Orchid Wise

Potting Mediums

Cymbidium Orchid Potting Medium

Cymbidium orchid potting medium, or Cymbidium orchid potting mix, is just one piece of the puzzle when growing Cymbidiums.  Everyone will have an opinion about what your mix should be made up of!  Just ask them!  But their answer may not be suited to you.

There is no best Cymbidium orchid growing medium for Cymbidium orchids.  Remember, in the wild they grow on trees or in rotting trunks.  But essentially, your Cymbidium orchid potting mix very much depends on your local conditions.  Where your plants are kept, and your watering habits will also  influence what type of mix you need.

One type of Cymbidium orchid potting medium will behave differently in two different climate zones.  So not all the advice you receive or read will be useful.  Speaking with growers at your local Cymbidium Orchid Club is often the most effective way to figure out what sort of mix works best in your area.

Your Cymbidium orchid potting medium or mix should be very free draining so that your pot does not hold water.  At the same time, though, it needs to contain enough air space around the roots, and retain some moisture.  Keeping the roots of your plant damp for a short while is important.  But most Cyms will rot if they have wet feet for too long.

Potting mediums are mostly about keeping your plant secure in the pot.  Given they don’t hold much water, they also don’t hold a lot of nutrients.  Hence the need for a fertilising schedule or regime.

Most growers make up their own growing medium and tweak it until they get it just right for their area and also their watering regime.  If you tend to overwater, then your medium needs to be draining a little better to compensate for the extra water.

Cymbidium Orchid Potting Medium

Cymbidium orchid potting mix recipe

I’ve seen growers use a combination of some, or all, of the following: pine bark as a base, clay balls, perlite, vermiculite, coco fibre (or coir), peat moss, charcoal, pumice or lava rock, canunda shell grit, polystyrene balls and other things to open up the mix so that it drains, but also retains some moisture and fertiliser to feed the plant.

Whatever you use, make sure it is inert and won’t break down very quickly.  A lot of gardening/hardware store pine park mixes contain tannins and other nasties that your plants won’t like.

Personally I use Orchiata bark chips as they seem to be becoming the standard for orchid growing in Australia due to the consistency of the product.  This gives us the ability to mix our own medium.  It is inert and won’t break down easily, and comes in a range of sizes to suit all sorts of growing applications.

My basic Cymbidium orchid potting medium or mix uses a 12-16mm size Orchiata bark chip.  I supplement this with clay balls and vermiculite and also some charcoal or coco fibre chips and polystyrene balls.  It really depends on what I can get hold of or what I have laying around or even which plant I am potting.

Some Cyms are happier and grow better being wetter, or drier, than others.  Some even grow better in a pot full of sphagnum moss, believe it or not!  But they are very few and far between.

I also add a small amount of pellet fertiliser to the mix as well as I’m potting up, usually Neutrog Strike Back for Orchids.

The right potting medium for you and your climate conditions is something that needs a little trial and error to get right.

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