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Broken clay pots for S/H

This is a discussion on Broken clay pots for S/H within the Semi Hydro / Lights / Greenhouses / Accessories forums, part of the Orchid Culture category; I have been using lava rock that I break up to the size that I ...

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  1. #1
    desertchid is offline Junior Member
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    Default Broken clay pots for S/H

    I have been using lava rock that I break up to the size that I think is appropriate for the plant that I'm potting. I have been doing this for 2 years now with good success on most of my orchids but not my Phals. The old Phal. roots rot and the new ones as soon as they hit the lava rock die. Humidity is a real challenge for me and I'm wondering if that could be part of the problem as the top layer(s) of lava rock stay dry to the touch. I have tried covering the roots and top of the pot with plastic wrap which seems to help but not cure my problem. I just can't bring myself to pay more for shipping (call me cheap) then I do for the available expanded clay mediums. Clay pots are comparatively cheap. Are they a reasonable substitute for the expanded clay?

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    Mehera's Avatar
    Mehera is offline Just Another Senior Moment
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    Just a guess, but I'm thinking that smashed clay pot shards might not nest together well enough for the wicking action that S/H depends on. I sure haven't tried it though.

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    I agree with Lynda- I'm not convinced that clay pots are a reasonable substitute for expanded clay media. I think the rounded shape of the Hydroton clay media really is more effective at "wicking" water than smashed clay pots. Also (and I could be wrong here), I don't think clay pots are exactly the same material as expanded clay media like Hydroton. I've been playing with it/feeling it for a few weeks now, and it really is lighter and less dense than the clay that regular pots are made of; hence its remarkable ability to really pull the water from the bottom and stay moist.

    I'm a frugal person, but since I love my plants and I wanted to give them the best conditions possible, I went out on a limb when I bought the pillow-sized bag of S/H expanded clay media, and it was about $20 after tax from a local hydroponics store. I think you can (probably) get a bag of it, with shipping, for around $40-$50 from sellers on the internet. If not, try an auction site; I've seen people selling S/H media on there for half what internet stores charge.

    A plant I just put into S/H a week ago has started to throw a spike since I repotted it. I've seen excellent responses in all my plants in S/H (I now have 9 plants in it, all doing well), so I feel confident in saying that $40-$50 would be a worthy investment for you, and would repay you with healthy plants that grow well and do not get root rot. So long as you watch the plants, keep the reservoir full, and fertilize well duing the growing season, I think you'll like the results with S/H media.

    Best of luck!

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    The ONLY way you will know for sure is to try it. Heck, you MAY be onto the newest media craze if you can figure it out.

    By the way, I am not certain that clay pots in the volume you will need will be that much cheaper than a sack of leca.

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    Be careful with pot shards, Katie - the edges could slice roots if there's any movement of the plant in the pot.

    Hope you're well!

    Julie

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    desertchid is offline Junior Member
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    Thanks for all of your input. Expanded clay may be the best way to go. Yes if I were to buy clay pots it would probably cost me more, sharp shards may be a problem but I was told that about lava rock, so far no problem. I will have to experiment a little and see how well broken pots wick and if that works out try a plant. Will let you know what I find out. Thanks again for your thoughts.

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    WolfinKW is offline Wolf - I bite but only when asked.
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    Ok being humidity challenged myself - I'm considering going over to SH...

    Clay pot method - I would suggest soaking the pot really well then smashing... Often stores will sell you the cracked pots for a discount...
    I would also suggest possibly stacking the shards so that at least a "tower" of them up the center of the pot are matched Concave to concave so that they nest together this would provide the best surface to surface transfer.

    no they will not wick the water quite as well as the leca or other media that is created for this purpose, but they will do it fairly well.

    As far as sharp edges go get a rock tumbler from 5 and Dime store and toss the shards a few times around in that. Should rub down the edges.

    And here I have a mister going 5 mins three times a day every day and then I go out and mist sometimes between times.

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    GiovannaD is offline Senior Member
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    I don't know if the broken terracotta parts will be sufficient. First of all, they can be sharp and possibly damage the roots which, being in a very wet enviroment, could get infected and probably start to rot. The expanded clay pellets are round or roundish...and the inside seems to be some gray/black porous matter which resembles lava rock but it is not. Secondly, I seriously doubt that the broken parts will be able to wick. You can see the wicking process slowly building up, the moisture seems to be climbing upwards...Also bear in mind that leca pellets are very light for their volume so that helps to circulate air inside the pots. Think about it...you may be risking your plants health (thunder in the background )

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    I'm so glad i read this thread. I was thinking along the same lines !! I was planning to mix some bark and some moss to get the wicking effect. I might still try it. I'm game for the adventure !! :o)
    J

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by magooba View Post
    I'm so glad i read this thread. I was thinking along the same lines !! I was planning to mix some bark and some moss to get the wicking effect. I might still try it. I'm game for the adventure !! :o)
    J
    umm... I'm not sure what you mean here. I am just thinking that bark plus moss sitting in water will lead to root rot. It is the moss part that I am worried about since it may stay too wet.

    Anyway, even growing orchids in bark is nearly hydroponic since bark provides very little nutrients. My mom has been growing orchids for a while and she does not ever empty drip trays, orchids usually in coarse bark and charcoal and oversized clay (sometimes plastic) pots. So plants basically do sit in water for a little while and water is most likely wicked up the coarse bark or clay pot. She hasn't had any root problems, except for one time on a cattleya that did not get a repotting and the mix rotted. Since they sit in water for a little while, I'm thinking it is acting a little like S/H reducing the watering schedule. No sphag anywhere though except near the top third of the pot.
    I grow things differently but I have to spend much more time...

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