Journal of Horticulture and Practical Gardening 31: 449 (Nov 7 1895)

Charcoal for Orchids (Charcoal)

Undoubtedly charcoal is one of the most useful aids to Orchid culture in existence. There is no other material that acts so well in a double capacity so to speak—that is as a mechanical agent—in keeping the compost open and aerated, and in taking up moisture, also ammonia in some cases, and giving it off in suitable proportions to the need of the plants. It is valuable in the compost for terrestrial Orchids, and doubly so in the case of epiphytal species. The principal point that could possibly be urged against its use is that in the case of plants badly drained it may bold moisture to excess. If the compost is properly prepared, the pots well drained, and the plants judiciously watered—and all these points are necessary to successful Orchid culture—then charcoal cannot do harm, but, on the other hand, does an infinite amount of good in the manner described above; but, like every other good thing, charcoal must be properly used, and it must also be of good quality. It should be selected from Oak or other hard wood, properly but not over-burnt, and all the fine dusty portions must be sifted out. Use it in this way. and note the manner in which the large fleshy roots of an Aërides or Vanda cling to it, or how those of Cattleyas and similar kinds seem almost to wrestle for possession of a chance piece in the compost, and no better or more decisive answer will be required to your question. It is quite certain that although in a badly managed and waterlogged compost charcoal may be something akin to the famous chips in porridge, yet where other details are properly carried out it is of the greatest utility.