Best Soil Mix for Potting Orchids (7 recipes needed for your plant to flower)

hands patting the soil in a transparent pot

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Orchids are beautiful houseplants, but they are known for being difficult to grow.

Many people think that orchids require special care, but the truth is that these plants aren’t all that different from other types of flowers and plants. In fact, many types of orchids prefer a potting medium made up of bark chips in order to thrive. The trick is finding the right mix for your plant(s).

There are several options when it comes to choosing a potting medium for your orchid. Your best bet is usually going with one created specifically for growing this type of flower/plant because it will have just what’s needed to keep them healthy and happy on their journey through life (this also means you don’t need to worry about mixing together ingredients yourself).

You may find that some varieties do better with moss while others enjoy lava rock-based mixes. Experiment until you find the perfect fit!

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What is the best soil for orchids?

This ready to use potting mix has been chosen the most popular amongst our readers.

Different types of orchids need different potting soil.

Generally speaking, the best potting mix for orchids will consist primarily of sphagnum peat moss along with some other ingredients such as charcoal to help keep the pH of your growing medium stable. Specific soil mixtures for orchids will also have perlite, limestone, and dolomite as additional components.

When deciding which type of orchid potting medium is right for your needs, it’s best to base your decision on the species and variety you desire. Keep in mind that certain types of orchids don’t grow well if their roots are disturbed too much. Choose a type of orchid potting medium that will provide you with the best growing environment for your new plant.

What type of orchid potting medium do I need?

Orchids have the reputation for being difficult to grow, but they are just like other tropical plants and require a potting medium that will mimic their natural environment in order to thrive.

Keep in mind that orchids are epiphytic, meaning they grow on other plants or trees.

It is important to know what type of orchid you’re growing before deciding on a potting medium because each type needs something different. For example, some types prefer moss while others enjoy bark or lava rocks.  There’s also the option of mixing these ingredients together until you find the perfect mix for your particular plant(s).

  1. Sphagnum moss is a wonderful choice as the main source of the potting mix
  2. Orchid bark is a mix of different types of bark that often includes sphagnum moss
  3. Adding some chunks of lava rock will help the roots to ‘breath’ and provides additional stability for the potting mix
  4. Clay pebbles can be used in the mixture, to help with drainage and aeration
  5. Tree fern fiber is an excellent alternative if you want to avoid using sphagnum moss because of the high cost or environmental concerns
  6. Some growers use coconut coir in addition to or instead of sphagnum moss for their potting mixes
  7. Perlite will also help with drainage and aeration
  8. If you really want to save money on potting mix, use pure lava rock instead of bark – the advantages are that it is very light and helps with drainage (although orchids need some air around their roots)

Best premade potting soil for orchids

  • Orchid Soil Premium All Purpose Blend – Nourish your orchid and give them the lush environment they need to grow strong! This premixed, ready-to-use all purpose potting mix is exactly what you need.
    • You can’t go wrong with their non-organic ingredients; this soil provides
      • excellent aeration to the roots
      • maximizes fertilizer absorption
      • promotes optimized drainage
  • All Natural Orchid Potting Mix by Perfect Plants – Perfect Plants Coco Bark is a premium blend of coconut fiber and charcoal.
    • This bark medium is perfect for orchids, bonsai trees, and other potted plants requiring high humidity environments.
    • It will not break down as quickly as other types of bark media. Coco Bark can also act as a potting mix conditioner — filtering harmful bacteria away from the roots.
    • The lightweight chips do not break down as quickly as other bark mediums
  • SunGro Black Gold – is the premium potting soil for your orchid flower plants. This high-quality mix provides a rich and porous medium for growing beautiful and full flowers.
    • It contains Canadian sphagnum peat moss, bark, horticultural grade perlite, pumice, cinders, dolomite lime.
    • The added lime creates a balanced pH in your potted plant to prevent over or under watering.
    • SunGro Black Gold Orchid mix is an ideal potting soil for semi-terrestrial orchids, tropical orchids, and other exotic plants as well. It also makes an excellent choice for African violets, begonias, and other popular houseplants.

