Orchids forum: Growing Phalaenopsis in Moss

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Name: Melissa
Memphis, TN (Zone 8a)
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shadytrake
Aug 16, 2015 10:23 PM CST
Hi All,

I am posting this method of potting in sterilized moss. This is how I pot mine.

16 qt pressure cooker and 4 bags of Better Gro sphagnum moss (if you can get NZ sphagnum, even better)

Growing Phals in moss is perfectly fine if you follow a few simple guidelines.

Tom at Stones River Orchids / Nashville, TN was at our OS meeting just back from Taiwan and he had lots of good information regarding Phals and media.

He's been growing and breeding Phals for about 30 years. One of the biggest "hello" moments he had in discussing media issues with the TWN breeders is that if you have a plant that has been happily growing in one kind of media and you switch, it can set the orchid back for several years and sometimes permanently if the orchid does not "like" the media you choose.

With that said, a lot of his presentation was based around him changing over from a bark mix to straight moss. I know...you probably think he is crazy but he gave specifics. You know how a lot of people say "do this" without giving you the full picture? Well here goes...directly from my mental notes from his presentation.

First of all, he said a lot of folks fail with moss because they over water, over pot, and do not prepare the moss correctly for use.

Moss must be soaked in a sterile like solution (some people pressure cook it to fully sterilize it) but he soaks for 24 hours in Consan Triple Action 20 then rinses the moss and soaks again (i didn't catch if the 2nd soak was in the sterile soln again or in water).

2nd (and this came straight from a TWN breeder)...Phals need the security of being tightly packed in a pot...(I KNOW...it sounds crazy). He carefully chooses a pot slightly bigger than the root system - you can trim off dead roots. He takes the orchid and carefully curls the roots (if necessary) and takes a handfull moss which has been carefully squeezed out and fluffed up and then squeezed again and puts a section around one side of the roots and another section around the other side.

He takes a little moss and puts it in the bottom of the pot (he uses plastic) and carefully shoves...yes he shoved it in the pot.

Now the trick...He packs the moss tightly around the Phal carefully keeping it about 3/4" to 1" below the top of the pot. The moss never comes above 3/4" from the top. This is VERY important.

Once completed, he does NOT water...no water for about a week. He said it is very important for the plant to be secure in the pot to recover from the potting process and watering it is not necessary. There is enough moisture in the moss.

Now he said the next part is critical to the success. When you water, you only fill the pot from the top of the moss to the top of the pot. You DON'T saturate the pot through. Then you LEAVE it ALONE until the next watering...which for him in Middle TN can be 2 or 3 weeks. Also, with the moss he fertilizes much less too (maybe once ever other month only during active growth).

I didn't have a chance to ask him how he monitors the moisture content of the moss, but I imagine that he uses the weight method. Heft the pot to feel the weight.

Anyway, the point of all my rambling is that when you change from one media to another it is important that you consider how far back you will set the orchid.

For example, he said that he is in the process of switching from the bark to the moss and has been for over a year and he definitely noticed that some will need longer to adapt to the new media.

Also as FYI, this does not work if you have an automatic misting system. You absolutely cannot mist the phals in the moss because it messes up the watering schedule. The moss must be allowed to slowly dry out (of course not bone dry) before the next watering.

Good luck! Mine are doing great in moss! I tip my hat to you.
Name: Ken Ramsey
Vero Beach, FL (Zone 10a)
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drdawg
Aug 17, 2015 8:34 AM CST
It appears that the sphagnum has to be pretty much bone dry, at least the top inch or so for this watering method to work. If the moss is the least bit moist, when you apply that water to the top of the moss, it will soak through quickly. If bone dry, it will sort of sit there on top of the moss and soak through more slowly. Is this the way you/he makes the watering work? Are y'all ONLY using sphagnum for Phalaenopsis orchids?
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
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Name: Melissa
Memphis, TN (Zone 8a)
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shadytrake
Aug 17, 2015 9:11 AM CST
drdawg said:It appears that the sphagnum has to be pretty much bone dry, at least the top inch or so for this watering method to work. If the moss is the least bit moist, when you apply that water to the top of the moss, it will soak through quickly. If bone dry, it will sort of sit there on top of the moss and soak through more slowly. Is this the way you/he makes the watering work? Are y'all ONLY using sphagnum for Phalaenopsis orchids?


Actually, no. It is the firmness (tightness) in the pot that does it. We water again when it is very slightly damp not bone dry. If you wait until bone dry, the plant suffers minor setbacks.

Phals like to have humidity so slightly damp is a good thing. However, the caveat is if you loosely pack the moss, you will have a wet soppy mess and a dead plant in no time at all.

