How to Take Care of Orchids: Potting Media Explained

Potting Medium Basics

When it comes to how to take care of orchids, the type of potting media you choose has a large part in how successful your orchid growing experience can be. Orchids have very different needs from other household plants. Instead of soil, they require media that will give them the right combination of water retention and air circulation.

Most media used for mixes come in fine-grade, medium-grade, and coarse-grade. Depending on the type of orchid you are growing, there are mediums that are best suited for certain types of orchids. For example, orchids such as Paphiopedilums and Oncidiums, have small roots that are very thin and fragile so choosing a medium that is small and fine-grade is ideal. Orchids such as Cattleya and Phalaenopsis for example, have normal or average sized roots and do best in a medium-grade potting material.

When deciding on the perfect potting medium to use there are a few things that you will want to look at. Sphagnum Moss has a good balance of water and air retention, although it can sometimes hold too much water. Perlite is an inexpensive option that absorbs water well.
How to Take Care of OrchidsThe downfall to perlite is that it may retain too much water. Fir Bark is easy to find, inexpensive, and comes in a range of sizes, although it is quick to decompose and is initially difficult to get to retain water. Redwood Bark is another option. It is able to hold water better than Fir Bark and also decays more slowly. Tree Fern Fiber drains well and decomposes slowly, although is fairly expensive, difficult to find, and doesn’t hold water well. Charcoal is slow to decay and absorbs toxic substances, although does not hold water well. Lava rock, although heavy in weight, has good drainage and never decomposes.

There’s no rule that states that you can’t mix different types of media. You can buy, or create your own, mixture of different mediums. Media that is premixed can be a very convenient option and are very easy to use. These can be found in pretty much any nursery or home improvement store.

After you decide on the best type of medium to use for you orchid, it is imperative that you soak it for a good 8-10 hours to ensure that the medium will maintain moisture from the water once placed in the pot with your orchid. Simply place the medium in a container and add hot water. Once the medium has soaked for 8-10 hours you can re-rinse and use in your pot.

Learning how to take proper care of orchids starts with choosing the right type of potting media. Trying out different media combinations can not only be fun but can lead you to find the perfect mix for your orchid which will in turn reward you with gorgeous blooms.

Next Steps: Where do you go from here?

A couple options:

#1 – More Free Orchid Tips!
At a minimum, I strongly recommending signing up for our orchid tips newsletter (it’s free!). That’ll give you some additional (more detailed) step-by-step tips you can start using with your Orchids right away…

#2 – Get Access to ALL My Orchid Articles…
If you’d like to learn everything you need to know about orchid care (and caring for ALL types of orchids) we also have something called the Orchids Made Easy Green Thumb Club.

The Green Thumb Club includes a number of different benefits – including weekly lessons on all different orchid care topics delivered to you in a special, password-protected members area. You also get the opportunity to get YOUR actual questions answered in my weekly “Ask The Orchid Guy” column, which you can check out here.

The Green Thumb Club costs less than a meal at McDonald’s – and ALSO includes all sorts of ADDITIONAL benefits, including exclusive discounts at orchid suppliers from 20-40% off as well access to our “orchid diagnosis tool” which helps you identify what problem might be plaguing your plant.

Because the club is backed by a full 100% money-back guarantee for a full 30 days, if after checking it out you decide that it’s not for you or that you didn’t get value you out of what you learned – no problem! Simply send us an email to let me know, and you’ll receive a fast and courteous refund. Put it this way: If you’re not happy, I’m not happy!

(By the way, this link here will give you access to 50% off the cost of membership. A little “gift” for reading this article all the way to the end :-))

All my best,


Ryan “The Orchid Guy” :-)

IMPORTANT: To learn everything you need to know about caring for your orchids, if you haven’t already I strongly recommend signing up for the “Orchid Care Tips & Secrets Newsletter” my wife and I publish by clicking here.

It’s completely free – and the best part? You can even choose the type of information you’d like to receive (reblooming tips, basics of orchid care, etc.) Join over 20,000 fellow orchid enthusiasts young and old and sign up for our free orchid care newsletter today! :-)

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