How To Grow Orchids Bare Root Without A Medium Or Pots-Can You Grow An Orchid Bare Root Or Almost Bare Root Like This Dendrobium Growing Through Shell-like Pottery Under A Tree
Garden,  Inspiration

How To Grow Orchids Bare Root Without A Medium Or Pot

Can You Grow An Orchid Bare Root? Consider These Three Factors

If you have an orchid, you are probably aware that most orchids are sold in media in some type of pot.  Home gardeners often continue this pot-bound method of growing their orchids until they notice their orchid is struggling.  But what if I told you there is a better way to grow your orchids?  A method that mimics an orchid’s natural way of growing.  A method that avoids many orchid-growing problems, while offering a stunning, wild and rustic way to display your orchids…  Well, there is such a method, and it is called growing your orchidsbare root.”  That’s right, under certain conditions, you can grow your orchids without medium (or only with a small amount of medium) or traditional pots.  Plus, growing an orchid “bare root” can sometimes even save a dying orchid.

Keep reading to learn why some orchids benefit from being grown with very little media and without traditional pots, aka bare rooted.  And of course, take a look at the photographic examples I’ve provided of “bare-root” orchids on this page (and throughout this website) where you see orchids not only surviving but thriving — and adding a stunning tropical rainforest vibe to any surroundings…

Read on to find out what an orchid with bare roots needs to be healthy, & then discover how you can meet these needs…

Speckled pink-purple Phalaenopsis orchids on trees close-up
Discover three methods to grow orchids on trees like this speckled pink-purple Phalaenopsis…

**Learn how to grow new roots on an orchid by stimulating root growth here…

**Discover why orchids absolutely love black tea here….

**Speaking of growing an orchid bare root… discover how to grow your orchid mounted on a tree…

**Learn how to beautifully display your orchids in a hanging basket here…

**Note: This post contains affiliate links for which a small commission may be earned if you decide to make a purchase through a link.

What Exactly Does Growing an Orchid Bare Root Mean?

Growing an orchid “bare root” emulates how many tropical orchids grow in their native rainforest habitats — without soil or potting media.  If proper conditions are met, bare root orchids will not only survive but will flourish.  Not to mention, the uncultivated appearance of a bare root orchid lends a gorgeous wild and rustic look to your home and garden.

Does Bare Root Mean Completely Bare? Not Necessarily

Since it is nearly impossible to simulate the ideal tropical growing conditions indoors, a small amount of potting media like sphagnum moss or orchid bark in a ventilated pot must be incorporated into an otherwise “bare root” approach.

Growing orchids “bare root” really is a more ventilated method of growing orchids and one that does not involve traditional pots.  If you are flexible enough to make adaptations for your particular environment, you may be able to grow “bare root” orchids under certain types of conditions discussed below…

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Stop paying too much for your homeowners insurance & reduce your risk with “Seven Smart Tips (Plus a Bonus!) to Reduce Your Homeowners Costs” here…

What Are Some Examples of Growing an Orchid Bare Root?

The prospect of growing an orchid bare root conjures up all sorts of creative ways you can incorporate your orchids into your home and landscape.  For inspiration, this page features examples of orchids in various states of “bare rooted-ness” in the photos illustrating the various methods.  Growing bare root puts an orchid’s lush aerial roots on full display, and can include mounting a phalaenopsis on wood, cork or ceramic, or growing a vanda or dendrobium attached to a tree.

**Try attaching your phalaenopsis orchid to a tree by using one of the three simple methods illustrated in this post…

Grow orchids attached to trees for magnificent growth & vitality
Grow orchids attached to trees for magnificent growth & vitality…  Find out three easy methods here…

Also, consider growing your ‘chids in hanging baskets or on custom wall panels…  The creative possibilities are endless and exciting.  But before we get too excited about the possibilities, first we must find out whether growing an orchid bare root is the right choice for you and your orchid….

