This question was submitted by Maryann and is reposted here.
My friend gave me a huge staghorn fern that fell from one of her trees in Nuuanu Pali. There is a very large area of old growth fiber behind the ferns. I am cutting away some of this fiber in chunks. Can I use this as part of the medium to repot my orchids? The previous owner of our newly purchased home left us about 45 orchids and they all need repotting.. Being able to use the staghorn fiber will help with the cost of purchasing so much orchid medium. Thanks in advance for your advice. Maryann
In general orchid media needs to hold moisture and be able to dry out completely just as pine bark does. Look at the old growth fiber and try soaking it in water for a few minutes. Then bring it out and lay flat in a ventilated area and see how long it takes to dry out completely.
If it dries out readily it could be used to pot orchids but may need to be watered often depending on how tightly packed you use it in a pot and how many roots fill the pot.
It is also possible to mix with the fern fiber a little traditional orchid media like pine bark, tree fern, lava rock, perlite or even foam blocks to create air gaps and to hold moisture longer.
Do check the fiber over time to see if it is rotting or breaking down and replace it if this does occur.
One thing to note as you repot is that orchids like to be secure in their pots or containers and not loose fitting so use enough media to hold it firmly or even wire the plant in the pot tightly.