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What soil for orchids? This is what you should pay attention to when choosing substrate + recipe for self-mixing

Orchids are without a doubt one of the most beautiful exotics that we can keep in our home. The pretty houseplant with imposing flowers is a beautiful addition to any home, and with proper care you can admire the beautiful flowers for a long time. Orchids always come in a suitable substrate, but when the time comes to repot, you should know what to look for when choosing orchid soil.

The main difference between orchids and other houseplants (in terms of substrate) is that 70% of all orchids are not planted in soil. Their substrate is exclusively for them, and if you plant orchids in normal potting soil, they will not survive.

The orchid substrate in their natural habitat.

Orchid conditions in the natural habitat

And in what substrate are planted orchids? Various mixtures can be used, such as pine bark, peat moss, perlite, charcoal, zeolite, coconut fiber and others. If you prepare your own orchid substrate or choose the one mixture from the store, try to imitate the exact conditions in which the orchid grows in nature.

Think of orchids in their natural habitat. These exotic plants do not wash on the ground, but their seeds nest in the bark of tall trees. There they find the right conditions to grow, namely:

  • Fixation
  • Humidity
  • Light
  • Temperature
  • Air circulation
  • and adequate nutrients.

Orchids are native mainly to tropical and subtropical rainforests, where hot and humid days are usually accompanied by unpredictable rainfall. Humidity is constantly high, ranging from 60 to 80%. The temperature is also high, dropping to about 15 °C at night.

In search of support and fixation, the plants extend their roots outward: some to take up nutrients, others to attach themselves to the bark. High above the ground and far from the soil, orchids rely on micronutrients suspended in the air and condensation dripping from the leaves of trees above them.

Their flowers grow toward the light, seeking the quickest and most direct path. Their leaves will also move in that direction. Light is extremely important to orchid roots. Therefore, when choosing a substrate, make sure it is not compacted or so thick that light cannot penetrate.

If you create the same conditions in your pot, your orchid will thrive.

What characterizes a good orchid soil?

What distinguishes a good orchid soil

To choose a good orchid soil, you should consider the following points:

Fixation: the substrate should provide good support.

The orchid substrate must provide your plant with something solid to hold onto and wrap its roots around. Since the orchid’s large, thick leaves and long flower spikes weigh it down, its small root system needs a substrate with solid elements that provide adequate support. Good options include pieces of bark, lava rock and clay granules (expanded clay).

Texture: coarse vs. fine orchid soil

The nature of the soil for orchids is very important. Before you buy the substrate, you should consider the size of the roots. An orchid with smaller roots prefers a fine-grained substrate. Older orchids, on the other hand, tend to stick more to a coarse substrate. But note: The finer the medium, the more difficult it is for water to flow through unimpeded, resulting in a more humid environment in the pot.

What is suitable orchid substrate

Choose substrate with good air circulation

In its natural habitat, the source of nutrients for an orchid does not come from the soil, but from the air. For this reason, the plant forms the so-called aerial roots . To thrive, orchids need a substrate that provides good air circulation. Oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen must be able to circulate freely.

The orchid soil must provide good drainage.

The orchid substrate must allow watering water to drain quickly. The roots must have access to water and when they have enough, drainage helps them breathe again. If your orchid takes too long to drain water, you need to transplant it to a substrate with coarser elements.

Orchids need light air and moisture


Humidity also plays a role

In addition to water, orchids need moisture to thrive. Therefore, your orchid soil needs to be moist, but also allow for a quick drying time. If the orchid dries out too quickly between waterings, you can either water it several times a week or replace the soil to add more moisture-promoting elements.

A difficult task for the substrate is to provide just the right amount of moisture for the roots to soak up, while aerating it in time to not encourage root rot. This is where softer materials like peat moss, charcoal and natural fibers like coir come into play.

Sufficient light for orchid roots

Orchid roots also perform photosynthesis through chlorophyll. When wrapped around a tree, they are blessed with constant sunlight that filters through the tree’s leaves.

This is the main reason why orchid enthusiasts use clear plastic pots. However, the substrate also plays a role. If there is enough space between each element, then the roots will get the necessary light and the plant will feel comfortable.

Want to know when and how to repot an orchid? In this article we will answer your most common questions.

Recipe: Mix orchid soil yourself

Mixing orchid soil yourself tips and recipe

You can make your own orchid substrate by considering and replicating the substrate properties for your orchid species. We offer two varieties of homemade orchid soil here – a fine-grained mix for young plants and those with small roots, and a coarse-grained medium for older plants and species with large roots like cattleya and phalaenopsis.

Mix fine orchid substrate yourself from:

  • 4 parts fine pine bark or fine coco husk chips.
  • 1 part charcoal in small, fine pieces
  • 1 part perlite or expanded clay balls

Prepare coarse mixed substrate from:

  • 4 parts coarse pine bark or coir chips
  • 1 part charcoal
  • 1 part perlite or expanded clay balls

You can also make your own mix with other ingredients. It is important that the special soil meets the above conditions so that the roots get enough light, air and water, but no waterlogging.

Phalaenopsis orchid planting what substrate