How do I Choose the Best Orchid Fertilizer?

Debra Durkee

Orchids are beautiful, delicate flowers with specific nutrient requirements that have to be met in order for them to thrive. Choosing the best orchid fertilizer for an orchid goes a long way in providing this valuable nutrition, and the right fertilizer has a mixture of phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium. These are the main nutrients used by the plant in all major functions.

Orchid fertilizer.
Orchid fertilizer.

Depending on the material that the orchid has been planted in, there are several different options for finding the orchid fertilizer that will work the best for each individual plant. Each form of fertilizer is labeled with three numbers; these numbers indicate the amount of each chemical in the mixture. As different potting materials have different nutrients already contained in them, the optimal chemical balance differs among plants.

Most plants require a complete orchid fertilizer. This means that all three of the essential nutrients are contained in the mixture. When reading the label, it is important to remember that the numbers indicate the amounts of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), in that order. Many inorganic planting compounds lack the first nutrient, nitrogen. Fertilizers that are 30-10-10 usually work well in supplying the orchid with the nutrients that soils do not supply.

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Nitrogen is the part of the fertilizer needed to maintain healthy, full leaves and to keep new growth appearing. The phosphorus helps to increase the amount of blooms on the orchid, while levels of potassium can help the orchid create higher-quality, larger flowers. Potassium also helps the orchids produce higher-quality, stronger seeds.

Many orchids are grown with no soil whatsoever. These orchids rely entirely on fertilizers, air, and water to get their nutrients. Therefore, these types of plants will do best when fed an orchid fertilizer that has not only the three main nutrients, but also contains other substances such as iron.

Slow-release fertilizers can seem like a time-saving solution, but require just the right conditions in order to be effective. Potting material must be very fine in order to keep nutrients close enough to roots in order to be absorbed. Generally, applying fertilizer once every few weeks has better effects than these time-release options; finding an orchid fertilizer that can be applied more frequently will create a more static balance of nutrients in the soil. The end result will be an orchid that exists in a regular environment and can adjust to what is available to it.

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