Question: What’s up with the Styrofoam peanut in the orchid pot? Are you just cheap or what?
Answer: I won’t deny that I’m a frugal person, but the peanuts serve an important function in the pot–maintenance of an air pocket. Potting media like moss and bark provide prolonged moisture and humidity around the root ball to better simulate the orchid’s native conditions. Most orchids that are grown by hobbyists are epiphytes in Nature, so their roots dry out quickly because they are exposed to air all the time. That air, though, tends to be humid unlike the air in your house. To create a happier environment for the orchid roots and an easier care regime for ourselves, we pot them.
When you choose a pot and potting media for your orchids, you need to know about your own care habits and your growing conditions. Do you struggle with over watering or under watering? Does your orchid prefer wetter or drier conditions? I grow a wide range of types of orchids, so the answer to the latter question for me is, “both.” But I also know I’m an over-waterer even of those guys who would prefer I leave them alone. You can adjust your choices to work better with your tendencies. If you overwater or are potting guys that like to be drier, use less media or a media that includes non-absorbent material like cork, charcoal, perlite, or styrofoam. If you are a once-a-week (or less) waterer, go for more absorbent materials like moss and bark.
For me (as you have seen if you have purchased plants from me), my most combo is a styrofoam peanut in the middle of the root ball with a layer of sphagnum moss around the whole root ball. Pop that into the smallest pot you can fit it into comfortably and wait for those new roots to show up. I also like to top my plants with crushed oyster shell for calcium (available for cheap where you get chicken supplies) and you can add a slow-release fertilizer like Nutricote (available on Amazon) so you don’t have to think about when to next feed your orchids. Using this combo, I have converted some of the most diehard moss haters I know! Moss only leads to root rot when you pack it tight and use too much.
I hope that helps explain my approach and that it helps you grow bigger and happier orchids.