What mix should I pot my orchids in?
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,
Feel free to leave comments or questions here and you can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with pictures of your orchid.