Q. What is the right fertilizer for my orchid? How do I fertilize my orchid?
The NYBG orchid curator says it's best to use a balanced fertilizer such as 20-20-20 in powder form to supply all the primary nutrients needed for flowering plants.
These numbers--NPK numbers--represent nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. N (nitrogen) helps with vigorous growth and dark green color. P (phosphorus) promotes root development and flowering. K (potassium) is for overall hardiness and disease resistance. There are also secondary nutrients and trace nutrients.
Some orchid growers use high-nitrogen fertilizers such as 30-10-10 to grow more leaves and then change over to a balanced one. Of course, it’s easier to simply use the balanced formula, but the high-nitrogen method works is if you remember to change over well before spring bloom period.
Note: Remember that chemical fertilizers contain salts that can build up over time, possibly burning the tips of leaves. Leach out these salts by occasionally watering with plain water.
Feed orchids monthly with a diluted (1/4 of recommended amount) water-soluble fertilizer during spring and summer. Drench the potting mixture with plain water once every six weeks to leach out chemical fertilizer salts that can cause leaf tip browning (burn). Using compost tea or seaweed fertilizer is an organic alternative to chemical fertilizers. Compost tea is easy to make by soaking a couple of handfulls of compost wrapped and tied in cheese cloth. Steep for a few hours and use the liquid when watering. Do not store compost tea for more than a day. It makes great organic food and does not contain chemical fertilizer salts.
For tips on a variety of gardening topics, see our Plant Information Guides.
- Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service