Trimming Orchid Roots

Trimming Orchid Roots

Orchids are popular indoor plants that are commonly cultivated all around the world. They have attractive, colorful blooms that are also in demand commercially. Orchid roots require special care and should be checked regularly for problems such as root rot. This article will help you understand how and when to trim orchids’ roots, and the materials you will need.

Trimming orchid roots: Tools you will need 

1. Sterilized scissors

Gardening-specific scissors are the ideal tools for trimming orchid roots. However, you can also use household scissors if they are sanitized and sharp. Pruning shears are also a good option for trimming orchid roots. 

These tools have sharp blades meant for quick cuts to minimize plant stress. The straight shape allows for an easier reach into the orchid’s complicated root network. Sterilize the scissors or shears before cutting any plant part to prevent cross-contamination of diseases from other plants. 

2. A spray bottle

A spray bottle is a good thing to have for orchid growers. It can provide plants with the moisture and humidity they need to grow, and is also an easy way to apply disinfectants to your plant’s roots.

3. Disinfectant

The roots should be sanitized after trimming, so a disinfectant will come in handy. Most orchid growers use a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water to sterilize the roots before replanting them. 

4. A chopstick or butter knife

A chopstick or butter knife makes it easier to remove the plants from their pots, although it is not compulsory for the actual root trimming process. 

5. Potting mix

This is good to have on standby as you may need to top up the pot after you are done trimming the roots and replanting them. 

Trimming orchid roots: When is there a need to repot?

If the roots are tightly tangled

You need to repot the orchid if the roots are tightly tangled and have overtaken the pot that they are in. Plants in clear plastic containers are easier to monitor, since you can see the roots through the containers. If there are more roots than soil, the plants may require more nutrients sooner or later.

 If the roots are pushing the plant out of the pot

If the roots of your orchid are pushing the plant out of the pot, take it as a good sign. This means the orchid is healthy and thriving, but it also signifies that it needs a new pot. Be aware that aerial roots, or reaching roots, grow naturally out of the top and indicate that your plants are flourishing.

If there is new growth 

It is a good time to repot your orchid if there is new growth such as roots, buds or leaves. 

If you have determined that it is time to repot your orchid, schedule some time for the process. Widen the space between the container and the soil with a chopstick and gently grip the plant’s stem to remove it from the soil. Next, check the root ball thoroughly for any unhealthy roots. Loosen the root ball to inspect all of the roots; do not worry as there is no harm in loosening the root ball. 

Remove any roots that are not healthy using clean and sterilized gardening shears. Unhealthy roots are brown, black, mushy, or brittle. White, yellow, or green roots are healthy and should be left alone. 

Once you have trimmed the roots, spray the cuts with a hydrogen peroxide solution. Let them dry and after 10 minutes you can repot the plant. Water the orchid after repotting to encourage growth. 

Should you trim air roots?

No, you should not trim air roots or aerial roots, since they are the lifeline of your orchid. If you cut the air roots it will decrease the plant’s ability to absorb water and nutrients from the air. Air roots are covered in a distinctive, sponge-like tissue called velamen which enables the plant to absorb water and nutrients from the environment. 

Air roots are essential to help your plant sustain itself should its potted roots become damaged due to prolonged exposure to a moist environment. The more air roots your plant has, the healthier it is since the air roots are not as susceptible to damage from poor soil conditions.


Orchids are popular indoor flowering plants that are widely cultivated the world over. If you are an orchid owner, it will occasionally be necessary to trim your orchid’s roots, such as if they have succumbed to rot or are otherwise unhealthy. Essential tools you will need before trimming the roots include gardening shears or scissors, a sterilizing solution and a spray bottle. Repot your orchid and check or trim its roots when there is new growth, if the roots are tightly tangled, in the event of root rot, or if the roots are pushing the plant out of the pot.

Image: / Svetlana Makarova