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What's the best soil for my plants? - Moss, Bark Chips, Coconut Coir or Rock and LECA

November 10, 2018 3 min read 1 Comment

Moss, bark, coir or leca for orchids

Sphagum Moss

Sphagum Moss is a plant that grows on the surface of a wet soil or swamp. This plant usually thrives on wet climates such as New Zealand. Sphagum Moss is a fine substrate and it can hold water very well which makes it an excellent potting material for young orchids and tropicals. Some species of Sphagum Moss can hold up to 20 times it's dry weight in water making it very popular as a soil conditioner.
Pros: Retains water and air; readily available
Cons: Can retain too much water if packed tightly in the pot or after it starts to decompose
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Coconut Coir

Coconut Coir is a coconut fibre extracted from the husk of coconut. Coir is the fibrous material found between the coconut's coat and inner shell. This retains water very well that's why it is commonly used as potting medium. You can get coir either as bricks composed of little chunks, which comes apart when the brick is soaked and can be used by themselves or mixed with other potting mix. It can also be purchased as bricks that turns into fiber when wetted, somewhat like peat moss.
Pros: Retains water well; decomposes slowly

Cons: Does not drain as very well

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Orchid Bark

The most common Orchid Bark is Fir Bark. This usually comes in three grades (fine, medium, coarse). The finer the bark, the slower it dries but also lesser airflow. So for orchids that don't like to dry out, such as Paphiopedilum, use a fine grade. For orchids and tropicals that like a lot of airflow and want to dry quickly, such as Cattleyas, use a coarse mix.

Pros: Easy to obtain; inexpensive; available in many grades
Cons: Can be difficult to wet; decomposes relatively quickly

Lava Rock

Lava Rock - Lava rock is an excellent base for an inorganic rock mix. Many times if you get a Dendrobium you will notice that it has been potted in either black or red volcanic rock. Lava rock has good water retention with excellent aeration. Because it is inorganic, the mix will not break down and orchids that resent repotting can be left in their mix longer. Bonsai also benefit from airy lava rock

Pros: Never decomposes; drains well; excellent aeration

Cons: Heavy


LECA stands for Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggragate.

Leca look like little clay balls. They are an inert substrate that doesn't break down or contain any nutrients for plants. Leca is often used with a self watering container. The false bottom holds a reservoir of water that through capillary action gets sucked up by the Leca while keeping the plants roots from sitting in water. The Leca keeps water available to the plant roots when they want it and prevents root rot.

Another advantage of Leca is that it makes for an inhospitable place for pests to live. Leca gives off no nutrients, doesn't decompose and doesn't allow root rot. Lots of common plant pests require many of those things to survive.

Pros: Never decomposes; drains well; excellent aeration, colorful options

Cons: Heavy, you must add all nutrients yourself.

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1 Response

Purnima Barua
Purnima Barua

October 01, 2021

Hi! I love your orchid bark, I was curious to know if I can purchase small medium and large bags. I don’t see it in Amazon or here anymore 😕🙁

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