Repotting an overgrown Cattleya

Several years ago I purchased a large overgrown  Lc. Robert Strait from Richard Amos.  The plant is a perfect example of a healthy cattleya that has overgrown it’s pot. Here’s a photo of the plant

As you can see this plant is happy, but it’s out grown the pot and most of the new pseudobulbs are growing outside and the roots have totally wrapped around the outside of the pot.

My goals were:

  1. to remove the orchid from the pot
  2. decide if I keep it as one plant or divide it into multiple plants
  3. save the pot ( a minor goal but with the cost of clay pots a goal none the less)
  4. do as little harm to the plant as possible.

To begin; early in the morning I placed the plant in a 5 gal bucket of water. I added a bit of fertilizer and since I just received worm tea a bit of wt was added to the water. The plant was soaked for about 3 hours  and I hoped that the roots would be pliable enough to make this process possible.

Photo of plant soaking in bucket

The surgery begins….

After about 15 minutes with a butter knife I removed the roots clinging to the pot from the pot. I’d like to say that all the roots were undamaged, but I lost a couple of green tips and a few root that grew back into the pot had to be shorten.

Here’s a photo of the roots freed from the pot

I placed the plant back in the water to soak more before attempting to free the plant from the pot.

Well the pot didn’t make it. But now the plant is out of the pot with the vast majority of the roots intact. I tried to pull the plant from the pot and just felt that the plant was more important than the pot. Sooo I called on Mr. hammer.

Here’s a photo of the plant free of the pot

I needed to remove all the old potting media, so I pulled out the garden hose and sprayed the roots. I worked the roots with my fingers to separate the roots and loosen the old media.

Here’s the plant with most of the media removed.

I looked to divide the plant and found one easy point to separate. I use a sharp knife and cut through the rhizome.

Where I cut, I sprinkled with cinnamon. Most times I will add a pint of bleach to my soak water to kill everything that could harm the plant. A tip I got from watching Bill Fender.  Since I tried using worm tea in the soak I decided not to use the bleach. The cinnamon should help to dry the cuts and provide some protection to the plant.

Now I needed to repot/mount the 4 pieces. I thought I’d mount the small piece on some cork.

When the job was done. I had 2 pieces in baskets, one in a tube of cork, and a little piece on a slab of cork.

To put the orchid pieces in the baskets I first place a piece of filter cloth in the bottom of the basket.
The purpose of the filter cloth is to keep the potting mix from falling out between the slats.

I then place a layer of large charcoal and aliflor on the bottom.

Then I’ll placed a mound of my potting mix in the center of the basket. I use a large potting mix with my larger catts. I want a well drained mix that will not breakdown during the Florida summer rains. My mix is charcoal, aliflor, and large bark chunks. Since doing this repot I’ve moved away from bark and replaced it with cork chunks.

I place the plant on top of the mound and place the media around the outside edges, working it up under the plant and around the roots. When I’m done the plant is secure in the basket, you can just about pick the plant up by it’s pseudobulbs. If I’m unable to secure the plant with the mix alone I’ll use a piece of bamboo under the top slat across the rhizome and under the slat on the other side.

Here’s the final results

BTW – The little piece on the slab of cork is attached using gorilla glue…

After almost 2 years I took photos of the 4 pieces of the original plant. The small piece that was just 2 psudeobulbs was not doing well on the mount so I moved it to a basket.

This first photo is of the large piece which was primarily the back bulbs.

Here is the mid-sized piece that was the mainly the front bulbs.

Here is the piece I placed in a cork cylinder.

Here is proof that even a small piece can become a nice plant.

2 comments to Repotting an overgrown Cattleya

  • Cynthia

    Excellent step by step article with great pics! Thanks Bob Wallace!

  • cwood2010

    Hi Bob, Great repot instructions and photos and very healthy cat! I use a similar approach and media but usually have to have a glass of wine before tackling these big cat repot challenges.

    Carol