Moss is one of the most popular orchid substrate ingredients. Flower growers most often use sphagnum moss for orchids. There are many options that will be discussed in detail in the proposed article.
How To Use Sphagnum Moss For Orchids?
Mosses are a higher spore plant that includes a large number of classes and species. In natural biocenoses, they play a very important role:
- maintain the water balance of the landscape by absorbing water and retaining it in the root zone of other plants;
- retain most of the radioactive substances, acids, and salts contained in sediments, preventing them from penetrating into the soil.
Mosses are common in all ecological zones where orchid plants live, therefore, in culture, their neighborhood can be quite reasonable and productive.
There are different ways to use moss when growing orchids:
|Mode of application||Description|
|Adding to the substrate||The main component of the substrate for indoor orchids is cut bark(Best Bark For Orchids). But it is rarely used in its pure form since its moisture capacity is almost zero. Moss is added to the bark precisely to increase the moisture-holding capacity of the substrate. The proportions depend on the moisture-loving nature of the particular orchid species and the age of the specimen.|
|Laying on the surface of the substrate||Most orchids do not tolerate damp soil, but they like high air humidity. Damp moss, arranged around the plants so that it does not come into contact with bulbs, trunks and root collars, helps to maintain the humidity of the atmosphere.|
|Growing babies and seedlings||On Asian orchid farms, seedlings are often grown on clean moss and sold as such.|
|Cuttings||If it is necessary to get children on orchid cuttings, clean moss laid in a greenhouse is also used.|
|Resuscitation||One way to help an orchid grow new roots after losing old ones is to plant them in a greenhouse on clean, slightly damp moss. Options for such resuscitation are planting in a mixture of moss and small bark (1: 1) or in a moss ball, laid on drainage from a large bark.|
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Thus, moss can help solve a wide variety of orchid growing problems.
When growing orchids, not in pots, but on blocks, moss is used in the order. Here, its importance increases many times over, since it becomes the only material that gives moisture to the plant’s root system.
types of moss for orchids
There are several types of moss that are more or less suitable for growing orchids:
|Variety of moss||Description||Advantages and disadvantages|
|Sphagnum moss (sphagnum)||A genus that unites several types of bog moss that do not have rhizoids (“roots”). Consists of repeatedly dissected succulent stalks with sessile ligulate leaves. It is found in swamps, where it covers hummocks with a loose green carpet or floats freely on the surface of the water.||It has a very high hygroscopicity, absorbing water over the entire surface using special water-storing cells. Contains an antiseptic (carbolic acid) that kills pathogenic flora.Disadvantages – the substrate acidifies, when crushing it strongly cakes, becomes denser.|
|Forest moss (mnium, climacium, ptylium, etc.)||Different types of leafy mosses, independently collected by flower growers in the forest. Used live, collected together with rhizoids.||Creates a vibrant, moderately moist environment around orchids when stacked on top of substrate. The stems are not compacted and retain good air permeability. Ideal for grafting and rearing babies in clean moss.Disadvantages: live moss requires careful preliminary preparation; when mixed with bark, it quickly dies and loses its advantages.|
|Kukushkin flax||Polytrichous leafy moss with long (15-40 cm) stiff stems and weak rhizoids. It is found in taiga forests and damp meadows.||Does not rot for a long time, maintaining the breathability of the substrate.Disadvantages: too coarse leaves and stems do not absorb water well.|
|Chilean and New Zealand mosses||Tropical varieties of sphagnum mosses. Leafy, without rhizoids. They have a long stem.||Considered ideal for use under orchids in any way. The stems do not crumble when dried, the moss does not compact, does not cake, even after tamping it retains high air permeability. Perfectly absorbs and holds water.Disadvantage: Difficult to acquire.|
Due to their availability, the first two types of mosses are more often used common marsh sphagnum and forest leafy moss. But collectors who have many copies of orchids of different ages and species prefer to order Chilean or New Zealand sphagnums.
Sphagnum moss: what to look for when buying?
Common marsh sphagnum is the most accessible type of moss for urban florists. It can be purchased at almost any flower shop. However, when buying, you should pay attention to some nuances:
- The moss should not be too dry. The sphagnum stalks, which have dried up to the state of “bread,” crumble strongly. When added to the substrate, such material will strongly sour and thicken. It cannot be used in its pure form.
- The moss should be light cream or slightly grayish. A dark color means that the material has been harvested for a long time, overdried and not suitable for use.
- The package should not contain a large amount of foreign matter. Sticks, leaves or needles will not do much harm to orchids, but will reduce the effectiveness of adding moss to the substrate.
Ideally, the purchased sphagnum should be very soft to the touch, with a slight feeling of moisture. When opened, such moss smells nicely of forest, not hay.
If in a package with sphagnum moss some of the stems have green tops, you can choose them, put them in a separate cup, sprinkle with water and cover. After a while, the moss will start growing. In such a living material, the resuscitation of orchids that have lost their roots is most successful.
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Collecting Forest Moss for orchids
Florists who have the opportunity to travel to the forest can collect moss for orchids on their own. Forest mosses growing are attached to the substrate using rhizoids, and their harvesting should be carried out according to the rules:
- Harvesting is done with a small garden shovel. A small area of moss is cut with a spatula together with the underlying substrate so as not to damage the rhizoids.
- For cutting, mature fragments of a mossy cushion are selected, well-grown, with long healthy stems without rot and mold.
Further actions depend on the form in which the moss will be used live or dry. If you need live moss (for example, to grow it to a block with an orchid), the material is washed with water, treated with “Fitosporin-M” and fixed on the substrate. Otherwise, after washing and disinfection, the material is divided into fragments and laid out on a sheet of paper for drying.
“Once I bought a package of dry forest moss in a store, but I didn’t like the quality – some kind of brown dust, which I was even afraid to add to the substrate. Now I collect the moss myself. I leave a part green and lay it out along the edge of the pot. I dry some of it and store it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. The main thing is not to overdry, not rot or cut the stems too finely”.
Chilean and New Zealand sphagnum moss for orchids in the Japanese technique
With Chilean or New Zealand sphagnum at your disposal, you can practice alternative orchid growing techniques “bonsai” or “on a hummock”:
- Bonsai. A large granite stone is taken, wrapped in moss stalks. An orchid is placed on the top of the stone, the roots are distributed along the lateral surfaces. The plant is fixed with wire, and the root system is additionally wrapped in moss.
- “On the bump.” The plastic basket is turned upside down and wrapped in long-stemmed moss. An orchid is planted on top, fixed and wrapped with another layer of moss. Everything is carefully removed from the basket and placed in a low pot so that a mound with an orchid on top is formed.
Orchids planted in this way can only be watered by spraying. New Zealand and Chilean sphagnums perfectly collect and hold water, so no soaking or watering with a watering can is required.
For growing according to the Japanese method, miniature varieties of orchids are suitable mini-phalaenopsis or neofinetia.
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Expert warning about using moss for orchids
When using moss when growing orchids, you must remember about the danger of water logging:
“Moss is a useful material, but I don’t recommend getting too carried away with it. Most epiphytic orchids do not need high humidity at all and even harmful. It is necessary to add moss to the substrate carefully, otherwise the risk of root decay will increase significantly.”
how to sterilize sphagnum moss?
It is not necessary to process the moss at high temperatures. For disinfection, rinsing with water and treatment with a solution of potassium permanganate or any fungicide is sufficient.