Orchids are absolutely stunning to look at and one of the most interesting plants around. Unfortunately, they also have the reputation of being notoriously difficult to grow.
If you’ve been thinking about growing an orchid but are a little overwhelmed, don’t worry. Raising a healthy orchid is not as difficult as you might think.
All you need is the right light, the right amount of water, and the best fertilizer for orchids to get the best results.
Table of Contents
- Why Do Orchids Need Fertilizer?
- Best Fertilizer for Orchids
- Best Orchid Fertilizer Reviews
- 1. Miracle-Gro Orchid Food
- 2. Miracle-Gro Orchid Plant Food Spikes
- 3. Sun Bulb Company 8305 Better Gro Orchid Plus Bloom Booster Fertilizer
- 4. MSU Orchid Fertilizer
- 5. Orchid Love- The World’s Greatest Orchid Food
- 6. Miracle-Gro 100195 Orchid Plant Food Mist Orchid Fertilizer
- 7. Orchid Myst Natural and Professional Orchid Feed spray
- 8. Grow More 5121 All-Purpose Premium Orchid Fertilizer
- What Kind of Fertilizer for Orchids?
- How to Fertilize Orchids?
- How Often to Fertilize Orchids?
- When is the Best Time to Fertilize Orchids?
- When to Fertilize Orchids When Blooming?
Why Do Orchids Need Fertilizer?
While fertilizer won’t necessarily bring a struggling plant back to its glory, it will do wonders for plants with an already stable foundation.
If you want orchids that hold their leaves longer and produce more blooms that are bigger and brighter, you need the right fertilizer.
As we’ll see, fertilizing orchids isn’t as simple as it is with other plants. You have to pay close attention to make sure that you’re not only using the right fertilizer but you’re also using it the right way at the right time.
Before we get into the details, let’s take a close look at the best fertilizer for orchids we found.
Best Fertilizer for Orchids
When it comes to orchid fertilizer, there are a lot of great options available out there.
Whether you’re looking for a spray, concentrate, or granules, you’re in the right place. Here are our top picks for fertilizer for orchids.
|Miracle-Gro Orchid Food||30-10-10|
|Miracle-Gro Orchid Plant Food Spikes||10-10-10|
|Sun Bulb Company 8305 Better Gro Orchid Plus Bloom Booster Fertilizer||11-35-15|
|MSU Orchid Fertilizer||13-3-15|
|Orchid Love- The World's Greatest Orchid Food||1.19-1.06-0.39|
|Miracle-Gro 100195 Orchid Plant Food Mist Orchid Fertilizer||.02- .02- .02|
|Orchid Myst Natural and Professional Orchid Feed spray||- - -|
|Grow More 5121 All-Purpose Premium Orchid Fertilizer||20-20-20|
Best Orchid Fertilizer Reviews
1. Miracle-Gro Orchid Food
This orchid food from Miracle-Gro is the perfect way to make sure your orchids get exactly the nutrients they need to produce deep, rich green leave, gorgeous blooms, and the strong roots they need to thrive.
For best results, apply every 2 weeks during growth periods and every 4 weeks during rest periods for bigger, more beautiful plants. The application is easy, all you have to for indoor plants is mix ¼ teaspoon into a gallon of water that you use to water your plants.
Watering in the morning yields better results as the plants have time to dry throughout the day. Apply to surface roots rather than watering over the foliage. This will help you avoid any issues with fungus or mold growing on the leaves.
2. Miracle-Gro Orchid Plant Food Spikes
Another great choice from Miracle-Gro are these plant food spikes. They encourage the growth of healthy green leaves and gorgeous, colorful blooms. Plus, they’re really easy to use. There’s no mixing or measuring, simply break each spike in half and press them into the soil.
Each stick lasts up to 2 months at which time they should be replaced. That said, these sticks should only be used during growing periods when flowering or new shoots, leaves, or roots are actively developing.
This package contains 10 sticks in all. How many you use with each application depends on the size of the pot. For reference, if your orchid is in a 4-inch pot, you will only need to use one of these slow-acting sticks with each application.
3. Sun Bulb Company 8305 Better Gro Orchid Plus Bloom Booster Fertilizer
Next is this Orchid Better Bloom fertilizer from Better Gro. It uses a precise mix of ingredients including a high amount of phosphate to encourage bigger and brighter blooms that last for a longer period of time.
The formula was developed by professional master growers in the company’s own greenhouses to maximize bloom growth. To use, mix 1 teaspoon per gallon of water and use with every fourth watering. Make sure to thoroughly soak not only the roots but the foliage as well.
This product comes in a larger, resealable 1-pound bag that should last quite a while with only monthly applications. Be sure to seal it up tight when storing it between applications.
