How To Stimulate Root Growth In Orchids: Easiest Method

When you discover your orchid has little to no healthy roots, it’s easy to panic, but luckily it isn’t too hard to stimulate root growth in orchids.

If your orchid has few roots you’ll need to create a humid environment using damp sphagnum moss and a plastic bag. If your orchid already has roots, new root growth can be stimulated by optimising the growth conditions such as moisture, temperature, sunlight and more.

Importance of Healthy Roots

Orchids require roots to take in water and nutrients. Even air orchids, or epiphytes, need roots. Without healthy roots, the plant will dehydrate. It will put its remaining energy towards growing new roots, so it will not grow new leaves or bloom until it grows new roots. 

If it isn’t able to take in nutrients and grow new roots, it will be the death of the orchid in time. 

Cause of Root Loss in Orchids 

The most common cause of root loss in orchids is root rot. Root rot is caused by a fungus. This fungus thrives in high moisture conditions

Overwatering or a poorly draining potting medium are conditions that allow root rot to develop. Root rot causes the roots to become brown and mushy, instead of white and firm. 

These damaged roots can’t take in water and nutrients. 

If your orchid is experiencing root rot, the damaged roots must be removed. Start by misting the roots. This will help you differentiate between dead and healthy roots. The healthy roots will plump when exposed to moisture.

Cut dead roots away with sterile scissors. Toss out the potting medium, and sterilize the potting container with a bleach solution. Sterilize the roots with peroxide to kill any remaining fungus. 

Saving an Orchid With No Roots

If your orchid has no healthy roots, you’ll need to create a mini greenhouse. This will allow the orchid to take in water while it regrows its roots. 

How the Process Works 

The mini greenhouse method works by allowing the orchid to absorb moisture through its leaves. When the air around the orchid is drier than the leaves, evaporation occurs, causing the leaves to lose moisture. 

When the air is very humid, however, the orchids can actually pull in moisture from the air, and will not lose moisture due to evaporation. This allows it to stay hydrated, even though it has no roots. 

Creating a Mini Greenhouse

To use this method for regrowing roots, you’ll need a plastic or Ziploc bag that’s large enough to hold your orchid comfortably. You’ll also need some sphagnum moss.

Start by placing your orchid inside the bag. Next, place a small amount of sphagnum moss into the bag as well. The moss must be well soaked, but not dripping wet. 

Be sure that the moss isn’t touching the orchid. You’ll want the bag to be closed, with a small opening. This allows ventilation. If the bag is open, it defeats the purpose, allowing the moisture to escape into the outside air. If it’s completely closed, it robs the orchid of the air circulation it requires for survival. 

The moss provides moisture for high humidity, and the bag prevents the moisture from escaping. Place it in a warm area well away from sunlight. Sunlight causes evaporation, and stimulates leaf growth, instead of root growth. 

Leave the orchid undisturbed during the day. At night, remove it from the bag. Check for root growth. Check that the moss is still damp. If needed, soak the moss or mist it with water. 

Root growth can take a few weeks or longer. Once it’s grown a healthy new root, you can move on to the next step, which is outlined below. 

Stimulating Root Growth When the Orchid Has Roots 

If your orchid has one or more roots, the process is much less labor intensive and touch and go. Essentially, an orchid needs two conditions to grow new roots. Plenty of moisture, but not too much moisture, and warmth. 

Correct Moisture 

One way to grow new roots on your orchid is to place it on bark, with a layer of sphagnum moss on top. The moss will absorb and hold water, without soaking the roots. 

Another option is to place the orchid in a glass or container. Suspend it above the bottom of the container. Fill it with water, to just below the roots. As the water evaporates, the roots will get watered. 

Temperature and Sunlight 

If you want your orchid to focus on root growth, you’ll need to limit sunlight exposure. This doesn’t mean putting them in a closet, with no exposure to light. 

A green orchid plant in a pot without flowers

However, a shady spot where they get some indirect light is ideal. This allows them to perform photosynthesis without encouraging leaf growth. 

Temperature is also important. Orchids grow new roots when they are in warm conditions. Temperatures around 70-80 degrees are ideal during this time. 

Plant Hormones for Root Growth

Plant hormones send your orchid the message that it’s time to grow roots. Kelp or seaweed extract is high in auxins and cytokinins. These hormones are naturally produced by plants and signal them to create new growth. 

Apply a kelp extract by adding it to the water for your orchid. One tablespoon should be enough for 1 gallon of water. Under normal circumstances, you should only apply the kelp extract once a month. 

Don’t overdo it. Just like fertilizer, water, and sun, too much kelp can cause harm to your orchid. Too much can cause deformed flowers, or even kill your orchid. 

Final Thoughts on Stimulating Root Growth 

Orchids are surprisingly tough plants. Even if they’ve lost all their roots, they still have a shot at survival. Rootless orchids will need to grow new roots in a mini greenhouse setup. 

Orchids with some healthy roots do well when exposed to moisture, without becoming waterlogged. Kelp or seaweed extract also helps stimulate root growth. Avoid too much light while stimulating root growth, and keep the orchid warm. 

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About Me

Hi, I'm Joe! I'm the head of SEO and content management at Bloom and Bumble. I'm a huge plant lover and over the years my home has become more like an indoor rainforest. It has taken a lot of trial and error to keep my plants healthy and so I'm here to share my knowledge to the rest of the world.

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