Orchid Grower: Sphagnum, Bark Both Have Place As Medium

Orchid Grower: Sphagnum, Bark Both Have Place As Medium

Westerlay Orchids' Toine Overgaag says his 5-inch phalaenopsis orchids perform better in a bark-based media.

Dear Greenhouse Grower,


As a fellow commercial orchid grower, I enjoyed the video on your website comparing bark and sphagnum moss as phalaenopsis orchid substrates. While I found Rocket Farms’ and Marc Clark’s take to be very interesting, I would like to add our perspective.

Westerlay Orchids grows more than 1 million plants annually in specially formulated orchid bark and a couple hundred thousand in sphagnum moss. We believe great plants can be produced in both.

Great plants have vigor and remain vibrant in customers’ homes. We believe the key to this performance is active roots. We find that our larger phalaenopsis (5-inch) grow better in our greenhouse and perform better in the home when they are in bark because they grow more and better roots. We find plants in larger moss pots do not build up the same active root mass. For our smaller plants (3-inch), moss works well and the plants also develop active, strong roots.

We also like bark because it simplifies home care.  Maintaining the orchid is easiest if there is a regular schedule and bark requires weekly watering. (A good five-minute soak works well). This is very easy to remember and is unlikely to lead to dried out or drowned plants.

Toine Overgaag
Westerlay Orchids

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Glen Barfield says:

166945 Aloha, You are both right. I've been growing orchids since 1972 in everything you can possibly imagine. Bark, moss, tire chips, oak leaves, saw dust, redwood chips, peat, coco chips, and volcanic cinder. They all work and most work well if everything else in the environment is modified to account for the media. We grow our oncidiinae intergeneric young plants in Oasis foam cubes and our flowering size plants in a mixture of coco chips, peat moss and perlite. It all works for the right plant in the right environment. Aloha, Glen Glen Barfield, General Manager The OrchidWorks

Jim Vojcek says:

When growing in sphagnum moss, do you use a different ppm of nitrogen as compared to growing in bark mixes?

mitch rabin says:

Hi Toine, good observations and information. We have seen bark to be more accomodating to poor water quality for the end user than moss, that can accumulate stuff from the water than eventually can kill the roots. Mitch Living Colors Nursery

Doug Watson, GM, Worldwide Orchids, Inc. says:

Having grown orchids for over 30 years both personally and professionally, I've found that successful orchid culture is dependent on the proper BALANCE of media, light, temperature, humidity, water/fertilizer, air movement and container. Orchids will grow in almost ANY type of media….provided proper adjustments are made in the other elements noted. What most hobbyists fail to understand is that most orchids are epithetic and require a certain amount of air exchange around their roots. After countless experiments, we've found that a mix of quality fir bark augmented with a small amount of sponge rock and sphagnum moss works best for consistent orchid growth.