Fertilize orchids: how to fertilize orchids properly

1 comment by Tjark Harjes

If you want to enjoy your orchids for a long time, you should consider fertilizing. A fertilizer supplies the pretty plants with the necessary nutrients and supports them in growth. With the right tips, fertilizing is child’s play.

Nutritional requirements of orchids

In the wild, orchids grow as so-called epiphytes. This means that they are not rooted in the ground on the ground, but grow on other plants, rocks or even on roofs. So you can find support and still get enough light. The aerial roots of the epiphytes get their nutrients from fog and rainwater, which is always available. It is therefore normal for orchids to be exposed to small amounts of nutrients on a regular basis - therefore they are among the weak consumers.

If you want to provide your orchid with a comparable nutrient supply at home, this can be difficult. Conventional orchid substrate provides your plant with few important salts and trace elements such as calcium, magnesium and zinc. Fortunately, commercially available orchid species such as Phalaenopsis, Cattleya and the lady's slipper orchid do not need any special treatment, but thanks to their insensitivity they do well on your windowsill. However, if you own a very exclusive orchid variety, you should try to give it its usual supply of nutrients.

Fertilized Orchid

Which orchid fertilizer should you fertilize orchids with?

Since potted orchids do not take root in commercially available potting soil, not every fertilizer is suitable for them. The required orchid substrate is particularly coarse and permeable to air, so only a water-soluble fertilizer should be used - so the orchid can absorb it via the irrigation water.

Liquid fertilizer has the advantage that the nutrients it contains reach the orchid quickly and easily. A mineral orchid fertilizer that only contains the required nutrients is best suited.

You should preferably use special orchid fertilizer - this contains the nutrient composition tailored to the weak eaters. In a pinch, you can also use a regular liquid fertilizer. However, you should make sure to dilute the fertilizer before use, as this is far too high a dose for orchids. In this case, mix the commercial fertilizer with ten times the amount of water.

Fertilize orchids: liquid fertilizer or fertilizer sticks?

In contrast to many other plants, orchids in pot culture do not need potting soil, but special orchid substrate. The substrate has a coarse structure and mostly consists of wood, natural fibers or peat moss. This is of great importance for the orchid: it has to find support and at the same time get enough oxygen. In addition, the substrate stores liquid after watering, which is released to the plant as needed.

Due to the special properties of the orchid substrate, it is obvious that fertilizer sticks do not make much sense for orchids. Nutrients are particularly concentrated near the rod, which is detrimental to the plant's sensitive roots. The uneven distribution of the nutrients is due to the fact that they cannot properly dissolve in the substrate.

Liquid fertilizer is best suited for fertilizing orchids. This is easy to use and dose. Unlike fertilizer sticks, liquid fertilizer can ensure even nutrient distribution. Whether you use special orchid fertilizer or normal liquid fertilizer is up to you. In the latter case, the recommended amount should be mixed with water in a ratio of 1:10 before use, otherwise the nutrient dose is too high. Ideally, you simply add the liquid fertilizer to your irrigation water - this is the best way for the orchid to absorb the nutrients.

Orchids fertilize in the greenhouse

How often should you fertilize your orchid?

Over-fertilization can have serious consequences for orchids: in the worst case, they can become ill or even die due to excessive fertilization. So it is obvious that you should not fertilize your orchid too often.

The more the merrier - that doesn't apply here. In general, orchids do better with too little fertilizer than too much. If your orchid is in the flowering phase or in the dormant phase, you should not fertilize it. When the growth phase of your plant begins and it gets new shoots or leaves, it needs a particularly large number of nutrients. Fertilizer can help the orchid grow significantly during its growing season. Fertilization should be done every two weeks during this phase.

When should you fertilize your orchid?

In general, two phases can be distinguished in the orchid: the growth phase and the flowering phase. The growing season usually extends from early spring to autumn. From autumn you can look forward to the beautiful blossoms of the orchid. If you want to fertilize your orchid, the timing is very important.

Only fertilize your orchid during the growing season. The orchid uses the nutrients from the fertilizer primarily to form new leaf mass, roots, buds and flowers. Therefore, it should be fertilized regularly, especially in spring, i.e. at the beginning of the growth phase. As soon as you see the first new leaves and shoots on your orchid, you can start fertilizing.

In the subsequent flowering phase of the plant you should completely avoid fertilizers. The orchid stores the fertilizer received during the growing season and also feeds on it during the flowering period. If you still fertilize your orchid during the flowering phase, the risk of an excess of nutrients is high, which ultimately stunts the growth of the orchid.

If your orchid was just in full bloom, the dormant phase begins. This is characterized by the fact that the plant neither blooms nor grows. As long as the dormant phase lasts, you should refrain from fertilizing. Once your orchid starts growing again, you can safely use fertilizers.

If you have just repotted your orchid, you can sit back and relax: it does not need any additional nutrients for four to six weeks.

Water drops on orchid

The right fertilization for orchids

Organic fertilizer for orchids

Organic fertilizers are not artificially produced, but contain components of plant or animal origin. Even if organic fertilizers are an ecological and good alternative to mineral fertilizers, most of them are unfortunately not suitable for orchids. The nutrients cannot be absorbed through the irrigation water and must first be released by microorganisms. Compost, manure or similar cannot be used to fertilize orchids either.

