Because the types of orchids sold in retail centers grow naturally in exotic places, many people assume they're difficult to re-pot. Actually, the opposite is true. Repotting orchids is easy – but don’t pot them like houseplants.

That’s because in nature, orchid roots are exposed to air. To grow well in your home, orchids need an open mix. Potting soil would suffocate and kill the roots. Here's a five-step guide to re-potting an orchid that uses materials readily available to home growers, is easy to follow and meets the needs of these intriguing plants.

Step 1: Choose the right potting medium

A variety of orchid mixes is available at nursery centers. Be sure to follow package directions, especially regarding watering.

Step 2: Remove the orchid from its pot

  • Do this over newspapers. It can be messy.
  • If you can’t lift the plant from the pot, thump the pot.
  • If the plant stays in the pot, drench the pot with water.
  • If roots still stick to the pot, gently pry them loose.
  • When the plant is out of the pot, shake off as much old mix as possible.
  • Cut off dead, mushy roots.

Step 3: Choose the right pot

Use a plastic pot slightly larger than the root ball – even if the pot is much smaller than the leaves. Orchids grow best when under-potted.

Step 4: Re-pot the orchid

  • An ideal time to re-pot is when new roots are less than half-an-inch long.
  • Cut off flowering stems.
  • Place a little potting mix in the pot.
  • Set the plant in the pot, but do not force roots that want to wander in the air into the pot.
  • If the plant has multiple growths, put the oldest one against the pot rim, leaving room for the plant to grow into the pot.
  • If the plant has one stem, center it in the pot.
  • White packing peanuts can be added for extra drainage.
  • Work the mix between the roots, trying not to break any green or brown root tips.
  • Continue adding the mix, pressing it around the roots.
  • Properly potted plants should not wobble.
  • Gently lift the plant by its leaves. If it comes out of the pot, re-pot more snugly.

Step 5: Encourage new root growth

If the plant has a name tag, write the date on the tag, and put it in the pot. Mist the leaves daily, but withhold watering for two weeks to encourage new root growth. Then resume normal care.