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Hanging Rock Garden

An unusual collection of orchids suspended on lava rocks.

For many orchids, mounting them is the most natural way to grow them. You usually see orchids mounted on wood, but mounting them on a piece of lava rock allows them to function as a hanging garden in a way that a flat piece of wood does not. A wood-mounted orchid is often displayed hanging flat against a wall, but the three-dimensionality of the lava rocks in this project allows the orchids to be suspended anywhere. The lava-mounted orchids can also be placed on a tray and not hung, if air space is limited.

Orchid species that thrive mounted are epiphytic, or tree dwelling. It is best to use a plant that will remain compact—a miniature is a great choice for this mounting project. I used a mini restrepia, a lepanthes, two dendrobiums, a masdevallia, and a trichosalpinx. Other orchids that do well mounted are cattleya, chiloschistas, angraecums, bulbophyllums, and phalaenopsis. It is often hard to find specialty orchids at your local nursery, but you can order a huge range of orchids online from Andy’s Orchids (see Resources). If possible, try to do this project during a new growth period, when new roots have already started.


The growing conditions you should consider before choosing your orchids are light and temperature. Choose orchids that will easily grow in your indoor environment. If you are working with existing conditions and cannot provide a special environment, choose plants with a broader temperature range.



  • Dried sphagnum moss (A)
  • 3 to 5 orchids (B)
  • 3 to 5 lava rocks (C)
  • Green moss or living sphagnum moss (D)
  • Clear monofilament fishing line (E)
  • Bonsai wire or twine (I used 1mm black bonsai wire because I like its smooth appearance. Twine will eventually disintegrate and will need to be replaced periodically.) (F)



  • Bowl (G)
  • Scissors (H)
  • Wire cutters (I)

Moisten the dried sphagnum moss by placing it in a bowl of water for at least an hour.


If you are working with a potted plant, remove the plant from the pot. If you are working with a plant mounted on wood, remove the plant from the wood.


Find a place on the lava rock, such as a flat spot, for the orchid to sit. Place a chunk of moist sphagnum moss on the spot you’ve identified as the mount location.


Place an orchid on the sphagnum moss and add a very small dab of green moss on top of the orchid roots.


Secure the orchid and moss to the rock with the fishing line, wrapping the line around the rock, up, down, and over again.


Place the rock and orchid in the position you wish to hang them and take a piece of wire or twine long enough to hang the rock from and wrap the middle of the wire once around the rock’s center (from top to bottom), twisting the wire at the top to secure it around the rock. Hang the rock, and repeat for the other orchids and rocks.



In their natural habitat orchids live on rainwater, which is low in dissolved minerals and salts. It is best to water your orchids with rainwater if you can, but filtered tap water or distilled water are also fine. The best way to water the orchids in this project is to submerge the entire plant in water. Once all the air bubbles have stopped coming to the surface remove the orchid from the water. You will probably need to water 3 to 5 times a week. If your region has low humidity and high temperatures you can expect to water at least once a day. Check the moss around the orchid—if it’s dry that’s an indication that you need to water. Water the orchids in the late afternoon or evening during warm months and in the morning during cool months. In between watering mist the orchids, again with suitable water. Also be careful not to use water that is too cold—it could shock your plants.



Refer to the tag or label that came with the plant to find out the light needs of the individual orchids you purchase. You can add growing lights to help your orchids get enough light, but be sure to pay attention to the humidity as the lights decrease the amount of moisture in the air.


The needs of the specific plants you choose will vary; refer to the temperature range listed in the plant description. Temperature also plays a role in how much sun the orchid can take—the cooler it is the brighter it can be.


Orchids need air movement. Place a fan near the hanging lava rocks to facilitate air movement. A healthy orchid that never blooms is usually suffering from a lack of airflow.


Fertilizer can be applied at a quarter strength about every three weeks, after a thorough watering.