I started growing orchids, particularly phalaenopsis orchids, in water about a year ago after seeing the awesome root tips that grew in water on Sam Som’s youtube channel (Orchids & Puppies). Not all adapted well to this method, but overall, I’d say it is an amazing way to grow orchids, especially if you love being able to see all the lush, green, sexy root nubs like me. Plus, without media, you don’t have to worry about having creepy crawlies hiding in the media and eating those tender roots. This method is called Water Culture.
So what is water culture? Basically it means flopping your orchid into a vase of water with nothing on the roots. Nothing. No bark chips. No moss. Nada. Butt naked! You can do semi water culture, meaning soaking the roots for a couple of days a week then letting them dry for a few days. Or you can do full water culture, that is, letting the roots soak in some water all the time. Easy enough, right?
Some things you should keep in mind before deciding to strip your orchid naked:
Strip it well: Remove all old media and dead tissues from the root mass before putting your plant in water to avoid bacteria build up. That means picking out bark chips, sphagnum moss (without breaking the roots), and cutting away dead, rotten roots.
Adapt the watering schedule to your environment: A lot of people follow an easy 2 - 5 schedule, meaning soaking for 2 days and drying for 5 days. However, if you live somewhere hot and dry, you might need to soak your orchid more often to give it adequate moisture. Likewise, reduce watering if your environment is too cold and humid.
I use tap water and my orchids do just fine. I’ve heard people use rain or distilled water because their tap water is too hard (containing too much calcium). Hard water may burn roots. Just FYI.
It may get worse before it gets better: Some plants, especially those packed in wet sphagnum moss and whose roots were broken during the unpotting process, may continue to lose roots for a while before new ones pop up. You have to be patient. It may take a few weeks or a few months before you see results. And occasionally it may not work at all, in which case, please don’t be discouraged. You just need to try again.
I find that water culture works best when I try to rescue sick orchids with few or no roots left. With this method, not only can I control the amount of moisture that my sick orchid receives, but I can also properly air out the roots, hence avoiding potential root rot.
Now that you’ve read all that, I’ll take you through the process of transferring an orchid to water culture. You should definitely check out Sam’s video of how she transfer hers.
Transferring your orchid to Water Culture