How to Take Care of Orchids Part 2: Potting Media

In the second part of our mini-series, “How to Take Care of Orchids“, we will talk about the various types of potting media you can use.

If you have recently bought an orchid from your local florist or gardening centre, chances are that it will already be potted and the plant will have securely attached itself to the potting media. If your orchid is loose, or the potting media is organic and beginning to decompose, reducing the aeration around the roots, you will probably need to re-pot.

The most common orchids for beginners (Dendrobium, Paphiopedilum and Phalaenopsis) should be re-potted every 1 or 2 years.

There are many options for the medium that you use in your orchid’s pot both organic and inorganic. We recommend that you use the media that is closest to what would be found in you species’ natural habitat.

The most important thing to remember is that orchids should NOT be grown in soil. In the wild, orchids attach themselves to other plants, trees and rocks and require aeration around their roots. Burying an orchid’s roots in soil will suffocate them. The main purpose of the media is to physically support your orchid.

We have listed the most common orchid potting media below along with a brief description of their properties and uses:

  • Tree bark – Usually made from the bark of a fir tree, this media provides good drainage. It is a good choice (and most common) for Dendrobiums, Paphiopedilum and Phalaenopsis.
  • Fern – Another popular choice for orchid potting media, fern is resistant to decay and provides good aeration.
  • Sphagnum – Also known as peat moss, this medium is a great water retainer, which makes it good for orchids that require more moisture.
  • Coconut husk chips – These are chips made from the outer shell of coconuts. They hold moisture well and provide good aeration. Many orchid-growers prefer coconut husk over traditional tree bark as it decomposes slower.
  • Cork – Cork is a good choice for orchids that do not require much moisture as it retains almost no water.
  • Granite chips – Some experienced orchid growers swar by the granite they use in their orchid mix. Granite contains silica and other micro-nutrients that can aid orchid growth.
  • Charcoal – Used in orchid mixes to filter impurities.

You will probably want to use a mixture of these ingredients to create your own mix. Alternatively, many garden centres will have ready-made bags of orchid mix that you can purchase.

In part 3 of our mini-series, “How to Take Care of Orchids” we will cover one of the most important topics to be successful in growing orchids – Sunlight.

How to Take Care of Orchids Part 1: Choosing Your Orchid
How to Take Care of Orchids Part 2: Potting Media
How to Take Care of Orchids Part 3: Light
How to Take Care of Orchids Part 4: Water
How to Take Care of Orchids Part 5: Fertilizer
How to Take Care of Orchids Part 6: Temperature & Humidity

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