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Can I Use Cactus Soil for Orchids? (And Orchid Potting Mix Recipe)

orchid soil mix recipe

Orchids are a low-maintenance type of houseplant despite their reputation of being difficult to grow.

They will thrive under your care as long as you give the right moisture, light, and soil mix recommendation.

You might be wondering whether cactus soil can be a substitute for orchid soil or not.

Sadly, you can’t use cactus soil as an alternative for orchids’ potting mix. The ingredients used for these two types of mixtures are different.

Cactus soil mixture uses potting soil and coarse sand. Although some of its ingredients appear on orchid’s potting mix, orchid plants need more materials that promote aeration.

This article will present all the essential mixing methods and the material used to create the perfect potting mix.

What are the Orchids Potting Mix Requirement? 

Most orchids are either lithophytic (grow on rocks) or epiphytic (grow on the trees’ side). However, those found from temperate regions of the world grow in the soil.

That’s why it is essential to know the orchids’ characteristics before buying and creating a DIY potting mix. 

The majority of orchids don’t need real soil to grow. Mixtures added to create a potting mix are the blend of tree bark pieces, moss, coconut peat, and charcoal.

You can make a different mixture, depending on the availability of these materials. 

Before you create a DIY mixture, here are the potting mix requirement according to the orchid’s type: 

Lithophyte and Epiphyte Orchid Plants Potting Mix Requirement

Out of all orchid species, 73% of them are lithophytic and epiphytic. They have the same care tips and requirements. 

When you create a DIY planting medium, the ingredients depend on their availability to your location.

Being a beginner in this field, having the right mixes will result in magnificent and healthy orchid plants. 

Since lithophyte and epiphyte orchid plants originally grew on rocks and trees, the potting mixture should differ from other plants’ usual soil mix. (Source: University of Connecticut)

The common materials are: 

  • Horticultural Charcoal
  • Perlite 
  • Bark 

However, if they are not available in your country, you can choose from these ingredients instead:

  • Perlite 
  • Sphagnum Moss
  • Tree Fern
  • Sphagnum Peat
  • Diatomite; or 
  • Coconut Husk Chips
  • Peat Moss 

Potting Mix Ratio According to Orchid’s Classification

Orchids under the lithophytic and epiphytic types have various potting mix requirements. Moreover, the care tips could also differ from one another.

The mixtures should apply to a specific plant instead of using it to all of your orchids. 

Winter Blooming Phalaenopsis Media Ratios  

When it comes to Phalaenopsis, the goal is to balance moisture while the overall mixture is breathable to provide enough air to the plant’s root system.

Apart from that, you should allow the potting mix to dry a little before watering again. This could be only possible if you get the right ratio. 

  • 10% Charcoal 
  • 10% Pumice/Perlite
  • 15% Sphagnum
  • 65% Vine 

DIY Potting Mix Procedure: 

  • Get a container, and prepare all the mixtures. 
  • Use a cup or an empty can for the measurement. 
  • Put the one part of charcoal, one part of pumice/perlite, 11/2 part of sphagnum, and 6 1/2 parts of the vine. 
  • Just mix them all, and that’s it!  

Summer Blooming Phalaenopsis Media Ratios 

Since summer-blooming Phalaenopsis grows best in summer or hot areas, the media ratio varies from other orchid plants.

It should be evenly moist. Only water it when you see that the top material is already dry. However, take note that you should not let the media go drought-like. 

  • ½ cup Peat Moss
  • 10% Charcoal 
  • 15% Pumice/Perlite 
  • 25% Sphagnum 
  • 50% Pine Bark

This ratio is enough to get enough moisture while keeping it from too much dryness.

Knowing the difference between this winter-blooming and summer-blooming Phalaenopsis can help you learn more about their care tips. 