Related: Buying Guide for the Best Pots for Orchids 2021 Reviews (10 MUST know tips)

What are the most common potting mixes for growing orchids?

The three most common types of potting medium used for growing orchids in a home environment are:

plant in a transparent pot with orchid bark
  • Orchid bark – organic material made up primarily of fragments of fir, oak, and/or pine trees
  • Osmunda fiber – woven strands of fern (it’ll need to be soaked for about 12 hours before you can mix it in with the other ingredients)
  • Coir (coconut fiber)
  • Orchid bark

What to look for in a potting mix for orchids?

Orchids can be a little tricky when it comes to their growing environment.

They need a bit more care than most other types of plants, and the potting mix is just one factor you should consider when growing orchids.

Orchid enthusiasts note that there are a wide variety of orchids to choose from, each with different needs in terms of temperature, humidity, light exposure, and requirements for water.

The potting mix or medium in which an orchid is planted should be

  • lightweight
  • porous
  • able to drain water well

Orchid potting soil should never be compacted or compactable because this will harm the delicate roots of your plant. If you are growing potted orchids, take care to keep your potting mix loose and full of air.

Some types of orchids require a slightly acidic, sandy soil while others need a more basic mixture that measures closer to neutral pH.

The potting mix should also have a good amount of organic material to help feed the growing orchid over time. Types of organic material added to potting mixes include sphagnum peat moss, perlite, dolomite, and limestone. It is important that you find the right combination of ingredients for your specific species of orchid.

Related: How Much Light is Needed for Your Growing Orchids? (5 urgent indoor care tips)

Can you make your own potting mix?

Soil for orchids can be expensive if you purchase it from a garden center. You can make your own potting mix for a fraction of the cost, and it is very easy to do.

a picture of an orchid about to be repotted

When you’re mixing up your own orchid potting mix, remember that the ingredients should be thoroughly blended so that the bark is broken down and any remaining chunks of peat moss are mixed in evenly with other components.

Your DIY orchid potting mix should also be kept damp but not wet, since too much water is the leading cause of fungal growth in potting mixes that aren’t well-drained.

Some other DIY orchid potting mixes include:

  • 50% orchid bark
  • 20% perlite
  • 20% charcoal
  • 10% coconut coir

Option 2

  • 60% orchid bark
  • 15% sphagnum moss
  • 15% perlite
  • 10% charcoal

Plant TIP: BalconyGardenWeb suggests using a mason jar as a measuring tool. Feel free to experiment with the ratios as well as try other ingredients.

How do you layer orchid potting mixes?

Potting mixes can be layered in pots for an eye-catching effect. The top layer of bark is attractive but it should also offer good moisture retention and drainage, especially if layering bark with osmunda fiber, coir, and/or other materials.

tools needed to repot an orchid into a bigger pot
  • One way to layer your potting mix is with a thin layer of bark on the bottom of the container and then filling in any gaps with osmunda fiber.
  • The second layer of bark may be placed over the top of these first two layers. It is important that you keep out any large pieces of bark and peat moss so that drainage is not blocked.
    • Layer the potting medium in this way until it reaches about 1/3 of the height of the planter.
  • The last few layers should be filled with a combination of osmunda fiber and sphagnum moss to give good water retention.
    • For even more visual appeal, small, decorative rocks could be placed at the very top of your planter.

Over time as you care for your orchid plant, it will need to have its potting mix replaced. In order to do this, simply remove the old medium and replace it with a new potting medium that has similar properties. This process should be done every year or two.

Remember to be careful when removing the plant from its pot so that you don’t disturb the roots. The best way to remove an orchid from a pot is by using a sharp, clean knife or another cutting tool. Cut through the material holding down the plant and lift out the entire root ball while being careful not to damage any of the roots.

Orchid plants can be transplanted using this same method. Be very careful with any type of transplanting since it is best to take extra precautions to prevent disturbing the roots or damaging the plant’s stem and leaves.

Can orchids grow without soil?

Do orchids need soil? You would assume so right?

It is possible to grow an orchid without soil, given the right circumstances.

