overgrown & specimen plants  

what you'll need:

click on photo to see a close-up

Most people face a plant in this condition very few times. After tackling a monster like this, we usually make a vow to stay current with our orchid potting. This Cattleya should have been repotted two years ago. Although you might be able to cut through the hanger wire with lineman's pliers, bolt cutters are fast and easy. If you are able to pry the wire away without damaging the orchid, you probably won't need any special tools. After the hanger wire is cut into small pieces, it's an easy matter to remove it. Throughout the process of unpotting a large overgrown orchid, the plant will receive a lot of handling. Take special care not to damage any new leads or fragile root tips.

This orchid is not only growing over the pot, but in several directions as well. This growth habit is well-suited to growing into a large specimen if we pot it properly. The easiest way to remove this orchid from the pot without damaging it is to break the pot. Use lineman's pliers or a hammer to break the pot into small pieces. A plastic pot can be cut into several pieces with shears.

You can use a dull knife or your favorite leverage tool to pry out any stubborn pieces of pot. Although it is not necessary at this time to remove every last piece, it is easier to divide the plant if most of the pot is gone. Be careful, both clay and plastic pots can be sharp enough to cut you.

Now you should have much of the old pot and potting media removed. Any that remains will be easier to get to after you divide the orchid. A plant that has as many new growths as this one could yield 4 or 5 blooming-size divisions. Spend a few moments looking at the orchid and decide how many divisions you want to make. Remember that a division should ideally have 4-5 pseudobulbs.

Always sterilize your tools before cutting live plant tissue to prevent the spread of disease. A few moments under a torch will do the job. Proceed to cut through the rhizome and roots at your predetermined spot(s) until you have the desired number of divisions. We have decided to make two divisions out of our original overgrown Cattleya. One will be potted up in a large pot to replace the specimen we just unpotted, and the other will be potted as a large blooming-size division. Once you have divided the plant, it is easy to finish removing potting material. Use your fingers to work loose any remaining potting media. Cut away any old dead roots using sterile shears. Old roots will appear either dry and brittle or soft and mushy.

Use a toothbrush and rubbing alcohol to scrub away old dried sheaths from the pseudobulbs. Scrub carefully so as not to damage any brittle new leads or root tips. As you work on the orchid, inspect it for any pest or disease problems and treat as needed. Cut away any old flower spikes or dead leaves. By this time the orchid has been well-handled. If you notice any bruised areas on new growth, use a cotton swab to dab a little fungicide paste or powder on them. Do the same for the rhizome where you cut it and any other live plant tissue that has been cut.

Here are our two divisions ready for repotting. Although unpotting and preparing an overgrown orchid for repotting may take a little longer, it is usually no more difficult than a normal repot. Attach nametags if you don't plan on repotting the divisions immediately.


Click here to see how we will pot up the large division to grow to specimen size