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Old 03-23-2015, 03:27 PM
astrid astrid is offline
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Default Growing in pure sphagnum – I'm finding it's not so bad

Hey everyone!

I have several plants from multiple genera who arrived to me in pure sphagnum moss.

And guess what! I've checked the roots, but I am keeping them in that moss! (If the moss wasn't broken down or infested, and I just repack it in the old moss or pack it with newer, nicer moss)

I have an oncidium, two complex/common paph maudiae type hybrids, a phalaenopsis, and a rootless psychopsis all growing in pure sphagnum moss.

My paphs seem perfectly content in sphagnum moss, contradicting what some members of the board have told me- that they would lose all the roots growing in sphag. They haven't, and in fact, the new growth on my paph out of flower is growing so quickly that every day I look at it, it seems bigger!
The other one is in flower so we'll see about it.

These two I just water whenever the moss starts to feel almost dry, which happens about once every 7-10 days.

My oncidium (heaven scent "redolence") also seems happy. The sphagnum moss its in is loaded with little tiny green roots that green up when I water and whiten up as a week goes by. I water this one when the roots are fully white, and maybe a day after the moss feels dry.

The phal in sphagnum moss used to be something I'd bristle at and immediately repot when I saw it a year ago!! But now I see these fat green roots in the moss that are more than happy to be there. I water the phal when the moss is basically bone dry and the roots have gone back to a silvery color, and I mist the air roots daily. It's in bloom and has only blasted one single flower probably due to moving from the store to my home.

I keep the rootless psychopsis in wet, loose sphagnum moss to coax out some new roots and keep them hydrated and humid. Of course, this is an unusual circumstance.

Anyway, after reading all of this, what do you guys think?

Will I have long-term problems?
Do any of you grow in pure sphagnum? If so, what are your experiences, and why do you choose it as a growing medium?
I am in a pretty humid/temperate climate, yet these plants seem happy in sphagnum moss– could the moss be providing extra humidity that the plants enjoy?

Thanks, guys!

Last edited by astrid; 03-23-2015 at 03:37 PM..
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Old 03-23-2015, 04:11 PM
hbozeman hbozeman is offline

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I've only had this addiction for a few years, but I have gone from bark, to moss, to s/h, to moss, to etc... I have killed my fair share in all media. Moss seems to work best for me in my conditions and my habits of watering. I have found that if I water in a hurry and am sloppy, I tend to overwater and get water in the crown compounding problems. I do still have a few plants in bark mix, mounted, and a few still in s/h. They will probably stay as they are, for now anyway. You just have to figure out what is best for you, and the 'chids.
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Old 03-23-2015, 04:17 PM
Bulbofett Bulbofett is offline
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I grow plenty of plants in pure sphagnum. I even have a few videos dedicated to the bad rap that it seems to get. There are some things to consider though:

1) Does this orchid not like to be repotted often? If not, sphagnum might not be the best choice.

2) Where does this orchid grow naturally? For example, some orchids may grow in sphagnum, but they may thrive and bloom in mixes more suited to their natural habitat.

I'm sure others will chime in with their experiences, but I love sphagnum and use it whenever possible. It is great for people like me who go long times between watering. I choose sphagnum especially for rescue orchids. Sphagnum is also the main component in my seedling mixes. There's just a lot of really good uses for it.
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Old 03-23-2015, 04:21 PM
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Leafmite Leafmite is offline
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If it works for you, I see no reason why you shouldn't use it. It works fine as long as you replace it when it decays to the point where it begins to compact. I much prefer it over bark (the only reason I buy bark is to add to soil when making potting mixes).
I have used it many times with rootless orchids and with small seedlings. I always keep a bag on hand.
I use LECA or red lava rock simply because it is easiest for me, saves me time (no need to re-pot orchids every year) and is cheaper in the long run than buying bark or moss.
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Old 03-23-2015, 04:27 PM
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camille1585 camille1585 is offline

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What works for each person completely depends on growing conditions and watering habits. I don't question the fact that it can work great for some people.
I personally dislike sphag. For one it's not compatible with the way I water, it doesn't do well in my damp Dutch climate (especially in winter where we keep the apartment on the cool side), it breaks down much faster than bark (so yearly repotting needed, while with bark I tend to repot every 2-3 years), and I have trouble finding quality sphag at an affordable price.

Though I have recently (1 year ago) switched from pure bark to a 70/30 mix of bark and sphag, and up to 50/50 for a few orchids. This mix is the sweet spot for my orchids! Though I will have to repot a bit more frequently now, but that's fine.

Completely orchid obsessed and loving every minute of it....

