Guest Author - Susan Taylor
Since the vast majority of commercially grown orchids are epiphytes (growing on trees in nature) or lithophytes (growing on rocks in nature) mounting is one of the most natural ways to grow orchids. We’re going to go through the most common mounting types here, but there are many that work just as well as these, such as coconuts, grape vines, and various types of hardwoods.
This is a wonderful way to grow if you are able to put your orchids outside in the summer—just hang them up in a handy tree and spray with the hose a couple of times a week (or every day if in a hot or dry climate). The American Orchid Society has just put an artificial tree in its greenhouse to show more naturally how orchids grow in the wild. Indoors, mounting is generally reserved for terrariums or Wardian case growing where it is an extremely effective way to increase the number of plants which can be contained in a specific space.
Tree fern for horticultural growing is cut from the external root system of South American ferns. They are available as totems, plaques, sticks and in various carved shapes such as monkeys.
Cork bark is the most commonly used medium for mounting orchids. Cork is a renewable resource since the tree will re-grow its bark if correctly harvested. It is commonly referred to as virgin cork bark which means that the bark comes from the first two cuttings from a tree. Subsequent cuttings are more commonly used to make wine corks, corkboard, etc.
Wooden plaques are one of the newer ideas for mounting orchids. They are made of teak or cedar and look something like the bottom of a vanda basket. I found mine at Quarter Acre Orchids. I like this idea because they are easy to hang flat against either the side of a greenhouse or on a tree.
If you are lucky enough to live in South Florida or Southern California where you can actually mount in a tree this is the most natural way to go. Santa Barbara Orchid Estate site has a very nice article on tree mounting.
Once you have selected your mounting material soak it overnight in water. Depending upon the size of the orchid you’re mounting, also soak about a handful of Sphagnum Moss. Then remove your orchid from its pot and clean off any medium attached to the roots without actually breaking any of them. Spread the moss on the mounting, arrange the roots over the moss and then use six to ten pound fishing line to tie the orchid to the mount. Fishing line is recommended because it can be left on the mount and is nearly invisible. Keep the orchid in a somewhat shady spot for a couple of weeks and spray sparingly until you see new roots growing and then move it to the location where you will be growing it.