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Plant Blog- Substrate

Updated: Apr 20, 2021

As an avid grower, learning and understanding soil composition has been one of the most challenging aspect in the success of growing these plants. I have experimented with many versions of it in the past years and I would like to share with you a bit what I have learnt and how we can continuously improve it.

The Rainforest is complex system where most plants grows on often acidic and nutrient-depleted soils. The natural balance of the substrate is maintained by biological cycling and mineral weathering. The growth habitat of these rainforest plants can be seen ranging from tropical lowlands to higher altitude cloud forest. Their ability to adapt to these different conditions propels my interest to even further discover how they survive in these conditions. I have divided this topic to different section where we can discuss a bit more of the makeup and the factors that influence the constitution of substrate.


Based on the weather conditions, the physical weathering of these various substrates breaks down the key components in the substrate either by wetting, drying, erosion, breaking smashing, fallings of rocks and of course animal interaction, therefore affecting the substrate composition of these plants quite substantially. This he principal process acts upon the earth’s primary minerals to form the smaller and finer particles that we call “soil.” This is a constant cycle which maintains the balance for the plants. Due to weathering, the leeching of nutrients from substrates can happen in nature.

Watering holding capacity

Water is definitely one of the key components of how nutrients are transported to the plants via root and subsequently to the stem, leaves and flowers. The substrates ability to hold a certain amount of water would also mean that the plant would have a small reservoir of nutrients be utilised. As spoken earlier some of the nutrients would be leeched out of the soil due to weathering but this is actually important to keep the balance as to not overload the substrate with unused minerals and micronutrients. The Jungle untouched often consist of decomposing plant material like leaf litter, dead plant material, broken rocks and so forth. This happens not only on the jungle floor but also on nooks and crannies of trees. Thats why lots of epiphytes end up settling on trees as there's an accumulation of substrate.

PH Levels

In school we have learnt that tipping the PH on the PH scale veers the value towards being more alkaline or acidic. Both strongly alkaline and strongly acid conditions are generally detrimental to plant life. The rainforest due to its heavy rainfall and constantly decomposing plant and animal matter makes it on the more acidic side. But the plants have adapted itself to withstand or even live in harmony with these conditions. So lets break it down as to why it would be acidic. Pure rain itself is the closest we get to distilled water but the PH changes due to the interaction between carbon dioxide and rainwater. Another factors that affect the CO2 concentrations is the plants respiration processes. The by products- CO2 is released not only just through the leaves, but also directly into the soil by the roots therefore resulting an spike in CO2 levels. The resulting (H+) ion concentration lowers the pH down to 5.6.

H2O+CO2 =H2CO3 =H +HCO3 =2H +CO3


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