Happy, Healthy Orchid Roots

Orchid roots growing attached to wooden mount, Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaMoth Orchid roots, air roots, Phalaenopsis, Phal, silvery-white root with green growing tipDendrobium orchid roots and leaves, air roots, white roots, Pacific Orchid Expo 2010, San Francisco, California

Healthy roots are essential for healthy orchids. Many people are tempted to cut off their orchid’s roots because they seem unattractive, but that’s bad for the plant. Whether they’re air plants or terrestrials, orchids need happy roots to survive and thrive. Some types have thick roots, while others have thin. All have central, wiry cores, surrounded by outer layers of absorbent cells called velamen.

Moth Orchid roots, air roots, Phalaenopsis, Phal, silvery-white roots with green growing tipsMoth Orchid roots, air roots, Phalaenopsis, Phal, orchid roots attached to tree trunk and damaged orchid leaf, Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, Papaikou, Big Island, HawaiiMoth Orchid roots, air roots, Phalaenopsis, Phal, silvery-white roots with green growing tips, Pacific Orchid Expo 2009, San Francisco, California

This outer layer is white or greenish-white, with light green growing tips. Roots may also be brown from growing media or red from sun exposure. Healthy roots are firm, and essential to absorb water and nutrients. Mushy or hollow roots are dead and should be removed, a task which is often done during repotting.

Vanda orchids with flowers leaves and roots in black plastic baskets, Pacific Orchid Expo 2018, San Francisco, CaliforniaEpidendrum orchid roots growing attached to lava rock, white and green roots, Akatsuka Orchids, Town of Volcano, Big Island, HawaiiWhite orchid roots growing attached to wooden basket, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Moth Orchids and Vandas are popular varieties which like to have their roots in the open air. In the wild, they anchor to tree trunks and branches to live as air plants. Others don’t mind growing in small, crowded pots. To grow well, they all need good humidity and breezes to keep the air moving. Some types have chlorophyll in their roots, which photosynthesize along with the leaves. Happy, healthy roots can give an orchid the energy for great blooms.

Cymbidium orchid roots, white roots, terrestrial orchid roots growing in soil, plant grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaClose-up of Cymbidium orchid roots, white roots, terrestrial orchid roots growing in soil, plant grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaOrchid roots growing attached to wooden mount, air roots, white roots, Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

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