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Untangling Roots

This is a discussion on Untangling Roots within the New Growers: Ask the Senior Members forums, part of the New Growers category; Hello, everyone. On a different forum , a member posted the question of how to ...

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  1. #1
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    Default Untangling Roots

    Hello, everyone.
    On a different forum, a member posted the question of how to repot a root-bound orchid. This was my reply:

    "I am in agreement with the previous advice, but I am a bit more aggressive. I recently have repotted some new acquisitions that have been a root bound nightmare, but the roots on the outside were healthy. I want to see all of the roots even those on the inside. So, I always soak for a minimum of 30-45 minutes, then pull up a chair next to the trash can and just gently begin to massage all of the old potting mix out and begin to untangle the roots. Sometimes this takes 20 minutes or more, and I am not that gentle. It may take one tug of old mix at at time or one root at at time. My opinion is that I want as much of the old mix gone as possible to avoid possible futre disease, and I sit there working it out until its all gone in all the nooks and crannies. Then spray the roots with my watering hose. Then I can see what the roots really look like, they are all untangled, and the dead ones can be trimmed.

    After all that is done, I repot and soak my plant in fertilizer for another 10 minutes. I have found that orchids are rather flexible and forgiving during my repotting. After all, they can endure the harsh treatment of the elements."

    To my surprise, the replies for other senior and VIP members stated the opposite; that the plant should be gently repotted and the roots disturbed as little as possible. I learned how to repot from my orchid-guy who owns a nursery; and, I just am not as scared to handle the plants after repotting 64 of them this year.

    My question, am I doing this wrong? Should I not detangle the roots but just plop a root-bound orchid in a bigger pot? Note, I am always careful with the orchid that I am detangling, just not afraid to do whatever it takes, no matter how long it takes me, to make it as happy as possible in its new pot.

  2. #2
    pavel's Avatar
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    It is a very rare thing for me NOT to untangle the roots when I repot.

  3. #3
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    I hope untangling the roots is the right choice - I did this last night while repotting a Sharry Baby. Boy, did THAT take forever...

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    I untangle when I repot , especially a new plant in bark, the only ones I don't are my gramms

  5. #5
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    When I have an orchid growing in an organic mix, like bark or sphagnum, I untangle the roots and remove all the old mix, even if I need to cut off some roots. I now grow many of my orchids in a mix of mostly rock and some pieces of cork. With an inorganic mix like that, I remove the old pot without disturbing the roots. I soak the whole rootball in Physan 20 and then I place the entire old rootball in a larger pot and fill in the spaces with new inorganic media. It's much easier to grow large specimen cattleyas when the rootball is undisturbed. But you can't do that with an organic mix that breaks down.

  6. #6
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    I don't necessarily untangle the roots, but I'm really good with tweezers, and I pick out the individual strands of sphagnum and pieces of decomposed bark. If the roots are rotten as well, I will snip them with scissors and pull them out with tweezers. It sometimes takes several approaches from different directions to get the entire rotten root out. Very thin needle nose pliers work well also.

  7. #7
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    ALWAYS untangle roots! I've been growing orchids since 2007 (not very long compared to most of you) but I've repotted hundreds of them, and they've always thanked me. I get nearly immediate new root growth. If you leave the rootball undisturbed they sometimes don't understand "Hey...I need new roots!". You want to disturb it a little, because a bit of distress is what causes them to go into action. Just my two cents.

  8. #8
    Bumblebee is offline Senior Member
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    Thank you for this info. As a beginner, it is invaluable to me!

  9. #9
    Bumblebee is offline Senior Member
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    Thank you for this info. As a beginner, it is invaluable to me!

  10. #10
    TexasBebe is offline Junior Member
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    I love this thread. I've always spent lots of time untangling. Lately, the orchids I've bought or been gifted come in total sphagnum medium, totally wrong for the Houston Gulf Coast. I remove all medium and dead roots, soak in Consan Triple 20, then repot and my orchids are happy.

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