Mounting orchids in the tropics

A growing argument for mounting orchids.

Its hard to fathom how much water exists in a tropical environment until you run a de-humidifier. You can empty a 10 litre chamber several times a day; and, humidity is important for tropical orchids.

During the monsoon the rain is relentless and under culture; in the open; in greenhouses; and in pots; orchids can stay too wet. This encourages bacterial and fungal growth and can lead to orchid death.

Tropical orchid growers have told me that they don’t use bark in the tropics but rather Quincan or gravel. Bark will breakdown into humus and retain moisture they say.

These growers are typically growing potted orchids in greenhouses that are often irrigated but also exposed to the high rainfall. I can see the logic for their use of this material. Let me say that some are successful and awarded growers.

But these materials are heavy. if you have ever tried to pick up a large Cattleya in a pot filled with gravel, you will know.

Also for pot culture an organic medium like bark is best, especially, from the viewpoint of nutrient cycling.

Also in an attempt to persuade a younger generation to take up orchid growing, firstly and importantly we must make sure they are successful and secondly we have to get away from the old school greenhouse. Why? space is premium and no one builds anything anymore. These growers will most likely be growing indoors.

The leads to my first argument for mounting orchids. We are growing vertically which takes up less space. Secondly we are also taking out the variable of which potting medium.

We should also try and encourage growing only orchids relevant to a locale. This is not always the case. We see a plant, we like it and we try to grow it. That’s the fun and challenge of gardening.

Typically mounted orchids will be grown on slabs of wood which has a life span. They can also be grown on volcano rock. Where do you get this stuff? You can use these materials if you have no other option but…..

The perfect solution are clay mounts. Mainly terracotta but any clay, vitrified or not. Roots are strong and will adhere to glazed surfaces too. Initially you may have to stick them on, but in time they will stick as shown in the photos.

Mounted orchids need lots of water and this is probably the only negative in this culture but we are after all culturing plants and watering is essential.

The positive is that it is very very hard to over-water a mounted orchid, which for beginners is the typical reason for failure. You can leave them outside in heavy rains and they will thrive. They also look beautiful and will enhance any decor inside or out.

If you haven’t considered mounting next time one of your epiphytic tropical orchid needs repotting; give it a go.

For more information on growing orchids see my four part series here

Great information on all types of orchid growing is also found at

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