Orchids have a reputation for being difficult to grow, but they are undoubtedly some of the most beautiful flowers out there. If you’re interested in growing orchids but have been worried about what type of potting mix to use, you’re in the right place.
We’re here to tell you everything you need to know to choose the best potting mix for orchids, including the four main things you need to consider when choosing the right mix and the specific ingredients to look for.
Table of Contents
- Deciding on a Potting Mix for Your Orchids
- The Best Potting Mix for Your Orchids
- Best Orchid Potting Mix Reviews
- The Best Potting Mediums for Make Your Own Orchid Mix
- How to Make Your Own Orchid Potting Mix
Deciding on a Potting Mix for Your Orchids
There are many things to consider before choosing the best potting mix for orchids. Understanding a little more about what orchids need and the materials in an orchid potting mix is key to making the right choice.
The Importance of the Potting Mix
Orchids have very specific requirements which are why you can’t just use any potting soil to grow them. They need the right amount of moisture, good aeration, and sufficient drainage. Each orchid is different, though, and some need more or less of these things than others.
There is no one-size-fits-all potting mix that works with every type of orchid, but there are a few things they all have in common.
First, orchids are epiphytes and take nutrition and other things they need to grow from both the air and water. So, it’s very important to ensure that the roots have enough air circulating around them.
Orchids need soil that is loose and airy or their roots will rot. The best orchid potting mix will retain enough moisture to give the plants what they need while also allowing excess water to drain freely.
Most orchids can go about a year before needing to be repotted, but because most orchid mix uses organic and natural materials, it rots easily. If you need to repot your orchid early, a high-quality potting mix can help it weather the shock.
Knowing Your Potting Material Options
Potting material or potting mix isn’t just another name for dirt or soil. Orchids are different from a lot of plants. Orchid potting mix can contain a variety of materials, like bark, gravel, perlite, charcoal, and more.
Orchid potting mix doesn’t actually contain any soil because the soil holds much more water than orchids need. It also doesn’t drain fast enough and doesn’t leave enough space for air to circulate around the roots.
No orchid potting mix works for all orchids. It’s so important to know a little bit about the most common ingredients to help you decide which is the right option for your orchid.
Pros and Cons of Potting Materials for Orchids
|Aliflor||+ high-quality expanded clay|
+ good aeration
+ excellent for drainage
+ does not decompose
|- heavier than most other materials|
|Coco husk fiber||+ very absorbent|
+ provide good drainage
+ decompose slowly
|- poor quality or small chips may hold onto too much water|
|Fir bark||+ easy to find|
+ available in multiple sizes and grades
|- breaks down quickly
- doesn’t hold moisture well
|Hardwood charcoal||+ absorbs harmful contaminants|
+ breaks down slowly
|- holds minimal moisture
- messy to work with
|Sponge rock or perlite||+ great aeration|
+ retains water
+ extremely lightweight
+ easy to find
|- can hold onto too much water if you use too much in the mix|
|Sphagnum moss||+ improves aeration|
+ retains moisture
+ easy to find
|- retains too much water if packed too tightly|
|Tree fern||+ drains quickly|
+ decomposes slowly
|- poor moisture retention
The Best Potting Mix for Your Orchids
Now that you know a little more about the components of potting mix, take a look at our picks for the best potting mixes on the market.
|Pictures||Orchid Potting Mix||Potting Materials|
|Sun Bulb 50000 Better Gro Special Orchid Mix||Fir bark, Hardwood charcoal, Sponge rock|
|All Natural Orchid Potting Mix by Perfect Plants||Charcoal, Sponge rock, Pine bark, Coconut chips|
|Miracle-Gro Orchid Potting Mix Coarse Blend||Bark, Peat moss, Release fertilizer|
|Sun Bulb 5011 Better-Gro Phalaenopsis Mix||Chunk peat, Fir bark, Hardwood charcoal, Coarse perlite|
|rePotme Phalaenopsis Monterey Dark Imperial Orchid Potting Mix||Bark, Clay pebbles, Sphagnum moss, Perlite|
|Rio Hamza Trading Orchid Potting Mix||Charcoal, Pine bark, Perlite|
Best Orchid Potting Mix Reviews
1. Sun Bulb 50000 Better Gro Special Orchid Mix
This orchid mix from Sun Bulb is extremely versatile. It’s meant for epiphytic, dendrobiums, cattleyas, oncidiums, paphiopedilums, and phalaenopsis orchids and is a favorite of hobbyists and professional growers.
Thanks to the blend of hardwood charcoal, western fir bark, and sponge rock, this potting mix allows for superior drainage and proper root ventilation. The pieces are large and chunky, and the mix is ideal for pots at least six inches in diameter. It works with smaller pots, too, but you should select smaller pieces.
The package contains detailed information about growing orchids, from potting them to light, water, and feeding requirements. You can get this orchid potting mix in four and eight-quart bags, and multi-packs are available if you need a lot and want to buy in bulk.
