I have never taken care of an orchid before but just received a Dendrobium. The roots are growing out of the pot and through the drainage holes. Should it be re-potted? Kelly O.
One common misconception about orchid growing is that repotting is necessary anytime aerial roots are discovered. The reality is that orchids like to be pot bound and are happiest when the roots are so packed in the pot that the errant ones are coming out.
One technique used to determine whether a plant needs re-potting is to look closely at the potting media to see if it has decomposed significantly. For instance, crispy new bark chips which now look like sawdust or fluffy peat moss that now resembles mush should be replaced. Another technique for those orchids with pseudo-bulbs (Cattleyas, Dendrobiums, Oncidiums, etc) is to look at the newest growth to see if it has reached the edge of the pot. If so, future roots will find themselves hopelessly airborne and destined to dry up. Repot these plants promptly.
Yet another technique is to inspect the foliage for turgidity. Limp leaves or shriveled pseudo-bulbs could indicate that the media is not performing its function and should be replaced simply to stimulate new roots and re-start the growing process.
It is likely, however, that the Dendrobium in question is ‘so happy’ that roots are growing out of the pot and through the drainage holes. In their native rainforest, orchids literally cover the sides of trees with their

I received a blooming orchid in the mail today and, after unpacking it, was disappointed to find that it was potted in a regular plastic pot. Can I repot it into a decorative pot? Goodie S.
As seemingly fragile as orchids are, they are shipped in little boxes by the thousands everyday with little or no damage. One of the golden rules for shipping these popular plants is that the pots are always plastic. Decorative, ceramic, or clay pots would not only break but also increase the freight bill significantly due to their heavy weight. (Other shipping rules include that the flowers not be open yet and that the weather outside be above freezing.)
Plastic pots, however, may not be the best choice for ‘growing’ orchids.
The plastic tends to trap moisture at the root level which can lead to rotting. In addition, tall plants or those which are heavily laden with flowers will fall over while resting in flimsy containers. Lastly, displaying the most exotic plant in the world in a 2 cent plastic pot is analogous to using grandmother’s fine silverware with paper plates. We can do better.
In the short run, though, it is best not to disturb the roots of a blooming orchid since this may cause a rapid decline in flower longevity.
Rather, just place the plastic pot into a decorative container for the duration of the blooming cycle. Afterwards, give consideration to re-planting the orchid into a traditional clay pot and choose a compatible potting medium for optimal growth.

Can orchids be grown successfully in an office environment? Andrew C.
For years, we have been hearing about the benefits of using plants indoors - providing oxygen, relieving stress, etc. Orchids also stimulate the senses by providing fascinating flowers, incredible colors, and, sometimes, fragrance. Countless stories abound regarding attempts by individuals at growing orchids at work – some successful and some not. The biggest threats to orchid survival in the workplace are poor air quality, low light levels, and lack of humidity.
Trial and error is the only way to know if the air quality is acceptable.
The presence of other live greenery in the office (Peace Lilies, Spider Plants, etc) is a good sign. Plastic trees and silk arrangements are not. Matching the orchid type to the available lighting improves the chance of success. Paphiopedilums (lady slippers) and Phalaenopsis are usually recommended since they require low light. Indirect exposure near a window is preferred. Typical office florescent lights may not be adequate.
Higher light orchids such as Dendrobiums and Oncidiums will need some filtered direct sunlight. Humidity levels are easy to increase by using inexpensive humidity trays.
Orchids will show their displeasure very quickly if unhappy with their new surroundings. Leaves will turn yellow and flowers will wither within one week or so. Best advice is to start slow. Try the easiest orchid of all, a Phalaenopsis, and see what happens.....

Sunday, August 1, 2004 - 18:30