Fertilize Orchids: Procedure And Care Tips From The Expert
Orchids need special nutrients to form their flowers. We show you how, when, and with what to fertilize orchids properly. Many people think of orchids only as of the familiar butterfly orchid (Phalaenopsis). However, more and more new varieties and species are coming onto the market whose nutrient requirements are as varied as their appearance.
In general, however, epiphytic orchids – also known as perching plants – require rather few nutrients, as they are characterized by a very slow metabolism. You should therefore be extremely careful when fertilizing, as this can quickly burn the sensitive roots. So less is more in this case.
In nature, orchids make themselves at home in places that most other plants cannot even colonize due to the more difficult water and nutrient supply. The reason for this is that their aerial roots enable them to live far from the earth.
In this case, nutrients are absorbed directly from the surrounding water via the root surface. To ensure that this somewhat different nutrient uptake also works in the living room, we explain how to properly water and fertilize your orchid.
Fertilizing orchids: Healthy roots as a basic requirement
A healthy root system is especially important for orchids because nutrients must be absorbed quickly and efficiently directly through the water. In order for the roots to remain healthy and for nutrients to be absorbed ideally, watering an orchid properly is essential.
The best way to do this is to use the immersion method:
- Fill a bucket with low-calcium water at room temperature.
- Immerse the root ball in the bucket of water for a maximum of 10 minutes.
- Remove the root ball from the water and let it drip off
- Perform next dip when several spots in the substrate are well dry
Additionally, happy orchid roots need an airy environment. Therefore, repot your orchid when the substrate begins to collapse due to decomposition processes. If the roots shine whitish-silvery or green, you have done everything right.
When to fertilize orchids?
Proper fertilization is another crucial criterion that plays a role in the development of a healthy root system. In this regard, proper fertilization ensures strong roots, which in turn ensures better absorption of the nutrients contained in the fertilizer.
In doing so, you should make sure that your orchid is continuously supplied with a low concentration of nutrients. This means that you should provide your plant with fertilizer every two weeks during the growth phase.
If your orchid goes dormant during the winter, you should not fertilize during this time. The dormancy period begins with flower shedding and eventually ends with the first new shoots in the spring. Even after repotting, orchids should not be fertilized for the first four to six weeks.
The right fertilizer for orchids
Orchids, being very special, also need a special environment and care. Therefore, when caring for the colorful jungle inhabitants, it is best to use a special orchid fertilizer.
In a pinch, however, a commercial flowering plant fertilizer will also do. However, you should only give a tenth of the recommended dose, because the nutrient concentration is otherwise too high for weak eaters. What cannot be avoided, however, is choosing a water-soluble fertilizer product.
Fertilizing on depot unfortunately becomes a problem in this case. But because of the nutrient uptake via the aerial roots and the very coarse substrate on which orchids are cultivated, the nutrients must largely be absorbed directly via the watering water.
Fertilizing orchids organically
Nutrients are absorbed by orchids directly through the water used for watering. Most organic fertilizers are therefore unsuitable: The complex form of these fertilizers must first be broken down by microorganisms before the nutrients are available to the plants.
The composition of compost, manure, and other natural fertilizers is also unsuitable for sensitive plants. However, there is an organic alternative for orchids – this is called guano.
This fertilizer, made from the excrement of sea birds or even bats, already has a water-soluble nutrient content due to natural conversion processes. To ensure that your orchid is sufficiently supplied, you should apply a liquid fertilizer containing guano in the water every two weeks.
Fertilize orchids with mineral fertilizers
Mineral fertilizers are directly available to the plant because they are water-soluble. In this way, your orchid can absorb the nutrients it needs directly through the water it pours. To do this, use a liquid fertilizer such as the organic liquid fertilizer for orchids from CUXIN DCM or dissolve fertilizer in granule form before fertilizing.
Simply spreading the granules around the root area or using fertilizer sticks is not recommended. On the one hand, the fertilizer can collect on the ground and thus not be absorbed, on the other hand, the nutrient concentration is not homogeneous in the species. Therefore, the environment quickly burns the roots.
The easiest way is to add the recommended amount of orchid fertilizer to the watering every 14 days during the growth phase. Water your orchid, as usual, using the dipping method. Stick to the dosage instructions or even tend to use a slightly lower dose – mineral fertilizers otherwise quickly lead to salt deposits on the roots.
It then comes due to overfertilization to burns on the roots. If you want to put the icing on the cake, use a nitrogen-rich fertilizer from new shoots until flowering. From the flowering stage, you can then switch to a phosphate-heavy fertilizer.
Fertilizing orchids with home remedies
To avoid buying an expensive orchid fertilizer, there are one or two home remedies. For example, you can fertilize your exotic plants with yeast or coffee grounds, although not all orchids tolerate coffee grounds.
Simply test with a teaspoon of coffee grounds as a trial fertilizer to see how your orchid reacts. You can also give your graceful windowsill dweller a tasty tea. Water with this every two weeks then. To make a compost tea, follow these steps:
- Use only leafy plant materials, and possibly vegetable scraps.
- 2.2 lb of plant material is mixed with 0.2 mpg of water in a container.
- allow resting for 24 hours at a temperature of at least 68 °F
- Sieve the mixture and collect the liquid. The tea can be kept covered for several weeks and can be used several times.
By the way, the already used plant material can be made into tea several times.
Recognize overfertilization in orchids
Although a mineral fertilizer is the best solution for orchids, the fact that these can very easily overdose is especially noticeable in orchids that are easily overfertilized.
An excess of nutrient salts becomes recognizable when the roots of your orchid turn black and begin to rot despite professional watering. Salt deposits on the roots are also a clear sign of overfertilization. The rescue of your orchid can then – if at all – only be accomplished in the following way:
- remove roots from an old substrate
- Rinse roots with rainwater
- transplant coarse, nutrient-poor substrate
- Water only the following day
- Stop fertilizing first and reduce watering
Overfertilization often leads to death in orchids and should be avoided as a matter of urgency. In fact, under certain circumstances listed below, orchids are particularly susceptible to a harmful excess of nutrients.
- Sick or not optimally kept orchids
- Orchid species with very fine roots
- With hard tap water (high calcium and magnesium content).
In these cases, you should only give half of the recommended fertilizer dose. Otherwise, the full dose of fertilizer can be given.
Besides too much fertilizer, there are other common orchid care mistakes. In our special article, we present them to you.