Smoky Mountain Orchid Society

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Orchid Experiment: Live Sphagnum Moss

/index.html Posted by Zane Smith on September 24, 2017 at 9:05 PM

Hey everyone!

I'm finally getting around to going into a bit more detail about the experiment I'm starting with some of my orchids: using live sphagnum moss as a potting media. As I've delved into growing more unique varieties of Nepenthes and other carnivorous plants of late, I've noticed how many of these growers cultivate their own colonies of live sphagnum moss in order to use it as media for their tropical carnivores--most notably their nepenthes.

Once I finally purchased some live sphagnum of my own, I had an epiphany. If live sphagnum is so good for nepenthes, and cloud-forest orchids grow right alongside highland nepenthes species, why wouldn't live sphagnum work as an alternative substrate?

Here are the reasons I am trying to use live sphagnum:

1) My grow area is indoors, so I have extremely high air movement, so bark/hydroton clay dries out exceptionally fast. The humidity remains in the 40-70% range in my dedicated grow room, but I keep the air movement high to discourage any mold/fungal growth.

2) Live sphagnum moss doesn't compact like long-fibered sphagnum. Since it's living, it continues to grow and multiply with your plants. (Yes, it definitely requires trimming as it grows at a decent pace. The more the better though, right?) Thus, it holds a ton of moisture, yet doesn't choke out your orchid's roots at as quick of a pace as the moss will have to die further in the pot before it will start to compact.

3) Live sphagnum is great a telling you when it needs water as it tends to dry out rather quickly. While that means more upkeep in some cases, it stands as a constant reminder that "you need to water." Naturally, this should lend itself well to oncidiums/stanhopea, draculas, masdevallias, etc that really enjoy the constant moisture. And if you accidentally let the moss die, at least you have the freshest possible long-fibered, dried spaghnum media anyone could hope for.

4) Live sphaagnum has a very "natural" look, so personally, I find it very aesthetically pleasing.

I definitely don't intend to use this on all of my plants, but I'm interested in trying it on a good few of the water lovers and some back bulbs, in order to do a little bit of science. If you've made it this far through my rambling, you definitely deserve a reprieve, so here are some pictures of a few plants I've potted in live spaghnum--orchids and nepenthes--as well as of my colonies.

EDIT: Just kidding, my pictures won't post, but they're available upon request =P


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