Greenhouse & Indoor PlantsOrchidsOrnamental Plants

Inaccurate Objections to Semi-Hydroponics Culture

I’m sure there may be others, but so far I’ve only heard three general objections to semi-hydro culture, none of which really “hold water” for me.

It’s Not Natural

Sorry to disillusion you, but I doubt that any orchid you have, with the possible exception of maybe native cypripediums and the like in the garden,  is being grown “naturally.” There are no wild plants growing in fir bark, none in coconut husk chips, and where do they occur naturally with perlite and charcoal anyway? Flower pots are certainly not natural, either. How about mounted plants? Virgin Portuguese cork oaks certainly don’t have orchids on them. The trunks of tropical tree ferns do have some so you got me there, but that’s fairly limited.

LECA Growing Medium is Expensive

This really is another inaccurate statement when you look at it more thoroughly. The purchase price for the medium is on-par with high quality bark, but since it’s totally reusable, in a short time it ends up being far cheaper to use than “disposable,” organic-based media. The stuff just doesn’t decompose, plus there is the bonus having far less risk for root rot!

You Have to Feed the Plants All the Time and All That Fertilizer Gets Expensive

With the exception of osmunda, orchids get essentially the same nutrition from all media – none – so the nutrition must be added via the nutrients you apply. Plants in Semi-hydro have the same nutritional demands as those in other media, and if you’re serious about growing your orchids well, then nutrition is a serious concern, regardless of the medium.

Look at it this way: you spend a lot of money on these silly little plants, why not try to do what’s best to keep them healthy, thereby protecting your investment? You wouldn’t buy a new car and then not change the oil or have it mechanically maintained, would you? The use of additives, media pretreatments, etc. are likewise not unique to semi-hydroponics culture, but again, it’s just a matter of trying to give the plant the best shot at being the best they can.

Maybe what has happened in the case of semi-hydroponics is that when folks started seeing how successful it was for me and inquired about it, I described everything that I do concerning my orchid growing, including fertilization, additives, and media pretreatment at potting time. Folks accepted it as a package, rather than looking at the combination of the media and the pots as the real difference between my general orchid culture and my semi-hydroponics cultural methodologies.

Ray Barkalow has been growing orchids for over 45 years, and owns First Rays, which offers horticultural products to the hobby grower. He may be contacted at and you can visit his website at

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