4. MSU Orchid Fertilizer
MSU Orchid Fertilizer is famous for how effective it is. This is the fertilizer studied at Michigan State University and has been widely praised since it was published in Orchids: The Bulletin of the American Orchid Society and the Journal of the International Phalaenopsis Alliance in 2003.
What does that mean? This formula has been thoughtfully and carefully put together and tested to get results. It’s urea free and delivers the best results when used with water with low alkalinity, like that obtained from reverse osmosis or by collecting rainfall.
This 8-ounce jar contains enough granules to make about 64 ounces of liquid fertilizer. Just mix a ¾ teaspoon with a gallon of water and make sure to store the rest in a cool, dry place.
5. Orchid Love- The World’s Greatest Orchid Food
Orchid Love is a concentrated liquid fertilizer that comes in a 32-ounce bottle and makes anywhere from 16 to 32 gallons of fertilizer, depending on how strong you mix it. All you have to do it add 1 to 2 ounces to a gallon of water, shake, and you’re ready to go.
This fertilizer is gentle enough to use weekly but should be alternated with plain water every three feedings. When used properly, it will make you orchids bloom again and again and help them establish strong root systems.
So, what’s in it? The perfect blend of all natural, high-quality products like kelp, plant and rooting hormones, and natural sugars. Your orchids will love it and you’ll love the results.
6. Miracle-Gro 100195 Orchid Plant Food Mist Orchid Fertilizer
Our next product, Orchid Plant Food Mist, is another amazing product from Miracle-Gro. This one was formulated specifically for spraying on the roots, soil, and even leaves of your orchid to encourage beautiful, strong growth.
This spray instantly delivers the nutrients and moisture orchids need (just be careful to avoid the blooms). One application will last a full week, too, so this multi-pack of 8-ounce bottles should last you a long time.
7. Orchid Myst Natural and Professional Orchid Feed spray
Orchid Myst is a complex solution that contains a mix of nutrients and growth enhancers as well as organic insect repellents that will help keep away pests so your plant can reach its full potential.
One of the reasons that this spray is so effective is that it delivers a continuous supply of low-level nitrogen, just like an orchid would get in its natural habitat.
Simply deliver a few squirts with the easy-to-use spray bottle every 2 or 3 days for best results. Be sure to aim the spray at the soil and the base of the plant as well as any exposed roots and leaves. Just be sure to avoid misting the flowers.
8. Grow More 5121 All-Purpose Premium Orchid Fertilizer
Finally, we have to recommend this fertilizer from Grow More. It delivers multiple sources or nitrogen for ideal release times and can be used as a general purpose fertilizer all year round. Plus, it’s a great choice for growing plants in gravel or any inorganic culture, too.
These granules come in a 1.25-pound jar and contain equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, the 3 main things that all plants need to stimulate strong growth. Simply dissolve a single teaspoon into a gallon of water the saturate the soil every 10 days to 2 weeks for best results.
What Kind of Fertilizer for Orchids?
As we mentioned, even the best fertilizer won’t necessarily bring a struggling orchid back, but why?
It’s best to think of fertilizer as orchid vitamins, a supplement that gives it what it’s lacking from its main food supply.
It’s not the medicine which is why it may not be able to fix a sick plant. It also can’t really be considered food since orchids are a plant and plants make their own food using photosynthesis.
That said, in order to understand what kind of fertilizer is best for orchids, it helps to understand a little something about photosynthesis.
What Happens during Photosynthesis?
Photosynthesis in orchids works the same as in all plants. Water is absorbed through the roots and taken to the leaves. The leaves use chlorophyll, the chemical that gives them their green color, to absorb light from the sun.
This energy is used to break down the water into it’s 2 separate parts: oxygen and hydrogen. While some oxygen is used by the plant, most of it is mostly excreted into the air. The hydrogen combines with the carbon dioxide inside the plant’s cells and a little bit of oxygen to make sugar that feeds the plant.
So, photosynthesis provides the orchid of its food but not the macronutrients it needs to really thrive. That’s where fertilizer comes in.
What Does Fertilizer Do?
There are 3 macronutrients that are important for orchid growth that the plant cannot produce itself. They are:
- Nitrogen aids leaf and stem development.
- Phosphorous helps with healthy root and flower production.
- Potassium strengthens plant tissue.
Every orchid fertilizer is labeled with 3 numbers which tell you the ratio of these ingredients. So, if you see 20-20-20, each one makes up 20% of the total mix.
If the label claims that the fertilizer is complete, that means it has all 3 of these macronutrients. If it’s balanced, it means they’re present in equal amounts.
What Should You Look for in a Fertilizer for Orchids?
The most important thing to look for when choosing a fertilizer is nitrogen. Avoid any product that uses urea nitrogen as research has shown that it’s not very beneficial. Look for nitrate nitrogen or ammoniacal nitrogen.
