Friday, August 3, 2012

I Don't Like Sphagnum Moss

Newly repotted Dtps Jungo City (left) and Dtps Yu Pin Burgundy (Right)

     Sphagnum moss is a good orchid media, and many people grow their phals in it successfully, but it's not for me.  I last watered my sphagnum potted phals almost two weeks ago, and they were still moist today.  It freaks me out when orchids take that long to dry out; I start to imagine all sorts of rot and fungus spreading rampant through the root system when my pots aren't drying within a week.  I've had a good experience growing phals in bark, so I decided to go with what has always worked for me.

Dtps Yu Pin Burgundy has a healty root system

     The roots on my Dtps Yu Pin Burgundy looked great; most of the roots were firm and unbroken, and there were many growing tips.  The phal had a good mix of older and new roots.  

     I potted it into a clear version of the 4.5" pot that it came with.

Dtps Jungo City roots before and after trimming

     The Dtps Jungo City, on the other hand, was in poor shape.  The orchid had dropped a leaf soon after I got it, which may be an indication that it was less capable to handle stress.  The Dtps had a ball of old blackened moss near the root base, and many many rotten roots.  Of the roots that remained after trimming, all have blackened tips, which is a strong indicator of prior bad potting conditions.  There are a couple new roots budding off the base, so I am confident that this orchid will recover quickly if I get the care right, though.

     The remaining root system on this phal was far too small to pot back into a 5" pot like the one it came with.  Instead, I downsized to a 4" clear plastic pot.  With it's tall leaves and minimal roots, the phal is a little shaky in it's pot, but hopefully it will stabilize once the media settles in and the new roots help it establish itself.


  1. The new root nubs are good, it will definitely recover. I usually don't cut rotted roots, just peel away all the mushy stuff and leave the inner strings. They help to anchor the plant in the media when there is not much good roots left.

    1. You grow your phals in moss don't you? How do you deal with the long drying time? (Or is that pretty much necessary since you seem to have several hundred orchids?)

  2. I do grow in moss, but only either in clay pots or net pots. They allow moss to dry out much faster than plastic pots. I choose the smallest pot that would fit the roots comfortably and water only when moss is dry. Worked for me so far. I tried bark, but could never tell when it needs to be watered, it seemed bone dry at the top, but was rotting wet in the middle, killed couple phals and switched back to moss.

    1. " I tried bark, but could never tell when it needs to be watered"

      haha, that was exactly my problem with moss!

      With bark, the skewer method works really well for me (when skewer is completely dry, it's time to water), but with moss, the "almost dry, but not quite" stage drags on forever and confuses me.

      Right now, I only use live moss for mounting, and dried moss for the sad rootless psychopsis mariposa. That one is in a tiny enough pot that it does dry out every 2 days or so.

    2. Exactly, I tried the scewer, but it never got completely dry and always felt a bit cold and damp. :)
      With moss you can define when it is dry by weight, by smell - dry moss doesnt have specific smell, or just stick your finger in - it should be crunchy. I guess it all comes to an experience - anything you have more experience with - works better for you, right?

  3. Yes to orchideya's last sentence! I also am freaked out by moss and repot all my orchids in bark (haven't had any mounted ones yet) because I've tended to find overly wet roots to be the main problem people have with orchids... The only exception is my Epidendrum radicans, which is bark mixed with some potting dirt--the plant has absolutely thrived in these potting conditions. We went from one pot of the plant to three pots within a year.

  4. Mark PilonAugust 06, 2012

    I prefer to grow in bark too. Several orchids I have purchased were growing in moss. My concern initially was over watering but as mentioned by Ochideya getting a feel for weight and using well ventilated pots help (I never thought to check using smell). I found at least one of the orchids just did not seem grow as well when potted in moss and I was not sure how often to fertilize them. I also found repotting a challenge as it was very difficult to remove all of the old moss from the roots. I realize some of these problems are from a lack of experience on my part rather than the moss not being a good growing medium. In any case I have repotted all but one orchid in bark...mind you the remaining one is doing very well in the moss (Miltoniopisis Tristar Knight) so I may leave it.

  5. second that...i never like sphagnum as well. though a lot of little keiki thrive very well in sphagnum moss but they invite too much fungal problem for me.
    i grow mine in charcoal, broken bricks and styrofoam nuggets