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Good orchid soil simulates the natural conditions under which Phalaenopsis, Dendrobium and other types of orchids thrive. This guide explains in detail which components make up the ideal substrate. Which orchid soil products come out on top in the test will no longer remain hidden from you here. A practical guide explains how to make the best soil for your orchids yourself.

Orchid soil allows air and light to reach the roots

Table of Contents

Show all
  1. the essentials in brief
  2. Buy the best orchid soil
  3. Make orchid soil yourself
  4. Orchid soil molds
  5. Prevent moldy orchid soil
  6. frequently asked Questions
  7. the essentials in brief

    • Best orchid soil is an airy mixture with pieces of bark as the main component as well as organic and inorganic components.
    • Tropical orchids grow as epiphytic plants and require special orchid soil, beyond conventional potting soil.
    • Orchid lovers with experience make orchid soil themselves. Beginners buy test winners in premium quality.

    Buy orchid soil - which is the best?

    Beginners in orchid care are amazed at the unusual substrate. Phalaenopsis and other orchids for the window sill reside in coarse pieces of bark and not in conventional potting soil. Indeed, tropical and subtropical orchids grow as epiphytes high up in the canopies of mighty rainforest trees, where they cling to the branches with their roots. The following table names premium products for orchid soil with information on important properties and the standard price level:

    Surname 3 top properties test rating price
    GREEN24 + fresh bottling test winner from EUR 9.95/10 l
    + Grit of your choice
    + peat free
    waterbirds + steamed pine bark Top recommendation from EUR 16.95/5 l
    + peat free
    + Coconut fibers, expanded clay
    Compo Sana + pine bark Price/performance winner from EUR 5.29/5 l
    + pre-fertilized for 8 weeks
    + certified manufacturer
    Floragard + Pine bark, coconut chips Top tip for organic gardeners from EUR 5.99/5 l
    + pre-fertilized with guano
    + peat free
    Kolle's best + Pine bark, coconut chips Gardener quality from EUR 5.49/5 l
    + with sphagnum
    + structurally stable

    The list of the best orchid soil products is rounded off by an insider tip for gardeners with environmental awareness. Under the product name GREEN-PIK LAT you can buy an orchid soil that is pre-fertilized with organic vermicompost and of course does not use white peat. A special kind of earthworm produces an organic fertilizer for orchids, rich in valuable enzymes, healthy vitamins and important trace elements. If you want to cultivate your orchids in harmony with nature, you cannot avoid this premium substrate. The purchase price is an acceptable EUR 8.49 for 4 l.


    Orchid soil for other plants

    Other plants with roots that like it airy also benefit from orchid soil

    Airy orchid soil is perfect for all epiphytic plants. Coarse pieces of bark not only offer orchid roots a reliable hold. The illustrious group of exotic epiphytes that thrive in orchid substrate include bromeliads (Bromeliaceae), dragon trees (Dracaena), window leaf (Monstera), tree friend (Philodendron) and tropical ferns of all kinds.

    Make orchid soil yourself - instructions for beginners


    On the way to becoming an ambitious orchid whisperer, room gardeners accumulate a wealth of experience. The best orchid soil from the store shelf no longer meets the high expectations with increasing know-how. Experienced orchid gardeners develop an individual substrate recipe that is optimized and refined over time. The following table lists important components for a substrate in top form:

    main ingredient organic addition inorganic addition
    pine bark coconut fibers lava granules
    oak bark wood fibers expanded clay
    Douglas fir bark Sphagnum moss perlite
    pine bark cork rockwool

    For good reason, white peat and black peat are not included in the list of the basic components of orchid soil. Indoor gardeners who are close to nature have banned all peat from the care program for orchids and other potted flowers. In order for the tropical rainforest beauties to present themselves magnificently on the windowsill, no native moorland has to be plundered. Fast-growing raw materials fulfill their task as organic components just as well as coconut fibers or sphagnum moss. Are you puzzled about the optimal mixture of the mentioned ingredients? Then read on here, because the following are two recipe suggestions for medium-sized and small orchids.