For example, if you live in a warm region with high humidity and plenty of rainfall, then it would be possible to plant your orchids directly into the ground. These conditions are found in tropical regions of the world where plants grow very well in large pots or directly in the ground.

close up of roots in an orchid potting mixture that consists of orchid bark, from the article, best soil for potting orchids

However, if you live in a suburban or rural area with less rainfall and cooler temperatures, it is necessary to use some type of potting medium to grow your orchids. Popular options for growing orchids include bark (phalaenopsis), osmunda fiber, and even coconut coir.

If you chose to plant your orchid directly in the ground, it would be necessary to dig a hole that was about 2-3 times deeper than the height of your planter. In this hole, you should place enough crushed rock or small pebbles so that the pot will sit at the right depth. Then fill the rest of the hole with potting mix, water well, and wait for the orchid to start growing new roots.

Related: Dendrobium Orchid- Easy Care Guide and Maintenance {proven tips that won’t kill the plant}

How long does orchid potting mix last?

It depends on the brand of orchid potting mix that you use. The potting medium should be kept moist and if it is to dry then refilled with fresh water.

If you are using bark-based mixes, these have a tendency to decompose much more quickly than other materials like osmunda fiber. However, this can be countered by using the right type of potting mix.

A general rule of thumb is that orchid potting mix will last at least a year and possibly longer.

It depends on the type of medium you choose to use as well as the environment where your plants are growing. For example, if the orchid potting mix is dried out then it won’t be able to hold water and nutrients very well. This will lead to your plant becoming “volatile” and potentially stressed or sick.

ingredients needed to transplant an orchid

Orchid pots need drainage holes in the bottom. These holes allow excess water that doesn’t get taken up by the roots to drain away from the potting mix. Without proper drainage, you risk creating an environment where molds and other harmful contaminants can grow.

If you are growing your orchid in a decorative container that doesn’t have holes already, then it will be necessary to drill them yourself.

This is a very important step if you want to keep your plant healthy and prevent things like root rot from occurring.

Once the holes are drilled in the bottom of the pot, use sandpaper or a nail brush to remove any sharp edges from the holes. This will prevent your orchid from getting cut when it sits in the pot.

When you are done with this, simply fill the bottom of the pots with bits of broken rocks and then place the potting mix on top. Make sure that the mix completely covers all the holes so that water cannot get out.

The holes will then act as a “drainage” system for your orchids, allowing water to flow freely while preventing excess moisture from getting trapped in the potting mix.

When should you repot orchids?

Orchids that are planted in bark and orchid mixes tend to need repotting every year.

Another good indicator of when to repot orchids is when you see the roots growing out of their pot.

This is because their roots will fill up the space within the pot in a few month’s time after planting.

2 orchids in transparent pots with orchid bark

When an orchid is outgrowing its pot, make sure to choose a pot slightly larger than the current pot.

To check if it’s time to repot your orchid, remove the plant from its current planter and take a look at the roots. If you can easily see them coming out of the bottom, then it’s time to repot your plant.

When repotting an orchid that is planted in bark chips, pull away some of the bark and check to see how much room is available for its roots. Taller orchids should be planted into a planter that has plenty of room for roots to grow.

If the orchid is planted in a commercial mix, then repot it into another large pot filled with more orchid mix and water well before returning it to its growing location.

Related: 19 Best Bedroom Plants {that will influence you to be amazing}

Final thoughts on best soil for orchids

So, which potting medium is the best for your orchids? Well, that depends. The type of orchid medium you choose will depend on what types of plants and flowers you have in your collection as well as how much time you want to spend caring for them.

And even then there are several options when it comes to choosing a potting medium for your orchid. Your best bet is usually going with one created specifically for growing this type of flower/plant because it will have just what’s needed to keep them healthy and happy on their journey through life (this also means you don’t need to worry about mixing together ingredients yourself).

You may find that some varieties do better with peat moss while others enjoy lava rock-based mixes. Experimenting with various potting mixes is a good way to find out what works best for your orchids and you may find that doing so can keep them healthier and happier than other methods.

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