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Old 04-05-2012, 12:53 AM
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Styrofoam

I've seen a lot of discussion about growing orchids in inert inorganic materials.

I frequently use styrofoam packing peanuts at the bottom of my pots, if I need to reduce the size of the pot, I know a lot of people do this.

Since I started doing this, I have noticed that orchid roots cling to styrofoam peanuts like I've seen with no other media. I know people say that one can grow orchids in anything.

I know it wouldn't be the nicest looking material and moisture retention might be an issue, but has anybody ever tried growing orchids in exclusively styrofoam? It could make for a really interesting project if only to see what kind of results one gets.

Just curious,
Justin
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Old 04-05-2012, 01:30 AM
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You can grow most orchids in just about anything except for the Terrestrial ones. The pots and the potting mix is there to hold the plant up mainly. In the wild they grow on trees etc and the roots meander over the surface. The difference in the potting mixes is basically the amount of moisture etc it holds.
Styrofoam would work but would need a lot more watering, you would need rocks in the bottom to hold it down being so light. You could chop up some tree twigs into 1/2 inch lengths and pot in that if you wanted too.
We mount orchids of different types and they all grow OK with no medium, you could use shattered toughened glass and pot up a Den if you wanted too and it would grow fine with heaps of light getting to the roots, there is no rule as to what to use its just some mediums work better than others and some hold more water or are more open than others.

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Old 04-05-2012, 04:59 AM
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I think because the styrofoam is soft, it is easier for the roots to attach too. I noticed that too....interesting...might try it with a plant...to see what happens! Will let you know
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Old 04-05-2012, 06:54 AM
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I have grown plants in Styrofoam "peanuts", and as has been said, it requires a LOT of watering. There are some issues and potential issues with doing so:

The stuff is light and loose, so it is tough to get the plant stable and to keep it standing upright - use a clay pot.

Be sure to use white only, as some of the dyes are phytotoxic, especially the pink antistatic ones made for electronics.
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Old 04-05-2012, 07:24 AM
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I use lots of p'nuts for various reasons and don't what I would do if they ever decide to eliminate them from the world. I am always amazed when the roots grow through the p'nuts and it doesn't need to be the big fat roots but also the fine roots of small growing 'chids. Mother Nature is pretty impressive when a root not much bigger than a thread has enough force to penetrate the p'nut.

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Old 04-05-2012, 09:43 AM
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Quote:
Be sure to use white only, as some of the dyes are phytotoxic, especially the pink antistatic ones made for electronics.
\

thx. did not know this.
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Old 04-05-2012, 11:33 PM
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Interesting stuff! I really think I might try this, maybe the next NOID on clearance that I pick up. I might try putting some sort of netting to prevent the peanuts from floating away, at least until the roots get established.

Ray, are all dyed peanuts toxic, or just the anti-static ones? Because I have been using the light green ones that came with my last shipment, if they are no good, I might have to do some repotting.

Justin
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Old 04-06-2012, 01:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brooke View Post
I use lots of p'nuts for various reasons and don't what I would do if they ever decide to eliminate them from the world. I am always amazed when the roots grow through the p'nuts and it doesn't need to be the big fat roots but also the fine roots of small growing 'chids. Mother Nature is pretty impressive when a root not much bigger than a thread has enough force to penetrate the p'nut.

Brooke
Yeah, they already did that here, that is - eliminated! I used to see bags of p'nuts being sold in a post office - not any more. Go green they say. Now they ship the stuff with the airy plastic bags.....

Lilia, Vancouver, BC
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Old 04-06-2012, 06:53 AM
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Justin I have never had problems with the green p'nuts and have used them for years. I have to buy mine from the UPS store because almost every other place is going to the biodegradable stuff which dissolves in moisture.

Brooke
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Old 04-06-2012, 07:38 AM
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Back when the packing material was first available, an industry standard was established to allow greater management of the products (I think it has pretty much faded into oblivion at this point):

White: new production
Green: a dye sprayed on the material to indicate it has been reused/recycled
Pink: the antistatic coating color.

Later a blue antistat coating was used just to make them easier to deal with in dry environments. They didn't stick as much to themselves and the user, but they were not sufficiently antistatic for electronics.

Both the pink and the green dyes displayed some phytotoxicity, the pink to a greater extent. However, who is to say that they coatings they use now are the same as the ones they did then? Personally, I'd still avoid the pink ones.
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Old 04-06-2012, 08:17 AM
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Of course the downside of packing peanuts is that when a top-heavy plant is growing with a tilt to one side, a pot with styro is more likely to tip over. For that reason, I've been using river rock at the bottom of pots lately.
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Old 04-06-2012, 02:10 PM
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Quote:
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Pink: the antistatic coating color.

Later a blue antistat coating was used just to make them easier to deal with in dry environments. They didn't stick as much to themselves and the user, but they were not sufficiently antistatic for electronics.
It is funny that this is kind of making me reminisce, about 9 years ago now, I used to work in a computer store. I did technician work, sales, stocking, cleaning, you know all of the usual work of a store clerk plus PC repair.

One of my most significant duties was unpacking the daily shipment of PC components, inventorying them, affixing price tags, shelving, and then breaking down the box and bagging the shipping peanuts. It was enough of a chore that I completely understand why the owners of the store hired a minimum wage teenager to do this.

