How to mount epiphytic orchids onto cork

I so enjoy growing miniature, epiphytic orchids.  When I am mounting epiphytic orchids, usually I use cork bark as a mount, although sometimes I will use other woods to mount my orchids, it all depends on which orchid I am growing, and what materials I have.

I hope this information will help you, if you’re mounting epiphytic orchids onto cork bark or other wood, or if you’d just like to learn more about these diverse and interesting plants.

Epiphytic Miniature Orchids

Epiphytic orchids grow naturally on other plants, they often grow on trees, but they can grow on shrubs and another plants in their native environment.

Epiphytic orchids are not the same as parasitic plants like mistletoe, they don’t take any sustenance from their host plant – epiphytic plants don’t usually cause any harm to the host plant they are growing on.  Epiphytic plants simply use another plant as a support, to raise them up, allowing the epiphytic orchid to gain a better position where the epiphytic orchid will receive more light, water, and better air circulation, than it would receive without the host plant.  Epiphytic orchids take all of their water and nutrients from the air, the rain, and any accumulated debris that collects in the branches of their host tree.

Visitors inside the Princess of Wales Conservatory, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, admiring the epiphytic orchids on display.

Cork for terrariums

Cork is such an amazing and interesting, fascinating natural material.  Obtained from the bark of Quercus suber, (commonly known as the Cork Oak), cork has many uses.  The cork industry is regarded as being sustainable, as the Quercus suber trees are not required to be cut down in order to harvest the bark, and harvesting the bark does not harm the tree – the Quercus suber trees continue to grow after their bark is harvested, and their bark also re-grows – the trees go on provide future harvests at regular intervals every 9 years or so.

Quercus suber, commonly known as the cork oak.

The methods I have used to mount my epiphytic orchids onto cork bark

In August 2015, I chose to mount my miniature orchids onto cork bark, using fishing line to secure the orchids in place.  I was thinking purely aesthetically when I chose to use fishing line to secure these orchids – as it’s clear material, and so not as visible – I felt that the fishing line wouldn’t detract from the beauty of the orchids.

At this time, I was keen to create a beautiful orchid terrarium.  I was very focussed on how the terrarium would look, I was concentrating on showcasing the beautiful orchids that I planned to grow inside.  I did have real concerns that the fishing line could act as a cheese wire, and slice into the roots of the orchids, but I went ahead and used the fishing line regardless of the doubts I had – all of the orchids that I mounted at this time, were mounted onto cork bark and secured in place with fishing line.  I tried to protect the roots of my plants, by placing moss over the roots of each of the orchids, before I secured the plant in place using the fishing line.

At the end of March 2016, during a visit to the The Botanic Gardens at Kew, I spoke to the orchid experts in the tropical nurseries, where I found out that Kew use strips of material, cut from stockings, to secure all of their epiphytic orchids in place.

Bala Kompalli, a wonderful horticulturist from the Orchid Unit at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is pictured here with Cymbidium ‘Loch Maree’ “Jim”, inside the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew.

Although I hadn’t noticed any problems from using the fishing line to secure my orchids, after my visit to Kew, I immediately took the decision to remove the fishing line which was securing all of my epiphytic orchids.  Where necessary, I re-mounted my orchids, using small strips of material, cut from stockings, to secure the orchids in place.

I removed all of the fishing line from the miniature orchids growing inside both of my BiOrbAir terrariums on the 9th April 2016.  All of the orchids were then secured in place using strips of material cut from stockings.  Since April 2016, any miniature orchids that I have mounted have been secured in place using strips of material cut from stockings.  I am very happy using this method.  I will continue to use strips of material cut from stockings to secure and mount all of my orchids going forward.

For many years now I have used stockings as ties for trees and other garden plants with great success.  Prior to March 2016, I hadn’t previously used stockings to secure my epiphytic orchids, this was purely for aesthetic reasons.  The strips of material cut from stockings when they are newly applied, even when cut very thinly, are very visible.  This does detract somewhat from the beauty of the orchids, and the terrarium when viewed as a display.  However, over time, the strips of material do blend in somewhat, as the moss grows over the strips of material, and they are naturally discoloured by the humidity, water, moss, and natural materials inside the terrarium, this does camouflage the strips somewhat, softening their effect.

