Many of the most popular orchids are tropical plants that, in their natural habitats, attach themselves to the surface or bark of other plants. They grow high in the trees and are used to getting plenty of light and good air circulation. Some varieties are difficult to propagate, while others are fairly low-maintenance. You can grow your collection of orchids by cultivating them in coconut husk.
How to plant orchids in coconut husks
Prepare the coconut husks.
Rinse the coconut husks at least a day before you plan to use them. These materials have a salt residue that could damage the orchids’ roots, so be sure to rinse them thoroughly.
Combine the husks with other materials.
Mix two parts coconut husk, one part charcoal and one part perlite. You can also add other items to the orchid potting mix, although this mixture is considered a general-purpose one. Soak the mixture for at least 24 hours for the water to be properly absorbed.
Sanitize your planting tools.
Add one-half cup of bleach to a gallon of water and wash down all the surfaces and gardening tools you will be using when you plant the orchids. Allow them to dry for a few minutes before using the tools.
Plant the orchids.
Remove the orchids from their current pots and cut off any unhealthy roots. Rinse the roots gently with room-temperature water and place them in their new pots, with the roots about an inch from the top.
Add the coconut husks to the pot.
Squeeze out any excess water from the coconut husk mixture and place the husks to fill in the spaces around the orchids’ roots. Once the pot is full, water the plants thoroughly.
Coconut husks or coconut husk chips are a renewable resource with long fibers that absorb moisture but also drain quickly. These qualities make them popular for use as growing media or additives to potting mixes. They allow orchid roots to have access to moisture without the risk of soggy growing conditions. They decompose slowly and provide maximum air circulation for the plants’ roots.
Other commonly-used orchid potting materials
1. Tree fern
These comprise the rigid, dark-brown roots of Central American tree fern. Tree fern roots stay fresh for three years and their drainage properties are similar to those of orchid bark. This type of potting material is commonly used in the US.
2. Orchid bark
This is the bark of Douglas fir or redwood trees, and it has great drainage capacities. It deteriorates slowly and only requires repotting every two years.
3. Sphagnum moss
This is also commonly called peat moss, and is made up of dead and decayed plant matter from sphagnum moss. It is often paired with orchid bark as it retains water and prevents moisture from draining away before the roots have absorbed it. This moss is believed to prevent fungus, and should ideally be replaced annually.
4. Osmunda fiber
This fern is also known as orchid peat. Its fiber is broken up for use as a rooting medium, but unfortunately it is pricey and has limited availability.
5. Brick chunks and cobblestone
Brick chunks provide stability for heavy orchid pots, but the chunks must be sufficiently small in size. They are also water retentive and provide humidity for the plants.
Cobblestones act as anchors in the bottom of pots, enabling the orchids to stay upright. They do not retain water as brick chunks do, so you may need to modify the drainage of your potting mix to allow the roots more time to absorb water.
This has watertight qualities that are ideal for potting mix materials. Mix water-shedding cork with water-absorbing sphagnum moss or shredded bark. Larger cork chips have crevices that allow orchid roots to spread and explore.
7. Lava rock
Orchids that are native to Hawaii usually use this inorganic growing medium. It does not break down and is ideal for orchids that do not want their roots disturbed. It retains water and increases the humidity around the plants.
This is the product of volcanic glass that has been exposed to extreme heat. It does not provide any nutritional value for the plants but has excellent water retention and aeration. It is also very accessible, since most garden centers keep it in stock.
This volcanic rock is lightweight and an ideal growing medium for many orchids. It is highly porous and retains at least 50% of its weight in water, so it won’t weigh the plants down.
10. Rock wool
This is made up of the cotton-like fibers of chalk and basalt, and is commonly used in potting mixes because it does not break down. However, you need to balance its alkalinity with ingredients like bark or peat moss.
11. Shredded bark
This is the shredded bark of trees like cedar, cypress and fir. It is among the most common orchid potting mix materials. The bark will acidify the orchid mix as it breaks down, and is favored for its pleasant fragrance.
This type of orchid potting material is favored for orchid varieties that prefer periods of dryness. Special styrofoam pellets like Aerolite are produced specifically for orchids.
This hydrous phyllosilicate mineral expands when heated and is formed by the weathering or hydrothermal alteration of biotite. It is a common potting material that is widely available in garden stores and comes in gravel-sized particles. The light brown material provides good water and nutrient retention and helps aerate the potting mix.
If you wish to propagate your orchids, you will need to use an appropriate potting medium. One of the most popular of these is coconut husks or coconut husk chips. These make an ideal potting mix because they absorb moisture but also drain quickly. They also provide good air circulation for your orchids’ roots.
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