We all know just how difficult to grow orchids can be.
If you are like me then you have probably tried a range of ways to grow and enjoy their beautiful blooms.
Recently I was considering whether there was an alternative to sphagnum moss, and began to wonder, can forest moss be used for orchids?
So I thought I’d research it and write an article about it!
Let’s dive in.
Can Forest Moss Be Used for Orchids?
Forest Moss is great for top-dressing potted orchids, mounted orchids and terrariums, as it retains moisture without damaging the roots of the plant. However, it should not be used for wrapping around the stems of potted orchids as it would retain so much moisture it would put them at risk of root rot.
What is Forest Moss?
Really there are two types of forest moss.
There is that collected independently by flower enthusiasts and gardeners in the forest, usually along with rhizoids, and used live.
Then there is forest moss you can buy from nurseries, plant shops and often pet stores – forest moss is commonly used as a bedding substitute in terrariums for reptiles and small animals.
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The type of forest moss collected is a natural and organic compound, whereas that you buy in shop or online will generally be natural and chemical free but usually contains a mineral dissolved in water and used during processing to preserve it before it is dried, compacted and shipped.
So let’s look at whether forest moss can be used for orchids.
The Advantages of Forest Moss for Orchids
It is Excellent for Retaining Moisture
Forest moss is fantastic at retaining moisture when stacked on top of a substrate.
It works particularly well for mounted orchids, keeping the moisture around the roots for a long period without damaging them.
Used as top dressing it acts almost as a lid, keeping it moist underneath and making sure everything stays in place without compacting the stems.
It is Airy and Easy to Water
A number of varieties of moss have the same traits.
They often remain pretty much dry at the top, with water accumulating in the middle and particularly at the bottom, causing it to compact.
Forest moss doesn’t tend to follow this pattern.
It remains airy, something which is vital for orchids, and easy to water, whether you decide to soak it in water or water it from the top. It has a consistent water retention rate and dries very easily.
It Looks Good
It goes without saying that forest moss has a very natural look, which works perfectly around plant bases and above soil.
There is no doubt (well in my opinion), that it looks much nicer than dried brown moss, which also tends to flatten over time.
Having green, fluffy moss mixed in with your orchids literally is like bringing a tiny piece of forest into your home or garden!
It is Cheap!
If you have a forest on your doorstep anyway!
Harvesting forest moss is free (although please check any rules before you start plundering your local park or forest!) so it can save you a lot of money, especially if you have a lot of orchids.
It Lasts Longer
If you use forest moss to mount your orchids it will continue to grow and stay around the roots.
This is in contrast to dried moss which will decompose giving you extra work and your orchids extra stress.
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The Disadvantages of Forest Moss for Orchids
It Isn’t Good for Potted Orchids
Whilst forest moss is great when used as a top dressing, and for retaining moisture around the roots of mounted orchids, it is not so good when it comes to the roots of potted orchids.
We have touched on how it retains moisture, but too much moisture around the roots and stems of a potted orchid increases the risk of root rot and stem rot.
Orchids like to have their roots dried between watering, so potted orchids want a soil that is moist, but not water bogged, and well ventilated.
As such forest moss is not suitable for wrapping around the stem or roots of a potted orchid.
It Can Introduce Pests
Even if you think you have thoroughly cleaned your forest moss before using it, there could still be some eggs or larvae invisible to the human eye lurking inside.
As it retains moisture so well this does make it the perfect habitat for lots of insects such as ants, worms and spiders.
It Will Die Without Humidity
Forest Moss is very sensitive and likes an environment where it is constantly wet.
This makes it a difficult balancing act as the orchids require sunlight that would dry off the moss and effectively cause it to die.
Forest moss also dries out quickly when mixed with bark.
Forest moss is also used to rainwater, so if it is watered with tap water that contains chlorine it can also start to decompose.
How to Use Forest Moss With Orchids
So if you collect forest moss and decide to use it with your orchids you need to do some thorough preparation to make sure you are not bringing any pests to your unsuspecting orchid.
- First of all thorough rinse the moss in filtered water to remove any debris and dirt
- Sterilize the moss to kill any pests. Do this by rinsing it in hydrogen peroxide overnight.
- The next morning give it a quick rinse with vinegar and then some filtered water.
- Place it on top of the soil around the pot/terrarium and orchid as needed.
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Forest moss has a couple of big advantages, namely it is so good at retaining moisture and ensuring air flow, whilst looking natural.
It works really well for top-dressing potted orchids, mounted orchids and terrariums retaining the moisture without damaging the roots of the plant.
But due to its aforementioned ability to retain moisture, it shouldn’t be used for wrapping around the stem or roots of a potted orchid as it can increase the likelihood of root rot.