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Potting Media-What do you use and why?

Discussion in 'Orchid Culture' started by Dave The Scientist, Jun 6, 2015.

  1. Dave The Scientist

    Dave The Scientist Active Member

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    Hello Everybody,

    I am starting a series of threads of general culture topics on that interest me and that I think most people would love to learn more about. I was wondering what all of you use to grow your orchids in and why. What do you use for what genera? What has worked and what hasn't? What grades and particle size? What suppliers have the best and most affordable products? There is so much to choose from; fir bark, Orchiata, charcoal, tree fern fiber or chunks, sphagnum or peat moss, coconut husk chunks or fiber, wine corks, LECA, rock wool, synthetics like Hygrolon, Aquamat or Epiweb, perlite, limestone, granite, lava rock,any mixture there of or something else entirely.

    I am currently using approximately 70/30 sphag/bark for my bulbos, 50/50 sphag/bark for my Brassia, 50/50 bark/river rock for my lithophytic Dendros and pure sphag for my other Dendros and my pleurothallids, chicken finisher(limestone pea gravel) with a little lava rock for my rupicolous Laelia, and bark mix with or without some sphag and/or perlite for everything else. I have tried semi-hydro with LECA with an Encyclia but it didn't thrive so I put it in bark/sphag/perlite.
     
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  2. KellyW

    KellyW Orchid wonk Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Dave, I mount what ever I can just because that is the way I like them. However, when I do pot I like to use as much inorganic as possible to limit the frequency of repotting due to decay. I really like growing potted epiphytes in LECA. If I need a little more moisture retention I'll add some Perlite and sometimes some charcoal. Sometimes, if I need even more moisture retention I'll put a very thin layer of sphagnum (one strand thick) over the LECA to cut down on the air movement and raise the humidity within the pot. For small Pleurothallids I use primarily sphagnum in plastic pots although I still find that they do better for me mounted in my conditions.

    In wooden baskets or plastic Vanda baskets I like to line them with a thin layer of coconut fiber to hold the medium. Depending on the species I will use large chunks of charcoal, scraps of cork bark or wine corks, or LECA.

    In general, the only thing I use bark for are seedlings and plants that need some extra TLC. I use fine bark with medium or fine charcoal and Perlite.

    One interesting thing I have been trying is using a plastic pot, filling it about 2/3 full of LECA and plant a young plant in sphagnum in the top 1/3 of the pot. The results are promising in my conditions.

    Remember, most of the orchids we grow are epiphytes. They just want a firm place to take root. What you provide for them to grow on will depend on your growing conditions. I can water almost every day so I am able to mount and/or grow potted plants in fast draining LECA. Others can't do that so will adapt the medium and culture to meet their conditions.

    After my long-winded answer I could have just said ... I like LECA and sphagnum and could live without the rest.
     
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  3. Dave The Scientist

    Dave The Scientist Active Member

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    The other person I know with a big collection also uses mixes that are heavily inorganic. I certainly get it when you have hundreds or thousands of orchids, but with forty plants, repotting every other year isn't a big chore and frankly, I rather enjoy repotting but I have also started amending my bark mixes with LECA and perlite. I also top dressed my rupicolous Laelia growing the gravel with sphag as you have done with your LECA pots.

    I have no experience with basket culture other than an little Aerangis luteo-able in bark in a small net pot which I put in slightly larger clay pot. I have been meaning to try it though, they just seem like they would be a pain to catch all the water coming off them in my growing space.

    I think the reason I had trouble with growing in LECA is I don't water every day, nor do I want to start. I probably also over fertilize for LECA growing.
    Spraying my two mounted orchids every day(not counting the mounted ones in the vivarium, I can water them once a week) is more than enough work for me. I love the look of mounted orchids but I don't have the time, humidity or the ability to water with a hose(I grow in a studio apartment, not a greenhouse) so that will have to wait.

    As for the 2/3LECA and 1/3sphagnum growing, I have been doing something similar just with different proportions. I put about an inch of LECA at the bottom pot to increase drainage and then fill the pot with sphag. Are you doing yours in a regular plastic pot or a semi-hydro pot with a reservoir?
     
  4. KellyW

    KellyW Orchid wonk Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Dave, if I had to worry about where the run-off water went I wouldn't do mounted or basket culture either. I totally understand that which is one of the reasons I was stressing "in my conditions".

    I don't grow semi-hydro so the plastic pots I use are just plain 'ole plastic garden-center-store pots.

    BTW, you aren't the only one still experimenting and learning. I still struggle with how tight or loose to pack the sphagnum; whether to use plastic pots or terracotta pots with it; and keeping them too wet. Then with mounting, how much (if any) moss over the roots, etc. That is one of the great things about growing orchids ... they are a lifetime of learning and perfecting your culture.
     
  5. Dave The Scientist

    Dave The Scientist Active Member

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    I have a south window in my shower so I have one place I can to basket culture. What is your opinion of plastic versus terra cotta? I am generally used plastic for anything under 3 or 4 inches and terra cotta for bigger things. My cattleyas are all in terra cotta or tree fern pots regardless of size. I struggle with keeping things too wet as well. I think I am a better grower when I'm super busy so I don't have time to water as much.
     
