30. Claire wrote:
I have a question about orchids. I'm a beginner and have two phals. One of them has a shoot which I'm excited it is going to rebloom. I have had that one for only a year. The second one is a phal I believe as well (not 100% sure on that someone gave it to me two years ago) and It will not bloom. It grows new leaves and is getting bigger but that is about it. Any suggestions on why that plant is not blooming as the other one is. It take care of them the same way and they are infront of the same window.

Sat, March 1, 2014 @ 9:35 AM

31. C wrote:
Thanks so much for the info it helped!

Thu, March 27, 2014 @ 12:05 PM

32. Anne wrote:
Question: I have a root growing up out of the pot of a blooming phal. Do I re-pot while blooming? I have no idea how long the blooms last but they are looking good and I don't wan to disrupt them. I don't want to jeopardize the plant, though, by letting it root up and out.
Thanks so much for a very informative article!

Wed, April 2, 2014 @ 4:15 PM

33. Linda wrote:
I wanted to find out about the root coming out (what it was) of the pot and you gave me the answer.
Also now I know how to repot.

Thank you.

Mon, April 7, 2014 @ 12:04 PM

34. Barbara wrote:
I have the same question as #32 - Anne. Can I re-pot the orchid it there are multiple buds on the plant? I don't want to lose them but the roots are going everywhere outside the pot!

Fri, April 11, 2014 @ 2:40 PM

35. u wrote:

Sun, May 11, 2014 @ 4:57 AM

36. Rebecca wrote:
Thanks for the very good advice. Now I know I need to repot my mini-orchid and I can proceed with more confidence!

Fri, May 23, 2014 @ 10:22 AM

37. kathy wrote:
help,their seems to be a new stem growing up under a new,small leaf

Sat, May 24, 2014 @ 8:56 AM

38. tami wrote:
don't worry about the stem, it will find it's way out to where it needs to be:)

Sat, May 24, 2014 @ 9:57 AM

39. Tejashree wrote:
Please help,
I have an orchid that I had just rescued and was slowly coming to life but someone broke all its leaves not a single leaf left on the plant. Roots are healthy and growing. I am making a guess that its Vanda.
Will it survive??

Wed, May 28, 2014 @ 12:39 PM

40. jenny wrote:
I have orchids and the roots growing out or the pot are like triffids there so long and silver coloured but now growing green tips they look really healthy but what do I do with or two are going shrivelled at the stem base do I cut these off.............

Sat, June 7, 2014 @ 5:47 AM

41. Ingrid wrote:
I have found once all the leaves are gone it never recovers. Never repot while blooms are on.

Wed, August 19, 2015 @ 7:54 PM

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