Sphagnum Moss

What mix should I pot my orchids in?

Updated 3/1/17

I love, love, love Sphagnum moss for my Phalaenopsis orchids! I use a sphagnum mix that also includes other things like bark etc.  It is so easy to tell when they need to be watered because when the moss gets dry it gets “crunchy.” What I mean by “crunchy” is that, to the touch, they actually make a crunch noise….like a dry sponge. I know when to water my orchids by touching the moss. If it feels wet like a wet or damp sponge I know NOT to water it. I wait till it feels almost bone dry. Orchids are used to times of abundant water and then dry spells. They don’t like to be wet all the time.

When you buy most orchids they have bark on top which makes it hard to tell when they need to be watered. It is very helpful to have sphagnum moss plus the right clear pots in order to solve this problem.

Note: If you choose to use bark that is perfectly fine – I just prefer a moss mix. And in most places it’s hard to find premium moss so if this is the case go ahead and get bark. Also when switching between any type of mix (bark to moss or vice versa) it may shock your orchid a bit so don’t be alarmed if the leaves look a bit droopy at first. Give it time to adjust.

What I use:

I started with this Classic Orchid Mix. This mix was especially useful to me, as a beginner because it is so easy to use! This moss is also good for weak and recovering plants. I now use Imperial Orchid Mix (which is just a simple upgrade) once I got the hang of caring for my first orchids. I love them both but it’s good to start with the most simple mix because you get a real “feel” for your orchids.

Background on Sphagnum Moss by my favorite site, rePotme: “It comes from bogs and is harvested, compressed and imported for use in the floral industry. There are many graded levels of sphagnum moss. The quality of sphagnum moss is relative to the length of the strands, how fluffy each strand is, and how much debris is packaged in with the moss. Lower quality moss obviously costs less. The sphagnum moss that is used by the floral industry to line hanging baskets and package seedling plants for transport is typically of a much lower grade than we would choose for use as a media to grow orchids in.

In the growing of orchids we are looking for top quality sphagnum moss with long, fluffy, open strands and good capillary action for moisture. In Taiwan, the largest exporting country of Phalaenopsis orchids, virtually all Phalaenopsis are grown in Sphagnum moss. In cooler climates and in cultivation in the home, sphagnum moss can present some challenges with overwatering. The good news is, sphagnum moss as an orchid medium is highly adaptable. Packed tightly in a pot it will retain a lot of moisture. Packed lightly in a pot it will dry out rapidly. But here is where the quality of the moss really comes in to play. Standard floral-quality sphagnum moss, available from nurseries and box stores and even sometimes advertised as ‘orchid moss’ is not suitable for growing orchids. Orchids grown in this lesser grade of sphagnum moss will not thrive as they could in a higher grade of moss as this moss compacts and quickly becomes sodden in all but the most arid environments.

For orchids we recommend AAA New Zealand Sphagnum Moss or 5 Star Chilean Sphagnum Moss only. The quality of the two is fairly comparable though many hobbyists feel that AAA New Zealand Sphagnum Moss is fluffier. These two products will be labeled as such, the lesser grades of sphagnum will be labeled as ‘orchid moss’ or simply ‘sphagnum moss’.

It is important to clarify the difference between sphagnum moss and sphagnum peat moss, also called just ‘peat moss’. Sphagnum peat moss is not the same thing as sphagnum moss. In a sphagnum bog the sphagnum moss is the living moss that floats on the top of the bog. Sphagnum peat moss is the dead moss that falls to the bottom of the bog. Upon harvesting, the top layer of live sphagnum moss is taken first and then the bottom layer of peat moss is harvested. Peat moss is then processed into a soil amendment that is also a valuable media for orchids but it is markedly different in appearance and texture. Most of the sphagnum moss and sphagnum peat moss we see here in nurseries and big box stores comes from Canada.”

Hope that Helps,

Hannah

Feel free to leave comments or questions here and you can always email me at myfirstorchid@gmail.com with pictures of your orchid.

22 Comments on “Sphagnum Moss

  1. Finally got some sphagnum moss last evening and repotted my orchid from the big box brand orchid bark mix. It was just repotted into it last week, and when I took it out last night, the roots are all dry, gray, and slightly brittle. I cut off all the crumbly ones and repotted in damp sphagnum. *fingers crossed this baby survives* In other news, I rescued a Clearance Aisle mini Phal and was pleasantly surprised it has big juicy roots! Your site is great and I love learning about how to care for Orchids!

  2. Hi Hannah! I’m hoping you can give some advice… I have 3 orchids in desperate need of help & intervention.
    I got two beautiful orchid plants last year with blooms on both. The blooms lasted about 5 weeks then slowly withered and fell away. One started growing 2 new leaves but the other did not. Now they’ve both stopped ANYTHING. The bark mix seems to need replacement as it is dry & crumbly so I’m wanting to switch to moss. I’m still watering on regular schedule. However, many of the roots (on both) are dried up and brown like they are dead – some are even wire-looking (small diameter thin root about size of pencil lead).
    I got another orchid for Mothers Day this year – it had 7 beautiful purple flowers fully opened. Now it has 3 left and they’re withering away day by day. The leaves are healthy as are roots & air roots. It too is in bark mix. I don’t water until It’s dry dry and when I water it I put it in a bowl of water for 2 minutes then drain excess. I’ve not fertilized any of them yet.
    Any advice? They’re all 3 on a bar/ledge right by a window facing north. I live in Florida panhandle so It’s VERY hot & humid here (putting outside wouldn’t be a good decision I don’t think). I’m wanting to repot them with moss from Home Depot or Lowes…. any preferred or recommended ones?
    I can send photos if that helps you to see what’s happening.