    Orchid soil can also be mixed at home

    Recipe for medium sized orchids

    You will look in vain for the one true panacea for the best orchid soil. Nevertheless, over the course of many decades of experience, the following recipe has proven to be suitable for medium-sized orchids such as Phalaenopsis and Dendrobium:

    • 5 parts pine bark medium coarse
    • 2 parts coconut earth or sphagnum
    • 1 part lava granules
    • 1 part perlite
    • 1 part nut shells
    • 1 piece of charcoal

    A slight modification is enough to adapt this recipe to stately orchid species, such as legendary Cymbidium. For this purpose, use pine bark with an extra large grain size of 30 to 50 mm. Ideally, swap lava granules (€13.99) for lava mulch (€13.99) with a grain size of 16 to 32 mm. In this composition, orchid soil can also be considered for Vanda and other orchids that actually prefer to grow without soil.

    Recipe for mini orchids

    Miniature orchids thrive on a delicate network of aerial roots. The size of the pieces of bark to which the root strands cling should be coordinated with this. Furthermore, the following recipe stood out in the test as a recommended substrate for terrestrial orchids, such as lady's slipper.

    • 6 parts pine bark fine (4-8 mm) to normal (7-15 mm)
    • 2 parts coconut fiber or sphagnum
    • 1 part lava granules

    Coconut fibers are gaining ground as an indispensable additive for pine bark in orchid soil. One of the many advantages is that coconut fibers provide extra structural stability because the pieces of bark decompose more slowly to form humus.

    Steam DIY orchid soil

    Competent manufacturers subject orchid soil to a pre-treatment in order to destroy pathogens and pests. If you make the substrate for your orchids yourself, the following step is part of the manufacturing process. For this purpose, the oven is converted into a disinfection device. Under the influence of heat and steam, the substrate is sanitized without the use of chemical agents. How to properly steam orchid soil:

    1. Fill orchid soil into a fireproof bowl
    2. Spray substrate with water (just moisten, do not put under water)
    3. Put the lid on loosely to allow steam to escape
    4. Preheat the oven to 80 to 100 degrees top/bottom heat
    5. Place the bowl on a baking sheet and slide it into the middle rack
    6. Stick a wooden spoon in the oven door
    7. Steam the substrate for 30 minutes and let it cool down with the oven door open

    After a thermal treatment, you can be sure that there are no longer any pathogens in the substrate that could throw your valuable orchids off course. Alternatively, put DIY orchid soil in the microwave. In a suitable vessel, it takes about 10 minutes at 800 watts for viruses, bacteria, fungal spores and germs to be killed.

    Orchid soil becomes moldy - what to do?

    If the orchid soil becomes mouldy, it should be completely removed and the orchid repotted

    The best orchid soil is not immune to mould. Various causes cause the damage. Both purchased and home-made substrates are equally affected. If there is a soft, fluffy covering on the surface, the entire volume of the substrate has long since been infected with mold spores. Immediate repotting in fresh bark substrate solves the problem. The right material and tools as well as competent preparation simplify the procedure. The following instructions explain how to properly repot a moldy orchid:

    material and tool requirements

    • bucket or deep bowl
    • liquid fertilizer for orchids
    • stagnant tap water or filtered rainwater
    • new, transparent culture pot
    • orchid soil
    • inorganic drainage material, lava granules, expanded clay,(19.73€) potsherds
    • freshly sharpened, disinfected bypass scissors

    Instead of investing in a new culture pot, you can clean and disinfect the current pot. Sagrotan, vinegar water, brush and sponge are required to remove all mold spores.

    Preparation makes roots supple

    Stubborn aerial roots are the biggest problem when repotting moldy orchids. The risk of damage to the root strands is great. You can avoid this risk by prescribing a water bath for your orchid in advance. Pliable roots are easier to manage and easier to untangle. That is how it goes:

    1. Take the culture pot out of the cachepot
    2. fill a bucket with room temperature water
    3. ideally add a good dash of liquid orchid fertilizer
    4. Place the orchid and the culture pot in the water until no more air bubbles rise

    Step-by-step instructions

    Dead roots should be removed when repotting

    When the orchid leaves the water bath, immediately tackle the repotting work. How to proceed correctly step by step:

    1. hold the root collar with one hand and grasp the culture pot with the other hand
    2. Slowly pull the orchid out of the pot (knead the pot if you feel resistance)
    3. Shake off moldy substrate, rinse off the last residue
    4. Put the substrate-free root ball on the table and take a look
    5. cut off moldy, rotten, dead roots
    6. Fill the new or cleaned culture pot with drainage material as thick as a finger
    7. put a handful of orchid soil over the drainage
    8. Place the orchid in the pot with a twisting motion

    Stabilize the orchid with one hand while adding more substrate around the root ball with the other hand. To ensure that coarse and fine components are distributed evenly, occasionally knock the culture pot onto the tabletop. It is important to note that you plant the orchid just as deep as before. The preparatory immersion bath has covered the current water requirements of the plant. Therefore, the stressed orchid can regenerate in peace and quiet at the partially shaded window seat.