2. All Natural Orchid Potting Mix by Perfect Plants
Perfect Plant has this all-purpose mix that is the ideal texture to allow orchid roots to stretch and reach their full potential. It provides excellent aeration and draining to support healthy growth and help you avoid overwatering.
This blend contains charcoal, pine bark, coconut chips, and sponge rock, and each has its benefits.
Charcoal filters bacteria and absorbs leftover salts from fertilizers. Pine bark holds water and nutrients so the roots can absorb them, and coconut chips encourage aeration. True to its name, sponge rock is porous, drains quickly, and helps protect sensitive roots.
You can get this mix in one, four, and eight-quart sizes so you can order just what you need. Each comes in a heavy-duty resealable bag, so you safely store anything leftover.
3. Miracle-Gro Orchid Potting Mix Coarse Blend
Miracle-Gro is a well-known name in gardening, and its orchid mix is a great example of why the brand is so popular. This coarse blend is meant for epidendrum, cattleya, dendrobium, and phalaenopsis orchids.
The coarse texture allows for adequate drainage and good air movement, preventing overwatering and allowing the roots to spread easily. That said, this blend is not quite as coarse as some of the other options on our list.
This fast-draining mix also feeds for up to six months, and you can safely use it in combination with Miracle-Gro orchid food.
One eight-quart bag of this potting mix fills 2 eight-inch pots, and you can use it for planting or repotting. The bag also has easy-to-follow instructions about potting, watering, and lighting requirements to help you get your orchids off to a good start.
4. Sun Bulb 5011 Better-Gro Phalaenopsis Mix
If you’re looking for a good potting mix for phalaenopsis, look no further than this blend from Sun Bulb. It contains a mix of Canadian chunk peat, hardwood charcoal, coarse perlite, and western fir bark. These ingredients were selected by professional growers to give you the best possible results.
The combination of these ingredients provides the right amount of moisture and fertilizes your orchids to encourage healthy growth. In addition to supporting adequate drainage, this potting mix provides the aeration orchid roots need to spread and grow strong.
Phalaenopsis orchids are popular because they’re comparatively low maintenance, and their blooms last a long time. Use this mix every 12 to 18 months when repotting or as needed for a colorful, healthy bloom that returns year after year.
5. rePotme Phalaenopsis Monterey Dark Imperial Orchid Potting Mix
There are a lot of things to love about rePotme orchid potting mix, but the thing that stands out the most is that each mix is hand-blended daily in small batches using only the best ingredients.
This blend is formulated to drain well, helping you avoid overwatering and root rot. It also provides excellent aeration and has an ideal texture that allows the roots to spread and grow.
RePotme orchid mix comes in a resealable bag and is available in multiple sizes, and you can order cubes of multiple packages if you need a large volume. If you like the results you get from rePotme, the brand recently introduced orchid pots and offers fertilizer studied at Michigan State University.
6. Rio Hamza Trading Orchid Potting Mix
Rio Hamza Trading makes this foolproof potting mix that is great for planting or repotting a variety of orchids, including cattleyas, dendrobiums, oncidium, and all epiphytic orchids. The large, chunky pieces are uniform in size and deliver consistent results.
If you have a root-bound orchid that’s ready for an upgrade, this mixture is a great option for you. This blend uses all-natural, high-quality perlite, pine bark, and charcoal for effective drainage and aeration. These ingredients provide an ideal environment for your favorite orchids.
This mix does not contain any artificial or added fertilizer, and all of its ingredients are in their natural form. It comes in a four-quart bag and is budget-friendly, especially considering the quality of this orchid potting mix.
The Best Potting Mediums for Make Your Own Orchid Mix
1. Super Moss Orchid Potting Bark
If you’re looking for high-quality bark to use in your orchid mix, this potting bark from Super Moss is a great choice. This product is 100 percent natural and organic and it’s not baked or heat treated.
This bark comes from Douglas firs and is highly absorbent, which makes it a great choice for orchids. You can use it when making a fresh mix for repotting or if you are trying to propagate other plants.
One of the great things about this bark is that it has the ideal pH for support orchids, which makes it a great addition to your homemade mix. The large size allows for aeration and facilitates good drainage, lessening the chance of overwatering.
This four-quart package is enough to make a fair amount of potting mix, but you can order it in bulk from Super Moss if needed.
2. All Natural Hardwood Charcoal
Every good orchid potting mix has horticultural charcoal and for good reason. It adds an extra layer of drainage to ensure the soil doesn’t get too wet and the roots aren’t exposed to too much water.
This charcoal soil amendment contains no additives or chemicals and is made of 100 percent hardwood. It’s ground to a small size that you can easily mix in with other ingredients to create the perfect potting mix for your favorite orchids.
Another great benefit of this hardwood charcoal is that it naturally helps the potting mix retain important nutrients. It also acts as a filter that protects against certain bacteria and absorbs excess salts from fertilizers.
This bag contains one quart of horticultural charcoal, which will last quite a while. Most recipes only require a small scoop or two.
