When growing orchids in moss or any medium, it is best to use a soak and dry watering method wherein you provide a thorough watering and then allow the growing medium to become almost entirely dry before watering again.
You can provide water by drenching, soaking, or (rather controversially) using ice cubes.
This article will discuss and describe these watering methods and share advice on orchid care. Read on to learn more.
Orchids Should Never Stand In Water
When caring for orchids, it is important to understand that these tropical plants are epiphytes. This means that their natural habitat is in the treetops.
Therefore, they do not gain moisture and nutrients from the soil.
Instead, they gain moisture from rain, humidity, and nutrients from the air around them and never sit in water.
Because orchids usually anchor themselves on trees, a rough bark mix is the standard potting medium for these plants.
Sometimes moss is mixed in to help retain some moisture, and some growers like to use moss entirely.
However, this can be a tricky business as soggy moss will cause root rot and kill your orchid.
Three Ways To Water Orchids Grown In Sphagnum Moss
1. Plunge the pot or container into a bucket or sink full of water and allow it to sit for about five minutes (or until the medium is completely soaked through.)
Remove the plant from the water and set it on a rack to drain until the water is no longer dripping through the drain holes in the bottom of the pot.
If you normally set your plant into a decorative container to display it, wait at least an hour to ensure no water will drain into the cache pot after your plants return.
If you keep your orchid’s pot in a cache pot, you should permanently remove it to water it.
Check the cache pot to ensure no stagnant water lurking at the bottom. This is a sure recipe for root rot.
2. Top-water orchids by pouring water through the moss slowly. Be careful not to wet the leaves.
Allow the water to flow through the planting medium gradually to give it a chance to soak up the water you offer.
It’s a good idea to set your orchids in the sink so that all excess water can flow through the medium.
Allow them to drain for half an hour or so before returning them to their usual spot.
3. A third method for watering orchids in moss is ice cubes!
This is controversial, and many gardeners feel that it can cause damage to orchid roots; however, a study conducted by Ohio State University has proven otherwise!
To use ice cubes, check the moisture level of the moss every few days by poking your finger into the surface.
If the top inch or so feels dry, set three or four ice cubes on the surface of the moss. Be careful not to let them come in contact with your plants’ leaves or stems.
The ice cubes will melt gradually and soak gently into the moss.
Apparently, in the time it takes for the ice to melt, the resulting water reaches a temperature of about 50° degrees Fahrenheit, which is not damaging to your plants’ roots.
What If You Keep Your Orchid In A Pot Without A Drain Hole?
The easy answer is that if your orchid’s pot does not have a drain hole, you should repot.
Orchids living in natural trees get their water by having it run over them quickly. They are simply not made to sit in water.
Why Are Orchids Sold In Moss?
Oncidium, Dendrobium, and even Phalaenopsis orchids are often sold in small pots containing only moss.
It’s important to understand that most orchids’ small pots are not supposed to provide a long-term environment.
Instead, these small pots, packed with moss, are intended to keep the plants’ roots moist in the store or garden center.
Most orchids are blooming when purchased, so the idea is to let the plant finish blooming, remove the flower spikes and then repot into a bark mix, a bark/moss mix, or if you have a light touch and some skill with orchids, a container with only loose, light, airy moss.
Your goal is to have water run through the medium, leaving it just slightly damp. If you keep your orchid’s roots wet, they will rot.
Your Situation Will Affect Your Watering Schedule
Watering methods for orchids vary depending on the growing medium, light, temperature, humidity, and schedule.
Some people just water orchids as if they were watering houseplants by providing light watering once a week or so.
This method can work with moss, as long as you are careful to gauge the dampness of the moss before watering.
Poke your finger into the surface a bit. If the moss is dry, go ahead and water it. If it is still a little moist, wait a few days.
As with most plants, underwatering is far preferable to overwater. However, orchids are actually able to get along fine without water for several weeks at a time.
Many keepers simply provide deep watering monthly. If you are growing your orchids in pure sphagnum moss, this may be an ideal schedule because moss naturally retains water better than loose bark.
If your orchid gets thirsty between watering, the first sign you will notice is crinkly leaves.
If this happens, double-check the growing medium to be sure it is dry (sometimes overwatering causes floppy leaves).
Provide a deep soaking if it’s dry and the leaves are wrinkled.
How Do Other Conditions Affect Watering Schedules?
At this point, you may have realized that it is very difficult to formulate a precise schedule for orchid watering.
This is because many factors conspire to determine your plants’ level of need for water.
Among them are:
- Different seasons require different watering schedules. During your orchids’ growing season (spring and summer), they will naturally need more water to grow, producing new leaves and roots and blooming. In the winter, your plant may rest, so it will need less water.
- Humid settings require less water. If you use a humidifier or mist your orchids, you may not need to water as much.
- Warmer temperatures dry out the planting medium. When the ambient air is warm, you need to water more often.
- Bright light inspires thirst. If your orchid is in a very bright setting, it will naturally be thirstier.
When Is The Best Time Of Day For Watering Orchids?
Morning watering is always preferable. When you water in the morning, your plants have the whole day to rid themselves of excess water through normal evaporation.
After watering is also an excellent time to spiff your plant up by gently wiping the leaves with a soft, clean cloth or paper towel, this removes both excess moisture and dust, interfering with photosynthesis.
Is Watering Orchids In Moss Different From Watering Orchids In Bark?
You may have to water orchids in bark a little more often because bark does not retain moisture.
Even so, watering orchids generally is the same, no matter the substrate.
Water thoroughly when the moss or bark is dry or nearly dry.
Don’t water again until the substrate has dried. This soak and dry watering method is key to successfully watering orchids in moss or bark.