To make life a bit easier for you I have gone through and researched every orchid potting mix I could find of interest and picked the best options. I’ll explain my top picks based on a few different factors so that everyone can find their ideal potting mix. I’m also going to explain what to know and to look out for when buying orchid growing mediums.
I ended up choosing Perfect Plant’s orchid mix as my number one best overall choice. This is because it drains really well, has structural integrity to help the roots get attached. Additionally it accommodates for the orchid’s particular set of growing needs.
My 5 Favorites
- Best Overall: Perfect Plant’s All Natural Orchid Potting Mix
- Best Choice for Specific Orchids: Better-Gro Special Orchid Potting Mix
- Best Affordable Option: Miracle-Gro’s Orchid Potting Mix
- Best Drainage: Leaves and Soul Professional Orchid Soil
- Best Organic: Epsoma’s Organic Orchid Mix
Best Overall: Perfect Plant’s All Natural Orchid Potting Mix
This organic orchid potting mix is amazing, it is really high quality and contains only natural ingredients. The mix is completely organic and there are no chemicals involved at any stage of the processing. It is ready to use and is created for optimal aeration and drainage. It contains charcoal to filter bad bacteria and the excess salts from fertilizers. The mix also has coconut chips for aeration, pine bark chips for moisture retention and sponge rock.
- Material: bark chips, coconut coir, perlite and horticultural charcoal
- Dimensions: Available from amazon in 1, 4 or 8 quarts
|The mix contain pine bark chips which are chunky and textured so the roots can grip on||Significantly pricer than the other choices|
|Ready to use straight out of the bag||Heavier to move about because it is moistened|
Why Do We Love It?
This mix is pre moistened so you can get to repotting as soon as you have it without needing to wait, which is ideal when you want to repot your orchids at a specific point in their growth cycle, but you can’t predict when the orchid will reach that point!. It even comes in a resealable bag so that it won’t dry out between uses. Additionally, the sponge rock they use has a neutral pH which is perfect because orchid roots are quite delicate and the wrong pH for soil can completely throw off the plant’s ability to absorb moisture and nutrients. .
This one gets bonus points too because the mix comes from a family owned farm which has been running since 1980.
Best Choice for Specific Orchids: Better-Gro Special Orchid Potting Mix
Better-Gro orchid mix collection consists of four different types of ready to use potting mix, they are all formulated differently but the base ingredient for each is western fir bark. They make a plain bark mix, a special mix (which is the one I have linked to), a mix for Phalaenopsis (and similar species of orchids) and one for Dendrobiums (again, this mix will work well for orchids that grow in similar patterns to the dendrobiums). The phalaenopsis specific potting mix is Canadian chunk peat combined with western fir bark, charcoal and perlite, this mix will retain a lot more water because of the peat so it is important to reduce your watering frequency and ensure you check the moisture levels before watering the orchid.
- Material: The special mix is made of western fir bark, hardwood charcoal and sponge rock
- Dimensions: the special mix is available from amazon in 4 qts
|The bags are resealable – I basically never see this, it brings so much joy!||The larger chunks of bark don’t provide much grip or stability for the vertical orchids.|
|The mix is great in terms of having fast drainage and allowing air to flow through the soil well.||The instructions say repot every 12 months which is potentially far too often since repotting is stressful and can damage the roots|
Why Do We Love It?
This brand is just so versatile, I like that they do a plain bark option which is great for two main reasons. Firstly, while researching this potting mix I have come across a lot of sources that suggest this brand is favored by professional orchid growers because the company actually used horticultural experts when creating the formula. Secondly, it’s ideal for anyone who likes to mix their own specific potting mix by adding moss, charcoal or lava rock. The special mix is a general mixture that is suitable for any orchid type with a more horizontal growth pattern. It’s great that you can mix and match their different mixes together to get the perfect combination for your orchid’s needs.
Best Affordable Option: Miracle-Gro’s Orchid Potting Mix
This orchid potting mix is made primarily from large wood chips and other natural forest products. It is formulated specially for epiphytic orchids rather than terrestrial ones, but will work well for both as it is adapted to provide fast drainage.
- Material: large wood chips and added fertilizer
- Dimensions: Comes in an 8 qt bag
|Super affordable, it’s around 5x cheaper than the Espoma Orchid Mix||Not organic because of the synthetic fertilizer that has been added|
|Large sized bark chips which allo the mix to drain rapidly||Added fertilizer, while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing I prefer to control how I fertilize and when|
Why Do We Love It?
