Orchids are some of the most beautiful flowers out there. You can find them anywhere from your local grocery store to your favorite gardening center, and even find them naturally in the great outdoors.
If you are going to raise orchids, however, you might find that it’s not as easy as you might think. One of the things that you can do is make sure you are using the best potting mix for orchids.
By choosing the right potting mix, you can help your orchids grow and thrive.
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Can You Use Regular Potting Soil for Orchids?
You might be wondering if you can use regular potting soil for your orchids. Unfortunately, you cannot. In fact, the fastest way to kill an orchid is to plant it in regular potting soil.
Orchids have a reputation of being difficult to care for, but they are really just like any other plant. If you give them the right environment, including the correct amount of light, moisture, and potting medium, they will fully thrive.
The soil that you should use for an orchid is actually not soil at all. Instead, the “soil” you use to grow orchids in is actually proprietary mixtures of ingredients that create an environment very similar to what they grow in when living in the wild.
There are several commercial orchid planting mixes on the market, but you can also create your own by mixing a variety of potting materials including some of the materials we cover in the next section.
Common Potting Materials For Orchids
There are a number of different potting materials for orchids including bark, sphagnum moss, perlite, coconut husk, cinder, charcoal, and tree fern.
Bark – A bark mix is a good potting material option for orchids. It usually contains different barks along with moss, coconut husk, or perlite. Some of the barks used include redwood bark, Douglas fir bark, or Osmuda tree bark. It allows air to circulate around the roots.2
Sphagnum Moss – You can also use sphagnum moss for your orchid. When you pack it tightly, it helps to retain moisture. But packed lightly, it can dry out. The quality of the moss is very important. Poor quality sphagnum moss can kill your orchid.3
Perlite – Perlite is not a potting material that gives nutrients to your orchid. However, it is great for aeration and water retention. It is very easy to find, too, because most garden centers and nurseries have it available throughout the year.4
Coconut Husk – All orchids need air and water, but not too much. If things get too soggy, the plant can die. So, the coconut husk is great because it gives the roots room to breathe, but also keeps the roots from sitting in water all day.5
Cinder – Course cinder is a great option for people who grow orchids, too, but it must be coarse. Cinder that is too fine isn’t a good choice, however, as it doesn’t allow the roots to get enough air.6
Charcoal – Most orchid potting mixes contain charcoal. Charcoal allows air to flow, removes impurities, and it keeps moisture in the pot. Charcoal also has the ability to keep insects away from the orchid plants. It also has a long life, and it can increase the pH of the soil.7
Tree Fern – Like the other materials, tree fern is great for ferns because it helps to retain moisture. Additionally, it allows for airflow.
The Best Potting Mixes, Mediums For Your Orchid Plants
When you look at the 10 best potting mixes/mediums for orchids, you can see that there are a number of similarities. Here are some that we suggest for orchid growers:
|Sun Bulb 50000 Better GRO Special Orchid Mix||Fir Bark, Charcoal, Coarse Perlite|
|Sun Bulb 5011 Better-Gro Phalaenopsis Mix||Chunky Peat, Fir Bark, Charcoal, Coarse Perlite|
|All Natural Orchid Potting Mix by Perfect Plants||Charcoal, Sponge Rock, Pine Bark, Coconut Chips|
|Phalaenopsis Monterey Dark Imperial Orchid Potting Mix||Bark, Sponge Rock, Sphagnum Moss, Clay Balls|
|Miracle-Gro Orchid Potting Mix Coarse Blend||Bark, Peat Moss|
|Sun Bulb 50450 Better GRO Orchid Moss||Sphagnum Moss|
|SuperMoss Orchid Sphagnum Moss Dried||Sphagnum Moss|
|Besgrow Orchiata Orchid Bark||Pinus Radiata Bark|
|Better-Gro Charcoal for Orchids||Charcoal|
|Super Moss Orchid Potting Bark||Douglas Fir Bark|
Orchid Potting Mix & Medium Reviewed
1. Sun Bulb 50000 Better GRO Special Orchid Mix
Sun Bulb Better GRO Special Orchid Mix is a potting mix that is good for certain orchids. You can use this for orchids including oncidiums, cattleyas, dendrobiums, paphiopedilums, phalaenopsis, and any epiphytic orchids.
This is very versatile orchid mix, which makes it ideal for all people who grow orchids, including those who grow orchids professionally.
This mix contains a combination of sponge rock, western fir bark, and charcoal made of hardwood. It was formulated by a team of professional orchid growers. When using this mix, you will notice great drainage and good root ventilation for your orchid plant.
The size of this bag is 4 quarts, and there are full instructions on how to use it on the back of the bag. Additionally, the bag of potting mix has a URL, which shows you videos on orchid care, which is a nice added bonus.
The price is affordable, and it is a good mix choice for any orchid enthusiast.
2. Sun Bulb 5011 Better-Gro Phalaenopsis Mix
This orchid mix is specifically for phalaenopsis orchids, which are a favorite of hobbyists. Though these orchids are gorgeous and remain in bloom for months, they may need re-potted, and this is a perfect option.
