Shop Orchid Care OrchidTalk Orchid Forum Weather Station Links Nursery

Welcome to OrchidTalk Orchid Forums


The Friendliest Orchid Community on the Internet!


  •  » Learn to Repot your Orchids
  •  » Learn Orchid Care Tips and Secrets
  •  » Find the perfect Orchid for your Growing Environment
  •  » Chat with Orchid Growing Professionals

OrchidTalk - "Bringing People Together to Grow Orchids Better!"


Let us help you grow your Orchids better; Join our community today.


YES! I want to register an account for free right now!


Register or Login now to remove this advertisement.

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 11
Like Tree23Likes

Charcoal and orchids

This is a discussion on Charcoal and orchids within the General Orchid Culture forums, part of the Orchid Culture category; Hi, everyone. This past weekend, I was talking to an experienced orchid grower (22 yrs) ...

Click here to increase the font size Click here to reduce the font size
  1. #1
    chrisa's Avatar
    chrisa is offline Senior Member
    Real Name
    Chris
    My Grow Area
    Sunroom
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Austin, Texas
    Posts
    299
    Member's Country Flag

    Default Charcoal and orchids

    Hi, everyone.

    This past weekend, I was talking to an experienced orchid grower (22 yrs) and he mentioned that he does not use charcoal in any of his potting mixes. He stated that wile charcole does act as a filter, it also retains all the bad stuff that should be flushed from the potting mix during watering.

    This confusses me because I see charcoal in almost every commercial potting mix on the market and I use it because it helps with drainage.

    What are your thoughts?

    Chris

  2. #2
    tucker85's Avatar
    tucker85 is offline Senior Member
    Real Name
    Jeff Tucker
    My Grow Area
    Porch/Patio.
    Favorite Orchid(s)
    Cattleyas, Phalaenopsis, Vanda
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Plantation, Florida
    Posts
    2,446
    Member's Country Flag

    Default

    Charcoal is a traditional element of most mixes. I read one book that stated there's no scientific evidence that it really does much of anything. I don't know, personally. Some people claim that it has anti-bacterial benefits and others say it filters toxins. Neither of those claims makes much sense to me. My personal opinion is that it lightens up the mix because it doesn't hold any water and it doesn't deteriorate. Actually the fact that it doesn't break down is probably the most important quality. I will probably continue to use it in my mixes even though I'm not sure why.
    Last edited by tucker85; May 14th, 2013 at 03:38 PM.

  3. #3
    raybark's Avatar
    raybark is online now Senior Member
    Real Name
    Ray Barkalow
    My Grow Area
    Under Lights
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Oak Island NC
    Posts
    1,271

    Default

    I lean toward Tucker's assessment, with a little pinch of "but..." thrown in.

    In the 40+ years I've been growing, I have heard a lot of comments about charcoal "sweetening" the mix - helping purify it by trapping wastes. However, in order to be an efficient "trap" for such chemical species, the charcoal would have to be "activated", which greatly enhances the number of adsorption sites.

    I suspect that the mere heat conversion from wood to charcoal does "activate" it to some degree - primarily at the surface I imagine - but its probably orders-of-magnitude less than that seen on truly activated carbon, drastically limitng its trapping capacity.

    Having said that, I will add that all solid potting media components still absorb and trap minerals and wastes, which is why we need to repot regularly, even iof the medium has not significantly decomposed, and I doubt that the charcoal does much to extend the time a mix stays viable.

  4. #4
    Ron-NY is offline rothaholic
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Saratoga Co. New York
    Posts
    6,922

    Default

    Chris, lets look at the purpose of potting medium to start off. For epiphytes, the medium is only for stabilization of the plant in the pot and to hold enough moisture for the particular orchid while allowing enough aeration for root development.
    Hardwood charcoal has some qualities that work for the above. It is slow to decompose, helps drainage, provides some air circulation.
    Most potting materials for orchids do not provide any nutrients. We add the nutrients in the water via the fertilizers we use and that’s how they are made available to the plants.
    I am sure charcoal does bind some salts but hardwood charcoal does it less readily than activated charcoal. It also may also absorb some of the toxins from the breakdown of the organic material in the potting mix and those in the water. That is a good thing. I had seen one article, from a taxonomist, that some toxins are released from an orchids roots, which will be absorbed by the charcoal.
    I don't think it needs to be used but there are many pros for it to be in a potting mix.

  5. #5
    Real Name
    Zainal Abidin Bin Othman
    Favorite Orchid(s)
    Huntleya, Bollea, Cochleanthes
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Melaka, West Malaysia
    Posts
    12,753
    Member's Country Flag

    Default

    I love to use charcoal as a potting medium as it can stabilize the plant and the root can hook easily so far I dont have any problem with it, the reason I dont use charcoal cause it's to heavy now most of my medium are combination between coconut husk and sphagnum moss.For the antelopes dendrobium usually I use combination of charcoal and bricks as it's very heavy therefore can support the weight of this gigantic plant.