There is an alternative: Guano is an organic orchid fertilizer made from calcified excrement from seabirds or bats. In contrast to other organic fertilizers, the paste contains nutrients that are water-soluble and can therefore be absorbed by orchids.

Mineral fertilizer for orchids

Mineral fertilizers have the great advantage that they dissolve in water. The orchid can therefore absorb the nutrients it needs quickly and without any major detours via the irrigation water. In addition, inorganic fertilizer only contains nutrients that the plant can also use. You can dissolve organic fertilizers in the form of granules in water or buy a liquid fertilizer directly.

Even if mineral orchid fertilizer has many advantages, it should be used with caution: Mineral fertilizers can quickly lead to over-fertilization. To prevent this from happening, you should water your orchid with a mixture of fertilizer and water every two weeks during the growth phase. Here you immerse them as usual in the irrigation water. If you are unsure about the fertilizer dose, less is more: it is better for the plant to get too little fertilizer than too much.

Fertilize orchids with home remedies

If you want to save the money for an expensive plant fertilizer or if you generally rely on well-tried home remedies, we have good news. Fertilize an orchid with home remedies - that's quite possible.

One way is to simply recycle the leftovers from your morning coffee. Some orchids tolerate coffee grounds as a fertilizer, but not all. To test this, you can carefully use a teaspoon of coffee grounds as fertilizer as a test. If your orchid reacts unusually, you should of course stop fertilizing with coffee grounds and use a different fertilizer instead.

The orchid prefers liquid fertilizer. Rice water and milk are particularly impressive because of their high protein and mineral content. Nevertheless, these home remedies should be used in moderation - the orchid cannot process too many nutrients. Your orchid also likes tea: You can easily make your own compost tea from leafy plant materials and water.

Recognize fertilizer errors

If you have had an orchid at home for a long time, this probably sounds familiar to you: After your flower has bloomed intensively, it seems neither to grow nor to bloom again. This is completely natural and nothing to worry about. However, if there is no growth or shoot formation for several months, this can be a sign of a nutrient deficiency.

In order to recognize possible fertilization errors in your orchid, you should also check the color of the leaves regularly. Unnaturally light green orchid leaves indicate a magnesium deficiency, while yellow leaves indicate a nitrogen deficiency. However, you should not confuse yellowing with yellowing, which occurs naturally when a leaf dies. If you discover a red coloration on the underside of the orchid's leaf, it does not get enough phosphate.

If white crystals are deposited on the substrate and the roots of the plant, you have meant too well with the fertilization. The orchid is oversalted due to excessive fertilization. Even if the roots of your plant rot or the tips of the leaves dry up and you can rule out incorrect watering, the orchid has received too much salt. If you use too much fertilizer, the aerial roots of the orchid can be burnt, causing the plant to die off in the long term.

Avoid fertilizer mistakes

Woman fertilizes orchids

If your orchid is currently in the dormant phase, in which it neither blooms nor grows, you must not fertilize it. The plant simply does not need any additional nutrients. As soon as your plant has a new shoot or a new leaf, you should provide the orchid with additional nutrients again.

If you see signs of over-fertilization, you should act as soon as possible: remove old substrate from the roots of your plant and rinse them thoroughly with rainwater. Now you can place your orchid in a coarse, nutrient-poor substrate so that it can recover from over-fertilization. Water your orchid in small amounts from the following day and do without fertilizer for the time being.

To avoid over-fertilization in the first place, you should heed the following tip: alternately immerse the orchid in fertilized water and rainwater on a weekly basis. Excess salt from the fertilizer is easily washed off, which avoids overloading the roots. Healthy roots are an important requirement for nutrient uptake and growth.

Over-fertilization occurs particularly frequently in orchids that are diseased or are not kept optimally. So always make sure your plant is doing well. When watering, you should make sure that the water is not too hard - too high a calcium or magnesium content is not good for an orchid. Orchid species with very fine roots are also particularly susceptible to over-fertilization. In all these cases, you should reduce the fertilizer application - half the recommended fertilizer dose is sufficient.

Fertilized orchid from near


Should you fertilize your orchids when they bloom?

If the orchid is in the flowering phase, it should never be fertilized. This can lead to an excess of nutrients, which hampers bud growth. In the worst case, the orchid will become ill or die.

Can you fertilize your orchids with coffee grounds?

It is possible to use coffee grounds as a fertilizer for orchids, but not all orchids tolerate it. So first you should try out a small amount (e.g. a teaspoon) to see whether your orchid tolerates the coffee grounds.

What don't orchids like?

Orchids don't like being fertilized too often. Fertilization should be done every two weeks, but only during the growth phase. In addition, the recommended fertilizer dose must not be exceeded. Commercially available fertilizers must be diluted at a ratio of 1:10, otherwise they contain too many nutrients.

1 comment

  • Heinz-Ulrich Finkam

    guter Artikel.Es fehlt der Hinweis, wieviel Gramm/l mineralischen Düngers
    (N-P-K + Spurenelemente) man nehmen soll.Sind 2-3 g/l ok?
    Mit dem Blütenansatz sollte man ggfs. 1-2x Phosphor- und Kalium betonten Volldünger nehmen.

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