Do orchids need fertilizer?
Orchids love orchid fertilizer, year round, because they like the extra nutrients to let them grow that they would normally get in nature (check out my post on orchids growing in nature). Fertilizer is also a good tool because even the best mix breaks down over time and you want to make sure your orchids are getting enough nutrients. This extra nutrients allows for your orchids to grow bigger blooms, healthier roots and sturdier leaves. Keep in mind that orchids do not require very much fertilizer. I recommend a diluted amount (or a time release formula) on a regular basis for optimal orchid care.
When purchasing fertilizer make sure it’s specifically orchid fertilizer. Orchids require special orchid fertilizer and mix. You should not use normal houseplant fertilizer.
Note: if you only have one or two orchids and don’t have fertilizer it’s ok – your orchids will be fine without it. Fertilizer helps boost already healthy orchids. It’s a helpful tool but not necessary for the survival of an orchid.
My fertilizing methods – there are many types of orchid fertilizer below are the two I like the best.
I use two different methods. The first method is what I use for my orchids and the second is what I use when I give orchids away to friends (because it is easier).
Method #1 – liquid fertilizer
I use FEED ME! MSU Orchid Fertilizer – the famous fertilizer studied at Michigan State University.
You can buy this at www.rePotme.com. You will want to mix liquid FEED ME at 1 oz/gallon in the fall/winter and 1.5 oz/gallon in the spring and summer (50% more increase in the spring/summer is because orchids are in their most active growth season and need more strength). You do not have to use the batch right away, it will last and can be used the next time if you don’t use it all at once. I normally just mix it in a gallon jug of water and store it in my cupboard.
Even if you don’t use this fertilizer make sure you increase whatever fertilizer you use in the spring and summer, because this is the active growth season for orchids.
Here is what I do;
1. Water orchids first! As stated in my previous post on watering orchids – the easiest way to water an orchid is to take it to the kitchen sink and flood it with water. The water will run right through the pot as most orchids are potted in free-draining mixes/pots. (Make sure your orchid has a drainage hole in the bottom, if not click on my post READ THIS FIRST because you are in trouble!!) Walk away for a few minutes, come back and flood it again with FERTILIZER. Resist the temptation to water it too frequently, orchids hate that. There is no set schedule for watering so make sure you do the pencil check (stated in how to water blog) just in case!
2. Fertilize 3 out of every 4 times. On the 4th time, you should only water, which flushes out any salts that can build up in the mix. So on the 4th time… flush with water. Wait five minutes. Flush with water again.
If you are wondering how much fertilizer to use remember that when in doubt, too little is better than too much. Don’t try to make up for not fertilizing by giving a hefty amount all at once. Too much fertilizer can actually burn the roots.
Method #2 – granular time release fertilizer
I just acquired FEED ME! in granular form, which is a time release plant food. This is a simple and gentle way to feed your orchids and house plants. It works over 4 months at temperatures of 70° F and above. photo copyright rePotme.com from this page
One of the main causes of “root burn” is over fertilization. Even using conventional fertilizer may cause root burn because too much fertilizer can reach the roots at one time. Time release fertilizers virtually eliminate this problem because it has a high tech capability to control the release of nutrients to insure the plants are not exposed to too much at one time.
Granular fertilizer has its place, in lieu of liquid fertilizer, when you don’t have the option of regular watering and/or you just want an easier option. And it is helpful for me when I am giving plants away to insure that their new owner is fertilizing them.
Here is what to do…..
1. Apply, as directed, evenly around the pot rim. Do not apply directly to plant stems, leaves or flowers.
2. Water as normal.
3. Don’t apply to recently repotted orchids or week/root damaged orchids until two weeks after new root activity has been observed. Hope that helps,
And email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have further questions.