Orchid Care - Plant Nutrition Made Easy

In nature, plants get nutrients from organic debris that collects at the roots. This can be anything from decaying tree bark to bird droppings. Complex interactions involving live bacteria, enzymes, and microbes break down this organic matter so the plant can absorb it. 

This process is almost impossible with potted plants. Potting mixes are sterilized, killing the bacteria needed to transform organic matter into a form your plants can use. So, potted plants rely on you to provide the nutritional elements for growth. 

1. The Real Food Plants Need

Don't confuse "Plant Nutrients" with "Plant Food". The real "food" plants use to grow is light, water, and air. See box at right. Nutrients (or fertilizer), on the other hand, are the minerals plants absorb at the roots to help "digest" the real food for growth.

If you're not giving your plants the real "food" they need to grow (light, water, air), your choice of nutrients won't matter.

Plant Food or Plant Nutrients?

Plants manufacture their own "food". Using the power of the sun, they mix air, light, and water to make carbohydrates. These carbohydrates are the real "food" that stimulates new growth. This process is called "photosynthesis".

On the other hand, "Plant Nutrition" is the mineral elements collected by the roots to enhance photosynthesis. These nutritional elements cannot compensate for lack real food plants use for growth (air, light, and water).

So, before you give your plants that extra shot of energy with more nutrients, make sure they're getting the "real food" they need for healthy new growth.

  1.   Adequate light
  2.   Correct watering
  3. Good air circulation
2. "Bloom" Fertilizers Don't Make Your Plants Bloom

"Bloom" fertilizers won't make your orchid bloom. They simply encourage bigger, brighter flowers that last longer.

Orchids have their own internal calendars that determines when they flower. When the time is right, proper light and cool evening temperatures are the only things that trigger blooming cycles. 

Don't try to forcing your plants to change their blooming schedule - it won't work! Flowering times vary with each type of orchid. Some plants bloom in summer, others prefer winter.

3. Don't Over Do It!

In nature, orchids grow where moisture and nutrients are scarce. To survive in this harsh environment, they've adapted to living comfortably on a slim diet of water and nutrients.

So over do it with fertilizer! Choose a quality fertilizer - and be stingy when applying it.

Healthy plants come from the right amount of light, water, and air - the real food for growth.

I've never seen an orchid die from lack of fertilizer.

TIP: If your plant is ailing, the last thing it needs is more fertilizer!

The Difference Between Orchids and Houseplants

Orchids are much more finicky about nutrients than houseplants. 

In nature, houseplants live on the forest floor where nutrients are abundant. Their roots grow in a combination of soil, decaying leaves, animal droppings, etc. These plants have the luxury of picking and choosing from an "all you can eat" smorgasboard of mineral elements. 

Orchids, on the other hand, grow on rocks and trees, where moisture and nutrients can be scarce. To survive in this harsh environment, they have adapted to living comfortably on a slim diet of nutrients. 

For healthy orchids, use a quality fertilizer that has all the elements - and then be stingy when applying it. (I recommend 1/2 strength.)

I've never seen an orchid die from lack of fertilizer!

 Know Your Nutrients
How To Use Nutrients
    Plant Nutrition- The Hydroponic Advantage

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