Just treated yourself to an indoor orchid? More than likely it came in a clear plastic pot. While other houseplants are sold in coloured plastic pots, the default choice for orchids is a transparent pot where you can see the roots.
Though orchids don’t need to grow in clear pots, their roots are happier and healthier in them. Clear pots expose roots to light and air, recreating orchids’ natural growing conditions. They also make it easier to check root health and moisture levels. I’ll go into a bit more detail below.
Why orchid pots are usually clear
I was given a white orchid for my last birthday (sure enough, in a clear pot), and was looking for an answer to this. I landed on the Royal Horticultural Society website.
According to the RHS, Phalaenopsis (one of the most popular orchids) are grown in clear pots for a couple of reasons:
1. They make it easy to check the orchid’s moisture status
In a clear pot, you can see if the potting mix is still wet below the surface (i.e. looks dark), or has dried out enough for a top up. Condensation will be visible on the inside of the pot too.
You can also look at the plant’s roots for a useful indicator. If roots are green, they are healthy and hydrated. If they are turning silver they are drying out, so it’s time to water.
2. Orchid roots are attracted to light, so they prefer clear pots
Most orchids (around 70%) are epiphytes, and grow in the wild by clinging to trees, rocks and other surfaces.
Rather than snaking down into soil, their roots stay above ground and exposed to the elements.
The plants gather all the moisture and nutrients they need from air, rainwater and accumulated plant debris around their roots.
Clear pots help to recreate these natural conditions by letting light through. Usually, they’ll also have slitted sides to let air flow around the orchid’s roots.
Clear orchid pots let you check root health
Another reason clear pots are used is because they make it easy to monitor root health.
You can regularly inspect roots for signs of pests, disease, or overcrowding without disturbance.
If you see your orchid’s roots are starting to go brown and mushy, the chances are it is being overwatered.
You can lay off the watering and wait for the plant to dry out.
You might spot tiny white insects in the potting mix around the roots. This is most likely to be mealybugs, which can weaken or kill your plant if left untreated.
A cotton bud dipped in methylated spirits (or rubbing alcohol) will help you remove them.
Roots poking above the soil may be a sign the plant is outgrowing its pot and needs repotting. This will only be if it’s been in the same pot for over a year, as orchids generally don’t mind snug pots.
In a clear pot, you can see exactly how much space roots have. This will help you decide whether it’s time to upsize to a larger pot.
Do you need to keep your orchid in a clear pot?
Though clear pots are the ideal choice for growing healthy orchids, you may feel that they aren’t particularly decorative or inspiring to look at.
Perhaps you would prefer a pot that coordinates with your interior decor, or better sets off the plant when it’s in bloom.
If this is the case, as long as you are diligent with your care, you can choose to repot your orchid into another pot.
But the best compromise is to keep your orchid in its clear pot, but pop it inside an ornamental pot cover. This means you can still keep a close eye on how the roots are doing.
As aeration and drainage are so important, choose a pot cover purposely designed for orchids. The best pots for orchids have a raised base, so excess water trickles down to the bottom. In these well-draining pots, the orchid’s roots aren’t left sitting in water.
To go one better, pick a translucent one made out of coloured plastic or glass. These will add decorative flair while allowing plenty of light to reach your plant’s roots too.
Orchid pots don’t absolutely need to be clear. My own, just like my peace lily, has been popped into a white ceramic pot cover and is doing just fine.
As long as the pot or pot cover you choose allows good air flow to the roots and drains well, an orchid can thrive.
Paying attention to your plant and keeping an eye on any changes is much more important than your choice of pot.
Are you growing an orchid at home? Feel free to leave a comment below to tell me about your pot and how your plant is doing. Would be interesting to know!