What Factors Determine Whether You Can Grow an Orchid Without Medium or Pots (Bare Root)?

Only if you can establish that you can successfully meet the specific needs of your orchid, should you consider growing your orchid bare root.  Growing bare root essentially means your orchid will have to rely on either you or the elements to get its needs met.

Factors to consider before deciding to grow an orchid bare root include: the type of orchid you plan to grow bare root; the climate or conditions you plan on growing your orchid bare root in; and how much time and commitment you are willing to expend to meet your orchid’s hydration needs.

A variety of orchids -- some in hanging baskets & others attached to trees -- enjoy the bright but indirect sunlight under some palm trees
A variety of orchids — some in hanging baskets & others attached to trees — enjoy the bright but indirect sunlight under palms.


How to grow orchids bare root without a medium or pots like this beautiful vanda hanging from a palm tree

Factor #1: What Types of Orchids Can Grow Without Medium or Pots (Bare Root)? Orchids That Don’t Need Growing Media

First, let’s see what types of orchids can adapt to being grown bare root.  Happily, most of the popular tropical orchids we know and grow are epiphytes, including phalaenopsis, vanda, cattleyas, dendrobium, and many oncydium.  What makes these orchids epiphytes?  Epiphytic orchids grow without any soil in the wild, attaching themselves to tree bark and plants where their roots are free to absorb moisture from their surroundings.  “Free” being the key word here.  Similar to epiphytic orchids, lithophytic orchids, such as paphiopedilums (slipper orchids), also grow soil-less but they prefer to grow in and around rocks and stone crevices.

What both epiphytic and lithophytic orchids have in common is, in the right environment, both thrive when their roots are unencumbered by soil and can “breathe.”

Consider Your Species of Orchid

While epiphytic and lithophytic orchids prefer this “ventilated” method of growing, contrast this to terrestrial orchids.  Terrestrial orchids such as calanthe actually require soil to grow and thrive.  As a result, growing methods that work for epiphytic and lithophytic orchids can be harmful to terrestrial species of orchids, which would die without some type of potting media.

Throughout this article, I will refer to both epiphytic and lithophytic orchids as epiphytes since they both grow “soil-less” as distinguished from terrestrial orchids which require substrate to grow.

A gorgeous assortment of different colored orchids growing on trees
A gorgeous assortment of different colored orchids grow on trees & in baskets…

Consider Water Preferences of Your Species of Orchid

A subset of this issue is what are the water requirements for your particular type of orchid you would like to grow bare root.  A more-drought tolerant species of orchid will likely fare better growing bare root in a basket, on a tree or mounted on wood.  It will certainly be less maintenance growing bare root than an orchid with a greater need for hydration.

Keep, in mind, however, that certain methods of growing your orchid can make hydrating a bare root orchid easier.

Bottom-line: Grow Orchids Without Medium or Pots If You Have the Right Type of Orchid

While most epiphytic (and lithophytic) orchids are appropriate to consider growing bare root if you can meet their hydration needs, terrestrial orchids are not an option for this growing method.  Epiphytic orchids not only don’t require soil, but they also don’t require any other growing media such bark or (much) sphagnum moss either as long as their moisture needs can be satisfied in the right climate. 

So, is it possible for you, the home gardener, to successfully adapt this bare root method of growing epiphytic orchids where you live?  To find out, consider the climate or conditions you plan on growing your bare root orchid in…

How to grow orchids bare root without a medium or pots like this dendrobium in a hanging basket under a tree with a frog resting on the orchid's leaf
How can you grow orchids bare root without a medium or pot?  Try using hanging baskets to create a hospitable environment similar to the one this happy dendrobium “hangs” out in.  A very contented frog finds a safe & cozy “bed” on this dendrobium’s leaf…

Factor #2: What Climate or Conditions Do You Plan to Grow Your Orchid In?