I am certain that securing the orchids using soft strips of material cut from stockings is better for the orchids, and these plants are my priority.  With this method, using strips of material cut from stockings, there isn’t any risk of slicing through any of the orchids’ roots, as there is when using fishing line to secure the plants in place.

How to Mount Epiphytic Orchids onto Cork Bark:

  • Considerations:
  • I would avoid moving any orchids that are in bud or in flower.  As you’ll see, I have broken my own rule above by mounting Phalaenopsis lobbii while it is still in flower!  However, I deduced that as I was mounting the plant in spring, when the plant was actively growing, that it would be OK, as I have found Phalaenopsis lobbii to be quite a robust and resilient orchid species, compared to many of the orchid species I grow.
  • I have found that the best time to mount a plant is when it is first coming into active growth, which is usually in the spring time.
  • When mounting an orchid, always consider which is the best way to mount your plant.  Many orchids, like Phalaenopsis for example, can be prone to crown rot if water is allowed to collect in the centre of the plant, so it’s wise to mount these orchids with the leaves hanging downwards, so that water can run over, and away from the plant.  This is closer to how these orchids would grow in the wild (as opposed to mounting the plants facing upwards, as they are often sold in pots commercially).

Materials you’ll need:

  • An epiphytic orchid
  • Cork bark, tree fern, or other wood if you prefer
  • Moss
  • Sterilised cutting tools
  • Strips of material cut from stockings

This Phalaenopsis lobbii specimen has been growing happily inside its clear plastic pot. I have decided to mount this orchid onto a piece of cork bark.

I have selected this piece of cork bark to mount my Phalaenopsis lobbii specimen onto.

I have selected this piece of moss as a base. This piece of moss will be placed onto the cork bark. I will then place another piece of moss over the orchid’s roots and mount my orchid onto the bark.

These strips of material cut from stockings are soft and flexible, they make ideal ties, which I use to secure my epiphytic orchids in place when I mount them onto cork bark.

How to Mount Your Orchids:

Orchids are the largest and most diverse family of flowering plants on our planet, they can be found growing in many different countries, where they grow in a wide range of different conditions.

The orchid I am mounting here is Phalaenopsis lobbii, an epiphytic miniature orchid which up until now has been growing in a small pot of moss.  This miniature orchid, when mounted, will appreciate a larger amount of moss around its roots, whereas some other epiphytic orchids will prefer to be mounted onto wood with no moss whatsoever around their roots.  Each orchid species is different, so it’s worth finding out about your plants before you make plans to mount them.

This Phalaenopsis lobbii specimen has been growing inside its clear plastic pot. I have decided to mount this orchid onto a piece of cork bark.

The next step is to remove your orchid from its pot. If your orchid has become one with its pot, you may need to cut the pot in order to remove your plant from its pot.

After removing the orchid from its pot, I then remove the moss, bark, or growing media, from around the plant’s roots. Any dead or decaying roots can now be cut away, using sterilised cutting tools.

Here is the Phalaenopsis lobbii specimen, pictured after the dead roots have been removed.

Here’s the piece of cork bark with the moss placed over it, ready for the orchid to be mounted on top.

Gently place your orchid on top of the moss, then your plant is ready for the covering layer of moss to be placed over it.

Here’s the orchid, sandwiched between its two layers of moss, ready for the strips of material cut from stockings to secure it all in place.

The strips of material cut from stockings are very strong and flexible, it’s easy to secure the moss and orchid in place on the cork. You don’t need to tie the orchid in very tightly, aim to just gently hold the plant in place with the ties.

Here’s the Phalaenopsis lobbii specimen, which is now mounted on cork bark and ready to go inside a terrarium.

This Phalaenopsis lobbii specimen has now been mounted and placed inside my Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir Terrarium.  You can follow this miniature orchid, and watch how it grows and develops by clicking here, which will take you to the terrarium update when this Phalaenopsis lobbii specimen was first introduced to my Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir Terrarium.