DIY Potting Mix Procedure: 

  • Get a container, and prepare all the mixtures. 
  • Use a measuring cup.
  • Fill in 5 parts of pine bark, 2 ½ parts of sphagnum, 1 ½ part of pumice/perlite, 1-part charcoal, and ½ cup peat moss. 
  • Mix them using a hand trowel. Then, the mixture is ready to use!  

Paphiopedilum Orchid Media Ratios 

Paphiopedilum grows best when the potting mixture can hold moisture while keeping the plant’s root well-ventilated and dry. 

  • ½ cup Peat Moss
  • 20% Pumice/Perlite 
  • 10% Charcoal 
  • 10% Sphagnum 
  • 60% Pine Bark 

You can try to experiment with various potting mixtures. But ensure that when you put them all together, they can hold enough moisture to suffice the plant’s needs. 

DIY Potting Mix Procedure: 

  • Get a container, and prepare all the mixtures. 
  • Use a measuring cup.
  • Put six parts of pine bark, 1-part sphagnum, 1-part charcoal, two parts pumice/perlite, ½ cup peat moss
  • Combine all the ingredients, and you’re all set! 

Phragmipedium Orchid Media Ratios 

This type of orchid wants to sit on wet mixtures but with airy and well-ventilated materials. Phragmipedium Besseae and its hybrids grow best when you keep the pot’s base sitting in 1” water.

That’s why it is crucial to be mindful when it comes to parts or ratios of the potting mixture. 

  • Five parts fir bark 
  • Two parts Canadian peat 
  • ½ inch Stalite 
  • One-part charcoal

Putting these materials together allows the plant’s roots to breathe and keeps it from getting water-logged. 

DIY Potting Mix Procedure: 

  • Get a container, and prepare all the mixtures.
  • Use a measuring cup.
  • Combine the ingredients according to the mentioned ratio. Then, you can use it when repotting your hybrid orchids. 

Jewel Phals Orchid Media Ratios 

You should not let Jewels and Summer Phalaenopsis’s roots dry completely. But at the same time, the mixture should be moist enough.

You only need three types of ingredients to create a potting mix for these types of orchids. 

  • 10% Charcoal 
  • 40% Pumice/Perlite 
  • 50% Peat Moss 

DIY Potting Mix Procedure: 

  • Get a container, and prepare all the mixtures.
  • Use a measuring cup.
  • Scoop five parts of peat moss, four parts of pumice/perlite, and one part of charcoal. 
  • Mix all the material, then, that’s it! You have your DIY potting mix. 

Ground Orchids (Spathoglottis plicata) Potting Mixture 

Ground orchids have unique needs. When it comes to the soil tolerances requirements, they should have a free-soil drainage, neutral soil reaction, light or medium soil texture, and shallow special soil tolerances. 

  • 50% potting soil
  • 20% vermicompost 
  • 10% charcoal 
  • 20% cocopeat 

DIY Potting Mix Procedure: 

  • Get a container, and prepare all the mixtures.
  • Use a measuring cup.
  • Scoop five parts of garden soil, two parts of vermicompost, one part of charcoal, and two parts of cocopeat. 
  • Mix them very carefully until they are all combined. Now, you can use it when repotting your ground orchids. 

Best Orchid Potting Mix 

With your hectic schedule, it could be challenging to create a DIY potting mix. If you don’t want to go through the hassle of combining all the materials on your own, you can purchase them instead. 

Whether you make your potting mix or buy them at the store, the decision is up to you.

But instead of purchasing individual materials for the mixture, a ready-made is more practical and time-efficient. 

Here are some of the products you might want to try for your orchid plants: 

The ingredients used in this potting mix are coconut chips, pine bark, sponge rock, and charcoal. Putting all these materials together, allows the root system to get enough air circulation.

It also promotes good drainage while allowing the mixture to retain the right amount of moisture. 

Suppose you are looking for a mixture that suits best your epiphyte orchids—like Dendrobium, Epidendrum, Cattleya, and Phalaenopsis—buying this product might help your plant’s growth.

