Whether you’re planting an outside garden, potting a new succulent, or rehoming your favorite orchid, the composition of the soil you use matters.
Soil and potting mix are directly tied to your plant’s ability to grow, thrive, and bloom. Without proper vitamins, minerals, and organic soil components, your plant won’t be able to absorb the nutrients it needs to survive.
Choosing the right potting mix is especially important when potting epiphytic plants like orchids because their roots are different from those of a terrestrial plant that grows naturally from ground soil.
In the wild, orchids don’t grow from the dirt. Instead, they grow along trees and other sturdy jungle plants. An orchid’s roots absorb nutrients and organic matter from the air rather than from the ground.
Let’s take a deeper dive into the best soil to use for your orchid. We’ll explore how you can make your own homemade potting mix specifically designed to help your orchid thrive, and we’ll also share our favorite go-to commercial brand should you prefer to buy a potting mix product instead.
Can I use regular potting soil for orchids?
If you have a bag of extra soil in your shed or garage, you may be tempted to use it to repot your orchid. Unfortunately, you can’t use traditional soil to pot your orchid because it’s too dense to support your orchid’s delicate and unique root system. Since orchids are epiphytic plants, their roots require plenty of air to survive. Essentially, regular soil will suffocate your plant.
What’s the best soil for orchids?
The best potting mix for orchids isn’t really soil at all. Instead, it’s a mix of organic components that mimic the type of matter your orchid might grow along in the wild. Typically, these materials include tree bark, organic matter, moss, and essential vitamins and minerals found in the natural jungle environment.
Can I make my own potting mix for orchids?
If you’d like to make your own potting medium, you’ll want to collect a few different materials. A good place to start is with a healthy mix of bark, sphagnum moss, charcoal, and perlite. These ingredients make for a well-draining potting mix that allows plenty of fresh air to reach your orchid’s roots.
Let’s take a closer look at each ingredient so you can create your own potting mix.
When choosing a bark product, buy one that has a mix of tree barks like redwood bark, douglas fir bark, or deciduous tree bark. This provides a healthy mix or organic material for your orchid’s roots to feast on.
Sphagnum moss is an excellent medium to retain some water but not too much. When using sphagnum moss in your orchid mix, be sure to purchase a high-quality product. Low-quality moss can become dry and brittle fairly quickly, which leads to the moss losing most of its ability to retain moisture.
Charcoal is a common ingredient in most orchid potting mixes because it keeps some moisture in the pot without keeping the mix too damp, it repels some insects and pests, and it can slightly increase the pH of the mix, which can benefit your orchid’s root system and encourage plant growth.
Most garden centers and nurseries have perlite readily stocked since it’s used to boost the nutrient profile of many different types of soil. It’s a good medium to encourage aeration and water retention and provides a complex nutrient profile to encourage your orchid to boast big beautiful blooms and lush green leaves.
When do I repot my orchid?
It’s time to repot your orchid when its potting mix looks thoroughly decomposed. Since plants absorb nutrients from their potting mix, eventually the soil becomes depleted of essential minerals and nutrients.
Another sign your orchid needs to be repotted is when it is showing signs of outgrowing its current pot. Repot your orchid when you notice its roots are beginning to grow over the pot’s edge.
Typically, orchids should be repotted with fresh potting mix every year or two.
How do I repot my orchid?
To successfully repot your orchid, gently pull the plant and its roots out of its current pot. If you’re having a hard time loosening the soil, run a sterile utensil between the pot and potting mix and slowly work the ball of roots out of the container.
Then fill the new pot a third of the way with new potting mix, nestle your plant in the middle of the pot, and fill in the pot with fresh mix. Add more potting mix around the sides as necessary until your plant stands upright and is secure in its new pot.
After your orchid is repotted, be sure to wet the potting mix thoroughly. This will help stimulate both plant and root growth and will encourage your orchid to begin drawing nutrients from its new potting medium.
Our Favorite Go-to Orchid Potting Mix
If you’re looking for a trusty orchid potting mix, you can’t go wrong with Sun Bulb’s Better-Gro Phalaenopsis Mix.
It’s a reliable brand that provides quality material specially designed for growing orchids. The mix contains a fertile mixture of Canadian chunk peat, western fir bark, hardwood charcoal, and coarse perlite. The 8-quart bags include enough mix to repot several orchids.
We also love this product because it provides orchids with proper drainage, air flow, and root ventilation—all conditions your orchid needs to boast its showstopping blooms in your home.
A Recap: The Best Soil for Orchids
There you have it! You’ve learned the best qualities and ingredients to make or buy an orchid potting mix that your plant will love.
Here’s a recap so you can quickly review the key takeaways:
- The best soil for orchids isn’t traditional potting soil, but rather a potting mixture of material that provides the best nutrients for your orchid and its delicate root system.
- If you choose to make your own orchid potting mix, include four primary materials: bark, sphagnum moss, charcoal, and perlite to support healthy orchid growth and big blooms.
- If you choose to purchase a commercial product, go with our favorite go-to brand: Sun Bulb’s Better-Gro Phalaenopsis Mix.
- And don’t forget to use a safe, gentle orchid fertilizer to keep your plant happy and healthy year round.
To learn more about orchids, check out our other articles or visit our online shop. We also invite you to join our Facebook community where you’ll find everything you need to know to grow your orchid garden and connect with other orchid lovers just like you.