HYDRATION TRAYS : GRAVEL, STONES or NOTHING?
We're often asked about using gravel in the hydration trays... Gravel? Rocks? or nothing?
Hi, I'm Kate, a potter living in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest who makes 'homes' for orchids and their colorful owners!
OK, so the deal with the trays is this: orchids are air plants that cannot thrive with roots submerged in water + soil like your average fern, for instance. They take the water vapor or "hydration" from the surrounding atmosphere. Our hydration trays meet the needs of many orchids by raising or lowering the amount of water the unglazed raku pot receives.
Not all orchids are created equal! The phalaenopsis or moth orchid in the photo is up high on rocks to allow much humidity to reach those nice long roots. I mist it every few days, and dip the entire pot in a clean pail of water every 2-3 weeks. I also fertilize at this time after dipping, to reduce the build up of fertilizer in the medium, called 'salt burn'. I use the Gro-More brand fertilizer for my orchid variety.
Many kinds of orchids like wet/dry cycles, and prefer no rocks or gravel in the tray. Other, tropical orchids like a wetter medium and thrive with the pot sitting on 2-inches of gravel.
If you're not sure what kind of orchid species you have, it's all in the roots! Consider where your variety grows wild, and think about where it will be growing for you. The grower's guide: "Orchids For Dummies" is a great source of information for adapting your grow space easily and fast.
Remember to wash your trays as often as you fertilize!