It is fast draining to avoid sogginess by letting the mixture get dry in between watering. 

Moreover, it comes with fertilizer to suffice all the essential nutrients your orchids need while keeping them grow at their own pace of time. 

This orchid mix is for Phalaenopsis with coarse perlite, hardwood charcoal, fir bark, and Canadian chunk peat. You don’t need to add fertilizer to this potting mix since it already has slow-releasing plant food in it.

The orchid mix’s fertilizer is slow-release plant food to provide the plant’s needs in a timely manner. The overall materials also promote root ventilation, aeration, and perfect drainage.

With its characteristics, it will prevent the plant’s root from rotting. At the same time, it allows the orchid to grow to its full potential. Use this potting mix every 12-18 months to ensure the growth of your plants.

When to Repot Orchids and Change Soil 

If the plant gets too big or the media burst from the pot, it only means you need to place it in a bigger one. You need to be mindful of the required mixtures and the type of container or material you can use as a pot. 

Moreover, if you just got your orchids from an online seller or physical garden, you need to transfer them to a new pot right away. As you can see, most of the delivered plants have moss covering the roots to preserve them.

Moss retains too much moisture, and most orchids hate too much sogginess. Review your orchids’ classification and know the perfect soil mix for them.

Orchid can be prone to fungal diseases when you don’t change the soil mixture from time to time. Its potting mixture retains more water resulting in root rotting and diseases.

The best materials for orchid pots are clay, wire, redwood, or plastic. I prefer terracotta pots since clay allows aeration for the plant’s better growth.

How to Re-pot and Change the Orchids’ Potting Mixture 

Preparation is the key to ensure your plants’ safety when repotting. Be careful not to hurt the roots to keep the orchids healthy and striving. 

What You Need: 

  • New pot
  • Potting mix (the same as the previous potting mix you’ve used) 
  • Container or bucket 
  • Scissors 
  • Boiling water 

Step-by-Step Repotting Procedures

  1. Prepare all the materials needed. 

Place all the materials altogether before repotting. Cleaning the place where you will re-pot will make things easier for you. 

Sterilize the potting mix you are going to use to ensure it is disease-free. Put the mixture into your container and pour in the boiling water.

Allow the water to cool down, then drain the water afterward. Nonetheless, you can skip this step if the one you bought is a ready-made soil mix. 

  1. Remove the orchid from the old pot carefully. 

Loosen the plant from the pot little-by-little. If the roots are too long and getting entangled, use the scissors to cut all the excess

  1. Clean the orchid’s roots. 

You need to remove all the dead roots or leaves from the plant before repotting. 

  1. Repot the plant. 

Place the pot at the center. Add the potting mix little by little. Now, put the orchid in the middle of the pot. By then, you can add more mixture until it reaches the top of it. 

  1. Reposition the plant, if needed. 

Gently reposition the plant to let it stand upright. After doing all these procedures, all you have to do is to follow all the care tips. 

Key Takeaways

  • Cactus soil has different material requirements than the orchids’ potting mixture. 
  • There are three types of orchids: lithophyte, epiphyte, and spathoglottis plicata. Lithophyte and epiphyte have the same soil requirement, but spathoglottis plicata or ground orchids have unique soil requirements and care tips. 
  • Using materials in a potting mix that drains fast while keeping enough moisture will help your plants grow and bloom beautifully.
  • Each orchid’s species has its potting mix requirements. You have to keep a note of this to ensure that you buy or make the right material combinations. 
  • Ready-made orchid potting mix products are perfect for different types of orchids. You can choose from various product types and see which one best works for your plant. 
  • Repot your plants whenever the plant gets bigger and the roots are coming out from the pot. It is also essential to re-pot newly bought orchids after removing the excess potting mix from the root and drying it. 
  • Cut and remove the excess and rotten roots from your orchids when repotting to restore their good health. Having a well-drained pot and potting mix together will keep your plants healthy and striving.