Fertilizer for Orchids – How to Use What You Choose

 

 

 

Fertilizer for orchids doesn’t need to be complicated.

Orchids do tend to be more finicky about fertilizers than houseplants because 1) in nature they grow high in the tropical forest where water and nutrients are pure, and 2) they have different seasons to their growing pattern.

But setting up a nutrient program for your plants can be easy – if you know what to do.

 

Is It Plant Food or Plant Fertilizer?

Don’t confuse “plant food” with “plant fertilizer”. Plants manufacture their own “food” using the power of the sun to combine air, light, and water to make carbohydrates, which is the real food they use for growth.

“Plant fertilizer (or nutrients)”, on the other hand, are mineral elements collected by the roots to enhance photosynthesis. Plant fertilizer (or nutrients) cannot compensate for the lack of real food plants need for growth (air, light, and water).

If your plants aren’t getting the real food they use for growth – air, light, and water –  your choice of fertilizer won’t matter.

3 Common Mistakes People Make with Fertilizer

Note: The terms “fertilizer” and “nutrients” are synonymous.

  1. Buying Cheap Fertilizer.

Bargain fertilizer is never the best value!

I know how it goes. The choices are overwhelming. So you end up picking whatever’s cheapest  . . .    Why spend money on the expensive stuff when you’re not sure if it’s really any better..

And your plants suffer.

2. Applying Fertilizer Haphazardly

Your fertilizer package says “for orchids” so it must be good.

Not so fast partner!

Just because it says “for orchids” doesn’t mean it’s actually what your plants are looking for.

That “for orchids” on the package is simply a marketing ploy. Look closely and you’ll see that the chemical makeup of your “for orchids” fertilizer isn’t much different from any other run-of-the-mill fertilizer. You’ll also see that many important elements have been left out to cut costs. Most of what you’re buying is actually just filler.

 

3. Adding an Extra Dose of Fertilizer to Perk Up A Sick Plant 

Giving a sick plant an extra dose of fertilzer is exactly the wrong thing to do! (are you hungry when you’re sick?).

Growing healthy plants always comes down to 1) light, 2) water, and 3) air. Developing the right combination of those is the key to reviving sick plants – never extra fertilizer.

I’ve never seen a plant die from lack of fertilizer – but I’ve see many plants suffer from too much.

Choosing the Right Fertilizer to Grow Better Orchids

Orchids have 3 seasons to their growing pattern. Making a couple of simple adjustments to your fertilizer program ‘to coincide with these season will promote optimum growth and brilliant blooms.

The 3 seasons are 1) a growing season, 2) a blooming season, and 3) a well deserved rest.

  1. Nutrients for the Growing Season

This is the longest and most important season. During the growing season your plants are busy growing new leaves and building up the energy to bloom. They will benefit from a balanced fertilizer that promotes healthy leaf and stem growth.

Orchids work hard during the growing season to build up the energy to bloom.

For the growing season I use Dyna-Gro Grow 7-9-5, a complete, balanced nutrient that has all 14 elements my plants need for healthy growth. Application rate is 1/4 – 1/2 tsp per gallon every watering.

 

2. Blooming Season

A new flower spike signals the start of a blooming season. Time to change your fertilizer for bigger, brighter blooms.

A new flower spike signals a blooming season.

 

I use Dyna-Gro Bloom 3-12-6 – a low nitrogen – high phosphorus blend designed to promote bigger, brighter blooms that last longer. Application rate is 1/4 – 1/2 tsp per gallon every watering.

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Important Note: Bloom fertilizers won’t make your orchids bloom!  Proper light and temperature are the only things that trigger bloom cycles. Bloom fertilizers encourage bigger, brighter flowers that last longer – but they won’t make your plants bloom. 

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3. Resting Season

Orchids take a well deserved rest after blooming. Some plants even go into a dormant state where they shead their leaves.

During the resting season everything slows down and so should your watering and fertilizer. Skip fertilizer all together until you see new growth.

                              

This is also a good time to leach the root zone to remove any unsed fertilizer. This is easy with hydroponics because, unlike trdaitional media, the LECA pebbles release impurities quickly. Simply take the plant to the sink, remove the plant and culture pot from the outer pot and run clear water through the pot.

Leaching plant at sink.

 

New growth signals the beginning a new growing season and your nutrient program can resume.

Another (Easy) Option

Light and temperature make orchids bloom – never nutrients.

So if you only have a couple of plants and don’t want to get involved with switching fertilizers between growing and blooming seasons- you can use Dyna-Gro Orchid Pro  7-8-6. This is an excellent “middle of the road” nutrient that can be used instead of Grow and Bloom. Application rate is 1/4 – 1/2 tsp per gallon every watering.

 

Orchid-Pro contains all the macro and micro nutrients that promote healthy growth and vibrant blooms for all types of orchids.

Don’t think there’s a difference in fertilizers? Ask your plants!

 

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