Notes on re-mounting orchids that are currently mounted onto wood

  • If the orchid you wish to mount is already mounted onto another piece of wood, I would advise careful consideration before even thinking about removing your plant from its existing mount.  If your plant has firmly anchored itself to its current mount it may be happy where it is and may not wish to be removed – you may harm your plant by removing it from its mount.
  • I would avoid moving any orchids that are in bud or in flower.  I have broken my own rule above by mounting Phalaenopsis lobbii while it is still in flower!  However, I deduced that as I was mounting the plant in spring, when the plant was actively growing and my plant was being gently removed from a pot, rather than removed from a piece of wood which it had anchored itself from, that it would be OK.  The best time to move a plant is when it is first coming into active growth, which is usually in the spring time.
  • If you wish to remount your plant purely for aesthetic reasons, if your orchid is firmly attached to its current mount and has no roots pushing through the back of the plant’s current mount, you may wish to consider attaching your plant, complete with its current mount onto a new mount, using strips of material cut from stockings.  *Please note that if your plant has roots that have pushed through their current mount then this method will not work, as you would damage your orchid’s roots in placing another piece of wood over them.
  • If you decide to go ahead and remove your orchid from its existing mount, please take care, start this task early in the morning, when you have plenty of time and will not be rushed or hurried.  Work carefully, slowly, and thoughtfully – the plant may have its roots anchored firmly to its current mount, and many of the plant’s roots may have grown right through its mount.  Remember: your plant may have sent roots into its mount in an area that you have not anticipated and only uncover as you remove your plant.
  • Firstly remove any cotton, wire, or other material that is securing your orchid to the wood.
  • If your plant has become very ingrained with its mount, one way of loosening the orchid root’s contact with their mount, is to soak the orchid in rain water – as the plant’s roots will naturally expand and  will come away from the wood in places.  You may be lucky and the orchid may easily separate from its mount, or you may have to spend some time as you work to gently remove the orchid from its mount.
  • It might help if you gently cut the mount to free the orchid’s roots, but take care, as by cutting or breaking the wood you may inadvertently damage your plant’s roots.
  • It’s worth remembering that re-mounting an orchid that’s already mounted onto a piece of wood often isn’t easy, take care not to rush, or to get exasperated, as neither of these will help you.
  • Good luck!

Further Trials

You may be interested in some of the other trials I have conducted.

Terrarium, Vivarium, and Orchidarium Trials

To see my step-by-step guide showing how to plant up a bottle garden, please click here.

To see how my Orchidarium was created, please click here.

To see how my Rainforest Terrarium was designed, please click here.

To read the first part of my White Orchid BiOrbAir Terrarium Trial, please click here.

To read the first part of my Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium Trial, please click here.

To read the first part of my Miniature Orchid BiOrbAir Terrarium Trial, please click here.

To read about the general care I give to my orchids and terrarium plants, and the general maintenance I give to my BiOrbAir terrariums, please click here.

To read how I track the temperature, humidity, and light conditions inside my terrariums, please click here.

To see a list of articles detailing how to set up bottle gardens, terrariums, vivariums, and orchidariums of every kind, please click here.

Compost Trial Reports

To see all of my various Compost Trials, please click here.

To read advice on planting up containers, please click here.

Sweet Pea Trial Reports

To read the results of my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, please click here.

To read the results of my 2016 Sweet Pea Trial, please click here.

To read the results of my 2015 Sweet Pea Trial, please click here.

Scented Daffodil Trial Reports

To see the results of my 2018 Scented Daffodil Trial, please click here.

To see the results of my 2018 Scented Daffodil Container Trial, please click here.

To read the results of my 2017 Scented Daffodil Trial, please click here.

Other articles that may interest you…………..

To read a planting list of beautiful miniature orchids, to grow inside terrariums or bottle gardens, please click here.

To read about the Queen of Orchids – the largest known orchid in the world, and see photographs of its flowering at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, please click here.

To find out about the Writhlington Orchid Project and their success at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2016, please click here.

For a planting list for terrariums and bottle gardens, please click here.

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