Most orchids are grown in a mix that's primarily composed of bark chips. Sometimes bark chips are also a component in soil mixes for other plants.

As I was stacking firewood, I realized I happen to have a fairly large supply of bark. It tends to be from temperate forest trees - sometimes from pines, sometimes from hardwoods. It breaks off fresh firewood all the time. It's not rotten, since the trees have been recently felled.

Is there anything wrong with breaking up this bark, baking it to kill pathogens, and growing orchids in it? Any potential hazards to making my own bark chips?

  • I think you should go ahead and make your own, the only reason against doing this would be risk of contamination outside of a controlled environment.
    – Viv
    Mar 15, 2016 at 0:40
  • Tree bark contains anti-fungal compounds (ever notice that fungi aren't growing on live tree trunks?). These dissipate after a year or more of the tree's death.
    – user13580
    Mar 15, 2016 at 5:35

2 Answers 2


Tree barks historically are used to grow orchids as that simulates their natural habitat where as epiphytes they cling to the branches as an air plant. In NZ pine bark is used, heat treated to 400 deg to sterilise it, and it may last 5 years without rotting which could damage your orchid roots. As they decay there may be some nutrient released to the roots, but this is offset by the need to use a higher concentration of nitrogen in the fertiliser. You might be better off to save yourself all these potential issues and use an inert media such as expanded clay pellets which are inexpensive, have a suitable wetting capacity, and can be resterilised for reuse.

  • Thanks Graham! Would I be correct in paraphrasing your answer thus: 1) you can make your own, but make sure to sterilize it 2) but it might make more sense to use inert media Mar 16, 2016 at 14:49
  • More like is it worth the trouble and risk to the health of your orchids to do this when better media is so cheap. Mar 16, 2016 at 17:57
  • That is indeed a reason not to make your own Mar 16, 2016 at 19:20

Please try out your ideas before you listen to others. Making your own bark from trees is totally fine as orchids naturally live on branches. Just dip those barks in the bucket fill with water for a week to get rid of all germs and bacteria. One downside with making your orchid bark yourself is there is no fertilize on it, but that can be fix by buying fertilizer. Orchids can even live in soil, as soil is like moss that retains water, tho the PH is different but it can be manipulated with coffee (acidic).Goodluck!

I have work at the Chicago Botanic Garden for over 6 years. I advise you to experiment all your ideas and just take online presence as a tip but also not to be trusted. Correct watering, enough fertilizer, and enough Sun!!! is ALL plants need. This is really not rocket science.

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