Orchid Care







How to Fertilize your Orchids

Orchids, like all plants, need food to thrive and bloom. However, most of the orchids we grow are epiphytes, growing amidst the branches of the trees. Here, they rely on accumulating debris, bird and animal droppings, and other organic matter to provide them with nourishment. This means they need to be fed a little differently from other plants.

Doritaenopsis orchid
Doritaenopsis Little Gem Stripes


* Basic orchid food provide nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium This N-P-K formulation corresponds to the fertilizer ratio shown on the package, such as 30-10-10 or 10-20-10.
Fertilizers high in N (first no) are formulated for growth, while those high in P (middle no.) encourage blooming.

* Many grower switch from a regular growth formula to a 'blossom booster' or flowering formula in the fall. We find it easier to simply use both types throughout the year and let the orchids take what they need.

* Many orchid foods are high in urea nitrogen, which takes time to break down, and basically is washed out of the mix before it is of any use to the plant. Use a premium non-urea based orchid plant foods which provide nitrogen in a form immediately usable by the plant.

*Many growers use a high non-urea fertilizer with bark mixes--this increases bacterial activity which then provides nitrogen in usable form to the orchid. The bark however, also starts to break down and decompose as a result of bacterial activity.

* Be sure to include a premium orchid food which also has added micronutrients(plants need these in very small amounts to stay healthy). This is less of a worry if you use tap water. If you are using purified RO water which has no nutrients, you will definitely need a complete orchid food formulated for RO.

 * see our Amazon store page for a selection of recommended fertilizer.


Orchids do not need as much fertilizer as other house plants or garden plants. If you overfeed your plants, you will burn the roots and leaves, and cause fertilizer salts to build up in the growing mix. Your orchids will not grow faster, or flower more, but instead will decline and even die. There are some basic orchid feeding rules we will discuss next.

1. Fertilize your orchids at about half the recommended strength if using a standard house plant food. If in doubt, always feed less.

2. Try and use an orchid fertilizer specially formulated for orchids and simply follow the directions.

Orchids need more feeding in the spring and summer months when they are actively growing, and far less during the cooler winter.
4. Not all orchids need the same amount of food. Some orchids are heaver feeders (e.g cymbidiums) than others(e.g. paphiopedilums).
Many orchids require pure water and low salts(such as phrgmipediums and most species), which means less fertilizer and/or purer water.
5.Unless you are using reverse osmosis or pure well water, which tends to be low in dissolved salts, it's a good idea to flush your plants thoroughly with water at least once a month to get rid of excess salts.

There are a couple of different schools of thought regarding fertilizer frequency. Choose what works best for you:

-Fertilize your plants two to three times a month during the growing season and about once a month during winter at the recommended fertilizer strength for orchids. This allows the pots to be flushed of excess salts during regular waterings.

-Many growers, myself included, like to fertilize 'weakly weekly.' This means you fertilize you orchids every week but at about quarter-strength. The advantage of this is that plants receive a consistent amount of food at all times. You can adjust the amount of fertilizer you provide depending on the season.

See the column to the left. There are ongoing debates as to what types of fertilizers are best for orchids and new research comes out all the time. One finding that seems to be emerging is that orchids many need even less food than we think.

This non-urea low-strength organic orchid fertilizer can be applied frequently to your orchids without any chance of overfeeding. I t comes in  a spray bottle so can also be applied as a foliar feed to the underside of  leaves, and roots.

   Many growers do fine with ordinary house plant fertilizers, while others rely on premium specially formulated orchid fertilizers on a complex feeding schedule. Remember that the purer your water, the more salts(or food) you can add--its the overall salt/dissolved solids in the fertilizer solution you apply that matters.

Unless you have specialized collection of orchid species with particular needs, or are growing orchids commercially, its easiest to simply rotate a few different brands at every feeding to take the worry out about what your plants are getting. At the least, rotate in i) a growth and ii) blossom booster formulation, and be sure at least one of your fertilizers has additional micronutrients. That's it--your orchids show grow and bloom fine.



 More orchids on our 
 houseplants blog

Quick Links:
-What to do when flowers fade
-Why won't my orchid bloom?
-How to buy orchids like a pro

-Can I grow orchids in low light?
-How do I water my orchids?

-Where can I buy orchids online?

Visit Our Other Sites:

-How to Grow Moth Orchids
-How to Grow Slipper Orchids