    Preventing mold on orchid soil - this is how it works

    Orchid soil is spared from mold with targeted prevention. The main cause of the dilemma is too much moisture, triggered by excessive watering and high humidity. If mold appears for the first time, immediate repotting will only fix the problem temporarily. These precautions will help to prevent penetrating mold spores from spreading again on orchid soil:

    • Only water or immerse orchids when the substrate is noticeably dry
    • Spray leaves, aerial roots and bulbs more frequently
    • water sparingly and in sips in winter
    • repot every one to two years in fresh, steamed orchid soil

    Constant humidity of 40 to 50 percent makes life difficult for mold spores. Most types of orchids for the windowsill can live very well with this value. If you often struggle with moldy orchid substrate, it is worth investing in a hygrometer to regulate the humidity in good time.


    White animals in orchid soil put the concerned hobby gardener on the alert. Most of them are springtails, which only catch the eye in large numbers with a body length of 0.1 mm or more. The whitish tiny insects feed on decaying plant material and are actually considered beneficial insects. To prevent mass reproduction, immerse the culture pot in room-warm water for a few minutes and skim off the floating springtails.

    frequently asked Questions

    Which orchid soil is the best?

    The premium product from GREEN24 has emerged as the test winner for the best orchid soil. The manufacturer attaches great importance to fresh bottling for each order, uses high-quality products and does not add peat. It is advantageous to choose from three different grits: fine, medium and coarse.

    Can you make orchid soil yourself?

    Almost all orchid gardeners with experience produce orchid soil themselves. It is a mixture of bark pieces (usually pine bark) as the main ingredient, supplemented with organic and inorganic additives. For the popular medium-sized Phalaenopsis orchid, a composition of 50-60 percent medium-coarse pine bark, 20 percent coconut fibers, 10 percent lava granules, 10 percent sphagnum moss and 10 percent charcoal has proven itself in practice.

    Does it have to be expensive pine bark if I want to make orchid soil myself?

    No, orchids do not insist on pine bark in the substrate. Pieces of bark from tree species such as oak, ash, pine or Douglas fir are conceivable. More important than the tree species is an adequate grain size of the pieces of bark, tailored to the orchid in question. Medium-sized Phalaenopsis prefer a grain size of 7 to 35 mm. Trendy mini orchids can hold onto pieces of bark with a size of 2 to 4 mm with their roots. Majestic orchids want coarse orchid soil with a grain size of 35 to 50 mm for their thick roots.

    When is the best time to repot a Phalaenopsis in fresh orchid soil?

    If the Phalaenopsis takes a break from flowering, the ideal time window for repotting opens up. In our regions, this is usually a spring event every 2 to 3 years. You can use various indicators to tell whether your orchid wants to move to fresh substrate and a larger culture pot. When aerial roots grow over the edge of the pot or peek out of the bottom opening, it's high time. You should also repot the butterfly orchid when the pieces of bark in the substrate are noticeably decomposing into granular humus.

    Can you plant orchids in normal potting soil?

    Planting orchids in conventional potting soil reliably brings down the exotic flowers. Most orchid species thrive as epiphytes with aerial roots. In the treetops of the rainforest, the plants are enthroned on branches, holding on with some roots and catching the rain with other roots. Finely crumbly potting soil leaves orchid roots no air to breathe, so that the exotic beauties die within a short time.


    A white coating on orchid soil does not necessarily have to be mould. Hard, calcareous irrigation water leaves comparable residues, which of course do not require time-consuming repotting. A simple rapid mold test brings light into the darkness. Scratch the suspect plaque with a toothpick or matchstick. Hard, crumbly texture indicates limescale deposits. Fluffy-soft consistency unmasks mold. Remove the layer of soil with encrusted lime and refill with fresh orchid soil. From now on, water your orchid with soft, low-lime water.

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