What type of soil do you use for Orchids?

Last Updated on December 14, 2022 by Derek

Do I Need Special Soil for Orchids?

Most orchids are epiphytes or “air plants,” meaning they cannot grow on the typical soil like all other house plants. Some grow on other plants, while others require a unique potting mix. Different orchid varieties will thrive in different potting mixes. 

Epiphytes, the most common type, require a chunky mix with 5.5 to 6.5 Ph. They grow best on top of other plants like peat moss. Encyclia, Cycnoches, Phalaenopsis, and Cattleya orchids are examples of epiphytes. 

Lithophytes are a type of orchids that grow best on rocks. They prefer a rocky potting mix to thrive. The most common lithophyte is Phragmipedium orchids. The last one is the terrestrial orchids that prefer a typical potting mix similar to other house plants. Erythodes, macodes, liparis, Zeuxine, and Phaius orchids are all examples of terrestrial orchids. 

Orchid typeSoil requirements
Phragmipedium orchidsFriable soil with organic matter. 
Cattleya Well-drained acidic soil. 
Brassavola orchidsNeutral to acidic well-drained soil. 
Dendrobium orchids well-drained moist acidic soil. 
Cypripedium Moist and well-drained soil. 

How To Make Orchid Soil

You can make different types of orchid soil at home. Fine bark, sphagnum, and coconut husks chips are the most common potting mixes you can make. 

Bark Potting Mix

It would help if you had a container, peat moss/cocopeat, and tree barks to make this mixed type. 

  • Put a portion of grounded tree bark; Douglas fir, or osmunda tree fern bark in a container
  • Add peat moss and mix properly
  • Combining three parts of redwood and one part of Osmunda bark to make high-quality orchid soil. Soak this mixture overnight before you can add it to the mix.

Making Fine Potting Mix

It would be best to have fine charcoal, perlite, and fir bark/redwood bark/fine-grade coco chips for this orchid soil.

  • Mix for parts of fine-grade coco chips, redwood bark, and fine fir bark in a container
  • Add one party of perlite and one part of fine charcoal to the container and mix thoroughly
  • Your orchid soil will be ready for planting

What Is the Best Soil for Orchids?

Orchids thrive best in soil with good drainage and aeration. It will flourish in soil that is at least 80% fir bark and 20% rough sphagnum peat moss. It means that the potting has to be chunky and have a Ph of 5.5 to 6.5. You can get the best soil for orchids by mixing one part of perlite, one part of bark fines, and sphagnum peat moss. 

What type of soil do you use for orchids?
Orange Orchid flowers

How To Plant Orchids in Soil

Growing orchids is a simple procedure. Here is the potting or initial planting process.

  1. Choose the orchid variety some orchid species are more complex to grow than others. Paphiopedilum, cattleya, and Phalaenopsis are among the simplest orchids to grow. Each orchid species thrives in particular conditions like humidity, temperature, light, and watering schedules. 
  2. Select the suitable soil orchids do not grow in typical soil like all other house plants. They need more aeration than the ordinary soil can provide. You can make a more porous mix, but it would help to ask an expert for a suitable mixture if you are a beginner orchid grower.
  3. Try a potting mix that combines various media– you can make two essential mixes that work for most orchid varieties for simplicity. Fine potting mix is ideal for slipper orchids like miltonias and small-rooted orchids that enjoy moisture. Add water and strain it before planting for best results.
    A medium potting mix is suitable for mature orchids like cattleya and phalaenopsis. If you are unsure which soil to use, try the medium first. 
  4. Choose a snug pot if your orchid is not large-most orchids grow better if they are bound. Choose a small pot with many holes for drainage to plant your orchid. Avoid decorative pots as the glaze may harm the orchids.

You can choose a net pot with wire mesh for breathability, a transparent plastic pot to allow sunlight to the roots, or a rot-resistant wooden one. If you choose a wooden pot, line it with sheet moss before putting your potting mix.

  • Plant your orchid- retrieve the orchid and be sure to cut remove all the dead roots before placing it on the pot. Place the mature part towards the bottom and the younger section to the sides of the pot. Sprinkle the mix, barely covering the roots. 

Orchid Compost

Orchids can only thrive in their ideal conditions. A specialized orchid compost helps in mimicking the perfect conditions for growing orchids. It could be a mix of bark chips, moss, and perlite.

Orchids that live on branches can quickly soak in tropical storms, but the water drains away fast. Orchid compost has a similar free-draining effect.

Which soil to use for Orchid plants
Orchid being planted in mixed soil

Can I Use Succulent Soil for Orchids?

You can grow orchids in succulent soil since most orchid varieties thrive in similar soil conditions. It is porous with good drainage, rich in organic matter like peat moss or compost manure. It also has perfect aeration and allows roots to ventilate properly. Using succulent soil for orchids will not be a problem since orchids require repotting almost every year.

How Do You Repot an Orchid for Beginners?

Please be careful not to kill the orchid during the repotting process. If you are a beginner orchid grower, these steps will help you repotting. 

  1. Prepare the materials you need

Put your potting mix in a big bucket and add boiling water twice the mixture. Be sure to sterilize everything that your orchid will come in contact with to prevent diseases.

  • Retrieve the orchid from its pot

Use scissors or a knife, if necessary, to loosen the roots carefully. 

  • Clean the roots

After removing from the pot, use your fingers or clean scissors to fix any tangled roots and clean the rotten ones.

  • Pot your orchid

Place the orchid in the new pot, add the potting mix, and stake the orchid.

Infographic: How do you repot an Orchid for beginners?

Best soil for Orhids
Infographic: How Do You Repot an Orchid for Beginners?

Do Orchid Roots Need to Be Exposed?

It is okay for orchid roots to be exposed as part of the plant’s growth cycle. The roots will wind on the moss and the bark for the orchid to remain firm. Healthy roots require nutrients and air. So, do not try to trim exposed orchid roots unless they appear unhealthy. 


How to Grow Orchids – Gardener’s Supply

Orchid Potting Mix – Types Of Planting Mediums For Orchids

The Best Soil for Orchids of 2022 – Picks from Bob Vila

What Kind of Soil Should I Plant My Orchid In?

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