Cultivating Orchids & Crafting Terrariums

Can Orchids Grow in A Glass Container? Successful Floral Designs

Floral gifts are the perfect present for almost all occasions, especially when it comes to orchids. Yet when it comes to selling products, many vendors will push extremes to sell an intricate floral design, dooming the poor orchid to death. That is what happens when it comes to growing orchids in glass containers.

Orchids cannot be grown in a glass container unless some guidelines are applied. The tall glass cone-shaped container is not appropriate for adequate airflow or relative humidity percentages. The lack of these two will speed up the rate at which roots and stem will rot, and your orchid has a slim chance of survival.

If you really like the idea of growing orchid in a glass container, there are a few ways that can be done and, in this article, I’ll pinpoint how. First, you’ll see why the tall glass vase is beautiful yet not functional. Then I’ll explain how to put them in glass vases and still preserve the floral design and health of your orchid.
Just a note: The Affiliate Linked pictures in this article, like the one here, are in glass vases are all artificial flowers. I couldn’t get myself to post links to real orchids in glass vases that would die on you.

If you're interested, that orchid design can be found on Amazon (Affilaite Link).

What Happens to the Orchid in a Tall Glass Vase?

Orchid planted in tall, glass vases will become prone to root rot and bacteria brown spots. Because of the high humidity and lack of airflow, these two conditions will quickly hinder your orchid’s health.

80% of orchids are epiphytes, which means they grow attached to trees. They aren’t parasites, lurking from the tree nutrients, but they just need the tree to get closer to the filtered sunlight and to hang on to something. In this sense, orchid roots hang out in the open and are accustomed to receiving both adequate wind, nutrients from overhead drippings, and rainwater.

To take orchids indoors and recreate this habitat for them, they need to have their roots exposed to abundant air. Currents that are light but constant provided by an overhead fan on low are the best way to mimic those conditions that they grew in when in the wild.

Orchid roots need to be exposed to constant airflow so the roots can dry out. Most orchids are thirsty drinkers and like to have plenty of water, but then want to dry off quickly.

Orchids also like more humid environments than our home offices can provide. This means that the air around them will need to have around 40 to 60% of air droplets floating around in the air. More than that, the roots don’t dry off and the leaves can become spotted with black humidity spots, that kill the exterior leaf cells.

These spots break the defensive tissue layer in the plant cells and bacteria enter the leaf, heading toward the stem.If your orchid has spots, check out this article I wrote on how to treat them.

On the other hand, too little humidity and the leaf wrinkles and dies.

Are Glass Orchid Vases Good for Orchids?

Glass vases are not all bad. The tall, glass vase is good at one thing: letting sunlight in. Orchid roots photosynthesize, unlike other houseplant roots. Unless your orchid is a terrestrial orchid (which most are not), the roots contain chlorophyll, and will photosynthesize. This provided extra energy for the orchid, as it transforms sunlight into nutrients.

In a closed vase, neither airflow nor correct humidity levels are provided. The lack of airflow aggravates both. Without constant airflow, the roots sit in a constantly wet, soppy, humid environment.

The best example I can think of to relate—and I apologize for this ugly example—is from the soldiers in the trenches. They had no dry socks to change out periodically. This constant exposure to wetness caused serious foot illness, many of which are grotesque.

The same happens to the orchid. It needs to dry out, some more than others. A Phalaenopsis orchid will prefer to be wetter than a Cattleya will, but nonetheless both need to dry out.
Orchids do not grow well in floral foam, either. These fake ones though (Affiliate Link) will be fine. :)

How to Create a Glass Vase Design that is Sustainable

The orchids in glass vases are extremely beautiful, so I didn’t give up on the idea of planting one that way. To make the floral design sustainable and pretty, I had to tackle both problems independently.

First, the high humidity—much too high for a Phalaenopsis orchid. To achieve success with this, I had to find a way to make the humidity raise to the top of the vase and exit quickly; not allowing time to linger around in the pot.

There are two ways to do this:

1) use a short wide bowl, like an exaggerated petri dish. The short height allows the excess humidity to evaporate quickly.

2) Plant the orchid making most roots aerial. This second method will require the use of stabilizers, to keep the orchid from falling over. These can be metal wires, broken chopsticks, bamboo skewers, rubber bands, or any other creative hack to keep the orchid in place. In essence, you'd be planting 1/3 of the roots and leaving 2/3 outside of the plastic vase. This also require the stem to be top portion of the vase, not buried inside, like most vendors sell them.

Second, the airflow—not enough. I have seen an orchid grower drill holes in glass, but I have never been successful with that. I am not good with drills. So the other option was also to get the roots closer to the top so they could breath, with resorted to the first solution: use a shallow, wide dish.
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Change Orchid Potting Mediums in a Glass Container

There is another way to grow orchids in glass, which is playing around with the potting medium. If you take the same brownie-like yuck (peat moss) that some orchids come in and try to plant that directly in a closed glass, the medium will become sour and raise the pH.

These orchids are meant to be watered with ice cubes (which I mention in this article) and their medium is made specifically for that. You’ll want to get rid of all that peat moss as soon as possible.

I usually pot all my orchids in a mixture of sphagnum moss, charcoal, perlite, and orchid bark, but for a glass vase, you’ll want to only use leca pebbles. These pebbles absorb water and wick it up to the next pebble, moving the water around (ever so passively and slowly) but keep the roots hydrated yet out of water.

Personally, I wish I had more luck with leca pebbles, but I don’t. That’s just me. There are tons of orchid growers who have grown orchids in glass vases with the leca pebble method and their orchids are stunningly beautiful.

The good thing is that this isn’t the only way to use glass containers with orchids. You can also go for the semi-hydroponics or full water culture. You can read how to follow those methods in the links to each.

In all three of the ideas above, never pot the stem of the orchid inside the glass bowl. In all these 3 methods, the stem needs to be above the potting medium level, so it doesn’t have contact with the pebbles of the water. Constant water on the stem causes stem rot, and that is extremely hard to cure.

Last Solution: Change Glass Bowl to Plastic Vase with Holes

The last thought on how to use orchids in a glass vase is to change out the glass vase entirely for plastic. As long as the plastic is clear and has holes, you can really upgrade the floral design.

The good part: you don’t need to purchase a Quasimodo vase that you’ll want to hide on the bottom shelf. There are some really nice pots that aren’t as harsh to the eyes. The transparency still provides ample access to sunlight and you can get creative with the potting medium to provide security, airflow, and adequate humidity to the roots.
Clear plastic pots with air holes are the best for orchids. In this other article I wrote, I explained more in depth why that is.

If you are out of pots, you can buy some more here (Affiliate Link). I found these to not break the bank and were quite sturdy.
Whatever you decide on doing with your orchid, whether it be Full water culture, semi hydroponics, leca pebbles, creating more aerial roots, or using a shallow bowl instead of a tall glass vase, be creative with your orchid. You can always try new ideas and see how they work. I wish you the best in your orchid care.

Happy Cultivating!

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on December 5th, 2020!

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Amanda June Matthews at Orchideria
Hi, there! I'm Amanda Matthews.

I write all the tutorials on Orchideria so unfortunately, I can't blame anyone else for all the spelling mistakes.   :)

By profession, I'm a theologian, author, and seminary professor, yet I  spend my free time enjoying nature hikes, building terrariums, and cultivating orchids. I also love to mountain bike on trails, dance, and play with my dog, Max.

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