Anyways, packing peanuts became the bane of my existence. They get everywhere, and I don't care what you coat them with, they stick to everything. I think you could submerge them in mineral oil and they would still find a way to repulse it off and fly up and stick to stuff. But, no matter whether the components were shipped with the pink, green, or white ones, the components still needed to be placed in the esd safe bags and wrapped in bubblewrap.

A further amusing thing I have noticed over the years, is the ridiculous cost of the peanuts. To go to the store and buy them, like I have needed to when shipping stuff, you would think they were made out of gold with the prices they charge for them. I mean come on, they make coffee cups and plates out of the same stuff (I know it is not exactly the same stuff) and give them away at restaurants. But, the moment you say something is for shipping, the charge goes up by a ludicrous amount.

Back at the store, we actually used to give them away for free by the trash bag full. We actually used to beg people to take as many bags as they could, and people were delighted to do so.

I hated them so much, that I used to be absolutely ecstatic when I would open a box and find that they used the inflated plastic bags as the shipping padding, it meant that my afternoon's work at the store was cut by a factor of two thirds.

Now I actually hope to see the peanuts included in shipments, so I have a cache ready for my orchdis.

Alright, nostalgic rant over.

Justin
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Old 08-24-2018, 06:29 AM
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Angry Packing peanuts mostly air.

It is my understanding that peanuts are 5% polystyrene and 95% air. Maybe that is why they seem to respond so well and it is easy for their roots to penetrate. Also, while the peanuts donít hold water - it does seem to bead up on them thus providing some humidity for a short period of time. In clear pots you can see it. If exposed to open air - they would dry off almost immediately but the plastic allows just a little extra time for the roots to have just a bit of moisture. I know my pots with peanuts the roots seem to stay down in. I use net pots for everything including phals - why - because I can water more (Iím a putterer) and also in the summer, especially the past 2 yrs we seem to have developed a tropical environment where it rains every day in the afternoon, or evening. Iím in central Virginia - feels more like when I lived in Florida. In the winter due to my dry house, I set the net pots (especially phals) down in larger clear plastic pots for added humidity retention. I use a bit of sphagnum moss in between the two pots if I feel more moisture is needed. For the catts etc, I sit them in clay pots with peanuts around and under and just mist them down. If I have to have the heat on higher I make sure I mist the outside of the clay pots too or remove the net pot and soak the clay pot for an hour or so. I have used light salon cotton (like used when you get perms to keep solution out of your eyes) to wrap around aerial roots but now that Iím in nets - I donít have as many aerials, at least not from the top. In the net pots, I find the roots go down inside and then come out the sides and bottom. I just mist the outside of the pots in between regular watering. The roots pretty much consume the net pot. I find it sorta like mounting with out the mount. They get the best of both worlds - roots free to the breezes and moisture. I have roots that freely come out the sides but when the weather gets hot and dry, I notice they start curving and growing back into the interior. Iím curious, as the weather cools and when they move inside, if the tips will resurface to the outside. All have been transitioned into net pots with Orchiata bark. I anticipate I will be able to, whenever I repot these, just set down inside a larger net pot with no real disturbance. Hopefully that will be at least 5 yrs down the road. I use peanuts under the stem area in all the pots. Personally, mine seem to generate new roots faster with the peanuts in the center area...could be the hard NZ pinus radiata bark too. There is moisture but not wet and the net pot makes sure nothing stays too wet for long and gets lots of air. If you are a big traveler and your plants only get watered every 2-3 weeks, donít see this method working for your phals in particular. I find I like the Orchiata because it is actual bark like they would grow on in nature. It doesnít need to be soaked prior to use - if you put it in a plastic bag in bright light, even though it looks dry and hard, it will quickly build up condensation inside the bag. In fact, they tell you not to soak it and to use it straight from the bag because you will rinse off the dolomitic limestone they add to buffer the bark. Note - they say after 6-12+ months you may want to redust with dolomitic limestone. You would want to do a PH pour-through media test to keep up with media ph but that is the same for all bark and oss after 6 months to a year or if you see tips declining. For those who havenít see it -to describe the texture, think the scaley chunks of bark on big lumber type pine trees. Orchiata is very hard even the smaller sizes. Except for young seedlings right out of the flask or compost - personally I find the sizes Power or Power Plus works for most orchid types -sometimes I use the Super in the bottom of pots. Classic size is good for first potting after com-pots. It comes in 40 liter bags and in 5 liter bags as packaged from Besgrow. You can almost buy a 5 liter bag for the price of those little repackaged quart size bags - $14+ for repackaged 1 qt. vs under $20 for mfg packaged 5 qts. The 40 liter/quart mfg bags can be found for around $35. Look for free shipping.
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Old 08-24-2018, 05:42 PM
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I haven't tried this but have seen other people. Because I grow outside I would need to put something on top of the Styrofoam as it would blow all over the place if I didn't.

But I can't see any reason this wouldn't work well. It would be like using perlite in some ways I think.
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Old 08-25-2018, 03:45 PM
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I routinely use peanuts (all colors) or white styro chunks in the base of most of my pots, especially large ones. Middle third of pot is about half bark & charcoal, half styrofoam. Top third all bark. Works well for me. I have never observed phytotoxic effects when using pink or green peanuts (or white either).
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