Cultivating Orchids & Crafting Terrariums

 Watering a Mounted Orchid: Everything You Need to Know

Mounted orchids will dry out much faster than the ones in pots, especially in an indoor environment that has artificial heat/cooling, like your living room. There are mainly two reasons for this: 1) they have more access to air flow since their roots aren’t hindered by a plastic pot, and 2) they don’t have as much (or any) sphagnum moss or other water-retaining medium to trap and store humidity.
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The secret to successful mounted orchids is all in the humidity, and not as much in the watering.

Once you can control the humidity, then the next step is knowing how and when to water a mounted orchid.
Is there a technique to water mounted orchids? How do you water a mounted orchid?

 To water a mounted orchid, (on coco husks, coco fibers, tree fern plaques, cork slabs, driftwood, oak plaques and other mounts), soak the entire orchid mount in a bucket of warm water for fifteen minutes anytime dry roots are present. If you are indoors, this probably means every other day.
The answer all lies within the type of mount your orchid is on.

Exceptions apply: softer woods that retain water, like oak, will tend to rot in time, so avoid this method entirely and sprays the roots with a misting device daily. Larger centerpieces that contain other flowers as well can be watered in the kitchen sink (if they fit), avoiding spirts of water to the crown of the plant.

Another exception: do NOT soak multiple mounted orchid in the same bucket of water. If one orchid has a fungus or bacterial infection, this means the water is now contaminated. Every new orchid you plunge into the bucket will be a potential vector for the transmission of bacteria, soon contaminating all your orchids.
This soaking method requires tons of water, so it isn’t used much. Over this method, it is preferred to take the entire mounted orchid to the sink, water it for a minute or two with fresh running water. Let it dry as you water other orchids, then repeat the process around five to ten minutes later.

This water-dry-water method allows for the roots to absorb the initial gush of water, soak it in and have time to absorb more a second time, therefor, hydrating the plant even more than one continual 4-minute watering.
requirements artificial light for orchids
."Phalaenopsis Hybrid" by o0o Dylan o0o is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Before you mount an orchid, verify the humidity levels. If you’ve ever sat in an indoor office with the air conditioner on high you can feel how fast your skin dries out. To an orchid, this is much worse, since they thrive in humid environments. Before even thinking about mounting, first ask if you can control the humidity level of the room your orchid is in. If you can’t control this, watering alone will not do much to maintain your orchid. Stick to a pot.

What’s best to use: distilled water or tap water?

The best answer is neither—use rain water. Each community has a different method and concentration of the minerals they add (like chlorine) or deplete from their water supply for human consumption. This will vary great from place to place. You can try with tap water and observe your orchid to see how it reacts. One type of water you definitely want to avoid if softened water, since it has more salts that can cause root burn.

Will watering mounted orchid vary with the seasons?

Summer and winter will also dictate how much and how long mounted orchids need watering. In the winter, the mounted orchids need less watering, since the evaporation rate is less. Also keep a close eye on any water droplets that still are on the crown of your orchid, patting them dry if possible. If you are growing your orchids inside, then this seasonal variation of watering will not be noticed as much.

Mounted orchids can also vary with where you live. In this article, "Some Orchids Tough Enough for Texas", written by Brenda Beust Smith for the Houston Chronicles,  states that the same principles for watering mounted orchids apply to orchids being cultivated outside in Texas. Because of the low humidity and the high temperatures, orchids in Texas struggle with the same issue as mounted orchids do.  (Source: The Chron)

How many times does a mounted orchid need watering?

If not daily, every other day. Some mounted orchids if sparingly packed with sphagnum moss or other supporting material, can get away with every third day, but not more than this.

In time, this moss will fall off naturally as new roots grow and the orchid grips on to the support. If your orchid has grown and adapted well to its mount, there will be less sphagnum around the initial roots, and will need more watering.

If your orchid is mounted on a big wall-like painting that is hanging on the wall, then obviously you can’t take it to the sink. In this case, you need to mist the roots daily, almost drenching them.

Yes, mounted orchids are a lot more work that just kept in pots with sphagnum moss and other potting medium that retains more water. But the result is definitely worth the extra care.

Which orchids do better: on mounts or in pots?

clear plastic orchid pots
Any orchid that has a higher tolerance of drier periods does well on a mount. Phalaenopsis (or the moth orchid) prefers a higher humidity level, but if you tend to its needs, it will also work well.

Oncydiums, sarcochilus, and phragmipediums all hate mounts, preferring the humid security of a pot.
Independent of the species, tend to pick smaller orchids, since once the orchid is on the mound, the roots will attach o the bark, wood or cork, and removing it will be harmful. Your orchid will need to stay on this mound for a long, long time, and you need to think of the size of an adult plant, not the plants size at the current moment. Pick a mound that will suit an adult plant.

According to this article published by the University of Florida in the Gardening and Blooms section, "Some orchids can be mounted on a piece of cork or other bark. Every two years or so you'll need to replace the orchid growing media for each of your plants." Whatever the media you choose to mount your orchid to, make sure it's not decomposing or already breaking down.
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Now that you know all about how to water a mounted orchid, what water to use, and how many times to water, it’s time to get your hands dirty. Check out some of our tutorials on which orchid to give as a present, or which pot is best for your orchid. Learn how to design a great floral design or build a terrarium with orchids.

If you want another opinion or more info on how to mount orchids, this article written by Jamie Macintosh and published on the website The Spruce is a good for inspiration. Another place for inspiration is my Pinterest Board on Mounted orchids. 

If this information was of any help, and clarified any doubts you had, please mention so in the comments. We love to interact with other orchid enthusiasts, and can share from our experiences. Share this page to a friend who has an orchid, comment, or just give a thumbs up in the comments below.

Happy cultivating!
Signature Amanda Matthews
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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.

When I'm not working on the next chapter of my book or online course, I'm exploring a new campsite to venture out into nature. Pitching a tent for the weekend with my two children while I fire up a barbecue is the best way to live.

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