Did you know that there are around 30,000 known species of orchids in the world? With this enormous amount of different varieties, orchidsthrive in many different growing conditions. Many arequite difficult to grow, and young plants especially can be hard to please. There are even species that are practically impossible to bring into bloom—even for professional growers.

Most cultivated orchids are native to tropical regions and in their natural habitat, they attach themselves to the bark of trees or onto the surface of other plants. While many orchids are epiphytic (tree growing), there are also a lot that are lithophytic (grow on rocks) and terrestrial (grown on the ground). In almost all cases they like moisture, but must have plenty of air around the roots.

For successful growing, an orchid growing medium must provide good air circulation and permit water to drain quickly. It must also give the roots something secure to cling to. NZ sourced tree fern has a much larger surface area than many other substrates, which means its capacity to retain moisture is superb.

The Bulbophyllum lobbii, also known as Thailand Bulbophyllum or Sumatran Bulbophyllum, is a beautiful, floriferous species with a large, ornate, buff and yellow flower. This tropical orchid grows at altitudes above 1000 meters. It likes intermediate temperatures with a minimum night temperature of 15-20 degrees Celsius.  While it likes moisture, drainage is extremely important. 
Growing here in Fernwood Soft Tree Fern Substrate made from native New Zealand Tree Fern, the plant is thriving. The second photo is a close-up of bulb and lobbii roots, penetrating a fern fibre panel.
It is due to the soft, spongy nature of the substrate, and its fantastic moisture holding abilities. Because fibre absorbs and retains a lot of water and also holds adequate air, watering can be less frequent.
This Paphiopedilum Deperle, first flowering, is also growing happily in fern fibre. This is a paphiopedilum hybrid and the species that make it are terrestrial, not living on tree trunks. These orchids are enthusiastic growers, and produce three to five beautiful flowers per spike, often twice per year on multiple growth plants. 

Often, materials mixed together can create a well-balanced orchid growing mix, but with Fernwood NZ’s tree fern there is no need to experiment and find a perfect mix for your plants. Using pure tree fern, the orchids’ roots are completely covered with fibre, and constantly in contact with moisture. 

The fibrous nature provides the large surface area that is in contact with the roots, greatly assisting the uptake of water and nutrients. In a pot with sustainably sourced New Zealand fern fibre, it acts as if it was on an actual tree trunk in the wild. The substrate fulfils the orchid’s every need in an ideal environment.

Photos supplied by orchid grower Selwyn Hatrick from Rotorua, New Zealand.