The plant must be firm so you can pick it up without it falling out. This is even true for some clay pots (though I use pot clips as well because of the weight). That is why it is so important not to overpot. You need the right amount of moss for the size of the plant vs the pot.
Name: Ken Ramsey
Vero Beach, FL (Zone 10a)
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drdawg
Aug 17, 2015 9:30 AM CST
I understand that tightly packing that moss is the solution.

I pot many of my non-Phal. seedlings in sphagnum moss, usually in 2" mesh-pots. You know how I love mesh-pots. Sticking tongue out I do grow a lot of the Phal. Hitomi Watanabe 'No. 15' though, but it is a sub-compact plant. Those are purchased as tiny seedlings and might be potted up initially in sphagnum as well. I have never even considered growing mature orchids in sphagnum though. Since I have to water so often, regardless how tightly I packed that moss, I would be overwatering. Therefore, I use bark mixes, whether it is a fine, medium, or coarse media, for all my mature orchids. Thumbs up
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
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I don't have gray hair, I have wisdom-highlights. I must be very wise.
Name: Elaine
Sarasota, Fl
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dyzzypyxxy
Aug 17, 2015 9:30 PM CST
I agree Mine get watered and rained on too much to use this method, I think.

My Phals are under an overhang in the cage to prevent them getting soaked by the rain but they do get some every day, and really high humidity as well.

Growing in a greenhouse, you have much more control over watering than outdoors.
Elaine

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Name: Sally
central Maryland
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sallyg
Sep 23, 2018 1:57 PM CST
I ordered premuim Phal mix from rePotme, and what came was almost straight, long moss pieces, with a few bark chunks and sponge rock. But trying to grab some moss, well, the chunks tend to fall away. I tried not to pack the moss in but to hold the plant some pressing seemed needed. I was pretty worried after repotting and then reading others here warn against the moss. But after a couple months, they look pretty happy. (5 various sizes)
Then I got MSU fertilizer but its been raining SO much I can hardly get a chance to use fertilizer- too wet.. oh well.
I'm bringing them in now, and looking for if they want some temps below 60 to initiate bloom, and how many hours my fluorescent fixture should be on daily.
..come into the peace of wild things..-Wendell Berry
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Name: Sally
central Maryland
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sallyg
Sep 23, 2018 2:09 PM CST
I watched MissOrchidgirl talk about temperature drop. I should still have days to be 70s and nights 60s, so when it stops raining again, I plan to hang them back out under the magnolia- unless otherwise advised. I have kept some for a couple years doing that and have had rebloom.
..come into the peace of wild things..-Wendell Berry
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Name: Elaine
Sarasota, Fl
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dyzzypyxxy
Sep 23, 2018 5:18 PM CST
Whoa, Sally you dug up this thread from 3 years ago! Yes, the issue is retaining too much water with the moss packed in, but as long as you've got some bark and sponge rock in there, that will keep some air in the medium.

When it gets cold enough you'll be growing those babies indoors, which will be much more dry air and you'll also be able to control how much water they get. Just get used to digging yuour finger well into the pot to see if it's dry enough to water.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Bill
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
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BigBill
Sep 23, 2018 8:05 PM CST
The Taiwanese often use a method that works best for them. Moss is the cheapest and less labor intensive way for them to pot.
I have never sterilized moss before I used it. The quality long-fibered moss I use has already been sterilized!
And in the case of Phalaenopsis being set back years by repotting in any media, I find that to be far from the case in my 40+ years of growing. Phalaenopsis in my experience respond beautifully to being repotted. In most instances new roots form within 4-6 weeks of being repotted and floppy leaves firm up once again.
I find that using moss works well for some people, difficult for most. Why? Too easy to pack it too tight and too easy to pack it too loose.
Plus a lot of beginners use a pot that is way too big. Phalaenopsis is a monopodial orchid growing from one central stalk yet people pot them like they are sympodial and are going to grow across the pot.
A great many beginners tend to be overwaterers and drown the roots while a few are afraid to water enough. Their plants suffer as well. Personally I repot my Phalaenopsis every year and it works for me.
In short: if you find that something works for you, use it.
"Our children are the messages we send to a time that we will never see."
Name: Bill
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
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BigBill
Sep 23, 2018 8:09 PM CST

Thumb of 2018-09-24/BigBill/acf666
Thumb of 2018-09-24/BigBill/d13825

Media used: aliflor mix, then layer of moss, then aliflor mix.
Remember there are many ways to skin a 'possum!! Rolling on the floor laughing
"Our children are the messages we send to a time that we will never see."
Name: Jim Hawk
Odessa, Florida (Zone 9b)
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hawkarica
Sep 24, 2018 2:59 PM CST
And here I was all excited that Melissa had rejoined us. Shrug!

Jim
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Name: Ursula
Fair Lawn NJ, zone 6b
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Ursula
Sep 24, 2018 3:52 PM CST

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Me too! For a while I saw her posting on an Fb Vanda forum, but I lost track of her.

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