Have you ever noticed that orchids are generally planted in clear pots when you purchase them from the store? You may be wondering if an orchid needs to be kept in a clear pot since this is the default option.
The answer is that orchids do not need clear pots, but they grow much better when they are kept in them. If you think about how orchids grow in the wild, with their roots on trees, it makes sense that they prefer a clear container.
In this article, we are going to look at why orchids benefit from clear pots and what other containers you can use if you need to.
Do You Need To Keep Orchids In Clear Pots?
Almost all orchids are sold in clear containers, and this might seem odd. Most other houseplants are grown in opaque containers, usually in bright, attractive colors. An orchid’s transparent pot seems a surprising choice in this context. However, a clear pot offers a variety of benefits:
- The roots can get sunlight, which they enjoy, and naturally seek out
- You can ensure that the roots are healthy
- It’s easy to see when the plant needs watering
- The light may reduce the risk of mold/bacterial infections
Additionally, many orchid pots have slits in the sides, which increase the airflow across the roots. Remember that the roots are used to being exposed to oxygen, so this is important.
There are quite a few advantages there, but many people don’t like the appearance of the clear containers and want to transfer their orchids into opaque pots. Let’s look at these benefits and whether your orchid really needs a clear container in more detail.
Reason 1: The Roots Get Sunlight
Most plants will seek soil for their roots, which do not play any role in photosynthesizing. They prefer the dark and they will generally dry out and shrivel up if they are exposed to too much sunlight. There is no advantage to keeping standard terrestrial roots above the soil.
However, this isn’t true for orchids. Approximately 70 percent of orchids have adapted to grow above soil, on the bark of trees, so their roots are used to being exposed to light and actually benefit from this setup. That’s because orchid roots can help the plant photosynthesize.
This is why some of the orchid roots are green. This color is created by the chlorophyll in the roots, which allows them to photosynthesize. The additional photosynthesis process boosts the energy provided by the plant’s leaves and encourages the plant to grow more quickly.
Of course, not all orchid roots are green. You might see cream, white, silver, or gray. The colors will vary depending on the conditions, and you shouldn’t worry about it as long as the roots are firm and light.
In general, you can make the roots greener by watering them regularly. As the roots dry out, they will often lose their green hue until the next watering.
By keeping your orchid in a clear pot, you ensure that the roots get enough light to help the rest of the plant through photosynthesis. If you put your orchid in an opaque pot, the roots will not get any light, and therefore cannot photosynthesize.
Reason 2: You Can Check The Roots Are Healthy
A clear pot also makes it easier for you to inspect the orchid’s roots regularly and ensure that they are healthy. Orchids can be tricky to grow, and occasionally checking that the roots are looking good is an important step. In many cases, the orchid roots are a better indication of how healthy the plant is than the leaves.
You should make a habit of picking up your orchid and inspecting the roots through the pot on a semi-regular basis. This will make you more likely to spot issues such as over-watering and under-watering, giving you a better chance of saving the plant if something goes wrong.
You don’t want to be uprooting your orchid every few weeks to check whether its roots are looking healthy, but a clear pot gives you insight into what’s going on. It will also make it easier to see if the potting medium has got compacted or if there is any mold in the container.
You can also see whether any insects, such as mealybugs, are attacking your orchid’s roots. These are tiny white insects, and they will chew on the root matter and make the plant stressed and sick. Taking the plant out of the container and applying a little rubbing alcohol with a cotton swab will kill the insects.
Reason 3: You Can See When The Plant Needs Watering
Another major advantage is that you can see at a glance if your orchid is thirsty because you will be able to see how damp the potting medium is. You don’t need to push your finger into the orchid bark or try to guess when the plant might be thirsty, because you should be able to see simply by looking.
This makes life a lot easier because orchids can be tricky to water well. They like to be kept damp most of the time, but they do need to dry out occasionally, or there’s a high chance of them getting root rot.
Being able to see makes it easier to judge whether your plant needs a drink. You can also see whether the plant is getting cramped in its pot.
Reason 4: There May Be A Reduced Risk Of Infections
Although there is not currently any research on this, having light on the roots may decrease the risk of them going moldy. Many kinds of mold prefer dark, damp conditions to bright ones, and sunlight should help to keep the roots sterile.
There is no guarantee that your plant won’t get attacked by diseases if its roots are exposed to sunlight, but it may help to reduce the risk of infections.
Do I Have To Grow My Orchid In A Clear Pot?
You don’t have to grow your orchid in a clear container, but you should be aware that it is likely to grow much better if you do.
Planting your orchid in an opaque pot will prevent it from photosynthesizing as well, reduce airflow over its roots, make it harder to water, as well as make it harder to tell how healthy it is.
You are therefore better off keeping your orchid in a clear pot. However, a lot of people dislike the appearance of the clear pots, and since orchids are grown for their beauty, this can be frustrating.
The solution is to keep your orchid in a clear pot for most of the year, when it is not in flower, but then to put its container into a larger opaque, decorative container when it is in flower. This lets you enjoy the best of both worlds.
It’s also worth noting that while it is in flower, an orchid doesn’t produce new roots or leaves, so photosynthesis is less valuable to it. This is therefore a good time to block off the light and makes the plant look gorgeous when it’s at its best.
What Other Containers Can You Use?
If you don’t want to use a clear container, you can use a terracotta pot instead. These do still offer a few advantages. Firstly, they are breathable, so oxygen can pass between the container and the air outside. This helps to maintain airflow around the orchid’s roots, which will make it much happier.
Additionally, terracotta pots are good at retaining humidity and water, which will help to prevent your orchid from drying out as long as you keep the container in damp conditions. However, if it is in dry conditions, it will leach water into the air and dry the orchid out.
Orchids do tend to latch onto terracotta pots because they are porous. This can make them difficult to repot without damaging the roots.
You might want to try a wood container if neither plastic nor terracotta appeals, as these can have slitted sides to let in the light. However, you should be aware that wood is more vulnerable to rotting, and many wooden containers will only last for about a year.
Check The Drainage Holes
As a final tip, no matter what kind of container you are using, make sure that there are good drainage holes. Orchids do not like to have a lot of water clinging to their roots, and they will quickly rot if the environment is too wet. That means you need to make sure water can drain well.
This is why orchids are potted in bark and other light, well-draining materials.
Overall, orchids do not absolutely need clear pots, but they do much better in them because they get more light, oxygen, and better watering. You should keep your orchid in a clear pot for as much of the year as you can.