This product is really easy, convenient and quick. It fits in well if you are busy with your other plants and don’t want to keep track of loads of different fertilizer schedules. It feeds the orchid for six months, so if you repotted your orchid in the summer time you would never need to think about fertilizing.
Best Drainage: Leaves and Soul Professional Orchid Soil
This orchid potting mix is made with the aim of improving both drainage and nutrients absorption rate together in order to enhance the plant’s overall health. It is designed to prevent soil compaction and encourage air pockets for the orchid roots.
- Material: pine bark, lava rock, clay pellets (turface, which is calcined clay)
- Dimensions: 2.2 qts
|The added lava rock helps the root hold themselves in place, keeping the orchid steady||The mixture is not organic|
|The clay pellets retain moisture and release it slowly to prevent dehydration||The most expensive option from the five|
Why Do We Love It?
We love that this brand has really thought through the orchid’s overall needs and accommodated for all of them. The clay pellets absorb water and fertilizer when they are added and then slowly release them. This allows the orchid’s roots to have a steady supply of moisture and nutrients while never being left in soggy soil or stagnant water. Which in turn leads to root rot.
Best Organic Potting Soil: Espoma’s Orchid Mix
This organic soil mix is perfect for all types of orchids and bromeliads, with the ingredients being specially formulated for orchids and epiphytes. This mix is very chunky and coarse meaning it drains really well and allows for adequate airflow to the roots.
- Material: aged pine bark, horticultural charcoal, perlite, limestone and yucca extract
- Dimensions: available in 4 qt. bags
|The potting mix is a suitable pH for the orchids, it has added limestone to adjust the pH||Has to be soaked for 24 hours and drained before it is ready to use|
|Great for improving drainage and aeration||More expensive than other options|
Why Do We Love It?
This product is actually really cool. The potting mix has been enhanced with mycorrhizae (the ingredient) in the form of Myco-tone (the added product). This is a blend of natural fungi which provide the nutrients that the orchids need. The fungi helps the orchid’s roots to absorb nutrients which means the blooms will be brighter and more colorful. The added perlite helps to prevent the soil from becoming compacted, the horticultural charcoal removes harmful bacteria and salts. You are welcome to check the availability on the Epsoma homepage on Amazon, just click the button below.
What to Know About Orchid Potting Mix
Orchid Potting Mix Should Allow the Plant to Breathe
Most orchids prefer growing as epiphytes with their roots in the air. It is particularly important that the mix is breathable for orchids because of the structure of orchid roots. The roots have an outer layer which is made up of specialized cells called velamen. These cells are there to absorb water and nutrients whilst protecting the inner root from excess heat and water loss. If the roots don’t have a good air flow, moisture can build up and cause the roots to break down. The ingredients in your orchid’s potting mix should aim to create a breathable environment for the plant in order to minimize this risk.
This bark comes in different sizes. You’ll nearly always find at least one size of bark in any potting mix made specifically for orchids. The smaller the bark chips are the more moisture they hold, making them better for planting your younger plants in. The bigger chunks of bark are more coarse and will dry out faster. The chunks also ensure that the air can flow through the soil easily. Epiphytes tend to favor fir bark because they are adapted to it but sometimes you’ll see other tree barks being used as a substitute.
This ingredient is essential for orchids that are terrestrial. Meaning they grow in the ground, and for the epiphytic orchids too. Orchids either grow in bogs which are full of sphagnum moss, or on plants or rocks. These plants and rocks tend to be covered in moss so orchids of all sorts are adapted to growing in moss.
The only issue is that some mosses have low pH (making them more acidic than alkaline) which can cause the potting mix to break down, leading to issues in the long run. Always make sure to read the information on the packaging to see if you can find out the pH of the potting mix.
This is another great chunky ingredient which can help to aerate the soil. It is similar to fir bark and other barks but with a few major advantages. Coconut husk can absorb a lot more water and is much better at retaining that moisture than tree barks. Additionally, coconut husks break down a lot slower than tree barks so the soil will need replenishing less frequently.
Perlite helps to prevent soil compaction and keeps the soil light. It is made from mining volcanic glass which is also called perlite. This means that perlite is also a finite resource and is not renewable. Where possible I like to reuse my perlite to be a bit more sustainable but it is not always possible to do so when it has been mixed in with soil. Perlite contains no toxic chemicals as it is made from naturally occurring compounds. Plus it has a neutral pH so is safe to mix into potting mixes.
