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Division of Paphiopedilum Orchids

Click Here if you need to know how to re pot a Paphiopedilum orchid
Division is a very simple way of propagating your favorite species or variety of orchid. It involves finding the natural break between the two or more parts of the plant and dividing down this natural split. Here we are dividing a Paphiopedilum but you can use this method on almost any plant which grows pseudobulbs such as Odontoglossum and types, Cymbidium, Coelogyne and Miltonia plus the clump forming varieties such as Dracula, Masdevallais and Paphiopedilums. 

 2000 Orchid-Guide.com

This plant has reached the limit for this size pot and is in need of division or repotting. The plant is in need of either dividing or repotting when the new growths have reached the very edge of the pot and any future growth has to take place outside the edge of the pot - see opposite

After removing the pot you should see plenty of living roots which have filled and used used the compost, (see opposite) . The roots of Paphiopedilums have brown or even black roots with lighter or white tips.

It is important to note that most orchids have white roots and brown ones usually indicate that the root is dead or dying but in the case of Paphiopedilums this is normal.

Because it is difficult to tell living roots from dead ones just by looking at them you must feel the roots. Living roots will be firm to the touch and be quite stiff, dead ones on the other hand will feel soft and floppy or even hollow.

As the plant may have been in it's pot for a couple of years the root ball may be compacted with the roots following the shape of the pot, gently squeeze the root ball turning it 45 degrees and squeezing it again. Continue with this process until the root ball has loosened off.

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This loosening will show you where to divide the plant, in the photograph above you can clearly see where the left part of the plant has grown away from the right side of the plant.

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Gently pull the plant in opposite directions making sure that each part has at least 3 old growths and one new growth, the aim of doing this is to establish exactly where the plant has a natural split.

Once you have established where the natural split is you can apply stronger pressure to split the plant fully in to two or more parts. See below

If the plant has a strong rhizome connecting the two parts then you can use a sharp, preferably sterilized knife, to cut through it so that uncontrolled ripping doesn't occur.

You will now be left with 2 or more divisions of the same plant each with at least 3 bulbs and one new growth - see opposite

 2000 Orchid-Guide.com

Repotting Paphiopedilum Orchids

You will now need to remove the old compost from around the roots and trim away any brown, soggy, dead roots - see notes above. Cut the dead roots off right up to the base of the plant and this will ensure that they don't rot upwards and affect the rhizome.

This is also the time to remove any ferns or other plants growing in the pot - weeds - for that is what they are should be removed otherwise they will quickly clog up the open compost mix with their 'normal' root system and use up and nutrients you give the plant. Many of the ferns you may find growing in orchid pots are very suitable as house plants in their own right and can, if you want, be potted and given to friends as gifts.

Carefully trim back any growing roots to about 4 inches and use them to help anchor the plant in the new compost. Avoid breaking or cutting any shorter roots as these will be the ones that will establish the plant first. See below

 2000 Orchid-Guide.com

 2000 Orchid-Guide.com

That's the scary bit over with!

You should now assemble the repotting kits which comprises of:

  • Your division
  • A pot with sufficient space for two seasons growth
  • A suitable grade of orchid compost - more
  • The label for the plant

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Starting with a clean pot, add some larger pieces of bark or some polystyrene chunks in to the bottom to allow swift drainage.

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Ease the roots in to the pot and spread them evenly to ensure that the plant will be securely anchored. Add compost to fill in around the roots as you are going.

Don't put the plant in the centre of the pot but position it in such a way that the new growth is in the centre, this will ensure that there is sufficient space in front of the plant to allow for 2 growing seasons.

Use an appropriate grade of compost dependant on the type of orchid, here we are using a medium grade orchid compost as this plant has relatively thin roots and so they will be able to get hold of it easily, thicker rooted orchids such as Cymbidiums will require a large grade compost.

 2000 Orchid-Guide.com

The easiest way of adding compost is to hold the plant in one hand whilst filling the pot with compost using the other.

Make sure that the bulbs rest on the surface of the compost and are not buried in it. They may need pulling up a little to get the level just right.

Using your thumbs press heavily on the compost to compact is sufficiently to hold the plant steady. The open nature of the compost will prevent you from over compacting it so don't be afraid to apply pressure.

An orchid which wobbles in it's pot will not root well and will not re establish itself.

 2000 Orchid-Guide.com

Finally label your new plant and give it a good soaking from the top, do this twice with 2 hours between to ensure the compost is damp and then leave it for two to three weeks before watering again. During the first 6 to 8 weeks keep the plant in a shady position and leave well alone (other than watering) to give the new brittle roots time to get a hold in the new compost

After about 6 weeks you will see new roots emerging and the plant will be fully established after approximately 10 weeks.

Congratulations you have just divided your plant and you can use this technique on several varieties of orchid including:

  • Cymbidiums
  • Paphiopedilums
  • Odontoglossums and types
  • Dracula's
  • Masdevallais and any other 'grassy' type orchids

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