How to Water Orchids in Moss – Beginners Watering Guide

Orchids are one of those iconic plants that indoor plant enthusiasts dream of adding to their collection, but feel intimidated to grow orchids because they can be tricky to care for. It is for this reason that we have made it our mission to publish as many guides for orchid care as possible – including this one How to Water Orchids in Moss.

There are many methods for watering orchids growing in moss. Contrary to the traditional form of watering, we like to water our orchids in moss from the bottom. This way the moss only soaks up what it needs, providing your orchid with the perfect amount of water. We’ll discuss the steps involved with bottom watering your orchid in more detail below.

How to Water Orchids in Moss

Welcome to today’s feature article at the Garden Bench Top. In this article we’ll be showing you how to water orchids in sphagnum moss, however these techniques can be applied to any type of orchid plant growing in any type of moss.

So if you’re ready, go grab a hot coffee and let’s get started.

How to Water Orchids in Sphagnum Moss

Using our bottom watering method of watering will ensure your orchid receives just the right amount of water from the moss. This combined with our tips (below) for identifying when your orchid needs water, and you’ll find your journey as a plant parent much less frustrating and leave you more time to enjoy those delightful blooms.

Purple orchid flowers

How to Bottom Water Your Orchids in Moss

  1. Find a large waterproof container that is wide enough to fit all your orchids. The container also needs to be tall enough, so water doesn’t overflow when it is displaced when your plants are placed inside. Some people use their bath tub to water all their houseplants at the same time.
  2. Fill the container/bathtub with water. We like to use distilled water. However, if you don’t have access to distilled water, you can fill the container with tap water and leave it to sit for 24 hours. This allows the chlorine to evaporate and will prevent any unwanted chemical build up in your orchids’ soil.
  3. Carefully place your plants into the container / bowl of water. We generally squeeze as many plants into the container as we can to avoid any accidents of a pot falling over.
  4. Set a timer for 15 – 20 minutes.
  5. Check the top layer of your moss with your finger. If it feels damp, lift your orchid out of the water and allow any excess water to drip from the drainage holes.

How to Top Water Your Orchids in Moss

For those of you who prefer the traditional method of watering (top down), here are the steps we recommend:

  1. Gently and slowly drip water onto the surface of your moss. Depending on how dry your moss is, you should begin to see your moss soak up the water.
  2. (for orchids in pots WITH drainage holes) Water until you see the excess water beginning to drip out of the drainage holes. Stop watering and allow water to drain from the pot.
  3. (for orchids in a container WITHOUT drainage holes) Begin by pouring a small amount of water into your moss. After 5 minutes, tip the pot on its side to see if any excess water drips out. If not, continue to top up more water (in small amounts). Repeat the process until you see water beginning to drip out of your orchid. This will indicate your moss has reached its water absorption capacity.

When watering from above, try not to wet the leaves or allow any water to sit on the crown of your orchids. For those unfamiliar with the anatomy of an orchid, the crown is the point at which the leaves attach to the stem. When soaked, these points will be prone to crown rot, which is an entirely new problem you don’t want to deal with.

How to Tell if Your Orchid Needs More Water

Finding the right balance of water for your orchids roots is one of the most challenging aspects of orchid care. It feels like you are always treading a fine line between keeping your potting media moist enough to supply your orchid with enough water, but not too wet so as not to attract any disease or dead roots.

Dehydrated Orchid in Moss
Dehydrated Orchid in Moss [Courtesy: Reddit]

Soil Moisture Finger Test

By far our favorite and most effective method of testing to see if the moss in your orchid’s pot needs more water is using the finger test. In fact, we like this method so much we’ve written an entire piece on the process.

In a nutshell, the finger test involves:

  1. Find an accessible spot in your orchid’s moss.
  2. Carefully dig your finger into the moss until you are knuckle deep into the soil.
  3. If it was difficult to penetrate the moss, it means the moss is completely dry and needs water immediately.
  4. Feel around the moss. If it feels dry and your finger comes out relatively clean (with no bits of moss sticking to it), then your moss is dry, and it is time to water. Simply follow the steps we laid out above.
  5. If the moss feels wet, with bits of moss sticking to your finger when you remove it, then set a mental note to check the soil in a few days time.

Lift the Pot

As moss retains water, it becomes heavier and compacts in volume (under the weight of the water). This makes it easy to perform a quick check on the moss’ water content.

As you become more experienced with your orchids, you’ll be able to instinctively tell if it feels light and needs to be watered or if the moss is still saturated.

Tips for Watering Orchids in Moss – Care Tips

To help you navigate any issues you may encounter in the future, we’ve put together a few more tips when it comes to watering your orchids.

Orchid in Sphagnum Moss
Orchid in Sphagnum Moss & Orchid Bark

Water Your Orchids in the Morning

We prefer to water our orchids first thing in the morning. Growing in sphagnum moss has the advantage that it will retain plenty of moisture for your orchid to survive the day (even hot days).

By watering early in the day, it will allow any water that may have landed on the leaves or the crown to evaporate during the day. To be honest, anything that you can do to help prevent the chances of rot in your orchid is a good thing.

Water According to Your Orchids Needs

One of the biggest mistakes a lot of first-time indoor orchid owners make is treating their orchids like any other indoor plant.

Unfortunately, this is a sure fire quick road to rot city. Watering your orchid on a watering schedule will likely result in rotten roots. This is because an orchid’s water needs change throughout the year. And without testing your orchid’s moss for moisture levels, it is hard to tell how and when a water top up is required.

As with all our other indoor plants, we recommend using the soil moisture finger test. It is a simple and reliable method for determining when your orchid’s moss needs more water.

Type of Water to Use for Your Orchids

If you are a frequent reader of the Garden Bench Top, you’ll know we are big advocates of using distilled or filtered water for your houseplants. It eliminates any unwanted impurities that may come from tap water, and prevents any build up of chemicals in the moss.

As mentioned earlier in the bottom watering section, if you do not have access to distilled water, you can always use freshly collected rain water or tap water that has been left out for a 24-hour period to allow the chlorine to evaporate.

Using Ice Cubes to Water Your Orchids

Even though this trend has become a popular method for watering orchids, we don’t personally use it with our orchids, and it may not be suitable to all climates.

We understand it is convenient, and may help to avoid watered stressed orchids on the odd occasion. However, it does come with a few issues.

Unless you live in a tropical environment, the freezing cold water can have unintended detrimental effects. Orchids are tropical plants, and are not accustomed to cold conditions. Therefore, if the water remains cold after it was melted, this can lead to shock for your orchid.

Plus using ice cubes is a form of guess work. Ice cubes only hold so much water, which can ultimately lead to under watering your orchid. Your moss may not receive the optimal amount of water it can absorb, and eventually may dry out completely. We prefer to get our hands dirty (or fingers in this care), and physically test the moisture levels. Then by watering from the bottom up, we know the moss has absorbed as much water as it needs to supply our orchids with plenty of moisture.

Final Thoughts on How to Water Orchids in Moss

Orchids may feel like a daunting challenge for many novice gardeners. However, if you master a few of the fundamental care requirements, such as a balanced watering approach, you’ll soon be asking yourself why you didn’t add one to your collection earlier.

We recommend following our method of watering your orchids from the bottom. It provides the moss with the opportunity to only absorb what it needs and helps to avoid issues like root rot.