Orchids need professional care in order to thrive. This also includes the right floor, for which you have a specific requirement. Ready-to-use orchid substrate is commercially available. So why make orchid soil yourself? There are several reasons that are beneficial for these plants. With the professional instructions for a DIY orchid substrate, it works quickly and easily.

Ready made vs. DIY orchid substrate

There are a few reasons why an orchid substrate should be made yourself. Orchid lovers benefit from the easy handling of a finished product. Simply buy, open and pour into the plant container – done! DIY orchid substrate requires a little effort. With regard to the plant requirements, the home-made orchid soil also has more to offer than the conventional one from the garden trade:

  • Ingredients are tailored to the respective requirements of different orchid species – finished soil usually always has the same ingredients for all species
  • Little to no peat mixable – often too much peat in ready-mixed soil, leading to less air passage and too much moisture retention, which can damage roots
  • Good preparation prevents pests in orchid soil – pests are often present in finished soil
  • Is cheaper
  • high-quality finished products are significantly more expensive

Orchid Substrate Properties

In principle, orchid soil must have various properties. In addition to nutrients, the main thing is the texture or quality. A self-made orchid substrate has to meet the following conditions depending on the orchid species:

  • Airiness to avoid mold and rot formation
  • Air permeability to dry the substrate
  • Water retention for consistent moisture levels
  • Water permeability to avoid waterlogging
  • Structural stability for better rooting
  • Unevenly shaped material components for ideal climate (do not choose too small)

Substrate for orchid species

How to make the ideal orchid substrate with which materials depends on which soil conditions the respective species are “used to” from their original origin. An orchid thrives best in a soil that mimics its native habitat. For example, tropical orchid species develop more easily in an airy substrate because this ensures faster drying and counteracts root rot. Orchid species from Europe and the Arctic prefer well-drained soil, while tropical specimens have exposed roots and are used to a fresh air flow. In addition, a distinction is made between different growth forms:

  • Epiphytic – Epiphytic orchids that grow on other plants, such as trees
  • Lithophytic – Orchids that grow on stones and rocks
  • Terrestrial – Terrestrial orchids that thrive in or on soil

Garden soil as a base

If conventional garden soil is used for making orchid soil yourself, care should be taken to ensure that it is of high quality. Looseness and permeability are the most important properties of high-quality garden soil in which terrestrial orchids should be planted/put on. This is enriched with humus, coniferous humus or compost. They ensure improved nutrient uptake for orchid species with high nutrient requirements, such as orchids from the Pleione genus. Coniferous humus has proven to be ideal because it has an acidic pH value and is therefore not contaminated by salts. In addition, with humus and compost there is a risk that pests are included, which can cause damage. Particular attention should be paid here if these are used.

rock for lithophytes

Although almost any rock is suitable as a substrate for orchids that grow on rocks and stones, the best choice is volcanic rock, from which pearlite, for example, is formed. This is often used for orchids that grow on other plants and ensure optimal water drainage. For rock and rock orchids, volcanic rock is an excellent source of nutrients.

Significant Materials

After years of experimentation, three materials in particular have proven to be the ideal do-it-yourself orchid soil, which have different properties:

pieces of tree bark

Pieces of bark have been used to keep orchids for many years. Experts came up with this because there are numerous species from the tropics and subtropics that grow on trees, such as the moth orchid. Accordingly, tree bark is ideal for simulating native conditions for epiphytic orchid growth forms. Other worth knowing information, benefits and details to consider:

  • Mostly use of pine bark with piece sizes up to more than 30 millimeters
  • The more delicate the roots, the smaller the grit to choose
  • Slow decomposition
  • Ideal nutrient supply given
  • High water permeability
  • organic material

Organic materials are ideal for orchid species that grow on plants. Since these only absorb as much water as they need, it is important that additives are chosen that absorb, distribute and retain moisture. Organic substances meet this point of criticism. The following materials in particular achieve good results:

  • Leaves (ideally from the beech)
  • Moss – Sphagnum moss ideal for specimens with fine roots and high water requirements, such as orchid genera Phragmipedium, Disa and Dracula
  • Wood and coconut fibers – offer high structural strength
  • cork
  • nutshell fibers
  • Charcoal – can be added to any orchid soil – disinfects, loosens soil and provides more vitality
  • White peat – tends to compact quickly and can suffocate roots – therefore never use more than 30 percent
Tip: When choosing organic materials for the orchid substrate, bear in mind that they all decompose over time and should therefore be mixed in again more often. An exception is peat.

Inorganic Materials

The inorganic materials primarily include styrofoam, perlite and foam. They make the orchid soil looser and more permeable. They are particularly suitable for European and arctic breeds that are planted or planted in the ground. They are to be used with caution as they also draw a lot of water from the soil that the plant may be lacking. Less caution is required with the following inorganic materials:

  • Expanded clay – slightly salinated, but serves as an ideal water reservoir
  • Lavalit – is best suited for orchids that grow on stones and rocks
  • Clay – low water storage capacity, provides more soil structure for terrestrial orchids
  • Granules such as Seramis – optimal permeability for orchid species Odontoglossum
  • Rockwool – perfect alternative to granules/seramis


Inorganic substances also include important minerals. Lime, for example, is a substance that, as a trace element, positively supports water absorption. Sand binds water when a plant has been overwatered. Zeolite can be used against ammonia. Minerals are used exclusively in orchid substrate for terrestrial orchids.

Tip: You can save real money if you use lime from households or the beach instead of buying lime from the trade. Egg shells, shells and stones are crushed, added and serve the same purpose.

“Recipes” for epiphytic species

Medium sized orchids

The following components are required:

  • Five parts pine bark (medium coarse)
  • Two parts sphagnum
  • One part perlite
  • A portion of nutshells
  • One or two pieces of wood
  • A handful of ground charcoal
  • Some lime if necessary


Clean nut shells well before use, remove salt and other dirt. This works best if they are submerged in water for a long time. Then proceed as follows:

  • Place the bark in the bottom of the planter
  • Add the other ingredients
  • Mix everything well
  • Place the plant in the orchid soil
  • Pour lightly


  • Improved structural stability
  • More permeability
  • Disinfectant
  • Binding of any toxins
  • Optimal soil looseness

Small orchids

The following components are required:

  • Six parts pine bark (very fine)
  • Three parts white peat
  • One part perlite
  • Half a handful of crumbled charcoal


  • Place the bark in the bottom of the planter
  • Add the other ingredients
  • Mix everything well
  • Place the plant in the orchid soil
  • Pour lightly


  • Establishing acidic pH for ideal growing conditions
  • Better air permeability
  • Roots can develop/spread more optimally
Tip: Bacteria and microorganisms like to settle on the bark. In order not to bring them close to plants, it is advisable to disinfect the bark before use. The best way to do this is to heat it up in the microwave for 30 minutes or in the oven for a few hours at around 60 degrees Celsius.

“Recipe” for terrestrial species

The following components are required:

  • Three parts ordinary garden soil
  • Two parts coniferous humus
    • Alternatively hummus or compost
  • Two parts expanded clay
  • Two parts clay
  • A portion of zeolite
  • Three handfuls of lime
  • Some charcoal


Mix all ingredients together and fill into the planting hole or planter. Then insert the orchid and water it lightly.


  • Healthy growth is supported
  • bacteria killed
  • Good water permeability
  • Optimized water storage
  • Waterlogging prevented
  • Roots take root more easily
  • Ammonia is bound

“Recipe” for lithophytic species

Here, only a larger volcanic stone is taken, the plant is placed with the roots on it and these are attached to the stone with strings so that the orchid gets support. The volcanic stone gives it all the nutrients it needs for lush and healthy growth.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *