Building an Orchid Lath House

I’m in the process of building an orchid greenhouse and one of the options for me was a lath house (it rhymes with Bath House). I confess I had never known that this was an option and the more I read about it, the more I feel that maybe, just maybe, a greenhouse isn’t the answer for me, but a lath house is.

After all, what is a lath house?  

What is a Lath House?

A lath house is an open structure, almost like a pergola, specifically designed for cooling off hot temperatures while providing shade to delicate flowering plants. It is usually built in hotter climates, where orchids could be grown outside, but the sweltering, constant rays burnt the leaves. Lath houses were built by calculating the spaces in the slats that allow sun to penetrate the building, and still have sufficient shade as the sun traveled through the horizon.

This shade to sun ration made lath houses ideal to bring flowering plants (including orchids) outside during the hot summer months of June, July, and August. It became popular in the south, since they provided sufficient airflow, shade and a visual display that, we as orchid growers, love.

For the flooring, materials such as gravel, pebbles, or even concrete can be used. The most common is gravel. These materials help with drainage (unless it’s concrete) and elevate the level of humidity in the air around the orchids. Don’t rely on the gravel alone to raise the humidity. if you want ot knw more about humidity, check out this article I wrote.

When it comes to the side walls, lath houses are typically constructed using wooden laths or slats. These slats are spaced apart to allow for proper air circulation and light penetration. The gaps between the slats also help to regulate temperature and humidity levels within the lath house.

The ceiling of a lath house is usually made of a similar material as the side walls, with wooden laths or slats providing the structure.

PHALAENOPSIS SIDE NOTE: If you have a lot of Phalaenopsis orchids, then adding a Polycarbonate roofing may be best. Another solution would be to tilt your entire display so the orchids would be rained on, yet the water would run off freely. This could be achieved by hanging orchids on a slant. More on this later. If you have suffiencient wind flow, then this issue won’t be a problem. As long as the water can evaporate quickly, then it own’t have time to start crown rot.

Other lath constructions within the lath house, such as trellises or supports for climbing orchids, can also be made from wooden laths or other suitable materials.

Overall, a lath house is a specialized structure that provides the ideal growing conditions for orchids. Its construction involves careful consideration of materials to ensure proper drainage, ventilation, and light penetration, all of which are essential for the successful cultivation of these beautiful plants.

Lath House
Lath House for Orchids (Source)

What orchids would prefer a lath house?

Orchids are a diverse group of plants, and while many of them thrive in lath houses, there are some that may not prefer this type of environment. Focus on orchids that are heat loving, (opposed to cool growers) but don’t like too bright light level.

One type of orchid that would prefer a lath house is the Cattleya orchid. These orchids are known for their vibrant and showy flowers, and they require bright, indirect light to bloom. The lath house provides the perfect balance of light and shade, allowing the Cattleya orchid to receive the right amount of light without being exposed to direct sunlight, which can scorch their delicate petals.

An orchid that would NOT benefit from a lath house is the Phalaenopsis orchid. These orchids are popular for their long-lasting flowers and are often grown as houseplants. They prefer high humidity and consistent temperatures, which can be easily maintained in a lath house, but since there is no ceiling, they would get rained on consistently. If the evaporation doesn’t fry up the water droplets quickly, then Phalaenopsis will get crown rot. The slatted walls of the lath house allow for proper air circulation, preventing the buildup of excess moisture that can lead to fungal diseases, but do not protect the crown of the orchid during consistent rainy days.

The Vanda orchid is a tropical orchid that thrives in bright, direct sunlight. While it can tolerate high humidity, it requires more light than what a lath house can provide. Lath houses create that perfect balance from light to shade, so extremely high light level orchids wouldn’t be as happy in a lath house unless you arranged them in a location on the outside of the house. Here is an article that I wrote that has 33 types of orchids that prefere lower light levels.

How Does a Lath House Work?

The main element in a lath house is the filtration of the sun’s harsh rays. The best explanation of this is from Chadwick’s orchids, where they state:

“Lath house designs vary, but most are rectangular and tall enough to walk inside. The corners are held up with strong posts — typically 4-by-4-inch wood beams. The cross boards are two-by-fours or 2-by-6-inch pieces of assorted lengths. The key element in lath house construction is the slat spacing that determines how much sunlight gets in the building.
Optimal slat spacing can be calculated but is usually determined through trial and error. Factors that affect the light transmission include not only the spacing between slats, but also the slat width and thickness. Slats are commonly milled from two-by-fours that have an actual width of 1½ inches. Cutting every half inch gives a uniform slat that’s ½ inch thick by 1½ inches wide.”

(SourceOpens in a new tab.)

How is a Lath House different than a Greenhouse?

A lath house and a greenhouse may seem similar at first glance, but there are key differences between the two structures that can greatly impact the growth and well-being of orchids.

One major difference is the level of light penetration. In a lath house, the walls are made of slatted wood or other materials that allow for partial sunlight to filter through. This provides a dappled light effect, which is ideal for orchids that prefer bright, indirect light. On the other hand, a greenhouse typically has solid walls made of glass or plastic, allowing for maximum light penetration. While this can be beneficial for some orchids, it may be too intense for those that require more shade.

Another difference is the level of ventilation. Lath houses have open sides or slatted walls, which promote better air circulation. This helps prevent the buildup of excess moisture and reduces the risk of fungal diseases. Greenhouses, on the other hand, are typically sealed structures with limited ventilation. While this can create a more controlled environment, it may also lead to higher humidity levels, which can be detrimental to certain orchid species.

The temperature control is also distinct between the two. Lath houses tend to have a more natural temperature regulation due to the partial shade provided by the slatted walls. This can help prevent extreme temperature fluctuations that can stress orchids. Greenhouses, on the other hand, often require additional heating or cooling systems to maintain optimal temperatures.

In summary, a lath house offers a balance of light, ventilation, and temperature control that is well-suited for orchids that prefer bright, indirect light and high humidity. Its slatted walls and partial shade create an environment that mimics the orchids’ natural habitat. A greenhouse, on the other hand, provides maximum light penetration and a more controlled environment, which may be better suited for orchids that require more intense light and specific temperature conditions. If you want to know more about the greenhouse and how it affects the orchid temperatures, I wrote an article about that. You can read it here.

What is the History of Lath houses?

The history of lath houses dates back to ancient times, with evidence of their existence in various cultures around the world. The exact origins of lath houses are difficult to pinpoint, but they are believed to have originated in regions with hot climates, such as the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

Lath houses were initially constructed as a means to provide shade and protection for delicate plants, including orchids. The use of slatted wood or other materials allowed for partial sunlight to filter through, creating a dappled light effect that mimicked the plants’ natural habitat. This design proved to be beneficial for orchids that prefer bright, indirect light.

Over time, lath houses became popular architectural structures in gardens due to their practicality and aesthetic appeal. They offered a way to cultivate and display a wide variety of plants, including orchids, in a controlled environment. Lath houses also provided a sanctuary for plants during extreme weather conditions, such as intense heat or heavy rain (compared to no roofing at all).

As gardening practices evolved, lath houses became more sophisticated in their design and functionality. Today, they are commonly used by orchid enthusiasts and horticulturists to create optimal growing conditions for these delicate plants.

lath House
Image Found on Pinterest

Lath House Flooring

When it comes to choosing the right flooring for your lath house, there are several materials that can provide a suitable environment for your orchids. Here are some options to consider:

1. Gravel: Gravel is a popular choice for lath house flooring due to its excellent drainage properties. It allows excess water to flow through easily, preventing water-logging and root rot. Additionally, gravel helps to maintain a stable humidity level by reducing moisture buildup in the soil.

2. Cement: Cement flooring is a durable and low-maintenance option for lath houses. It provides a solid and stable surface for pots and containers, making it easier to move and arrange your orchids. Cement also helps to regulate temperature fluctuations, providing a more consistent environment for your plants.

3. Wood: Wood flooring adds a natural and aesthetic appeal to your lath house. It provides a warm and inviting atmosphere for your orchids. However, it’s important to choose rot-resistant wood, such as cedar or redwood, to ensure longevity in a humid environment. Wood flooring should be properly sealed to prevent moisture absorption and damage.

4. Weed fabric barrier: A weed fabric barrier can be used as an underlayment for any type of flooring material. It helps to prevent weed growth and keeps the lath house clean and tidy. The barrier also acts as a protective layer, preventing soil and debris from seeping into the flooring material.

5. Pebbles: Pebbles can be used as a decorative top layer for your lath house flooring. They add a natural and visually appealing element to the space. Pebbles also help to retain moisture in the soil, creating a more humid micro-climate that is beneficial for orchids.

By considering these flooring options, you can create a suitable and functional environment for your orchids in the lath house. Choose the material that best suits your needs and preferences, while also providing the necessary conditions for your orchids to thrive.

Lath House Ceiling

A lath house ceiling is an important component of creating the ideal environment for orchids. There are several options to consider when it comes to choosing the right ceiling for your lath house.

One popular choice is using shade cloth, which provides a light and airy feel while still offering protection from direct sunlight. Another option is using wooden slats or lattice, which can create a beautiful and rustic look. However, it’s important to avoid using solid materials for the ceiling, as this can block out too much light and hinder the growth of your orchids.

When selecting a lath house ceiling, it’s crucial to consider the needs of your orchids. They require filtered light and good air circulation to thrive. The ceiling should allow enough light to reach the plants while still providing shade to prevent overheating. Additionally, the material chosen should be durable and able to withstand the elements.

In this blog Grammy Care, shown below, I found a lot of good information. It would be a good read if you are considering building your own lath house.

Photo Credit:

What to Do In Extreme Temperatures

In extreme temperatures, a lath house can be a valuable tool for protecting your orchids. When it gets too hot, the lath house provides shade and allows for better air circulation, preventing overheating and sunburn. However, it’s important to take additional steps to ensure the well-being of your plants.

During hot weather, it’s crucial to monitor the temperature inside the lath house regularly. If it becomes excessively hot, you can take several measures to cool down the environment. One option is to use shade cloth with a higher density to provide more shade. This will help to block out a greater amount of sunlight and reduce the temperature inside the lath house.

Another option is to use evaporative cooling systems or misting fans to lower the temperature and increase humidity. These methods can create a more comfortable environment for your orchids and help them thrive.

Additionally, you can strategically place fans to improve air circulation and prevent stagnant hot air pockets. This will help to distribute the cool air more evenly throughout the lath house and prevent any areas from becoming too hot. By ensuring proper air circulation, you can create a more stable and comfortable environment for your orchids.

On the other hand, when temperatures drop too low, it’s important to protect your orchids from frost and freezing conditions. Insulating the lath house with blankets or bubble wrap can help retain heat and provide an extra layer of protection. You can also use portable heaters or heat mats to maintain a suitable temperature. It’s crucial to monitor the temperature closely and adjust the heating methods accordingly to ensure the well-being of your orchids during cold weather.

Don’t Stop Learning!

If you want to be included in more information and get a 14-page fertilization guide, please sign up for my newsletter. I don’t spam, but send emails out bi-monthly with some curious topics of interest. If you want more information, click here to go to a specific page on this website where I explain it more in detail.

Orchid Fertilization

Also, if you are looking for an orchid journal to keep your notes specifically about orchid care, check out my 2 solutions for that on this page. If note-keeping isn’t your thing, then there is a free excel spreadsheet that you can download. Click here for more information on how to do that.

If you subscribe to my newsletter, I will send you a 14-page guide on the main tips of orchid fertilizer. It is downloadable and you can print it out on your computer. I designed the guide to double up as a coloring book, just to make it fun.

In all, I’m still learning about what I need to build, either a greenhouse or a lath house (or both… hehehe I wish). If you haven’t read the article about greenhouse temperatures, then click here to start the journey on that. Also, If you use the little magnifying glass on my homepage and type in greenhouse, you can see all the articles I’ve written about my learning process of building my own greenhouse.

Thank you for reading all the way through to here, and I wish you the best. Happy Cultivating!

Signature Amanda Matthews

Amanda Matthews

Amanda Matthews is a theological professor, author, pastor, and a motivational speaker. She's passionate about spreading hope and teaching. Her hobbies include biking, cultivating orchids, and exploring nature trails. She now lives in Kansas, while raising her two children. To read more, go to

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