How to Repot Cattleya Orchids using Styrofoam Peanuts

Cattleya are easy to repot
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In this article, we will discuss how to repot a Cattleya orchid by using a packaging material that often has no other use –Styrofoam peanuts.  Styrofoam peanuts often make an excellent additive to the orchid potting mix, as it will aid drainage at the bottom of the pot.

Cattleya are easy to repot
Cattleya are easy to repot

Another advantage is that it allows the home grower to use less bark. If you do this, make sure that you do not use peanuts that will dissolve in water. The best way to check for this is to place a few of them in a bowl of water and to see if they disappear after half an hour.


First, you will need a Cattleya that needs to be potted on. You can tell this when you see a cluster of healthy green roots start to appear at the base of the plant and you see roots poking out of the bottom of the pot. It is best to repot at the start of the new growth cycle and will give the best chance of establishing plants quickly in a new pot of growing media.

New root tips can happen at any time throughout the year, so you know when it needs repotting. This is why labelling the repotting date is very important, so you know when that the plant will need repotting again.

As ever when you are repotting any orchids the implements you use- the scissors, knives, shears will need to be disinfected by applying heat via a lighter or better a small portable blow torch for a couple of minutes. Make sure the instruments you use are well heated and that any potential pathogen is destroyed.


You will need to ease the Cattleya out from its present housing to examine the roots. By squeezing the pot all around the plant it should easily come out but if it does not, use a lever to leverage the orchid out of the pot.

Cattleya trianae
Cattleya trianae

Once you have removed the plant from the old pot, you will need to remove as much of the old potting media as possible with your fingers. You can then use some shears to remove any visible dead roots, where a blast of water from a hose can be used to remove the remaining old growing media. You need to make sure that little of the old growing material remains without damaging any healthy roots.

Cut away any more dead roots that are revealed when the growing media is removed via a pair of secateurs, especially those that are soft or those that are dry and papery. If the white, soft spongy roots covering is gone, what is known as a velamen, leaving only a thin root core that appears like a wire, then this needs to be cut off.


You will need to remove any old roots to a length of about 2/3 of the depth of the pot into which the plant will be moved into. This will allow the roots to be neither too long nor too short to offer anchorage whilst not leaving excess plant tissue that can lead to root rot.

To fit the orchid into a pot of feasible size and also because they have a little function, you need to remove old back bulbs. In this case, you will need to remove the old seedling growth pseudobulbs as they are next to useless.

If you are dividing a plant or removing old pseudobulbs, make sure that at least 4 to 5 pseudobulbs remain for each division.


Now is a good time to give the orchid a general clean up by removing any old flower spikes, by using an old toothbrush and dip it in rubbing alcohol to rub away any old, dried sheaths.

At the same time inspect the plants to make sure there are no pests or diseases. Mix a little powder of a broad spectrum fungicide with a little water to make a heavy paste. Use then with a cotton bud and dab a little fungicide on the cut rhizome to prevent infections from taking hold of the plant.

Cattleya deserves to be repotted well
Cattleya deserves to be repotted well

You will now have a cleaned up, inspected and ready to repot Cattleya, You will now need to make the potting media, which is made from fir bark mixed with Styrofoam peanuts. It is a good idea to pre-soak the fir bark for an hour to improve the water-absorbing capabilities and to remove any excess dust.

You will need to select a pot that is big enough to allow for two years of growth. It can be either plastic or terracotta, depending on your growing conditions and your watering practices. Clay allows water to evaporate and dry quicker, whilst plastics hold water for longer.

Fill the pot up to 2/3 full of Styrofoam peanuts and place the oldest pseudobulb against the rim of the pot. You can now add orchid compost or fir bark to within 1.25cm of the rim of the pot. Do not cover the pseudobulbs and make sure it is level with the top of the growing media. The plants natural have a climbing habit that makes it appear to be leaning forward. Do not worry as this will allow the emerging root to immediately enter the fresh growing media better.


Once it is full of growing media, you can place a rhizome clip between the pseudobulbs and the rhizome. Press the clip over the edge of the pot as this will support the plant better. Tall plants may need to be staked to stabilize them. Be sure the orchid is firmly seated and that it does not wobble as this can damage new roots that are formed.

The orchid is now newly planted and soon new growth will be revealed telling you that you have successfully repotted it. The newly potted plant will need to be kept watered and kept slightly shaded for a few weeks until the plant establishes once again. After that, it should grow healthily again.


In this article, we have discussed how to repot a Cattleya and as you can see it is not difficult to do. All you need is the right basic tools and time to carry out this essential task. What makes this different from normal repotting is that a good percentage of the growing media is replaced with that horrible product- Styrofoam peanuts.

If you follow what is written in this article you will be soon a pro into how to repot this type of orchid.

If you have any question or comments that you wish to make on repotting Cattleya, please do so in the comment box below.

Happy Cattleya repotting.


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