Subscribe to our blog to get articles delivered directly to your inbox

What You Need to Know about Orchid Roots

August 10, 2012

Orchid roots
perform two functions that are critical for the successful growth of the plant: 

  1. Roots hold the plant in place where it grows. Roots anchor terrestrial orchids in the ground just as they do other ground-dwelling flowers. Phalaenopsis and other epiphyte orchids in nature, however, live on tree branches high above the tropical forest floor. To keep from falling off their precarious perches, epiphyte orchid roots are covered with a tacky substance that helps them cling to tree bark and stay attached to tree branches. When planted in pots, the roots of Phalaenopsis orchids attach to the pots and can be quite difficult to remove.
  2. Roots also provide orchid plants with water and nutrients. Terrestrial orchids obtain moisture and nutrients from the soil. Tree-dwelling epiphyte orchids, like Phalaenopsis orchids, obtain moisture primarily from the humid tropical air and nutrients from the forest debris that collects in their root mass.

Like other epiphyte orchids, the roots of Phalaenopsis roots are covered with a spongy epidural tissue called “velamen.” Just a few cells thick; velamen helps orchid roots absorb water and nitrogen from the air. It also provides the stickiness that allows epiphytic orchids to cling to tree branches. When Phalaenopsis orchid roots are healthy, velamen is silvery-white, round and plump. As water is absorbed, velamen turns green; returning to its natural whitish color several hours after watering. Velamen covers the length of each root except for the tip, which, when healthy, should be glossy green or reddish and pointed.

Planting Phalaenopsis orchids in clear growing pots allows orchid owners to inspect roots easily and ensure that they are healthy. For more information about caring for your orchid, visit our Orchid Care Video library today.