  6. John Marvin (Joe Jo)

    John Marvin (Joe Jo) Member

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    Kelly, what is LECA? I never heard of it, may be I have seen it or used it but never recognized it as LECA
     
  7. Dave The Scientist

    Dave The Scientist Active Member

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    LECA stands for Lightweight expanded clay aggregate. They are basically little terra cotta pellets Brand name include Airflor and Primeagra.
     
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  8. John Marvin (Joe Jo)

    John Marvin (Joe Jo) Member

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    Thanks Dave, I did not know that but good to know I have never used it. I only use fir bark mix with either perlite and charcoal and or sphagnum moss for all my orchids. Thanks again Dave!
     
  9. DPfarr

    DPfarr Well-Known Member

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    I like NZ sphagnum. I'd use it on everything if I could. I can't think of much besides some Cattleyas I wouldn't be able to us NZS on. Primarily it is because of water retention and the cooling effect of clay and moss. I use it w my Phals too, but in plastic clear pots so it doesn't dry as quickly. I make the assumption also that sphagnum is a lower pH compared to bark. That's important as the well water at the greenhouses is higher in carbonates, leaving it slightly basic. I make the assumption that cool growing cloud forest epiphytes are in an acidic environment based on the amount of water present (assuming there is hydronium present) and the moss which is usually in a fairly acidic medium. These factors make me choose it for easier uptake of nutrients.
     
  10. carl

    carl Active Member

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    What I use depends on what I'm growing. Paphs/Phrags get coconut husk chip/charcoal/sponge-roc in a 2:1:1 mix; in general. Cattleyas usually get bark. Pleurothallis/etc. get fine tree fern/charcoal/sphagnum in some proportion, depending on roots.

    Since my collection is relatively small (in the 150-200 plant range - not counting community pots) I just keep a supply of materials and concoct stuff that I've found works best for each. Some are in pots. some in baskets (Dend. nymphopolitanum has doubled the size of it's pseudobulbs since it's been in a basket), some mounted.
     
  11. Ray

    Ray Orchid Iconoclast Supporting Member

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    My approach is a lot like Carl's, with the goal of being able to water everything at one time, letting the medium/pot combination suit the needs of the plant.

    If you went out to the greenhouse right now, you'd find:
    • Cork bark slab with no medium; maybe a pad of sphagnum at first
    • EcoWeb mount
    • EcoWeb raft
    • EcoWeb basket
    • EcoWeb basket with PrimeAgra
    • Wood basket with no medium
    • Wood or plastic basket with sphagnum
    • Wood or plastic basket with bark
    • Wood or plastic basket with bark-based mixture (usually bark, charcoal, spongerock, occasionally with sphagnum added)
    • Wood or plastic basket with PrimeAgra
    • Wood or plastic basket with EcoWeb cubes
    • Air-Cone pot with sphagnum
    • Air-Cone pot with bark
    • Air-Cone pot with bark-based media
    • Air-Cone pot with PrimeAgra
    • Air-Cone pot with EcoWeb cubes
    • Semi-Hydro pot with PrimeAgra
    • Semi-Hydro pot with vertical EcoWeb and Spyra (Hygrolon, AquaMat) strips
    • Plastic (standard) pot with bark
    • Plastic pot with bark-based media
    • Plastic pot with sphagnum
    • Plastic pot with commercial potting soil (spathoglottis)
    • Clay pot with PrimeAgra in a tray, set up for S/H culture for cooler-growing plants.
     
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  12. Dave The Scientist

    Dave The Scientist Active Member

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    Carl, I think it's funny you say 200 plants is a small collection. When non orchid people hear I have 30-40 plants they think it's a lot but compared to people like Kelly or Mari, my collection is tiny.
     
  13. rachel.doyle.311

    rachel.doyle.311 Member

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    I might get kicked off of here but I have 3 phals 2 are in miracle grow orchid potting mix. I have not Repoted my new one. They seam to love it. My frist and largest. I think in all it has bloomed 4 or 5 times in the year I have had it. uploadfromtaptalk1435239293790.jpg
     
  14. KellyW

    KellyW Orchid wonk Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Dave, I had to smile when I saw you lumping my collection into the same category as Marni's.:) That is like saying that a piggy bank and Fort Knox are in the same category. I appreciate your inflated assessment of my collection and enjoyed my lunch-time chuckle :D. My guess is that many people on this forum have collections much larger and varied than mine but I just post more than they do.
     
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  15. Ray

    Ray Orchid Iconoclast Supporting Member

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    I don't know why you'd be concerned about rejection for that.
    If that mix works under your growing conditions and watering habits, great!
     
  16. rachel.doyle.311

    rachel.doyle.311 Member

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    O I was just teasing. I am very new to having orchids. It only been keeping a 1 1/2 years now. This fourm has saved my frist
     
  17. Dave The Scientist

    Dave The Scientist Active Member

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    How big is your collection Kelly? Marni's collection is pretty nuts. Three green houses, 5000 plants (or is it 4000), every genus under the sun.
     
  18. KellyW

    KellyW Orchid wonk Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I'm not sure any more :rolleyes:. I guess I should count them some day. Probably 250-300. Only 4 are hybrids.
     
  19. Dave The Scientist

    Dave The Scientist Active Member

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    That's the way to do it. Species plants are always the coolest.