What is the best substrate for orchids?

Although they are both from the same botanical family (Orchidaceae), each of them has its own growing preferences. So what is the best substrate for orchids?

What is the substrate?

Substrate is often confused with peat, but the reality is that there are many types of substrate, among which is peat. In fact, when it comes to growing orchids in pots, what is most used are types of soil that drain water well and quickly, and peat alone is not one of them. Broadly speaking, it could be said that a substrate is a medium in which plant beings grow and develop, particularly their roots.

But what good is it for our favorite plants? Well basically, to root. Most plants develop a root system whose main function is to hold them to surfaces (soils, tree branches, etc.). But also, they absorb moisture and nutrients dissolved in it. And if this seems little to you, the roots of epiphytic orchids, such as those of Phalaenopsis, contribute to photosynthesis.

With this in mind, the substrate is of vital importance for plants.

How should the substrate for orchids be?

Regardless of the type of orchid you have, the substrate must have these characteristics:

  • It retains moisture: it is important that it absorbs water and stays humid for a while, which will be more or less prolonged the larger your grains are.
  • Drains the water quickly: that is, it is able to filter the water that is left over. For this to be really useful, it is essential that the pot has holes in its base so that the liquid can come out after watering.
  • It must be new: or in other words, it must not have been used before in other plants; otherwise there could be a risk of spreading viruses, fungi and bacteria, which would damage the orchid.

Which one to choose according to the type of orchid?

It is a mistake to put the same substrate to all orchids, since they do not all grow in the same place. Depending on whether they grow in the ground, in holes or in the branches of trees, it will be advisable to put one type of soil or another:

Substrate for terrestrial orchids

Terrestrial orchids, such as those of the genus Bletilla, Cymbidium or Calanthe, need to have their roots underground in order to grow and develop correctly, so it is essential that their root system is protected against the sun’s rays. In addition, the soil must be able to stay moist, but not waterlogged.

With this in mind, it is highly recommended to mix equal parts coconut fiber with pine bark.

Substrate for semi-terrestrial orchids

Image – Wikimedia/ BotBln

These orchids, such as Vanda, Selenipedium or Paphiopedilum, also need to have their roots protected, and always moist, but not flooded. We will put them, then, a substrate that maintains humidity.

A good mix would be 50% pine bark + 50% coconut fiber.

Substrate for epiphytic orchids

Epiphytic orchids, such as Phalaenopsis, when growing on tree branches always have their roots visible, so it is essential that the pot where we have them is made of transparent plastic. In addition, it is very important that the substrate is very porous so that the water drains quickly and completely.

So, we can simply put pine bark on them. In this way, your root system will be perfectly aerated.

Choosing a good substrate for your orchids is essential for their proper development. I hope it is a little easier for you to take care of your plants with these tips .

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