A. Dry Vs. Humid Climate

If you live in a dry, sunny, hot environment with less than 40 to 50% humidity such as a desert, you may want to rethink growing your orchid bare root.  Growing your orchid bare root under these conditions will require much greater time and dedication to watering on your part to keep your plant from drying out.

Orchids in dry, hot climates do best with some type of potting media like sphagnum moss or bark chips to maintain consistent moisture around their roots.  However, if you have the time and dedication, there are additional methods that can maximize hydration.

How Can You Replicate the Humid Conditions That an Orchid Requires in a Dry Climate?

In a dry climate, in addition to hosing the roots frequently, you could do some version of the “water culture” method to hydrate your orchid.  This entails positioning your orchid above a container or bucket and allowing your orchid’s roots to soak water for some time each day — depending on the weather and your type of orchid.  This is a great way to provide more hydration in an otherwise dry environment.  Since you will have to do this more frequently in a dry place, make sure your schedule can accommodate such a routine.


B. Growing Your Orchid Bare Root in a Humid Climate: More Possibilities to Grow Bare Root

On the contrary, if you reside somewhere in the tropics or sub-tropics, your epiphytic plant may be right at home growing bare root.  Year-round warm to hot weather and high humidity is likely as close to the tropical epiphytic orchid’s native growing conditions as you can get.  Therefore, you will have the most flexibility in growing methods and have the best chance of success at growing a bare root orchid.  Since the weather is tropical, the burden will not be solely on you, the grower, to create the ideal conditions.

Under these balmy conditions, you could consider mounting your orchid on a tree, piece of driftwood or ceramic; as well as growing your orchids in hanging baskets or even on shells and rocks.

Unbelievably healthy, large root tips of orchids growing on trees shows how growing on trees benefits orchids
Very long & healthy orchid root tips, almost like talons, grab onto this palm, showing just how much orchids love attaching themselves to trees.  Discover here how lichen and the position of your orchid on a tree can affect its growth…

How Can You Replicate the Humidity & Hydration Requirements That an Orchid Receives in the Wild?

Growing your orchids bare root in a warm, tropical climate means you already have the right conditions.  Just be sure your orchid can take advantage of the ventilation and watering opportunities.  The ideal year-round warm, tropical conditions enable you to easily mist your orchid’s roots or spray them with a hose.  Not to mention, you can easily hydrate them in a bucket as needed, depending on the weather and time of the year.

If you are lucky enough to live in such an idyllic environment, you are in the best position to grow and hydrate your bare root orchid.

How To Grow Orchids Bare Root Without A Medium Or Pots-Can You Grow An Orchid Bare Root Or Almost Bare Root Like This Dendrobium Growing Through Shell-like Pottery Under A Tree
This dendrobium is nearly bare root growing through shell-like pottery under a tree…

Can Your Grow an Orchid Bare Root Indoors?

Indoor Growing Challenges Require More Dedication

Attempting to grow an orchid bare root indoors poses the most challenges.  We know that the less humid the environment, the more difficult it will be to grow a tropical orchid bare root.  Indoor climates often consist of dry, heated air and hard-to-satisfy lighting requirements, so this means more work for you.  You will certainly need to spend more time at home in order to accommodate the frequent, daily watering and misting your orchid’s bare roots will require.

Two Ways to Grow Orchids Without Medium or Pots Indoors & How to Meet Their Moisture Needs

Mounting An Orchid & A Modified Bare Root Arrangement 

Mounting your orchid is a beautiful and natural way to let you bring the beauty of the rainforest indoors, but it requires more upkeep.  Mounted arrangements tend to do best with smaller to medium-sized orchids in high humidity.  If you are up for the challenge and want to try mounting your orchid, you could also wrap sphagnum moss around its roots to boost hydration and mitigate moisture loss.  This modified bare root approach may be helpful in a drier indoor environment.