This potting mix has a specific blend that not only helps the orchid thrive, but also fertilizes the orchid. It helps to keep moisture in the pot, too, and helps to stimulate both plant and root growth.
A mix of Canadian chunk peat, hardwood charcoal, western fir bark, and coarse perlite make up this potting substrate. It is professionally formulated, too, in order to help phalaenopsis orchids thrive.
The bag is available in 8-quart packages, and it is enough to repot several orchids. Just keep in mind it is recommended that you soak the substrate overnight before re-planting the orchids, as this helps to retain moisture.
The 5011 Better-Gro phalaenopsis mix is affordable, and reviewers say that it helps your orchids look their best.
3. All Natural Orchid Potting Mix by Perfect Plants
Perfect Plants Orchid Potting Mix is an all-natural blend that helps the roots of the orchid to expand and climb. The mist is made of sponge rock, charcoal, coconut chips, and pine bark. This provides a solid and well-balanced environment.
The sponge rock is porous, and it mixes well with the other substrate. It helps to regulate the pH of the plant. The charcoal absorbs impurities, which helps to keep the plant healthy, and it helps to filter bacteria away from the root.
Coconut chips are also a part of this potting mix. This helps to aerate the plant, and it promotes root growth. Pine bark helps to absorb nutrients from water, and it contains a lot of nutrients that the orchid needs.
When you use this potting mix, your orchid can grow to its full potential, and it allows your orchid to absorb all of the nutrients it needs. The roots get enough room to grow, and as long as you water it, this potting mix ensures enough moisture.
4. Phalaenopsis Monterey Dark Imperial Orchid Potting Mix
This is a signature orchid mix that is made in small batches and hand-blended. It is made by experts who understand that each plant is unique. Hand blending helps to keep the qualities and characteristics of all the ingredients.
This company mixes and packages the mix only days, or sometimes even hours, before sending, which ensures that the mix is extremely fresh. The mix comes in a resealable bag, and it can last for many months.
The mixture contains large chunks of bark and white sponge rock. It also contains a small amount of sphagnum moss, as well as clay balls, which also help the pot to retain moisture. The manufacturer recommends well-draining pots for this mixture.
The mix from rePotme is a bit more expensive than other potting mixes on the market, but considering the ingredients are all-natural, it is hand-mixed, and there are no fillers, it is a good value for your money.
5. Miracle-Gro Orchid Potting Mix Coarse Blend
This orchid potting mix from Miracle-Gro is a course mix, which means that it is a fast-draining mix. When you choose this mix, you will get your orchid going in the right direction. This mix allows for quick drainage, too, and is good for most orchid types.
Since this potting mix is coarse, it creates conditions that are drier and promotes better air movement. It also contains plant food, which helps to produce beautiful, big blooms when your orchid begins to show it’s flowering.
Some of the orchid types that this mix is ideal for include cattleya, dendrobium, epidendrum, and phalaenopsis. Additionally, this potting mix feeds the orchid for up to six months.
Even though there is food in this potting mix, Miracle-Gro recommends that orchid plant food is added as a supplement. The bag comes in an 8-quart size, and it is a very affordable price. So, if you are looking for a good and cheap option for your orchid, this could be great.
6. Sun Bulb 50450 Better GRO Orchid Moss
This Better GRO orchid moss from Sun Bulb is perfect for growing orchids. It is an organic mix that contains sphagnum moss, which helps to reduce bacteria. It also helps the plant retain moisture. This is important for young or sick plants.
This formula was created for re-potting, and it even reduces the chance of shock. The moss is soft and looks feathered, which adds some beauty. This is especially the case for wood or wire baskets.
Thanks to this high-quality mix, the moisture is held in the substrate, but it also drains quickly. You can also use this mix for ferns. It is endorsed by the National Orchid Society, which means you can trust this mix.
This orchid potting mix only comes in a single size, 190 Cu. In, but it lasts for months when used correctly. As an added bonus, the manufacturer lists a website on the package, which offers practical orchid growing tips and tricks.
7. SuperMoss Orchid Sphagnum Moss Dried
SuperMoss Orchid Sphagnum Moss is a long-lasting, premium option for people looking for this type of orchid potting mix. The fibers of this moss are long, and they offer excellent water retention. This makes them perfect for hanging baskets or window baskets.
One of the interesting things about this is that the sphagnum can absorb up to 18 times its weight in water. It also helps to efficiently provide water all the way to the roots of the orchid.
Meanwhile, it also allows air to flow through, which is essential for allowing the orchid to get the right nutrients. You can also add this mix to the soil as a way to condition it, or as a layer in potted plants.
You can use this for transplanting, conditioning, aerating soil, or just for decoration. You can buy this in individual bales, or if you have a lot of orchids you need to care for, there are larger sizes available, too.
8. Besgrow Orchiata Orchid Bark
Orchiata, from Besgrow, is a natural growing media that is made from 100% pure Pinus radiata bark from New Zealand. This bark is sourced from man-made, renewable forests, which ensures that environmental needs are taken care of.
