Learning how to stimulate root growth in orchids is somewhat of an art form.
On the face of it, the conditions needed for healthy root growth in an orchid are fairly straightforward.
But, as well all know, things don’t always go to plan.
There are some factors like season and growth cycles that we can’t control.
But we are going to dive into the subject of root growth in orchids and see what we can find out.
So without further ado, let’s get started.
How To Stimulate Root Growth In Orchids
The keys to simulating root growth in orchids are increased humidity, warm temperatures and moisture around the base of the stem. Root stimulants such as fertilizer and seaweed extract can also promote root growth.
The roots of any plant are literally its beating heart.
They absorb nutrients and moisture and healthy roots equal a healthy orchid.
Damage and stunted roots mean the plant is stressed out and something is wrong.
So if you are wanting to encourage root growth in your orchid there are a few factors you will want to pay close attention to.
#1: Increase Humidity
High levels of humidity around the base of the orchid are a great way to promote root growth.
Really you want to aim for at least 50% humidity, with the ideal figure being in the 60% to 70% mark around the root area.
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This replicates their natural environment in hot and humid rainforests and jungles.
If you are finding it difficult to maintain such high humidity levels there are some ‘cheats’ you can use to increase the moisture in the air.
Creating humidity trays or using a humidifier are the most common ways to do this.
Getting the moisture in the air and in and around the roots reduces the strain on them and creates an environment conducive to their growth.
#2: Increase Warmth
Heat at the root zone can really help promote root growth in your orchid.
Orchids are tropical plants from hot climates, even if the temperature feels nice for you it might not be warm enough for your orchid.
Aim for around 75F to 80F. A good way of achieving this is to use a simple heat mat.
A seedling heat mat can boost the root zone temperature by up to 10F to 15F.
The warmth will stimulate the growth of your orchid’s roots.
The effectiveness of this measure is evident if you ever visit a professional plant grower.
You will find they tend to have a network of pipes circulating hot water under the table on which their plants are placed.
#3: Ensure Good Levels of Moisture
A good level of moisture around the base of the stem of your orchid is another key facet to promoting root growth in your orchid.
In many ways, this ties in with point #1 above about ensuring good levels of humidity, as high humidity levels create good levels of moisture.
You can increase moisture levels by resting the orchid on a moist layer of sphagnum moss
You can also try using water culture. This involves filling a glass or vase with purified or distilled water and placing your orchid in the vase so it is suspended above the water.
Just the tip of any root should touch the water, and nothing more.
Place it in a sunny window and mist it every day and the moisture the orchid receives from the water will help it grow.
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#4: Fertilize Weakly But Weekly
Feeding your orchid lightly with a balanced NPK fertilizer works wonders for root growth.
Kelpak and Kelpmax are both particularly popular.
An adage I have seen mentioned before is ‘weekly, weakly’, so weakly fertilize your orchids with a quarter to half-strength fertilizer solution for three weeks.
On the fourth week do not use fertilizer instead, flush the potting medium to wash anyway the salt build-up that will have occurred during fertilizing.
As an additional point, it is always good to use high-quality water on your orchids.
Water that has minimal salt content and doesn’t contain chlorine is preferred. This could be rainwater or purified water.
Fertilizing isn’t essential for your orchid, but it does tend to lead to larger flowers and a healthier and stronger root system.
#5: Seaweed and Rooting Hormones Can Help
Many people swear by using seaweed extract and or rooting hormones to grow more roots on their orchid and to grow them faster.
They stimulate growth by using a synthetic version of auxin, a plant hormone that is naturally produced by plants during their growth.
In nature, auxin promotes the growth of new roots and stimulates the production of cytokinin, another plant hormone.
Cytokinin causes cell divisions in plants and further growth.
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Without going into too much detail, these two plant hormones work together to initiate root growth.
Both seaweed extract and rooting hormones essentially provide an artificial way to boost this process.
Be careful not to overuse these supplements, as they can cause weak growth and mutations in the flowers.
Once every fortnight for a newly repotted or rootless orchid is sufficient and once a month for maintaining a healthy orchid is all you need.
The basic elements for healthy root growth in an orchid each year are high levels of humidity and moisture around the base of the stem.
The two should go hand in hand.
Beyond that you of course need to make sure your orchid gets enough indirect light and for long enough, has a good potting medium and gets enough water and nutrients.
You can stimulate root growth by focusing on these factors and elevating humidity, increasing heat at the base of the orchid by using heated mats and using fertilizer and other supplements.
The emergence of new roots can take anywhere between one week and two months.
Stimulating root growth can be a bit of a hit-and-miss experiment at first, but over time you will soon learn what works for you.