Within every plant, the roots are pivotal to its survival. In regards to orchids, the roots are an essential part of its anatomy as the strength of the plants roots will ultimately, determine how generous your blooms will be. Orchids are renowned for possessing either fine or thick roots; the type of roots will be determined by the specific specie of the orchid. For example, oncidium orchids possess fine roots, whereas the phalaenopsis boasts thick roots. However, regardless of the specie or indeed, the thickness of your orchid’s roots, it is imperative that you care for all aspects of your orchid’s health.
Trimming your orchid’s roots is a vital part of orchid care and so you should maintain to trim the roots whenever you are re-potting. When trimming, remove any old planting mixture from around the roots using your hands and look out for brown or mushy roots which will need to be removed completely. A healthy root network will be easily identifiable as these will be green or white in color. Trim the healthy root network back about 1- 2 inches (3-5 cm). When trimming off the dead roots, always cut these free from the plant, never pull them. By removing dead roots from the base of the plant, you will be helping to maintain air circulation round the healthy roots which will promote blooming and longevity. Once you have removed the dead roots, always add new potting medium to your pot before replanting.
Orchids can be tricky to maintain as they are relatively wild flowers. Orchids that are bred outdoors grow out of the ground in a way that differs to other flower species. Those that are found within the rainforest for example, will be found growing amongst trees and often, the orchid’s roots will be attached to the tree in some way or another. Other forms of wild orchids grow alongside rocks whereas other species will grow out along its environment surface. However, in all cases whether an orchid is grown in or outdoors, it will possess roots that run along its planted space, rather than growing inwards.
When growing wild, the plant will not receive water in the same way as it would indoors. Similar to all plants, outdoor orchids receive their water via rainfall but no outdoor orchid will possess roots that are able to reach out to water within its surroundings in order to draw it into the plant. A plant’s roots will soak up rain water that is in close proximity and thanks to the skin-like covering on the roots; it is able to store water for when required. Orchid roots can become very dry and be susceptible to shriveling, but this is an ongoing process which will only cease during the next rainfall. If planted within a tropical environment, the orchid’s roots can also be provided with some form of moisture thanks to the humidity levels but never will the roots be in direct contact with a water source.
It is for this direct reason that many orchids die as a direct result of being over watered by their owners. It is believed that orchids require once-a-week watering, but depending on the specie of orchid you possess, this can actually be quite damaging. This is primarily because orchids do not drink up water, unlike other plants. Similar to those grown in the wild, indoor orchids also possess small hairs on the surface of the roots, which absorb water when the plant is thirsty. However, should a plant not require water within its planted area, this can cause another issue within itself. When the plant is over watered, it will be provided with more water than it will require. Due to this, the plant will simply not absorb this water, allowing it to sit within the planting medium. This will hinder the plant from getting the oxygen it needs, which will result in rotting of the roots and potentially even death of the plant.
When it comes to caring for your plant, there is one important point to remember: when watering orchids it is better to under water them than to over water them. Taking into consideration the type of plant you possess, the size of the plant and its needs will help the root network, thereby keeping the overall health of the plant intact, will promote those beautiful blossoms you covet.