Gleanings from the Journals: Terrestrial Potting Mixes

The following article by Les Nesbitt was published in May 2017 Native Orchid Society of South Australia Journal Volume 41 No 4. The article relates to Australian Native Orchids.

Suggested potting mixes for potted native terrestrial orchids have changed greatly over the years as some ingredients such as peat moss have become too expensive or difficult to obtain. Basic requirements are that the mix should be free draining yet retain moisture and should have an organic component that breaks down slowly and does not go mushy in winter. Most species are not too fussy and will grow in a variety of mixes.

Those tubers that desiccate in summer do better in a heavy mix that contains clay. Examples are Diurus behrii, D. punctata and Pterostylis nutans.

Tubers that rot easily in wet soil in Spring prefer an open coarse sandy mix. An example is Thelymitra antennifera.

A dry mix containing a higher proportion of sand is usually recommended for Caladenia and Glossodia species grown in pots. In contrast these orchids grow in clay soil on my property in the Adelaide Hills but there excess water can run off. In pots, excess water has to drain through the potting mix.

An organic component is vital to feed orchid fungi.

Some Basic Ingredients:

  • Washed sand with rounded particles. (Not sharp sand as this sets hard in summer.)
  • Soil (sandy loam, clay based loam, mountain soil)
  • Native seedling mix (Bark based – sieve to remove splinters)
  • Native potting mix (can be sieve* to remove larger particles)
  • Chopped and sieved* gum leaves
  • Perlite or isolite (but will make tubers harder to identify at repotting time)
  • Composted leaf mould & buzzer chips (but needs to be gathered now for use next summer)
  • Cauarina (She-oak) needles chopped for surface mulch

Some Suggested Potting Mixes

  1. ANOS-Vic dry mix – 2 parts coarse sand, 1 part coastal sandy loam, 1 part composted buzzer chips, 1 part leaf mould
  2. 100% native potting mix. (Works for drought resistant tubers, viz. Pterostylis curta & P. pedunculata)
  3. Native potting mix (sieved*) and isolite
  4. Native potting mix and sand
  5. Les Nesbitt’s current mix of 50% sand, 20% hills soil, 25% seedling potting mix (sieved), and 5% chopped & sieved* string bark gum leaves.
  6. Dry mix, 50% coarse sand, 25% perlite & 25% native potting mix
  7. Heavy mix, 50% clay soil, 30% sand and 20% organic matter

* Use a 5mm sieve

thelymitra-plants-1.jpg

Thelymitra in cultivation

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