What’s the Best Potting Medium for Orchids?

“Which is the best medium for potting orchids – orchid bark or sphagnum peat moss?” Question from Susan from Pembroke Pines, Florida.

Answer: Good question! It depends on the type of orchid that you are growing and how it naturally grows in the wild.

Epiphytic orchids grow in trees in the tropics and subtropics. Their large roots cling to bark and tree crevices, so these orchids grow best in a bark-based medium. Some prefer coarse bark and others fine bark; sometimes a top dressing of coarse sphagnum peat moss may be applied to hold in a little extra moisture and improve the pot’s appearance. These orchids require special water-soluble fertilizer for their unique growing needs. (Click here to learn more about potting and transplanting epiphytic orchids.)

Terrestrial orchids grow in the ground like other perennials. Their soil needs vary from species to species. Some naturally grow in bogs and appreciate a sphagnum peat moss mix, while others grow in varying soil types. It is important to research the specific soil needs of the particular orchid you are growing. Black Gold Orchid Mix, which contains both bark and peat moss, is a great option for many potted terrestrial orchids. (Click here to learn more about growing hardy terrestrial orchids.)

Semi-epiphytic orchids or semi-terrestrial orchids spend part of their life cycles has epiphytes or ground-dwelling orchids. These also grow well in Black Gold Orchid Mix.

To learn more about the growing needs of orchids, visit The American Orchid Society‘s website. They offer lots of free educational materials and expert advice on orchid growing.

Happy gardening!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist


Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

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