Orchid Soil

Orchid Soil: Best Potting Soil For Orchids

If we go to a garden center to buy orchid substrate or orchid soil, the only available one may be the typical pine bark, in the best case with some mixture with coconut bark or similar. 
Although it is a suitable substrate for all types of epiphytic orchids, the composition is so simple (a single component) that it remains a bit poor to ensure perfect growth of an orchid. 
And … I mean epiphytic orchids, I’m not mentioning that terrestrial or semi-terrestrial orchids will have completely different needs and they will need a suitable substrate for their way of life.
Obviously, if we do not know what kind of orchid we have the first thing we should do is find out, for that you have the section: types of orchids . 
Once we are clear about the type of orchid, it is time to know which substrate is best for your growth, before proceeding with your transplant . 
I’ll show you the different types of orchid substrates you can use, and some personalized recipes that will make your orchids grow and flourish in a more exuberant way.

Tabler Of Contents

  • 1 Choose the right orchid substrate
  • 2 Components for making a home substrate for orchids
    • 2.1 Pine bark
    • 2.2 Cork
    • 2.3 White peat
    • 2.4 Charcoal
    • 2.5 Meranti
    • 2.6 Glume of rice
    • 2.7 Beech and fir leaves
    • 2.8 Vermiculita
    • 2.9 Seramis
    • 2.10 Agriperl
    • 2.11 Polystyrene
  • 3 Substrate recipes for different types of orchids
    • 3.1 Substrate for epiphytic orchids
    • 3.2 Substrate for terrestrial and semi-terrestrial orchids

Choose the right orchid substrate

Most orchids grow epiphytes, do not really need a substrate for their growth, although we put them in a pot. 
Other orchids, on the other hand, if they need a more consistent substrate. 
What we can be sure of, is that we can not use a normal garden substrate for orchids. 
Its roots need the air to circulate easily, so they can dry quickly. We must remember that the thicker the substrate, the closer we come to reproducing the natural habitat of orchids. 
On sale there are specific preparations for orchids, which are mostly organic and provide a spongy substrate, light and at the same time capable of retaining water and nutrients.

Components to make a home substrate for orchids

If you want to create your own substrate formulation, the one that is going to provide you with the most beautiful and flowering orchids, I can give you some guidelines, with materials that have proven to work very well in the cultivation of orchids. 
There are some plant materials that have been used as a substrate for orchids, such as the roots of fern and moss (sphagnum) , which currently can no longer be used for environmental protection. 
However, others are easy to find and are fully current as:

Pine bark

Ideally you have to use Mediterranean pine bark , which has less resin than others. 
It is a suitable material as a basis for a good substrate of orchids.

Mixture of pine bark and white peat


It is an alternative to pine bark, as a base material. As a drawback, its durability is much lower.

White peat

In a substrate for orchids, the mission of the white peat is to store water. 
It must contain little salt, and have a strong structure. In no case should be used fine peat or peat substrate .


The mission of charcoal is to increase the pH of the mixture. Some varieties of orchids need it. 
As it is not easy to find charcoal for sale as a substrate, we can use barbecue charcoal.


The Meranti are splinters of a type of tree from eastern Asia . This material favors the growth of the roots.

Glume of rice

The glume of rice is a product that retains water for a long time , it would be a perfect substitute for white peat.

Beech and fir leaves

They contain many nutritious substances, which favor the growth of orchids . The advantage of this substrate is that it is relatively easy to get, we just have to pick up the leaves from the ground. 
They should be collected in the fall and be completely dry. The risk with this substrate, is the appearance of pathogenic germs.


Vermiculite is a treated stone that is used in gardening, and whose mission is to retain nutritive salts. 
It should be used sparingly.


The seramis is very easy to find. It is clay in granules , and its mission is to improve the ventilation of the substrate. 
It has very low salt content, and provides a strong structure to the whole.

The soil intended for your terrestrial orchids should be rich, but with good drainage. Remember to plant them with enough space between them, away from the roots of other plants and away from toxins-releasing plants like bamboo and eucalyptus.

In pots specially designed for epiphytic orchids or preferably choose as a base the coconut fiber for its greater durability, resistance to bacteria and fungi.


It is a treated stone that stores water and nutrients. The disadvantage is that it loses its structure over time, and it needs to be replaced.


Polystyrene is a completely synthetic material, with a very strong structure used to fluff the substrate. 
It is not widely used, because it does not deteriorate after use and does not become compost.

Substrate recipes for different types of orchids

The orchids do not support a waterlogging of their roots, it is totally contrary to their way of life in nature, where they absorb the water they need from the humidity, and the rains that may occur. 
However, as we deal with epiphytic or terrestrial orchids, it is convenient that the substrate has a different formulation. For example:

Substrate for epiphytic orchids

This type of substrate is especially suitable for orchids such as Phalaenopsis or Cattleya. 
A good substrate, balanced and that will improve its growth may contain:

  • 3 parts of pine bark
  • 3 cork parts
  • 1 part of white peat
  • 1 part of seramis
  • 2 grs. of acid lime per liter of substrate

Substrate for terrestrial and semi-terrestrial orchids

This recipe is indicated for terrestrial orchids, such as Paphiodelium:

  • 5 parts of pine bark
  • 1 part charcoal
  • 1 part of white peat
  • 1 part vermiculite
  • 2 grs. of acid lime per liter of substrate

The recipes that I am offering you, are a starting point for you to create your own orchid substrate. 
You can use all the ingredients or only some, with the precaution that the epiphytic orchids need a very light substrate and that retains very little water, while the terrestrial and semi-terrestrial orchids, need a substrate that “yes” retains part of the irrigation water .

Compost Orchid Soil

Normal compost is not porous enough for Orchids. You can buy special compost in any store, but the easiest thing is that you do it yourself.

There are so many compost formulas for Orchids, as books on the subject, but there is no secret. Among several, there are two “recipes” very simple but very efficient and appropriate for both epiphytic and terrestrial orchids. The secret is to achieve a compost that absorbs a lot of water, but that quickly gets rid of the excess. The most important thing is to allow air to circulate freely through it.

Traditionally, the fiber of Osmunda L., usually imported from Japan or the tree fern: Cibotium spp .; an extremely porous material, which has been the “magical” ingredient of compost for Orchids.

It is about the dried roots more or less crushed of these ferns. Quite expensive, scarce and also, in danger of extinction. Fortunately, there are other materials that replace them and are easily obtained.

Pine bark, for example, is very good at keeping the growth medium well aerated. It is combined with sphagnum moss and peat, both materials that retain moisture. The more peat the mixture has, the more moisture it will retain; So if you tend to water in excess, rather than keep the plant dry, it is best not to be too generous when it comes to incorporating peat into the mix.

orchid soil

You can also add some pieces of coal, which will help to counteract the natural acidity of the peat and keep the mixture “sweet” (green algae on the surface of the compost will indicate that it is acidic) and white cemetery stones for good drainage .

There is no need to add any fertilizer, since Orchids do not support a very rich growth medium. In exchange , it is advisable to apply a foliar fertilizer during the growing season.


  • One measure: crushed pine bark
  • One measure: peat
  • One measure: vermiculite
  • One measure: sphagnum moss
  • Stone ground or white pebbles for cemetery


  • One measure: crushed crust
  • One measure: peat
  • Carbon bits
  • Stone ground or white pebbles for cemetery

Don Burke

I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide.  I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.

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