What is the best substrate for orchids?

bletilla striata

Would you like to have an orchid at home but do not know with what soil or type of substrate to keep it? To answer this question, it is important to first know if you want to have a terrestrial one, that is, one that grows at ground level, if it is semi-terrestrial, that is, that grows on a pile of decomposing leaves, or if it is epiphytic, which will mean that it grows only on the branches of the trees.

Although they are both from the same botanical family (Orchidaceae), each of them has its own growing preferences. So, What is the best substrate for orchids?

What is the substrate?

The substrate for orchids must have good drainage

Substrate is often confused with peat, but the reality is that there are many types of substrate, among which is peat. In fact, when it comes to growing orchids in pots, what is most used are types of soil that drain water well and quickly, and peat alone is not one of them. Broadly speaking, it could be said that a substrate is a medium in which plant beings grow and develop, in particular their roots.

But What is it for our favorite plants? Well basically, to root. Most plants develop a root system whose main function is to hold them to surfaces (soil, tree branches, etc.). But in addition, they absorb moisture and the nutrients dissolved in it. And if this seems little to you, the roots of epiphytic orchids, such as those of the Phalaenopsis, contribute to photosynthesis.

With this in mind, the substrate is of vital importance for plants.

How should the substrate for orchids be?

Regardless of the type of orchid you have, the substrate must have these characteristics:

  • Retains moisture: it is important that it absorbs the water and stays humid for a while, which will be more or less prolonged the larger its grains are.
  • Drain the water fast: that is, it is capable of filtering excess water. For this to be really useful, it is essential that the pot has holes in its base so that the liquid can come out after watering.
  • It must be new: or in other words, it must not have been used before in other plants; otherwise there could be a risk of spreading viruses, fungi and bacteria, which would damage the orchid.

Which one to choose according to the type of orchid?

It is a mistake to put the same substrate to all orchids, since they do not all grow in the same place. Depending on whether they grow in the ground, in holes or in the branches of trees, it will be advisable to put one type of soil or another:

Substrate for terrestrial orchids

Cymbidium is a terrestrial orchid

Terrestrial orchids, such as those of the genus Bletilla, Cymbidium or Calanthe, they need to have their roots underground to be able to grow and develop correctly, so it is essential that your root system is protected against the sun's rays. In addition, the soil must be able to stay moist, but not waterlogged.

With this in mind, it is highly recommended mix equal parts coconut fiber with pine bark.

Substrate for semi-terrestrial orchids

The Paphiopedilum is a terrestrial orchid

Image - Wikimedia / BotBln

These orchids, such as Vanda, Selenipedium or Paphiopedilum, also it is necessary that they have their roots protected, and always moist, but not puddled. So we will put a substrate on them that maintains humidity.

A good mix would be 50% pine bark + 50% coconut fiber.

Substrate for epiphytic orchids


Epiphytic orchids, such as Phalaenopsis, when growing on tree branches always have their roots visible, so it is essential that the pot where we have them is made of transparent plastic. What's more, it is very important that the substrate is very porous so that the water drainage is fast and total.

Thus, we can simply put pine bark on them. In this way, your root system will be perfectly aerated.

Choosing a good substrate for your orchids is essential for their proper development. I hope it is a little easier for you to take care of your plants with these tips 🙂.

Phalaenopsis are orchids that bloom in spring
You are interested in:
Characteristics, cultivation and care of orchids

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  1.   Natalie Caballero said

    Hello, I am very interested in what you mention, I have two orchids at home of the elephant ear and catleya type, the latter we realized that it had a worm in its root, they cleaned it but we do not know what to apply to improve it.
    Also, I would like you to help me by telling me how I can take better care of them, in my house there is a large garden and we always place them in their pot close to the other plants. Thanks

    1.    Monica Sanchez said

      Hello Nataly.
      For rootworms it is highly recommended to use Chlorpyrifos in irrigation.
      Orchids have to be protected from direct sun. It is also important that they are watered with rainwater or lime-free water two or three times a week. During spring and summer they can be paid with a fertilizer for orchids that you will find for sale in nurseries.
      A greeting.

  2.   llesli said

    I brought one of my Joaquins from Singapore, very very small, I have had it in pine wood but it did not throw, change to earth and it does not throw, where I have to put it, greetings and thanks

    1.    Monica Sanchez said

      Hi Llesli.
      You mean a phalaenopsis? If so, it needs to be in a clear plastic pot with pine bark.
      A greeting.

      1.    Reyes said

        I have a phalaenopsis, a new one has been born and the roots are out of the pot as I transplant it

        1.    Monica Sanchez said

          Hi Reyes.
          In the article of transplant orchids we tell how it is done step by step.
          If you have any questions, contact us 🙂

  3.   Beatriz said

    I have a calateya and I do not know with what substrate I see it increasingly deteriorated

    1.    Monica Sanchez said

      Hello Beatriz.
      Cattleya grows best on orchid pine bark, which is sold in nurseries.
      A greeting.