  6. #6
    catttan's Avatar
    catttan is offline Senior Member
    Real Name
    Yew-Sung
    My Grow Area
    Outside 24/7
    Favorite Orchid(s)
    cattleyas, vandaceous,paphios
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Kedah, Peninsular Malaysia
    Posts
    15,877
    Member's Country Flag

    Default

    I've been using charcoal in all my mix for more than 50 years. One plus point in our tropical climate is that it doesn't break down easily and clog up the mix. As to whether it 'sweetens' up the mix is debatable. Some people claim that if it absorbs and retains toxins and salts then it can't be good for the plants that have their roots attached to it. However in our tropical climate with our constant afternoon deluge, everything is flushed out or leached out and the charcoal remains quite 'inert'. I use large chunks 2 x 1 inch to small pieces about 1/4 inch depending on the types of orchids. The only problem at the moment is the high price of charcoal nowadays.

  7. #7
    pavel's Avatar
    pavel is offline change is the only constant
    Favorite Orchid(s)
    whatever will bloom
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    8,643
    Member's Country Flag

    Default

    As others have said, it is rather doubtful that its ability to act as a "purifier" is all that valuable. Once it has absorbed whatever small amount of compounds it is capable of, it's role as a purifier is ended. My understanding is that it does not take long for that limit to be reached. I have also read (though for the life of me I couldn't tell you where) that charcoal can serve as an additional source of available carbon for the plant. While this might have some truth to it, considering its "eternal" presence in a mix, it obviously does not provide much or we would all notice the steady disappearance of the chunks.

    Having said this, I will say that I do still include it in my potting mixes. In part due to the possibility that there might be some minor benefit to its inclusion. However, I use it mainly as an inert, nonwater-retentive additive to help keep the mix "airy".

  8. #8
    coeruleo's Avatar
    coeruleo is offline Night Bloomer
    My Grow Area
    Porch/Patio.
    Favorite Orchid(s)
    Vanda
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Posts
    1,302

    Default

    well, after years of keeping aquariums, i can tell you it does have an effect on the smell of the aquarium water, and tanks with filters that use it seem to stay healthier. i think the same effect works on orchids, some harmful bacteria don't do well in the presence of charcoal. i think it helps to keep harmful bacteria in check. to help avoid root-rot?

  9. #9
    MeDeL's Avatar
    MeDeL is offline Member
    My Grow Area
    Outside 24/7
    Favorite Orchid(s)
    Phalaenopsis
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Boracay Island, Philippines
    Posts
    61
    Member's Country Flag

    Default

    Charcoal is also used as natural deodorant used in freezer and ice boxes, so I think it breathes by itself absorbing gaseous impurities and flush out some gas as well but I don't think it is very harmful. It is carbon and I think it doesn't do any harm to orchid roots since this element is also considered beneficial to plants. Whatever bad stuff it emits unless, I think the charcoal do it moderately and I don't think it is harmful. Maybe they think charcoal breathe out methane gas but with the amount of charcoal employed in pots, small amount of methane seems beneficial to plants.

  10. #10
    raybark's Avatar
    raybark is online now Senior Member
    Real Name
    Ray Barkalow
    My Grow Area
    Under Lights
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Oak Island NC
    Posts
    1,271

    Default

    The charcoal used in aquaria, and those intended for odor reduction - shoe liners, pills for dogs with gas "issues", etc. - are activated charcoal. Those uised in orchid media are not.

    "Activation" of charcoal involves "burning" materials in controlled temperatures and atmospheres, resulting in the creation of ultrafine porosity, which in turn translates to a HUGE surface area. A great many materials are attracted to that exposed carbon, adhering tenaciously to it.

    That, unfortunately, is a double-edged sword. Initially, the charcoal basically traps anything that gets near it - good if it's a foul odor chemical or waste product, (bad if it's a nutrient ion, as it will no longer be accessible by the plant). Then, over time, as the adsorption sites on the carbon get more and more occupied, the degree of trapping is reduced, and trapped items are less-solidly bonded, so the carbon becomes a ready source of chemical contamination, rather than a remover of it.

    If you replace it, you throw the problem away, but...

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. Charcoal ?
    By rich63 in forum Semi Hydro / Lights / Greenhouses / Accessories
    Replies: 6
    Last Post: May 9th, 2013, 07:53 AM
  2. Charcoal…
    By pillairp in forum General Orchid Culture
    Replies: 7
    Last Post: January 29th, 2010, 03:17 AM
  3. Charcoal?
    By ang709 in forum Flasking Equipment & Technique
    Replies: 7
    Last Post: October 16th, 2009, 02:14 AM
  4. 70-100% charcoal as media, any idea?
    By my nhan ngu in forum General Orchid Culture
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: October 7th, 2006, 01:34 AM
  5. S/H and phrags - what's the conventional wisdom, add charcoal?
    By JOHNnDC in forum Semi Hydro / Lights / Greenhouses / Accessories
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: September 26th, 2004, 05:09 AM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
OrchidTalk --An Orchid Growers Discussion Forum brought to you by River Valley Orchidworks. A World Community where orchid beginners and experts talk about orchids and share tips on their care, cultivation, and propagation.