phrag mediums

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Awardless studette
Aug 4, 2007
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Northeast Illinois
I bought quite a few phrags recently and couldn't help but notice that each and every grower seemed to have their own special mix. Enough to make a person like me go bonkers. Sooner or later I'm going to have to repot all of my plants.

Is there any advice on sites that any one can steer me to on how to go about trying to determine what will be the best medium for my plants based on which ones I purchased as well as growing in low humidity? I don't mind buying special materials at all.

I'd like to try to look this information up on my own. So many sites out there though. Maybe a referral to two or three sites that have decent information that I could read to try to help myself and then I can post the plants along with what medium I think I should be repotting them in and people can correct me?

I learn best by doing.

I could use a good source for pellets.
First off, I have found that phrags tolerate all kinds and conditions of media. I think they will grow in anything that gives them water. Thriving is a different story. My best luck has been with bark mixes...basically 1/3 bark, 1/3 spongerock or lava rock or prime agra or whatever, 1/3 NZ sphagnum and charcoal. Phrags will thrive (for me, at least) in this mix long after it turns to mush...up to 4 years (but I'd recommend repotting sooner than that...).
They'll do OK in coconut husk, but just don't seem to take off in it. My big disappointment has been semi-hydro. I've already posted on my poor experiences...and they have not improved over time. Take care, Eric
I could use a good source for pellets.
Are you talking about leca? If you're just wanting aeration for your media you could use hydroton to add to your organic mixes. You should be able to find a local hydroponic store if you look in your yellow pages.

I agree with Eric that they like all kinds of mixes. Because they aren't fussy you should repot them all in the same mix so you won't go crazy with different watering needs. Make sense?

You're likely to get many different answers to what medium people prefer. You're going to have to experiment somewhat to see what works best for you. What works great for me, may not for you.
Because they aren't fussy you should repot them all in the same mix so you won't go crazy with different watering needs. Make sense?
Music to my ears however I would question using the same mix for the caudatum and the willisii only because they evidently like their medium on the dryer side.

Hydroton pellets are just expanded clay, right? I don't think that's what goldenrose was using but I could be wrong. I'm not familiar with a leca pellet. Could it possibly be called something else? No hydroponics store anywhere locally for me. I'll have to order that. Any good cheap online sources for that? I suspect it is all pretty much the same.

I do happen to have a heck of a lot of Black Gold brand gray pumice around here. That I use frequently in carnivorous plant mediums. That could probably be easily substituted for Hydroton pellets in a pinch.

I like the idea of 1/3 bark, 1/3 clay pellets (which ones they are would be beyond me but I saw the kind I'd like to get my hands on over at goldenrose's house), 1/3 NZ LFS, with a dash of charcoal. That will work just fine for me. The KISS principal has served me well in the past with plants that aren't that picky.

Do phrags as a rule like to be underpotted over overpotted? Some ding dong told me that all orchids liked to be underpotted with roots crawling out of the sides of the pots and I'm beginning to think that is definitely wrong for most orchids.
My phrags are in all kinds of different media, and species wise they range from epiphytic long petals to bog species. The mix doesn't really seem to matter as much as the extent to which they stay wet. I keep things like pearcei in pans of water so their feet are always wet, and I'll keep wallisii in the same mix, but in an aircone pot with only a small tray to hold up a little water after each watering.

One of my best wallisii was in a plastic net basket (really bad idea) in nothing but sphagnum moss sitting in a 1/2 inch of water all the time. Although it grew great and turned the whole pot into a mass of roots, I ended up killing it trying to repot it after 3 years.

