Orchids are unique plants. Therefore they need unique conditions to survive. The most important factor for orchids to survive is the potting mix. In this article, we gonna answer: “can orchids grow in soil?”, which potting mix orchids need. And the difference between regular soil and orchid soil.
Can orchids grow in soil? Orchids will not tolerate growing in the regular potting soil and definitely not in the garden soil. There are two types of orchids; epiphytes and terrestrial orchids. Each type demands a little different potting mix. But both of them do not grow well in regular soil.
Epiphytes need special potting mix (orchid potting mix). Terrestrial orchids survive best when potted in a mix that contains 50% orchid potting mix and 50% regular potting mix.
That been said let’s dive into what orchids needs from the potting medium. And what you should do to give it what it needs.
What orchids need from the potting medium (soil)
What makes orchids different from other plants is their aerial root system. The aerial roots are different from normal roots. Such roots absorb nutrients and moisture from the air.
While other plant’s roots absorb nutrients and moisture from the growing medium (soil).
Therefore they don’t need soil to grow. Aerial roots are a natural survival mechanism, orchids developed to survive in the wild.
There are two types of orchids. Each type demands slightly different potting medium:
Epiphytes orchids and their right potting mix
Epiphytes orchids represent 99% of orchids. They grow in a tree’s trunk in the tropical forests. Those are the orchids with aerial roots.
Because they need to be exposed to plenty of air. And humid, but not waterlogged environment; merchants produced a special potting mix for them.
Such a potting mix contains fir barks, sphagnum moss, perlite, and coir husk chips. Those are the main materials that form most of the orchid’s potting mixes.
Each one of those ingredients has special properties. But the end goal of the mix is to allow water to drain quickly.
But at the same time provide the aerial roots with humidity. And it also allows for enough air pockets which means the roots will have access to plenty of air.
Orchid potting mix tries to mimic the orchid growing mediums in their natural habitats (tropics).
Terrestrial orchids and their right potting mix
As its name indicates, terrestrial orchids are orchids that grow in the ground. But don’t let that fools you. Terrestrial orchids are originated from epiphytes orchids. They are the fallen epiphytes.
They fall from their host trees. Then they somehow adapted to grow in the forest grounds.
They still have semi aerial roots. Only 1% of orchids are terrestrials. But, if you have terrestrial orchids like boat orchids, donkey orchids, and spider orchids. Use a 50% orchid mix and 50% regular potting mix.
What will happen if you planted orchid in normal soil
As I mentioned in the above section that orchids need special soil ( potting mix) for special needs.
The normal soil or regular potting mix does not provide such conditions. The particles of regular soil are tiny which means they will retain water excessively.
And they will not allow enough air to reach orchid’s roots. Those two factors ( poor water drainage and a lake of air circulation in the growing medium) makes regular soil not suitable for orchids.
If you planted your orchid in garden soil or regular potting mix the negative signs may not appear immediately.
And this not because your orchid is happy in the soil. But because orchids are slow growers and they get affected slowly.
But in the long run, an orchid that potted in regular soil will suffer and dies.
Using regular potting soil or garden soil is not recommended for orchids; because such soils do not drain water nor allow air circulation around the roots to the extent that orchid needs. Therefore use orchid potting mix for your epiphyte orchids. And create a mix for your terrestrial orchids that contain 50% orchid mix and 50% regular potting soil.