  3. Hi Hannah,
    I’ve read your other blogs and it has given me a lot of information
    And this is my 1st time growing orchids so i’m quite inexperienced
    I grow my orchids using sphagnum moss(dried) in a see through pot, and recently my moss starts turning green.
    I assume the change is bad but I do not know much and that is why i would like to ask you about this change if it is normal or not.
    I hope u can help me understand the change or come up with a solution.

    Thanks,
    Raven

    • Hi,
      This happens to me every so often. It’s green on the sides right? Not all over? If it’s just the sides you can simple push the moss back from the side of the pot to give it some air. If it’s the whole mix then it may have been packed too tight.
      Either way air flow and not over watering them will help,
      Hannah

  4. Hi Hannah,
    I’ve read your other blogs and it has given me alot of informations
    And this is my 1st time growing orchids so im quite inexperienced
    I grow my orchids using sphagnum moss(dried) in a see through pot, and recently my moss starts turning green.
    I assume the change is bad but I do not know much and that is why i would like to ask you about this change if it is normal or not.
    I hope u can help me understand the change or come up with a solution.

    Thanks,
    Raven

  5. Hi Hannah,
    I grow my orchids using sphagnum moss and plant them in a see through pot and recently the moss is turning green. This is my first time growing orchids 2 withered and another 2 are having their sphagnum moss turn green ..
    Is this a normal thing for the moss to change into green?
    You’ve given me alot of information with the other blogs that you posted.
    I hope u can help me with this.

    Thanks,
    Scarlet

    • Hi,

      This happens to me every so often. It’s green on the sides right? Not all over? If it’s just the sides you can simple push the moss back from the side of the pot to give it some air. If it’s the whole mix then it may have been packed too tight.

      Either way air flow and not over watering them will help,

      Hannah

  6. I do love all the comments about orchid moss planting with my orchids. I love all plants and orchids seem to be my hardest to grow. I purchase reduced ones to see if I can get them to live. Thanks for info on where to purchase the moss.Million Thanks.

  7. It’s been a long time…
    I absolutely hate bark mixes. After a year and a half in a bark mix my first orchid lost about half of it’s roots. I found out because there weren’t enough roots to hold the orchid inside the pot and the plant fell out. I then tried to mount the orchid. Didn’t work. Now it has one large leaf left, a growing baby leaf and three roots. I have now put it in a moss and Styrofoam filled pot.
    The strange thing is that it is growing a spike. I find it strange because I think it would just give up on blooming for a year and try to save itself. Can you explain why it’s growing a spike?
    Thanks,
    John

    • Hi,

      It would seem that it would not have the energy to grow a spike in its current condition but it looks like it does have the energy. I would enjoy it and see how it goes,

      Hannah

      • Okay. I guess I’ll just wait and see.
        Thanks,
        John

  8. I am using bark potting mix from Home Depot in orchid pots that have drainage holes. Once a week I water and the excess drains out, but I can see mold or fungus starting to grown in the bark through the holes in the lower part of the pot. The bag of orchid bark also has the same kind of stuff growing in it – it’s kind of yellow and white (I willl discard).

    Is it possible that the stuff growing in the pots started from the bag (did I get a bad bag)? Or, am I overwatering the pots?

    I have three plants and since moving them to the pots with holes and watering once a week (every other week I use Miracle Gro Orchid Food) the leaves are strong and happy. They are putting out new leaves; one is on it’s second new leaf.

    Should I repot and if so, would I be better off to go with the fancy AAA New Zealand Sphagnum Moss?

    • Hi,

      You don’t need to switch the mix – bark is just fine. Are you waiting till it’s completely dry before watering it? Like dry all the way down by the roots? If not then this could contribute to mold/fungus. Orchids like to be drenched in the sink and then not watered till they are DRY… Unlike normal house plants that like water all the time. Orchids need the two extremes.

      You can pour some hydrogen peroxide on the moldy/fungus parts and that should clear it up.

      Hope that helps,

      Hannah

  9. Hi Hannah!

    I will be repotting my orchid soon and have been looking at different Sphagnum mosses. Would it be okay it I used a standard sphag moss from a hardware store? Or would you suggest that I use the classic mosses on repotme.com? I’m just trying to cost effective 🙂
    http://www.homedepot.com/p/Mosser-Lee-432-cu-in-Sphagnum-Moss-110/202301542?quantity=1&str_nbr=2672

    This is one that I have found at Home Depot. Let me know what you think!

    Thank you so much,

    Kelly

    • Hi Kelly,

      That is a really good question and I totally understand being cost effective!

      I think this moss seems to be more for hanging baskets etc. even though it clearly says Sphagnum Moss on it… I think to be honest since we don’t know how high quality it is I would either go with the one from repotme or use a bark mix that is specific to orchids.

      I am don’t like spending a lot of money either but I do love how high quality the mix is at repotme. If I could feel them side by side I could probably tell you right away.

      If you read the reviews on it the second one down is from a lady that said she would not use it on her orchids because it’s not high quality. She said it had, “I was not totally impressed. It was small pieces mixed in with twigs, grass and vines.” That would not be very good for orchids.

      Hannah

      • Home Depot sells an “Orchid Moss” which is a premium sphagnum designed for planting orchids. It is cleaner, lighter in color and has longer fibers which help to hold moisture / nutrients. Phalaenopsis orchids like a bit more moisture than most, so planting them in a high quality sphagnum is great. Other varieties which don’t like as much moisture can be planted in a high quality fir bark based mix, such as Special Orchid Mix, also sold at Home Depot. Both products are under the Better-Gro brand – you can search that on homedepot.com.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: