Our Picks for the Top Orchid Fertilizers
Best Fertilizers For Orchids
For many people, having a full garden to take care of can be both a challenging and very rewarding endeavor. Some may opt to maintain a front lawn with a few patches of grass, a couple of small plants, and leave it at that. But for the most daring gardeners, creating a big lawn, with plenty of plants, bushes, and shrubs is the endgame. Add a couple landscaping ideas and you’ve got yourself an award-winning garden.
Now, planting and growing most plants is simple; just sow the seeds or set the plant on the soil, apply the fertilizer, and water regularly. In most cases, anyone can create a beautiful bed of flowers using only these steps. After taking into the land, the plants will absorb all the nutrients necessary for growing from the soil. If the soil is lacking in one or more nutrients, then an appropriate fertilizer can be applied to supplement it.
This is true for all plants that grow on the ground. However, with orchids, it’s a whole different story.
Essentials Of Orchid Growing
Most orchids are epiphytes, which means that they live on trees, clinging from their bark and branches. Similar to other plants, they derive the nutrients necessary for their growth through their roots, which they dangle in the air or keep firmly adhered to the tree’s bark. Most of the nutritional content that the orchids receive come from rotten leaves, bird excrements, and windswept dust. Most of these elements come into contact with the orchid’s roots either when the rain washes them down, or when the wind blows them onto their roots.
As you may imagine, orchids in the wild don’t receive much in the way of nutrition. For this reason, they had to adapt to be extremely efficient in their nutrient requirements, often requiring very little sustenance to grow and bloom. This is true for both epiphytes and lithophyte orchids, the latter of which grow and bloom on rocks instead of trees. There also exists around 200 species of terrestrial orchids, which grow on soil, like regular plants. Contrary to epiphytes and lithophytes, these ones require more nutrients to grow, as they are accustomed to receiving plenty of sustenance from the ground.
To properly understand which fertilizer will work best on your orchid plantation, we must first learn which nutrients are necessary for the orchids’ -and most other plants, for that matter- to grow. Orchids need 16 nutrients to sustain themselves; 9 macronutrients, and 7 micronutrients. The former group uses the macro prefix because it is needed in bigger amounts, while the contrary is true for the latter.
The 9 macronutrients required for orchid growth are oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen calcium, sulfur, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. The first three are present in the air and water, so there’s no need to supplement it via fertilizer. The three major macronutrients are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK), and are present in virtually every fertilizer. The other three macros are sometimes found in specific fertilizers, some of which are designed for orchids exclusively.
On the other hand, the main micronutrients essential for orchid growth are chlorine, boron, molybdenum, zinc, copper, iron, and manganese. These elements are scarcely supplemented by fertilizers since they can be easily supplied via regular tap water.
Now that we know the important nutrients required to create beautiful orchids, let’s dive into the list of our top picks for best orchid fertilizers
Schultz Water Soluble Orchid Food
This product is packed with the three main macronutrients that your orchids need to grow, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Its formula is carefully balanced to provide a 20-20-15 NPK ratio, so your orchids can bloom brighter, fuller, and with deeper coloring. The trifecta of macronutrients will also promote strong roots and an overall stronger plant. This product is fast-acting, delivering results in very little time. However, it is also designed with a slow release mechanism, so that your orchids can stay fed for up to 3 months with a single use.
Sun Bulb 8303 Better Gro Orchid Plus
Better-Gro is a trademark of the Sun Bulb Company, which is an organization that has been in the gardening business since 1956. Throughout the years they have dedicated their trade to developing products to simplify the burden of garden work while delivering stunning results.
Their Better-Gro line of products is specially formulated to aid in the growth of plants of all kinds. This product, in particular, is enriched with fast-acting nitrates that will promote growth in your orchids. Since orchids don’t grow on soil, this fertilizer also provides several micronutrients to combat the shortcomings that stem from growing soilless plants.
Miracle-Gro Orchid Plant Food Spikes
Miracle-Gro is a division of the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, which is the biggest manufacturer of lawn and garden products in North America. This organization has a significant presence in the United States and Canada, as well as most of Europe and, to some extent, the Asia Pacific region. As one of the biggest companies of its kind in the world, you can expect to see quite a lot of top-quality products in their catalog.
Each spike of this product offers all the necessary NPK macronutrients that your plant needs to grow and bloom. Its 10-10-10 NPK ratio is specially designed to feed your orchids when they are in active growth. The slow release mechanism in each of these fertilizer spikes can keep your plant fed for up to 2 months before needing to be replaced. To use this product, cut the spike in half, and gently introduce into the orchid’s potting mix.
Sun Bulb 8305 Better Gro Orchid Plus Bloom Booster Fertilizer
Here’s another product from the hands of the Sun Bulb Company. This time around we have a more aggressive NPK ratio of 11-35-15, which offers the perfect amount of phosphorus to promote bigger and brighter blossoming. Orchids that are fertilized with this product also produce stronger blooms, which last longer and aren’t as frail as their unfed counterparts.
Using this fertilizer is as easy as mixing one teaspoon per gallon of water, and thoroughly soaking your orchid’s roots. For best results, let the fertilizer mix sit overnight before watering your plant. This method guarantees that every plant receives the same amount of product with their water.
Grow More 5271 Orchid Food
Grow More has been in business since 1918. They first opened their doors in Hollywood, California, as a distributor for Mallinkrodt Reagent Chemicals and Eastman Kodak. Through the years, this organization specialized in producing chemicals for the photographic, petroleum, industrial, water treatment, and aircraft industries, before finally settling in the fertilizer business in the 1980’s.
As you can see, this company has quite a lot of experience in chemicals; experience that they put behind each one of their products. This one is a great all-purpose fertilizer. Its 20-10-20 NPK content provides the necessary nutrients to develop both the roots and leaves of your orchids. The product dissolves easily in water and is very cost-effective. The 10-ounce presentation can last for years, assuming you only have a couple of orchids. It also comes with a measuring spoon, for easy mixing.
Above were our absolute best picks for fertilizing. But since there are a great amount of options available on the market, we couldn’t help but create another short list where we’ll list our honorable mentions. The following fertilizers have earned a spot on this article either because of their quality, ease of use or, in some cases, even both!
Grow More 5121 All-Purpose Premium Orchid Fertilizer
Grow More earns another spot on this list with their all-purpose fertilizer for orchids. This one is similar to our previous entry in functionality. However, its balanced 20-20-20 NPK content makes it a perfect all-around fertilizer, that can be used on orchids of various types such as dendrobiums, cattleyas, and vandas, among others. Don’t be fooled by the “premium orchid fertilizer” in this product’s title, as the balanced formula can also easily be used to fertilize other types of houseplants.
J R Peters Jacks Classic 30-10-10 Orchid Special Fertilizer
JR Peters, Inc. has been working in the agricultural business since 1947. They started out offering consultant services for industrial growers; they would analyze their clients’ fields and offer valuable insight on how to improve them. Parallel to their roles as consultants, they also developed their own line of fertilizers which they offered to their clients, with great success.
This product is designed with a generous amount of nitrogen in its formula. With its 30-10-10 NPK contents, it is meant to be used on orchids that are in their active growth phase, when they need nitrogen the most.
Orchid Love- The World's Greatest Orchid Food
This product is manufactured by GS Plant Foods, a company that was born due to a single man’s fascination with orchids. After developing a formula for orchid food that yielded significant results on his flowers, Francis and his wife Tina offered their concoction to all their friends and family. What started out as a homemade formula for helping orchids grow and bloom quickly became a successful business. Nowadays, this company can easily claim to make one of the best orchid fertilizers in the United States.
The Orchid Love plant food is made from 100% natural components. This organic product contains all the necessary nutrients that your orchid may need to bloom more frequently, and with more intensity than with the competition’s products. The organic nature of this product makes it very cost-effective; with a single gallon you can mix up to 128 gallons of fertilizer.
Now that we have shared our best picks of orchid, let’s take a few minutes to discuss the matter of NPK. I’m sure that by now you may have noticed that most of these products show a series of numbers separated by hyphens. These numbers represent the amount of the three main macronutrients that the fertilizer offers. For instance, if a fertilizer label says that it has a 20-20-20 ratio, it means that, in a pound of the product, you will find 20% nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
A general rule of thumb when growing plants is that your fertilizer should complement your soil’s weaknesses. If your soil is lacking in natural nitrogen, then you should use a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen, and so on. The best way to test your soil for its nutritional properties is to purchase a tester kit from your local hardware store and analyze several samples from your lawn or pots.
Tips On Orchid Care
Because potted orchids are sown on soilless mixes, the normal method of fertilization doesn’t apply to them. As we mentioned above, orchids, like any other plants, require several nutrients to grow. However, they can’t absorb nutrition from the soil, like other plants, since there is no soil to begin with.
For household orchids, you will want to plant them in a pot with a mix of cork, bark, stones, tree fern, or similar types of materials which can be packed loosely. This mix will serve to simulate the habitat in which orchids naturally grow. The idea is that their roots remain aerated, so the pot must also have plenty of holes in which the water and fertilizer can drain easily.
Watering And Fertilizing
Unlike other plants, you do not want to overwater your orchids, as this will suffocate the roots and possibly kill the plant. Think of these plants as humans in that we also need water, but if we are constantly submerged in it, we will eventually die. It’s normal for your orchid’s roots to remain neatly coiled inside their pot. It is also normal that a few of them may spill out of it, which may create an image that your plant is cramped and needs to be snipped. Never snip your orchid’s roots; remember that they also absorb nutrients from the air and that it is normal for some of its roots to dangle freely.
When it comes to watering your orchid, refrain from getting the leaves wet. Try to pour the water directly into the pot. After a few seconds, be sure to drain it of excess water; failure to do so will suffocate your orchid. The orchid food -or fertilizer- may be applied once every week, using a weak mix of the product. When I say weak, I mean to use only ½ or ¼ of what is recommended on the product’s label. Make a note to water your orchid with plain water once every month to wash out the fertilizer salts which might have gathered inside the plant’s pot. Be sure to use a blossom booster fertilizer when autumn swings by, as this is the season when your orchids will bloom the most. A blossom-booster is a fertilizer which has an increased amount of phosphorus, and less nitrogen (i.e 10-30-20)
Light And Temperature
Orchids usually grow in tropical climes, meaning that they are accustomed to warmth in the day, and cold in the night. To simulate these changes of temperature in your house, you will want to set your orchid near a window or another place where the temperature can vary by at least 10 degrees at different times of the day.
If you decide to set your orchid near a window, be sure to use a curtain or window screen. Orchids naturally grow in shade where it is warm, but not in direct contact with sunlight. They are light-sensitive plants, and direct exposure to the sun will slowly burn their leaves.
Orchids are one of the most beautiful household plants that any gardener can have. Once they are in full bloom, their flowers and big and often feature bright colors, which can really lighten the atmosphere of any room. However, most people have problems getting them to re-bloom once their first blossoms fall. This can be due to many reasons such as not watering enough -or excessive watering-, improper plant placement, failure to provide the necessary nutrients, and so on.
Luckily, there currently exists a wide range of products created for the sole purpose of helping you grow your very own garden of orchids. There is also plenty of information on the internet about orchids, which can help you get started on the basics of caring for these gorgeous plants.
Before applying your fertilizer for the first time, please be sure to thoroughly read the instructions on the label of the product. The usage and amount of fertilizer required will vary from product to product. There are some cases with online purchases where Amazon will put their own label over the product’s original label, obstructing the instructions. If this happens to you, feel free to visit the manufacturer’s website, where you will most likely find a copy of the instructions on how to fertilize your orchids.
Product images sourced from Amazon.com