A Complete Guide to Fertilizing Orchid Plants

Orchids are popular for their beautiful blooms, symbolic value, and host of added uses and benefits. However, they may be particular about requirements like fertilizer composition, strength, and frequency. Read on to discover everything you need to know about fertilizing your orchid plants. With the right steps and materials on hand, your orchids can bloom beautifully for years to come. 


Fertilizing Orchid Plants – The Essentials

Orchids usually need a balanced orchid fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Most will require feeding every two to four weeks, depending on the time of year and the fertilizer you use. Start slow with your feeding schedule, as too much fertilizer can burn and damage your plant.


The Role Fertilizing Plays in Plant Health

The Role Fertilizing Plays in Plant Health

All types of orchid plants (including popular Vanda orchids, Moth Orchids, Jewel Orchids, and Lady’s Slipper Orchids) need fertilization to grow and thrive, just like other plants. The primary role of fertilizer is to provide nutrients a plant needs to grow and reach its full potential (which can also help them fend off common orchid pests and diseases).

In particular, most plants grown indoors will need a supportive fertilization schedule (in addition to appropriate light exposure, a good soil base, suitable temperature and humidity and location, and regular watering). This is because they’re living outside of their natural habitat. So, they will need to replenish the essential nutrients they usually receive in nature.

Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are essential components found in most plant fertilizers. Orchids require fertilizer that contains an even balance of these three key nutrients.

Now, there are many fertilizers available on the market that will satisfy an orchid’s needs. Some of these include water-soluble, liquid fertilizer, and granular dry feed. However, some fertilizer products will be more suitable than others, depending on the type of orchid plant you’re growing. 

For example, water-soluble fertilizer is the ideal choice for orchids. That’s because this type of fertilizer is easiest for an orchid’s roots to absorb. On the other hand, you can also use a dry feed on your orchids. However, we recommend mixing dry fertilizer with water for best results with your orchid plants.

Signs Your Orchid Plant Needs Fertilizer

Simply put, the primary indicator that your orchid needs fertilizer is if it wilts during its growing season. Additionally, you may notice a few other symptoms, such as:

When and How Often Should You Fertilize an Orchid Plant? 

When and How Often Should You Fertilize an Orchid Plant? 

The best time to fertilize orchids is when they are actively growing. You can tell the plant is growing once it perks back up after its dormant period in the winter.

During this active growing period, you can apply a diluted fertilizer once every week or two. You can also use a full-strength fertilizer once a month if preferred. 

If your orchids continue growing during the winter, you may want to continue with a feeding regimen. If you take this approach, apply a half-strength fertilizer once a month during the cooler months. 

At any time of year, you’ll want to monitor your orchids carefully to ensure their feeding schedule is working well. Reduce your feeding schedule if you notice signs of over-fertilization. We describe these in the Common Issues with Orchid Fertilization section below. 

The Best Fertilizer for Orchid Plants

The best fertilizer for orchid plants will have an equal balance of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. So, you’ll want to find a product with a 20-20-20 NPK ratio or create your own at home. Here are some ideas for both pre-mixed and homemade orchid fertilizer. 

The Best Ready-to-Go Fertilizers for Orchids

The Best Ready-to-Go Fertilizers for Orchids

A balanced store-bought plant fertilizer is perfectly suitable for orchids grown at home. The best approach is to dilute the fertilizer and feed your orchids more frequently with a weaker solution, around once every week or two. However, you can also use your fertilizer at a higher concentration once per month. 

Here are a few recommended products to try if you prefer a pre-mixed solution for feeding your orchid plants. 

Creating an Orchid Feed at Home

Alternatively, it’s easy to mix your own orchid fertilizer at home. You can use various ingredients to achieve a balance of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. However, keep in mind that urea is not a good nitrogen source for orchids, as they cannot absorb the mineral in this form. 

Here are a few ingredient options to consider to ensure your orchids receive an equal supply of the key minerals they need to thrive.

  • Nitrogen: grass clippings, milk, tea, coffee grounds
  • Phosphorus: bone meal, potatoes, coffee grounds
  • Potassium: milk, molasses, potatoes, ground chicken bones, coffee grounds

How to Apply Fertilizer 

How to Apply Fertilizer 

Now, here are the steps we recommend you take when applying fertilizer to your orchid plants. 

  1. First, buy a store-bought fertilizer with an equal 20-20-20 NPK blend. Alternatively, you can prepare your own recipe with equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. 
  2. Next, apply the fertilizer according to package instructions or the recipe you used for your homemade mix. 
  3. Now, mix your fertilizer with water, depending on how much you wish to dilute the solution. 
  4. Then, carefully pour the mix into your orchid’s soil, distributing it evenly around the plant. 
  5. From there, allow any excess solution to drain from the drainage hole at the base of your orchid plant. Dump any remaining liquid out of the saucer beneath your plant pot, if applicable.
  6. Finally, stick to a consistent schedule. Follow any instructions available, depending on the fertilizer you use. 
  7. Monitor your orchids for signs of over or under-fertilizing. Adjust your feeding schedule or fertilizer strength as needed. 

Common Issues with Orchid Fertilization

Over-fertilization is another common cause of issues with orchid plants grown at home. Here are some signs that you’ve over-fed your orchids, or the fertilizer you’re using is too strong. 

  • Symptoms of fertilizer burn, including dying root tips, brown leaf tips, brown roots, and yellow leaves
  • Symptoms of excess mineral salts, including a crusty layer of buildup on the soil, brown foliage, and wilting and drooping leaves

Fertilizing Orchid Plants FAQs: 

Do orchid plants need fertilizer?

Yes, orchid plants need fertilizer to receive adequate nutrition for growing and blooming at their best. They prefer a feed with an even balance of the most common ingredients in fertilizer. These are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

When should I fertilize my orchid plant?

You should fertilize your orchid plant during its growing season. Now, the plant may go dormant in the winter. However, if it keeps growing, you can continue with a reduced fertilization schedule in the winter months. Most orchids do well with a diluted fertilizer every one or two weeks or full-strength fertilizer applied monthly.

What is the best fertilizer for orchid plants?

Orchids enjoy fertilizer with a balanced 20-20-20 NPK ratio. You can achieve this with a store-bought orchid fertilizer or a homemade recipe. Simply ensure your feed has equal parts nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus.

Is Miracle-Gro good for orchid plants?

Yes, Miracle-Gro’s ready-made mixes are a suitable choice for feeding orchids. Additionally, the company has orchid-specific fertilizer options. With these products, you’ll know you’re choosing a feed appropriate for this specific plant.

Are used coffee grounds good for orchid plants?

Yes, used coffee grounds are a great source of the primary nutrients an orchid plant needs. They contain nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, among other valuable minerals. Coffee grounds will decompose in an orchid’s soil, allowing the plant to soak up these nutrients with ease.


Wrapping Up

Now that you know about orchid fertilization requirements, it’s time to put this information into practice. By following these steps and gathering the right materials, you can keep your orchids healthy and beautiful for years to come. So, get started with your fertilization schedule today and give your orchids the foundation they need to thrive.

If you’re looking for your next orchid plant, see our in-depth guide to the best plant shops delivering orchids nationwide.


Author

Brandy Wells is an American copywriter and content writer living in Spain. From hiking in her hometown near the Smoky Mountains to digging in the dirt in rural Oregon, she has always put a love of nature at the heart of her endeavors. These days, you’ll catch her writing content, and of course, taking breaks to tend to her growing houseplant collection.

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