The care and feeding of sphagnum moss
2 nights ago we enjoyed a talk, actually a 1 hour culture session, from George Vasquez, the owner of Zuma Canyon Orchids, one of the premium growers of Phaelies. He had things to say about SM that I did not know and found amazing. He claims that the moss can stay healthy and fresh for 5 years but that over watering and over fertilizing causes the breakdown I'm used too and so many of my compatriots report.
A Phaelie packed into a 4" pot of SM gets a turkey baster full of water once a week. The moss should be almost dry, on the surface only, by the end of the week. This small amount keeps it moist but not wet. Fertilizing should be so weak that at no time green algae or moss grows on the surface of the pot. The moment you see green moss appear, half your fertilization rate. Use a low nitrogen formula, Nitrogen is only needed when growing in bark.
If you follow this advice, Phaelies should be happy and should need a larger pot on a yearly basis. Moving up happens in 1" increments. He does not remove the old moss, just adds a circular layer of new moss and then shoves everything in the next size pot. He claims the moss stays healthy for 5 years hence no need for removal.
I do the opposite of everything he stated. I water heavily and welcome the appearance of green moss as a sign of a healthy environment. Of course I'm not talking about growing Phaelies but Pleurothallids, Masdies and Dracula which love to be wet. Don't know if the above advice applies to these plants.
Since so many on this forum appear to be focused on Phaelies, I thought I'd pass the advice on. On a similar vein, we had some advice from Tom Miranda of the Smithsonian who said that SM will grow luxuriously if watered with pure water only. No fertilizer at all.