Charcoal can absorb salt and bacteria so it is often added to orchid potting mix for potential harm reduction purposes. It helps to reduce the risk of the plants absorbing any chemicals or harmful ingredients that are often added to drinking water. It’s worth knowing that charcoal is not always considered organic. It can only be organic if it comes from burnt organic materials, usually wood that has not undergone any chemical treatments.
Some orchid potting mixes include extra ingredients which then mean the mix can’t be counted as organic. The ingredients are harmful or necessarily bad, it’s just up to you and whether you care about the mix being organic or not!
Leca, fertilizers, charcoal, lava rock and saramis are all products which are sometimes added to the mix. They help with aeration, moisture retention and healthy growth. However, they are not always considered organic.
Supplement Potting Mix Nutrients With Fertilizer
Nutrients tend to wash out of the soil in containers more quickly than garden soil so even though the soil mix has added nutrients it helps to fertilize every few weeks. The frequency of fertilizing will vary depending on which soil you use and the amount of nutrients already in the mix. Usually the bag of the potting soil will tell you how long to wait until you begin fertilizing.
Make Sure The pH Levels Aren’t Too High Or Too Low
pH levels are measured from acidic to alkaline on a scale of 0 – 14 where 7 represents the neutral value. The smaller numbers on the scale are indicative of acidic conditions whereas values above 7 represent alkaline material. Orchids prefer a pH between 5.5 and 6, so slightly acidic but closer to neutral. If the pH is off, the orchid is more likely to suffer from nutrient deficiencies.
When a soil mix is too heavy in clay the pH often falls too far into the alkaline conditions. But this can be easily rectified by the addition of organic matter like dried leaves and composted vegetable scraps.
Most but not all potting mixes will say on the bag what pH the soil is, but if the information is not available on the packaging it is very easy to test yourself. You can use a cheap piece of litmus paper which you can get in a gardening center or online to test the pH of your soil.
The Two Types of Orchids: Monopodial and Sympodial
Another important thing to know about when choosing which potting mix to get is the type of plant you’re looking to grow. Obviously, you know you want to grow an orchid/ already have an orchid. But did you know that orchids can be split into two distinct categories based upon how they grow?
Monopodial (meaning one footed) orchids grow all of the new growth from the same main stem which grows throughout its lifetime. The leaves grow from either side of the new stem and flowers tend to grow at the apex of the stem. The phalaenopsis orchid, one of the most common types, grows in this pattern.
Sympodial growth is by far the most common growth pattern for orchid plants to exhibit. Some sympodial orchids form pseudobulbs to store nutrients and water. But not all types of orchids will. The key characteristic of sympodial orchids is the horizontal growth habits they practice. The plant will still produce shoots from the older rhizomes whilst continuing to produce new growth.
Why can’t I just use regular potting soil?
Unfortunately, regular potting soils, even the ones that are designed for houseplants, can be a death sentence for orchids. The growth mediums designed for most plants are way too dense and compact for orchids to be happy in, the air won’t get to the roots and the orchid will suffer from root rot, which is usually fatal.
When should I repot my orchid?
Orchids normally only need to be repotted once a year at most, that can change if the plant gets an infection or root rot. You should repot when the orchid starts to show yellow leaves or stems, slow growth or dead roots. It’s also best practice to re-pot just after the orchid has finished flowering or when new growth is beginning to appear.
How do I repot my orchid?
I recommend using a plastic pot with lots of drainage holes that is 1-2 inches bigger than the current pot you have. You can put the plastic pot into a decorative cover pot or use a tray underneath to catch the water. Fill the pot about two-thirds of the way up and then create a hole for the orchid to go into. Then remove the orchid from its old pot, be gentle as the roots are delicate, then remove as much of the soil as possible from the root ball, use water if needed to get the last bits. I like to use this opportunity to cut away any dead or damaged roots or leaves before putting the plant into the new soil. Fill the remaining space in the planter with more of the potting mix, gently patting and securing the plant in place, then you’re done!
Which Orchid Mix Is Best For YOU?
When it comes down to it, the best choice is the one that takes your needs and your orchids’ needs into account, however, these five are all great choices. My favorite mix is Perfect plant’s orchid mix and I believe it is the best option for most people. I love it because it’s high quality, extremely versatile and reputable so you can feel secure when potting up your orchids. Get yourself the finest Orchid Mix to give your plants the best start possible!
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