Orchid Fertilizers – Food for Thought

by Mary Ann

There are only a few things that separate an amazing orchid plant to your regular good ones and more often than not one of them is the fertilizer.

Wild orchids have been doing fine and growing healthy without the aid of any fertilizers. In places such as rain forests, these plants feed off any nutrients they can get their roots into. Examples of these are decaying leaves, animal dung and even your simple rain water. Orchids grown domestically on the other hand need that push for them to reach their optimum health. This is where orchid fertilizers enter.

Orchid food as most people call them, are not really a necessity as much as a high recommendation when it comes to growing these incredible plants. They can survive with just the basic water, soil and sun combination. But if you are the serious hobbyist and you want your plants to be of the highest quality then there’s no second guessing when it comes to using fertilizers. Giving them the proper care in combination with proper application of orchid fertilizer, you will get results that will be seen on their stunning flowers and healthy leaves.

Although there are a lot of similarities when it comes to using orchid fertilizers and other plant fertilizers, there are still few specific things that you need to know such as:

Weakly, Weekly

This is perhaps the mostly common tip that any orchid enthusiast can share with you when it comes to using orchid fertilizers. The difference between orchids and other plants is that they need less of it. In fact, giving them too much can be harmful to their growth and can even cause your plants to burn.

Most fertilizers have salt minerals in them that when given in large amounts can harm the plants. Overfed orchids actually grow faster than usual but result in weak, disease-susceptible plants. And this will be greatly noticeable when they start to bloom. Giving them small amounts on a weekly basis is the thing to follow. And if you can, at every end of the month flush the pot out using water to eliminate the fertilizer’s residue build up.

Nitrogen, Phosphorus And Potassium

The N-P-K combination as most orchid hobbyists would call them are the main ingredients or the major nutrients that one should look for when buying orchid fertilizers. When your chosen fertilizer has all of these major nutrients, then you are all set. Don’t be confused by all the fancy things you can find on the labels.

See, although there are 17 other minor nutrients that orchids need, as long as you have those three you will do fine. One more thing, that you may notice when buying fertilizers are the 3 numbers printed on their labels. This actually shows you the percentage concentration of the 3 aforementioned major nutrients. Choose the most balanced one, usually having equal parts of everything such as 10-10-10 or 20-20-20.

If you are dedicated to growing orchids, be sure to take time in researching the best orchid fertilizer for your specific type of orchid. As you may know there are lots of types of orchids and each may have specific need that varies from the others. So although these tips can be used for most orchids, it is still much wiser to go to a battle well-prepared. Happy growing and enjoy your orchids!

13 Responses
  1. Hi,

    We attended the International Orchid Festival in Santa Barbara this month and received a great response to our silk hand-painted orchid portraits (painted in Santa Monica, CA). I’m sure you will enjoy our art. Please visit us! ๐Ÿ™‚


  2. David permalink

    This was in the orchid section of the Botanical garden in Rio de Janeiro, but an orchid collector tells me this is not even an orchid. Can anyone help me identify it?

  3. David permalink


    is โ€œTacca chantrieriโ€, a relative of the yam!

  4. Ellen Reader permalink

    Do you have any documentation about fertilizing needs for specific species?

  5. Mary Ann permalink*

    No, I apologize, but we do not have the information all in one place. That is a great idea, and we will try to put that together. For now, I recommend searching in Google for things like “fertilizing dendrobiums” if that’s the type of orchid you have. You can of course put whichever type of orchid you have in that phrase, that way you’d get an answer more quickly for the specific types in question.

  6. Orchideya permalink

    Besides fertilizer I also use liquid seaweed extract on my orchids. It seems that they look healthier now since I started using it. It is not a replacement of ferts, but just nice natural addition that orchids do appreciate.

  7. Mary Ann permalink*

    Cool! ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for sharing that tip! — Mary Ann

  8. Mary Ann permalink*

    Wow! Very nice! ๐Ÿ™‚ That is certainly quite interesting looking. I’m glad you got it identified. — Mary Ann

  9. Alan permalink

    I agree completely! Weekly fertilizer is the key although I also top dress in spring o give them a bit of an extra boost.

  10. Mary Ann permalink*

    Thanks for your comment! ๐Ÿ™‚ That is a good point. – Mary Ann

  11. Thanks for all the tips. You may be interested to see photos from Kew Gardens Tropical Extravaganze held this month and dedicated to Orchids! http://www.alternativeeden.com/2012/02/tropical-extravaganza.html


  12. Mary Ann permalink*

    Thanks, Gaz! ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m glad you shared this with us! – Mary Ann

  13. Frenond Dasalla permalink

    This is a very informative for beginners in the orchid cultivation. Using fertilizer is a necessity to speed up the growth of orchids and give them healthy growth.
    Thank you for sharing.

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