The hydroton balls are looking good, and getting live moss started on them really helps. That may ultimately end up as my favorite over the years.
I have hydroton & there was a hydro store 15 minutes from the orchid show but it closed at 5 as well. A week from Sat. I have an agility trial up that way & will stop in & pick some up.
In general, I make my own mix based on the plants' need & my watering. I start with Oak Hill Garden's bark mix, which has bark, sphagnum, perlite & charcoal. I usually add more perlite, charcoal & hydroton as I have a tendency to overwater so lightening the mix, increasing the drainage seems to work for me. As you saw some of the phrags are in trays sitting in water(the lower light/shade bog types & others are not(the higher light/drier ones).
I have some plants(bulbos, a catt & the plants I got from you) in straight hydroton & they seem to be doing just fine. When I get tired of repotting, I'll probably try more in the hydroton.
Yeah, I've found that phrags will grow in damn near anything. I've even seen them in a peat mud mix and happy.
Hi Lauren,
Candace is right on the mark. Repot ALL your Phrags into the same potting mix. Use a mix that you are familiar with, one you know how long it takes to go from wet to dry, and can get easily. Think of Phrags as sun loving, semi-aquatic Cymbidiums rather than forest dwelling Paphs and you will have better results.
. Warning: I pot Phrags that I sell at shows into sphagnum, often up potting Phrags purchaased from my wholesaler just for the show. The wholesaler uses a mix I find too dry to keep the plants undamaged through a 3 day show without watering, so I add sphagnum to compensate. When you repot my plants you will find both sphagnum and some of the wholesalers lava rock, perlite, coconut husk mix in the pot. This will work fine for the better part of a year, but then it will be time to repot. Clean out as much of the old stuff as you can without breaking off more than half the roots, and then repot to your own mix. I use sphagnum because it makes it easier for novices to keep their Phrags wet until they get their feet under them on growing Phrags. For my breeding stock that I keep at home, I use a bark-charcol, perlite mix and grow standing in water.
. about Phrag caudatum group. The often repeated canard that they grow dryer than the rest of the Phrags is misleading. While true, caudatum still wants to be FAR WETTER than any other genera of orchid you will grow. Keep caudatum wet. I still stand my caudatums in water, they want it. BUT the potting mix I use is a little bit coarser, with better air circulation. Instead of watering your caudatums less than your besseae or longifolium types, you will have better results just putting the caudatum types in a spot with better air movement and watering them the same as the other Phrags.
. Hope this helps, Leo
Rick, thanks for mentioning the problems you had with the plastic net basket. You just knocked my rocket scientist idea out of the ball park with those comments. I don't have any nurseries around here that sell the clear vented orchid baskets and started looking at all the assorted sizes of aquatic pots I had around here and thought they would be ideal. I know what it is like to deal with roots that grow through the baskets but on aquatic plants you simply lop off what grows beyond the confines of the basket and repot into a larger basket. Aquatics recover from that type of abuse rather quickly. Evidently not so with phrags.

What are aircone pots?

goldenrose, I'll take 4 bags of the hydroton please. Presumably they are around 8 dry quarts or larger per bag? If not, what ever the dry equivalent would be will be fine.

I'm not an overwaterer generally speaking.

How frequently are all of you watering your phrags if you don't mind my asking?

BTW TheLorax, what's a "willisii"?
A misspelling! I do that a lot! Forgive me Father for I have sinned... again.
Oops, typing and posting when you were Leo. I'm going to go for a bin of potting material that I can use for all the phrags. I'll just label it as such to have it on hand when I need it. As it is now, my kitchen looks like a potting shed from mxing mediums and I can't have it looking as if vagrants moved in here for too long or my husband starts making snide remarks. We have a lot pf people through this house and I do need to have some areas that are freee of anything to do with plants. Kitchen would be one of them.

Now, if I am to think of phrags as sun loving semi-aquatics, I'm screwed because of the areas in which I have to grow them. All I've got left in this house is an exercise room with a southern exposure that could be shut off to cats. Not that we use that room at all for much these days (We were delusional when we thought we'd actually work out in that room after the novelty wore off) but I hate shutting off rooms and like everything more open.

I thought phrags had lower light requirements with many requiring light similar to that of a mottled leaf Paph? Ugh! No way I can start setting up lighting fixtures in the areas where I have set them out.

Say goldenrose, up my bags of hydroton to 6 please. Looks as if I'm going to be repotting quite a few plants into new medium. I was wondering why all that peat was in a lot of the mediums. Leo wasn't the only one adding sphagnum peat.
Lauren, the hydroton is usually sold in 10L or 50L bags.

I grow them in semi-hydro, so I water them probably every 3 days in the summer and once every 7-10 days in winter. But since they're in s/h the roots are pretty much in constant water.
One 50L bag of hydroton should suffice then. Thanks for mentioning that.

Semi-hydro is how many people seem to be growing them. I was simply leery of that so I only added about a 1/4" of water to the trays.
Phrags can definitely do well when overpotted...but don't do it if it makes them look ridiculous. Definitely use the same mix for caudatum/wallisii as for other phrags. as Leo said, they still like it moist...the difference is that most phrags sit with "wet feet" in a saucer of water, caudatum doesn't. otherwise, same treatment. Take care, Eric