Friday, January 28, 2011

Clay Pots and Sphagnum

I am slowly becoming a convert to growing Cattleya and Laelia in clay and sphagnum. Clay pots are heavy and expensive relative to plastic and I like square pots better than round ones. But one of the best growers of this group, Steve Christoffersen, uses this method with great success.

What has stopped my from trying this method has been the wetness of my greenhouse. I have a hard enough time getting Laelia anceps through the winter in rock.

Over the 2 1/2 years I have had access to the greenhouse space in Sonoma I have had a chance to see how clay and sphagnum works and I'm impressed. The several plants I have in clay and sphagnum are doing better than any other potting method.

But I can't be certain of long-term access to Sonoma. What I am planning in the next two months is building a sheltered, unheated space. It is space I had used to summer my plants in my pre-greenhouse days. The Napa weather is fine for Laelia anceps and if I could keep them dry in winter I can grow them outdoors.


  1. First, Thanks again for the 'Paulo Hoppe'. I am not a fan of straight sphagnum in clay pots or just sphagnum in any pot. I live in South Florida where there is a lot of humidity and plenty of rain to go along with it. I prefer to place a small amount of sphagnum on top of a well drained medium. I have found that it helps hold extra moisture at the root base, allowing the roots to travel. I have received plants from Steve and have put them in a larger pot to allow more air to the roots. Over potting them is probably the correct term, then add loose medium to the pot. I have had more total root loss in sphagnum, due to retention of water and not enough air to the roots.

  2. I also live in South Florida and potting any Laelia in pure moss = death--at least for me. Too much humidity.

    I grow mine in 100% hydroton in clay pots (switched from plastic this year) with great success. The roots love this.

    Happy growing and thank you for the interesting discussion.

  3. Clay and sphagnum is not for everyone. It requires the right climate and strict water discipline. I know someone in town here who switched to clay and sphagnum and killed many plants because she tried to water the same as bark. The top of the sphagnum needs to be crispy dry. Any give to the surface and it is probably too soon to water.