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Different Growth Media for Orchids
Plants are traditionally grown in soil. Many have experimented in using medium other than soil to grow healthier plants. You must have heard about hydroponics and tissue culture techniques, depending upon specific needs of individual plant micro-and macro nutrients are added to the medium to supplement nutritional requirements. These are costly of techniques, so majority of us resort to the natural ways of growth and propagation. For orchids we can use a variety natural organic or inorganic growth medium. In the market a number of man-made artificial mediums are also available. You can even use your own ingenuity while choosing the right growth medium for your orchids. You only need to keep in mind three things: the medium should be able to retain some moisture, but it should not remain wet for long (no water logging!) and it should be porous enough to allow free circulation of air.
My orchids mostly fall in the epiphytic category, so I have used coconut husk as well as coconut shell for many of my orchids. When using husk, I separated the fibers into smaller sections. Then I tied these with the orchid in such a way that the roots were covered with the husk. This can now be hung as such or can be tied to pieces of branches (thatís what I used!) or logs (about 20 Ė 30 cm).
Wooden slabs with grooves on the surface can be used to hang orchids. Grooves in the slab helps the orchid roots in binding to the wooden surface. Advantage of using these media is that when watering your orchids, you can follow the dipping method. In this method the orchid is dipped in the water container and then removed when the roots get wet (Caution: Donít splash water on parts other than roots).
Moss also retains moisture so it can also be used as growth medium for epiphytic orchids. For terrestrial you can use these as layering on top of the potting mixture to prevent evaporation, but keep in mind that there is no stagnation of water, both in epiphytic as well as terrestrial orchids.
Coconut shells can also be used. I have seen people growing orchids in rubber tyre-tubes pieces, even other flowering plants, especially the . In these water has to be drained or make holes in the bottom. All the above can be hung in wooden or plastic basket; while logs, coconut shell, tyres tubes can be hung by themselves.
For terrestrial orchids, simple mud worked okay for my orchids. You can use individually or in mixture of charcoal, bark pieces and small pebbles. My Phaius tankervillaea has been growing in plain mud for last ten years. I have kept it under shade along with other shade loving plants.
There are a number of growth media available in the market locally or on internet. If you want to use these, it would be better to consult the nursery from where you purchased your orchid.
Whatever medium you use, just take care that there is no water logging and some air circulation around the roots. Change the medium occasionally. In case you notice fungal growth, remove it immediately and seclude that orchid to prevent spreading. You are the best judge to decide which medium suits your orchids best. And each orchids behaves differently so the response to the growth media too could be different, so do not worry if some of you orchids don't grow well in a particular medium. Just change it
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