What media should I use?

This is a common question but a tough one to answer without including the words “it depends…”. The media to use depends on the following:

  • What species of orchid are you potting? Some species like to stay moist and some do not.
  • How often do you water? Some mixes hold more water than others.
  • How much mineralization is in your water? Minerals build up on the surfaces of some media and orchid roots don’t like that.
  • How often do you repot? Some mixes break down faster than others.
  • How much do you fertilize? Some mixes contribute some nutrition as they break down; others do not.
  • Are any quality media components available locally? Why pay to import media from halfway around the world if something equally good is available next door?
  • Is the media I used previously still available?
  • What quality is the media that is available. Quality can change over time.

Many orchid growers in the US primarily used fir bark as the main component of most of their orchid mixes up until a decade ago. But then things changed. The quality of the available bark was not as good as it had once been, so many growers were forced to find a better choice.

I tried many different components and they all had various issues until I found Orchiata, which it made from the bark of the radiata pine in New Zealand. Since shipping adds to the cost, it is not inexpensive, but so far, after three years, it seems to be working exceedingly well. Last time I was in Hawaii visiting growers I found that most growers there are using it also, so that was enough evidence for me. Over the past 3 years I have potted many hundreds of Phals, Cattleyas, and Oncidiums in it with nothing else added and it seems to be the best thing I have used for years.

Of course there are still people who swear by other things, such as NZ sphagnum moss or mixtures of various components. And for their environments, those might be  better choices. But my recommendation is to used Orchiata for a while and use that experience as a baseline.

In my next blog entry I would like to start a series of short videos on the repotting process; stay tuned!


Author: Bob

Bob has been growing orchids since 1985 and commercially since 1989. He has had several orchid articles published in the AOS Bulletin, AOS Culture Guide, and in Orchids Magazine. He currently resides in Chapel Hill, NC and runs Carrboro Tropicals, Chapel Hill's only provider of locally-grown orchid plants.

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