Orchids are one of the most popular flowering houseplants in our homes. But have you ever wondered why many orchid roots are green? They certainly don’t look like the roots of most other houseplants, and in fact, they don’t look much like the roots of most other plants I’ve grown.
Why do orchids have green roots? Orchids have green roots because they contain chlorophyll, which allows photosynthesis. Wild orchids are epiphytes, meaning they cling to other plants with their roots exposed to light. They can generate energy for the plant in the same way as leaves.
Are the roots of Phalaenopsis orchids always green?
The short answer to this question is no. Healthy phalaenopsis roots can be green, silver, gray or white in color and should be firm to the touch. Root color depends on how often the orchid is watered and where the roots are located.
Healthy roots that have just been watered should turn lime green. If the roots are in a potting mix that holds water, the roots will likely retain a vibrant green color for some time after watering, but after the potting mix begins to dry out, the roots will turn paler as the surface dried.
Some people who have orchids mount them on wood rather than growing them in pots. Under these conditions, the roots are only green for a short time and usually appear white, gray or silver.
Some phalaenopsis orchids develop aerial roots and do not stay bright green for long. Because these roots have no potting soil around them to hold water, they will be bright green immediately after watering, but will then slowly develop a silvery-white surface and become less and less green over time.
Root color can be a good guide to when your orchid needs water, but you should consider the potting soil your orchid is planted in.
Regardless of root color, all phalaenopsis orchid roots should be firm to the touch. Dry, crusty roots indicate dehydration, while brittle, soft roots indicate excess water or root rot.
If you are ready to pay attention to the condition of the roots of the orchid phalaenopsis plant, you may find that you have a problem with the rest of the plant when you have a menu that is perfectly healthy, including if you get unstuck. problem.
Do orchids need light at their roots?
Orchids have developed the ability to extract energy from their roots through photosynthesis. This makes a lot of sense because the roots are normally exposed to light in their natural environment, so it’s really a clever mechanism that orchids have evolved to produce energy.
However, most of the orchids we have around the house are in pots and the roots are covered with potting soil, which limits the amount of light the roots can receive. Although not ideal, there are certainly many orchids that thrive this way and when transplanted the roots will be pale white or yellow, but otherwise healthy.
So yes, it is certainly possible to grow a healthy orchid without exposing the roots to light. But if you want your orchid to thrive and bloom to the best of its abilities, I recommend making sure the roots get light.
Interestingly, if your orchid’s roots don’t get enough light, the roots will become increasingly pale and often almost white or pale yellow in color. This happens especially often when the orchid is planted in a pot or potting soil that is opaque, dense and does not let in much light. The orchid roots shown below are from a plant I recently transplanted.
Although the plant’s foliage was very healthy and the orchid flowered extremely well, the plant was potted in a medium that was too dense and retained moisture. The roots showed signs of root rot and many of the roots were quite pale in color. When I transplanted this plant, I put it in much looser potting soil and made sure the roots had ample access to light.
Should orchids have transparent pots?
Although most phalaenopsis orchids are sold in transparent pots, keeping them in a transparent pot is not essential. A transparent pot is useful because you can easily observe the orchid’s roots to monitor their condition, and it also allows light to enter the pot so that the roots photosynthesize to nourish the plant.
That being said, many people place the clear pot in a cachepot, an outdoor decorative pot to enhance the plant’s appearance when on display. As a result, orchids often don’t get much light at the roots, which defeats the purpose of a transparent pot in the first place.
I really think it helps orchids get some light at the roots because they are so important to the health of the plant. I usually keep my phalaenopsis orchids in decorative pots while the plant blooms, but once the flowers have fallen and it has entered a vegetative state, I remove my orchid from the decorative pot and place it in a bright place where roots can grow. get enough light to help the plant thrive until the next flower spike develops.
I don’t usually display my orchids when they aren’t blooming, so I don’t mind taking them out of the decorative pot, and the extra light reaching the roots at this stage will help the plant through the next bloom cycle. .
How do I know if the roots of my orchids are healthy?
As mentioned above, orchid roots should be firm to the touch and the color should range from white to silver to bright green. Dried orchid roots look crisp and shriveled. Overwatered roots will be soft and mushy and may be brown or black in color and quite brittle to the touch.
I usually watch my orchid’s roots each time I water the plant by looking around the sides and bottom of the clear pot I’m growing all my orchids in. I look for the color of the orchids to guide me on their state of health and also to help me know if the plant really needs water.
If the roots are silver or white, the plant should be watered. If the roots are still bright green, the plant has enough water and should not be watered yet. Another good thing to keep in mind is that healthy orchid roots should generally have bright green tips. These are the parts of the roots that are actively growing and are a good indication that the orchid is healthy and thriving.
Orchid roots do not always grow. When most orchids flower, they spend a lot of their energy on flowers and don’t prioritize root growth. If your orchid is flowering and the roots look healthy, but they don’t have green tips, don’t worry. Keep providing the orchid with what it needs and once the plant reaches the vegetative stage, the roots will begin to grow and develop new green tips.
Pests like slugs and caterpillars can feed on the root tips. If you see root tips that come to an abrupt end or have visible holes in the roots, it could be a sign of an infestation. You should inspect the plant and the potting soil very closely, consider transplanting, and treat with an appropriate pesticide.
Should I cut the roots of my orchid?
If your orchid’s roots are healthy, whether in potting soil or aerial roots, avoid cutting them if possible. The roots are essential to the health of the orchid and cutting them will compromise the orchid’s ability to produce new flowers and thrive in the future.
However, if you find unhealthy roots that are rotting or shrivelling and covered in scabs, it is best to remove them to prevent the problems from spreading to the rest of the plant, especially if it is a disease. .
When transplanting an orchid, I remove as much soil from the roots as possible and inspect them very carefully. If any of the roots are mushy and mushy or appear to have disease or rot, I remove them with sterile pruners.
I usually sterilize pruners with rubbing alcohol or place them under a frame for a few seconds to kill the bugs. If root rot is present in the roots, be sure to cut the root with an edge of healthy tissue to prevent the disease from spreading to the rest of the roots.
As for aerial roots, I am often asked if I can remove them. Some people really don’t like the look of aerial roots because they can look a little messy. I wrote another article about it. be – be ok to cut the aerial roots of orchids here. The general summary is that you should avoid cutting aerial roots if possible, but if your orchid only has one or two and the plant is healthy, removing them is unlikely to cause much damage.