With the number of fertilizers on the market, choosing the right fertilizer for your orchids can make your head spin! Don't get overwhelmed, proper nutrition doesn't need to be complicated.
Choosing the right fertilizer involves two things; 1) how to read the label and 2) how to use what you choose.
All fertilizers are not the same! Fortunately, manufacturers are required to follow a set of rules and when listing the chemical elements inside the package. Comparing fertilizers isn't difficult when you know how to read the label.
All fertilizers contain three main ingredients (called macro-nutrients), Nitrogen(N), Phosphorus(P), and Potash(K). Fertilizer packages have three numbers on the front panel that describe what percentage of each element is in the fertilizer. This is called the "NPK" ratio.
The first number is percentage of Nitrogen (N) - for growing leaves and stems. The second number is the percentage of Phosphorus(P) - for flower production, and the third is the percentage Potash(K) - for stronger roots.
For example, if your fertilizer has 8-9-5 on the front panel, it contains 8% nitrogen, 9% Phosphorus, and 5% Potash.
Read the back panel - you should see 14 elements (called micro-nurients) plants need for healthy growth. Most fertilizers contain the three main elements (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potash), but skimp on the rest.
If your fertilizer doesn't have all 16 elements needed for growth, you're taking a hit-or-miss approach and your plants could be missing important minerals.
Look on the back of the package - what's in your fertilizer?
Unlike houseplants, orchids enjoy 3 different seasons in their growing pattern (grow, bloom and rest).
Adjusting your nutrients to coincide with these changing seasons promotes optimum growth and brilliant blooms.
Note: Orchids have internal calendars that determines each season. So don't try to force your plants to change their schedule - it won't work! Some bloom in summer, others prefer winter.
This is the longest and most important season. During the growing season your plants are busy building new leaves and developing the energy to flower. It's important that they get plenty of air, light, and water (the real food for growth) during this period.
Choose a balanced fertilizer, such as Dyna-Gro Grow 7-9-5 (7% nitrogen, 9% phosphorus, and 7% potash), for the growing season. Be sure to look on the back for 11 additional elements needed for robust growth. Then you have a "complete, balanced fertilizer" and your plants will benefit all through the growing season.
A new flower spike signals the start of the blooming season (this what you've been waiting for)! Your plant has built up energy during its growing season and now it's ready to burst into bloom! Time to change your fertilizer for bigger, better blooms.
Dyna-Gro Bloom 3-12-6 (3% nitrogen, 12% phosphorus, and 6% potash.) is perfect for this. Low nitrogen - high phosphorus. This is called a "Bloom Formula" that will encourage bigger, better blooms that last longer. It also contains all the trace elements making it a "complete, balanced fertilizer"
Important Note: BLOOM FERTILIZERS WON'T MAKE YOUR PLANTS BLOOM! Proper light and temperature are the only things that trigger bloom cycles. Bloom fertilizers encourage bigger, brighter flowers that last longer - but they won't make your plants bloom. Switch to a "Bloom formula" is AFTER you see a flower spike.
After they have finished blooming, orchids take a well deserved rest. Some plants even go into a dormant period where they shed their leaves and all activity stops. Don't use any fertilizers at this point. Also, water sparingly - just enough to keep the plant alive. When you see new growth, a new "growing season" has begun and then it's time to begin applying nutrients again.
There are many different approaches to successfully growing orchids, especially when it comes to nutrients. Just ask any two "experienced" growers and you'll get two different answers - guaranteed.
The difference between Bloom Fertilizers and Bloom Boosters can be confusing for any beginner grower.
"Bloom Fertilizers" are blended to encourage better blooms and include all the elements your plants need for healthy growth. They're are designed to replace regular fertilizers when new flower spikes appear.
"Bloom Boosters", on the other hand, are supplements that contain only those elements to enhance flowering - and nothing else. They're designed to be added to an existing base fertilizer for complete, balanced nutrition.
For example, Dyna-Gro Mag-Pro 2-15-4, an excellent bloom booster (2% nitrogen,15% phosphorus and 4% potash) but it has only two trace elements - magnesium and sulfur. It's designed to be added to a complete fertilizer such as Dyna-Gro Grow 7-9-5 to encourage better blooms.
Which is better - switching to a "complete" Bloom formula or simply adding a "bloom booster" to your basic grow formula? That's up to you.
Just remember, all of this nutrient stuff doesn't matter if your plants aren't getting the real food they need for growth; air, light, and water. Orchids need proper light and temperatures to bloom - not more fertilizer.
Organic means "the nutrient contained in the product is derived solely from the remains of once living organisms". This includes animal wastes, crop residues, compost and numerous other byproducts.
Organic fertilizers sound good but most are incomplete in their nutritional value. They contain only one or two nutritional elements so blending different products is necessary. The result is uncontrollable, difficult to measure, and usually carries an odor. You never really know what your plants are getting.
Earthworm castings, seaweed, and bat guano head the list of organic remedies. Do you really want to put this stuff on your plants, and in your home? Why take a chance when complete, balanced nutrition is so easy?
Hydroponic Advantage: Hydroponic nutrients have all the elements needed for healthy growth in an easy to use concentrated liquid. A complete, balanced nutrition program is easy. Just add a couple of drops every time you water and your plants will be getting everything they need.
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