How to Take Care of Orchids Part 5: Fertilizer

In the penultimate part of our mini-series, "How to Take Care of Orchids", we will discuss orchid fertilizers.

NOTE: This article provides a general introduction to fertilizers. If you are looking for Homemade Fertilizer recipes, click here.

Along with light and water, fertilizer is an essential ingredient for your orchid's growth, providing the nutrients that other plants absorb from the soil they are grown in.

The most important chemicals are Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K) but fertilizers also contain traces of other chemicals such as calcium that provide your orchid with nutrition.

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The main function of Nitrogen is for foliage and vegetation growth, Phosphorous is for flower growth and Potassium provides fruit growth and flower control. These three elements are known as macro-nutrients whereas other chemicals are referred to as micro-elements.

The fertilizer you use should be labelled using the N-P-K scale. This describes the concentration (percentile) of each of the three macro-nutrients in the mix. For example, a fertilizer with an N-P-K of 30-10-10 contains 30% Nitrogen, 10% Phosphorous and 10% Potassium. A water-soluble 20-20-20 fertilizer is ideal for most orchids.

An important exception are orchids that are potted in tree bark. Bark is home to bacteria that consume a lot of Nitrogen leaving very little for the orchid, so a fertilizer with a higher concentration of Nitrogen are better for these plants.

An alternative to commercial fertilizers is home-made, organic fertilizers. This is beyond the scope of this article, however if you are interested in finding out more about home-made fertilizer recipes, we refer you to Professional Gardener, John Perez. John has spent years perfecting fertilizer recipes developed specifically for orchids and has had some amazing results. Creating your own fertilizer at home can save you both money and trips to the garden centre.

You should feed your orchid a weak, watered-down concentrate of fertilizer around once per week just after you have watered the plant.

This concludes part 5 of our mini-series, "How to Take Care of Orchids". In the sixth and final part, we will discuss the temperature and humidity level of your orchid's environment.

How to Take Care of Orchids Part 1: Choosing Your Orchid
How to Take Care of Orchids Part 2: Potting Media
How to Take Care of Orchids Part 3: Light
How to Take Care of Orchids Part 4: Water
How to Take Care of Orchids Part 5: Fertilizer
How to Take Care of Orchids Part 6: Temperature & Humidity

If you would like a more in-depth knowledge about growing orchids for beginners and experts alike, we highly recommend Carl Harrison's Orchid Care Book. Carl is currently offering a full money-back guarantee if you aren't 100% satisfied.

Other articles that may be of interest:
Orchid Fertilizer: Homemade Vs Manufactured/Commercial
Choosing your Orchid Fertilizer
Orchid Fertilizer by Jan Wilson

NOTE: This guide contains generalised information about how to care for orchids. Consequently, the advice given may not be suitable for your particular species and circumstances.