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Last edited by camille1585; 03-24-2015 at 04:05 AM..
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Old 03-23-2015, 05:07 PM
ALToronto ALToronto is offline
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I have a few plants in pure or nearly pure sphag. Here is what works for me:

1. Either clear plastic or clay pots - you need to see how the moss and the roots are doing or at least ensure that the moss dries out quickly.

2. A few large pieces of lava rock at the bottom of the pot. These help moderate the moisture in the sphagnum.

3. LOOSELY packed sphagnum. Just tight enough to support the plant.

4. Water rarely and sparingly. Only the top 2 cm of the sphagnum should be wet. Don't water again until the top layer of sphagnum is crispy.

5. If the pot is bigger than 10 cm in diameter, mix the sphagnum with clay pellets or lava rock.
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Old 03-23-2015, 07:12 PM
lotis146 lotis146 is offline
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I too have discovered that Sphag certainly is not the enemy, and like everyone else it depends on your habits and the plant itself.

I've dressed the top of several Paphs with sphag to keep the moisture in better and I mix sphag into basically all my mixes, more if the plant is a thirsty bugger (like my Paphs, Miltonia, Zygos, etc). My Aganisia (fairly new plant) from what I've heard likes to stay WET in warmer conditions so I have every intention to leave it in moss even when I repot it. Just got two Huntleyas (Zygo alliance), came in moss, hear they love it wet, so they'll stay in moss as well. Now when I repot Zygos I add more moss because they are thirsty (though not like Aga. & Huntleya). This is all especially considering I am an under-waterer to a fault.

That said I recently repotted Paph. Odette's Vision, a great prolific Vini that's got two buds right now. First time repotting since acquiring last spring. It was in a chunky bark/charcoal/perlite mix. Let me tell you, not a single root was rotted, and it's got a nice network of roots. So much so I'm nervous having repotted it, although the spikes have grown quite a bit more. Given the mix it WAS in I didn't want to change it too much but I had to add more sphag, fine bark, and coconut coir b/c of my underwatering. Oh and I top-dressed with sphag pretty heavy I'd say. So far so good. (BTW, probably when I repot my Heaven Scent 'Redolence' again I will go with sphag b/c it's a thirsty plant and I don't give it enough.)

BUT, I will say this, beware if you put them outside. If it rains a lot with little time in between for them to dry out significantly that could cause a problem. I'm going to have to keep an eye out this summer for this exact reason. If you don't put your plants out then hey NO WORRIES!
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Old 03-23-2015, 07:52 PM
WhiteRabbit WhiteRabbit is offline
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I have (and do) grow some orchids in straight sphag. I mostly like to use it for smaller pots (3" or less, and usually with clay pots), tho have used it in 4" plastic pot Phals and 4" plastic pot Miltonias; and a 2 gallon Sobralia.) I like to put some styro in the center of the root mass (and started doing this for nearly all my orchids, regardless of media - true terrestrials and Cyms being the exceptions - helps media, especially sphag, dry more evenly, and makes a nice air pocket the roots like)

What I don't like: Repotting annually - tho small plants in sphag are usually fast, easy repots. I did find removing the sphag from the very fine Miltonia roots to be a pain.
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Old 03-23-2015, 08:06 PM
lotis146 lotis146 is offline
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That's a great idea Sonya! I think I really need to pay attention and repot several of my smaller plants (like Zns. Cynosure 'Alba'), thus smaller pots, in pure or mostly sphag.
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Old 03-24-2015, 01:00 AM
NYCorchidman NYCorchidman is offline
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Moss is not to blame, but watering habit of some people is. Simple as that.

I have grown a number of different orchids in pure sphag and never had a problem.

I can imagine people killing roots and that's because of the watering habits as someone pointed out above.

Even at my society meeting, one experienced member yell out to members, "repot your phals as soon as you buy them if they come in moss because you will kill them". and I tell them "not necessarily".

I never really chose pure moss as medium. I just don't use it. I do not like to repot plants all that often at all, so whatever potting mix orchids came in, I tend to just leave them for a while.

Right now, I have a phal (Leopard Prince) in bloom for the third year under my care. It came in 8 in clay pot with pure sphag. I never checked the roots and nothing. just water every now and then. The plant has 13 large flowers and the plant looks very good.

One thing I find interesting is that paphs will not develop as many roots in pure sphag, although they do really well in it otherwise.
I think it has to do with the fact that moss contain moisture longer than say bark.
Non orchid house plants do the same in the dirt.
If you water them good all the time, they develop less root mass. If you keep them a bit drier, then they tend to develop extensive root system in search of water.
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