You can use Orchiata right from the bag, and you don’t have to worry about any additives. Many of the world’s professional orchid growers prefer this orchid bark, and there are a number of benefits to choosing this one.
The mix is pH balanced, so it doesn’t have the natural acidity that is often found in barks. Additionally, it contains specific micro-organisms, which help to protect the orchid against disease.
Another good thing about this mix is that it does not accumulate salts, so you don’t have to worry about flushing it. The bark is also aged, which allows nutrients and water to be retained.
It will not break down, so you don’t have to worry about re-potting as often as you might with other mixes. It also continuously hydrates the roots, which gives it great longevity.
9. Better-Gro Charcoal for Orchids
This is a pure charcoal mix for orchids from Better-Gro, a reputable name in potting mixes. This is a natural, long-lasting option. It is naturally processed hardwood, which helps with drainage and aeration.
The charcoal is inert, not activated, and the bag is 8 quarts in size, enough to handle several re-pottings. The charcoal is medium in size, and it is coarse.
Keep in mind if you choose a charcoal potting mix for your orchids, that it will have a smoky scent. This option from Better-Gro is no exception. You also should soak this charcoal in water before using it for a potting mix.
This potting mix is a bit more expensive than other options out there, but it is all-natural. This means it has a good value for your money. You can also use this potting mix for other plants, too, or use it to make your own mix for your orchids.
10. Super Moss Orchid Potting Bark
Super Moss Orchid Potting Bark is a sustainable and organic option. It is made from Douglas fir bark, and it is 100% natural.
This potting mix is great for orchids because it is very absorbent. It is not baked nor treated, either. It has a natural pH that is perfect for orchids, too. It gives the roots of the orchid access to water and oxygen.
One of the great things about this is that this potting bark helps to mimic the natural environment of orchids.
How to Know When it’s Time to Replace Potting Mix for Orchids?
There are a few things to look for to know when it is time to replace your potting mix for orchids or for re-potting.
First, you might notice that your orchid has outgrown the pot it is currently in. The best way to notice this is to look at the roots. If the roots of the orchid are starting to grow up over the plant stem, it needs a new pot. The roots might also come over the side of the pot.
Another sign is that the current potting media is going bad. The orchid gets nutrients from the media, but eventually, it takes all of the nutrients the media has to give.
In general, you should be repotting your orchid every one or two years, but you might notice the media start to decay a bit earlier. This is especially true if the pot isn’t draining. You also might notice an odor. If you do, it is time to replace the pot.
Finally, you might notice that the orchid’s roots are tangled tightly. Keep in mind that some orchids have roots that do this naturally. If things are rather loose, your orchid is probably fine. However, if the tangles are tight, you should repot it.
Keep in mind that you might want to only repot your orchid at certain times of year. For example, if you have an orchid that produces pseudobulbs, like a cattleya, you should repot it when it has flowered. But, it has to also be before the roots start to grow.
For any other orchid, you can repot them any time you feel that it requires it. Just remember that it is not a good idea to repot the orchid when it is flowering. That is when things can go really wrong.
How to Repot an Orchid Plant?
To re-pot an orchid, there are a few steps that you should keep in mind. The first thing you should do is choose a pot. The new pot should be an inch or two bigger than the one you are replanting from. This is diameter, not height.
There are some specialty orchid planters that you might consider. These have holes all around the surface. It allows air to get around the roots and water to drain out. If you don’t have these available or don’t want them, a terra cotta pot works great.
You should put your chosen orchid potting mix into a big bowl, and then cover it with boiling water. Before moving on, allow the water to cool to room temperature. Only then should you drain it.
Orchids are very sensitive. So, you want to make sure that you are doing everything you can to remove germs and bacteria before repotting.
To do this, you should make a solution of a gallon of water to ½ cup of bleach. Soak the plantar and wash any tools with this solution. Before you replant the orchid, you should also wash your hands.
To start the replanting process, pull the pot away from the plant by using a gentle motion. Once you get the plant out, you should then wash the roots off. Examine the roots for any rotting or brown spots. Cut them off if you see any with a sharp pair of scissors.
Next, take your freshly washed plantar and fill it with the potting medium you have chosen. It’s best, in most cases, to ensure that it is soaked well with water. Place the base of the plant at the top of the medium.
You can use a chopstick, or a similar type of tool, to push pieces of the potting medium between the roots. Once the orchid is solidly in the new pot, you should keep it misted for about a week, or until you see new root growth.
You can see details with pictures here.
The best potting mix for orchids will give your plant a lot of drainages and air circulation. The potting mixes you choose may be composed of different types of potting mediums, each of which has pros and cons.
Some people mix their own blend, but as you can see, you can also buy a mix that is readily made.
Remember, a potting mix for orchids is not just dirt. In fact, it’s best that you don’t have any dirt at all in your potting mix for orchids.
Orchid is known as an air plant, or epiphytes, which means they require a lot of air around the roots. Of course, orchids also require moisture, yet a well-draining potting mix. This simulates the natural wet/dry cycle.
Finally, consider how quickly the potting mix lasts before it begins to decompose. The best options can go a year or more without changing. And, again, don’t repot your orchid when it is in flower.