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Water quality is one of the key components of successful orchid growing, and yet many discussions of the issue become
very technical very quickly and become virtually incomprehensible. We're going to try here to discuss the issue of
water without delving too deeply into the science behind it.
First off, there are 4 types of water in general use: rain, RO, tap, and well. We'll discuss each separately as they
each present their own unique issues and challenges to the orchid hobbyist. The simplest water to understand is pure
water, in the form of rain water or reverse osmosis (RO) water. Water that comes from the municipal water supply,
tap water, and well water will have many different dissolved solids and chemicals in it.
The quality of water has a direct relationship with the quality of the fertilizing solution we use on our orchids. We
mix fertilizer and water and hope to feed the plants. Unfortunately, if the pH is too high or too low, the orchids
will not be able to consume all the nutrients we are giving them in the fertilizer. This can result in nutrient
deficiencies even as we are pouring nutrients on the plants! The type of water and the type of fertilizer both have
an effect on the pH of the resulting fertilizer and water solution. By far the simplest thing to do is to test the
pH of the fertilizing solution. You can get a pH meter but unfortunately those require calibration to be certain the
results are accurate. The simplest way to test pH is with pH test strips, simple,
accurate, low cost with no calibration required.
There are two primary factors at play when it comes to pH, the pH of the fertilizing solution and the pH of the
orchid mix. Once orchid mix has been in a pot with an orchid for a while there is a lot happening that can have an
effect on the pH of the orchid mix. The orchid mix breaks down over time and has fertilizer and water added to it
which have their own pH and that leave behind residue. There are several good methods for testing the pH of the
orchid mix and commercial growers of all types of crops, not just orchids, typically will test the pH of the mix in
the pot every few weeks. One method we are particularly fond of is the "pour-thru" method, since it does not involve
disturbing tender orchid roots. About an hour after orchids have been watered, take a plant and pour RO water (or
distilled water) through it until a couple of ounces come out the bottom of the pot. This water, called the
"leachate" is then tested for pH using a pH test strip.
At the end of the day, it makes sense to keep both the pH of the fertilizing solution and the pH of the orchid mix
within the optimal range for nutrient absorption. For most orchids we recommend a pH between 5.5 and 6.0. To lower
pH, use Citric Acid. To raise pH
use Lime or Oyster Shell. If the orchid
mix pH is too high, micronutrient deficiency can occur. Conversely, if the pH of the orchid mix becomes too low,
micronutrient toxicity can occur.
Rain water is what orchids receive in their natural environment. It is a form of pure water in that it has no
dissolved solids. Because it has no dissolved solids, it doesn't have anything to "buffer" the effect of fertilizer
added to it. This is why when rain water is used with orchids it is very important to use a fertilizer designed for
use with pure water such as our FEED
ME! MSU Orchid Fertilizer. Fertilizers that contain Urea as a nitrogen source when used with pure water will
become too acidic and will tend to drive the pH of the orchid mix down.
Reverse Osmosis is a form of water purification which removes dissolved solids from water. Because it has no
dissolved solids, it doesn't have anything to "buffer" the effect of fertilizer added to it. Our FEED ME! MSU Orchid Fertilizer
is the original fertilizer that was used by Michigan State University in the study of orchid fertilizers. RO water
is a form of pure water just like rain water. Fertilizers that contain Urea as a nitrogen source when used with pure
water will become too acidic and will tend to drive the orchid mix down.
Tap water varies greatly across the United States and the world. In some states the tap water is pretty good, low in
dissolved solids and quite suitable for use with orchids. In many states, however, tap water has too many dissolved
solids. One advantage with municipal water is that many water companies must publish their water quality reports
online. Ours is online, our water comes from the Potomac river. In looking at this
report we can see that our tap water tends to be hard, it has 120-130 PPM of solids, while our neighbors to the east
get the less hard Patuxent water that is softer, around 60-65 PPM. When we measure our tap water it varies from day
to day and goes as low as 100 PPM and as high as 200 PPM. As a general rule of thumb water that has less than 100
ppm of solids is good. If water is too hard, one way to reduce the effective hardness of the water is to add Citric Acid. Tap water also
may contain high levels of fluoride and chlorine. Levels above 1 PPM are too much and in the case of chlorine,
levels above 1 PPM are commonplace. From our water report we can see that our water contains acceptable levels of
fluoride but not of chlorine. Luckily Chlorine will evaporate over time or can be removed with a filter. This is why
many folks choose to fill their watering containers and then let them sit for a day before using the water on the
orchids. The accomplishes two goals, the chlorine evaporates and the water reaches room temperature.
The chemical composition of well water is unique to the well it is drawn from. In order to determine what is in well water, it should be tested before being used on orchids. Once the makeup of the
water is understood, the same rules as tap water apply.
“This fall I religiously followed your advice, creating an environment of shortened
days and lower temps in order to encourage blooming...I was successful. FINALLY!! Thank you, thank you!!
Both of my plants decided to bloom and they look beautiful. I wanted to share the good news and
my gratitude with you. Thanks again!”Laurie J.
“The potting medium you sent is gorgeous!! It's superior to the bark I've been
buying at Lowe's. I can't imagine what (my orchids) will do when I put them in your potting mix. It even
smells fresh!! Many, many thanks. I'll be ordering from you again.”
“Folks, My order [slotted pots and mix] arrived way before expected - and I am extremely happy with it! I harvested "babies" off my African violets to give as Christmas gifts this year - and they have tripled in size in the great potting soil and look so good - I can't wait to "gift" them!”Susan S.
“From beginning to end, rePotme has created a customer EXPERIENCE that is superior and delightful. The informative website contained many articles and videos that were extremely helpful to me as an orchid novice. There, I was guided to a potting mix (one of many!) that I wanted to try out. The checkout process was a breeze, and I especially enjoyed the fact that I could sign on with my Amazon account and did not have to create a brand new account”
“I have received my new Carousel Orchid Pot and Saucer in Orange Amber. I love it!! I would like to let you know that before I opened the wrapping to each piece (wrapped separately for those who may read this), rePotme won me over. Not only did I receive it within the expected time frame, your method and precise detail to packing it impressed me the most. It may not seem important to some, but I really appreciated it”
“My order arrived today and not only am I impressed with the speed of delivery, and how carefully it was all packed, but the quality of everything really surpassed my expectations. Between the supplies I ordered and your fantastic website with instructional texts, photos and videos, I feel very confident to move up to the next level of orchid growing”
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