3. Sun Bulb 50450 Better GRO Orchid Moss
High-quality sphagnum moss is an important part of any orchid mix. Not only does it help maintain the right amount of moisture, but it also inhibits the growth of bacteria and can help orchids adjust better to repotting.
You can use this product with multiple types of orchids, including oncidiums, cattleyas, and dendrobiums. It’s also a great addition to floral arrangements and baskets and for mounting ferns.
This product is 100 percent organic sphagnum moss. Each container contains about 190 cubic inches, but it’s available in packs of two, three, and four so you can get the right amount for your orchids and other projects.
Sun Bulb also offers resources for learning how to grow orchids, including videos and care tips on its website.
4. xGarden Horticultural Grade Premium Perlite
Perlite is an essential addition to any orchid potting mix. It improves drainage, increases aeration, and lightens the soil. But that’s not all, high-quality perlite also helps the mix retain moisture and hold on to essential nutrients for later use.
This horticultural grade perlite is pH neutral, so it won’t drastically affect the chemistry of the soil. Orchids can be difficult to grow, and the more stable the potting mix, the better. That’s why using high-quality ingredients is so important.
xGarden’s premium perlite comes in an eight-quart bag that’s durable and resealable, so you can easily store what you don’t need and use it later. Eight quarts is 32 cups, so depending on your recipe, this bag or perlite should last you a long time.
5. Organic Expanded Clay Pebbles Grow Media
Clay pebbles are an excellent addition to an orchid mix, and these organic pebbles from CZ Garden Supply are an excellent choice. Clay pebbles are also great for propagation and hydroponics and loved by experienced growers.
The pebbles’ porous structure acts as a water reservoir, so your orchids have moisture when they need it. It also increases aeration and drainage to prevent the potting mix from getting too wet.
Clay pebbles have other benefits, too. They make sure nutrients are available to your orchids and provide some insulation to protect against temperature fluctuations that could harm their roots.
These pebbles are lightweight, safe to handle, sterile, and odorless. They range in size from four to 16 mm when expanded and fill in the space in a pot nicely. There are a few size options available. The four-pound bag fills about 4 five-inch pots.
How to Make Your Own Orchid Potting Mix
As mentioned, not all orchids like the same type of potting mix, so make sure you do a little research about your specific type of orchid to learn a little more about what it needs to thrive.
Generally, though, every good potting mix has these four traits:
- It holds moisture.
- It drains quickly.
- It allows air to circulate.
- It decomposes slowly.
There are many ways to make your own orchid potting mix, but each starts the same way.
First, choose the primary potting material. The big thing to consider here is aeration, which is why the primary material is normally some type of bark, like fern fiber, fir bark, or redwood bark.
Next, choose your secondary material. This is where you consider moisture retention. The most popular choices are coco husk, perlite, or sphagnum moss.
After you choose these two ingredients, mix everything in a 5:1 ratio of primary to secondary.
Fine mixes are ideal for orchids like oncidium, slipper orchids, or miltonias. These varieties have small roots that like to stay damp, and a fine potting mix works well for this.
Medium mixes are good for when you’re not sure exactly what your orchid needs. Most mature orchids will do well with a medium mix. It’s also good for cattleyas and moth orchids.
Fine Mix Recipe
If you need a fine mix, here’s a great recipe. You need:
- fine bark
- fine charcoal
Mix these in a 4:1:1 ratio.
Medium Mix Recipe
For a medium recipe, you need:
- medium fir bark or coco chunks
- medium charcoal
Mix these in a 4:1:1 ratio.
Basic Bark Mix
This one is pretty simple. All you need is:
- fir bark
- peat moss
Mix 5 parts bark to one part peat moss.
- sphagnum moss
Mix in a 9:2:1 ratio.
Tips for Making Your Own Potting Mix
If you’re apprehensive about making your own orchid potting mix, here are a few helpful hints.
1. It really helps to know a little bit about the type of orchid you’re growing because it helps to choose ingredients. For example, terrestrial orchids often grow in nature on sphagnum moss and prefer a denser mix than most other types.
2. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Even experts don’t agree on the best mix for orchids. One recipe from the University of Tennessee recommends fir bark, perlite, and chopped sphagnum moss in a 3:1:1 ratio while Texas A&M recommends an 80/20 mix of fir bark to coarse sphagnum moss.
3. Always wear gloves and use the best ingredients possible when making your own mix. That way, you can be sure to avoid any contaminants that can harm your orchid.
4. The pot you use is just as important as the potting mix. You need something with a large hole for adequate drainage. Some people prefer pots that are shorter and wider than a typical plant pot.
Orchids are a little more difficult to grow than some other plants, but the rewards are worth the investment. That said, you have a much better chance of success with orchids if you know a little more about what they like before you choose a potting mix.
Remember, there are four big things to keep in mind when it comes to an orchid potting mix: moisture retention, drainage, aeration, and decomposition. Every orchid is different, so you may need to tweak your own recipe or even add some amendments to one of the excellent off-the-shelf products we mentioned.
But, if you take the time to learn about your orchid and get the best potting mix for it, you’re likely to be rewarded with a gorgeous bloom for years to come.