Orchid Potting Medium
English growers formerly used with success a native fibrous peat, but the supply of this material is near exhaustion. Since the war many fine British and Continental orchid collections have suffered from the lack of suitable potting media.
Potting in tropical localities, where orchids can be brought in from the jungles and hung in the garden, presents no difficulties. Cocoanut half-shells with broken shells for a medium are frequently used. Manuring is usually an essential part of such outdoor culture.
While the problem of the American grower is not so easily solved as that of the orchid enthusiast in the tropics, he is more fortunate than European orchidists.
The special needs of orchids are met very satisfactorily by the use of Osmunda fiber—the root of the cinnamon fern, either Osmunda cinnamonea or Osmunda Claytonia.
In addition to providing the required drainage and pH, it is clean, easily handled, sufficient in itself as a medium for most orchids, and found in abundant quantities in New Jersey, Indiana, and the swamps of Florida.
The only rival of Osmunda as a general orchid-potting medium is Polypodium, root of the fern Polypodium vulgare.
It is found over much of the world, with the Pacific Northwest of the United States as a favored locale. In certain respects Polypodium is better than Osmunda.
It decomposes as rapidly and has a finer texture, particularly suitable for tiny seedlings, backbulbs, and sick plants. A mixture of chopped, live sphagnum moss and finely chopped Polypodium is a recommended formula for plants in poor condition.
The drawbacks of Polypodium, however, still make Osmunda the choice of most growers: it is more difficult to water plants in Polypodium; if not saturated it dries out more quickly; and when saturated it does not drain so well. It is difficult to change plants from Polypodium to other media without setbacks.
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