Another great option if you have the time is to do a version of water culture where you soak your mounted orchid’s roots a few times a week, leaving them free of substrate the rest of the time.  This post on watering vandas has more information on this type of watering routine.

This natural cork bark is ideal for mounting your epiphytic orchids for a natural & rustic display that would look stunning in any home or garden.
This natural cork bark is ideal for mounting your epiphytic orchids for a gorgeous natural, rustic display that would look stunning in any home or garden.

If you are brave enough to try growing orchids bare root indoors, be prepared to monitor and mist your orchid’s roots a few times a day.  To help with this, consider creating a humidity tray or investing in a humidifier.

Water Culture in Vases

As discussed above, the “water culture” method is a great way to hydrate your orchid in a dry environment. With a smaller orchid, position your plant above a small vase and allow its roots to soak water for up to 15 minutes a few times a week — depending on the season and your type of orchid.

Baskets & Bathtubs

Another way to grow orchids bare root indoors which grants you even more flexibility, is growing your orchids in hanging baskets.  This arrangement allows you to use your bathtub to hydrate your orchid for ten to fifteen minutes at a time.  The bare root arrangement then enables the exposed roots to air dry in the ventilated basket.

Bottom-line: Grow Orchids Without Medium or Pots by Considering the Climate or Conditions Where You Will Grow Your Orchid

Benefits of Growing Orchids Bare Root Without Medium or Pots: Less Risk of Root Rot

Bare root growing means frequent watering and higher maintenance.  However, you will also have less re-potting to do and less risk of your orchid’s roots rotting.

The biggest risk your orchid faces growing bare root indoors is receiving insufficient hydration.  This brings us to our next and final factor to consider if you want to grow your orchid bare root…

Factor #3: Do You Have the Time to Care for a Bare Root Orchid?

Do Not Grow Your Orchid Bare Root If You Cannot Attend to Your Orchid’s Moisture Needs

Potting orchids is not just a way of displaying them.  It satisfies the important hydration needs of your tropical plant in an otherwise dry environment.  Orchids that are in potting media allow the grower to water no more than once or twice a week instead of several times a day.  Of course, on the downside, potting provides less oxygen than an orchid often craves, and more potential for retaining too much water.

Risks Of Growing an Orchid Bare Root

In contrast, a mounted bare root orchid, especially an indoor one, will be much more prone to dryness.  It will also be more dependent on you for its hydration needs.

Water culture also requires careful attention, so your orchid is not left overly hydrated for too long and is allowed the opportunity to dry out in a ventilated space.

If you are not around, are forgetful or just can’t be bothered, growing your orchids mounted or bare root may not be for you.

Grow Orchids Without Medium or Pots Under Ideal Conditions for a Happy Orchid & a Spectacular Wild Display of Nature at Its Finest

With their highly adaptable roots, orchids are able to grow freely and thrive in the wild, attached to trees, rocks, and other plants.  While it can be challenging, growing an orchid bare root at home satisfies one of an epiphytic orchid’s most important needs — the need for ventilation.  Plus, few sights are more spectacular than an orchid growing wildly, reminiscent of how it grows in its natural habitat.  Suspended from bark and branches, or nestled between rock crevices, tropical orchids are a marvel of beauty and function.

Although you may not be able to exactly simulate the dynamic conditions an orchid enjoys growing in the wild, hopefully these tips have inspired you to try growing your orchids bare root in your garden….

**Don’t forget to bookmark and follow these guidelines so your orchids bloom and thrive however, and wherever, they are grown….


Do you grow your orchids beautifully bare root?  Mounted, hanging, or in baskets?  Let us know your favorite method for growing your orchids without any media in the comments!

Gorgeous White Phalaenopsis Orchid In Bloom In White Pot Next To Cutting Boards And Ivy League Candle On Granite Counter
A bare root orchid can be placed in a vase for a short water bath using the “water culture” method.  This gorgeous white phalaenopsis orchid in bloom hangs out on for a short bath.