You also want a maximum of 20% nitrogen. Too much of anything isn’t good for the plant and it doesn’t need any more than this.
Check for trace elements, too. A fertilizer that’s supplemented with calcium and magnesium is good, too. If there aren’t any trace elements listed as ingredients in the fertilizer, you may want to add some when you water your plants.
How to Fertilize Orchids?
Honestly, it depends on the type of fertilizer.
Concentrated formulas that you have to mix with water can usually be applied safely to the soil and roots. These come both as a concentrated liquid and granulated crystals. Each should be thoroughly mixed and dissolved into the right amount of water before use.
Some can also be safely applied to the leaves but be sure to follow the instructions on the label. Depending on the formula and how much you apply, watering over the leaves might lead to problems with fungus and mold.
Sprays are usually safe for everything except the blooms themselves. This is due to the way they’re formulated and because they use such a fine mist that it would be hard to apply enough water to damage the foliage.
Finally, there are fertilizer sticks, too. They usually feature a slow-release formula and are stuck down into the soil between the roots and the edge of the pot.
How Often to Fertilize Orchids?
If you’ve done any research on orchids, you’ve likely come across the phrase “Water weekly, weakly”. This is an old rule of thumb that helps you remember how often to fertilize and to remind you not to overdo it.
There is another school of thought that says it’s more beneficial to give a strong dose of fertilizer once a month. So, which is correct?
Orchids don’t naturally come across a lot of these nutrients so they’re not used to getting them in large amounts. That’s why you have to be careful not to use too much. In fact, using too much fertilizer can cause brown leaves and root damage.
Read the directions for the fertilizer you choose. Some can be used every 2 to 3 days while others really are only used weekly with a break of water without fertilizer every few weeks. If they’re formulated for orchids, they’ll have the right balance if you follow the directions.
If you’re worried about overdoing it, you can start with a diluted concentrated. For example, if the instructions say to use a teaspoon of fertilizer in a gallon of water, you can try ½ teaspoon in a gallon to start. Experiment until you find the mix that gets the best results.
It’s very important that you don’t overfeed. Some people might think that since they got results with a regular application, using even more will deliver larger blossoms and sturdier plants. This isn’t the case. There really can be too much of a good thing.
What can be deceiving is that the orchid can initially look like using too much fertilizer is actually working. In fact, orchids that are overfed grow too fast. They’re also very weak and can quickly catch diseases.
How can you tell if you’re overdoing it? If you see salt buildup in the pot, it means you’ve used too much fertilizer. This salt buildup can seriously harm the plant so if you do notice any, it’s probably best to repot flower.
When is the Best Time to Fertilize Orchids?
When you should fertilize your orchid depends on where it is in its blooming cycle.
It’s important to keep your orchids fertilized during growth periods and before their blooming period. This varies from one type of orchid to another. Some bloom during the spring and summer while other varieties bloom in the winter. Some bloom twice a year.
During this time, a schedule of fertilizing every week with a break every third week using only plain water is a good schedule. The plant is getting ready to sprout and in a period of rapid growth so it needs the added nutrients.
Moisture is important during this time, too. If you notice dry soil between treatments, moisten the soil using plain water as necessary.
Note that this information is for fertilizer that is mixed with water like concentrated liquids or granules. If you’re using a spray or stick, follow the instructions on the package but try to stick to the same basic timeframes outlined here.
After the orchid blooms, the flower will eventually wilt and fall off. Then, the orchid enters its dormant phase as it gets ready for the next one.
During this time, it’s not necessary to fertilize as often. In fact, every other week should be enough to make sure it’s getting what it needs to stay strong and healthy and ensure blooms for next season.
That said, often summer bloomers will need more fertilization throughout their dormant period than winter bloomers do.
If you’re wondering, morning is the best time of day to water or fertilize an orchid. That way, the leaves have time to dry in the sunlight.
A Word about Watering
Watering is different than fertilizing. While a lot of fertilizers are added to the water, it’s still important to make sure your orchids are hydrated. Plus, taking a break and using plain water can get rid of any built up salts and minerals.
It’s very important not to over water. Never let pots sit in standing water can rot the roots and soil and create an ideal environment for bacteria, fungi, and parasites.
When to Fertilize Orchids When Blooming?
Believe it or not, orchids actually need less fertilizer when they’re blooming. Why? Because there’s no active growth occurring.
During a growth period, the orchid is actively growing new roots and leaves. This is the phase when an orchid needs the most fertilizer.
When the flowers eventually wilt and fall off, the orchid goes dormant preparing for the next growth phase and budding. It needs very little fertilizer during this period.
When blooming, it’s somewhere in between. Once or twice a month with a diluted concentration is often enough, especially since the dormant period comes right after the bloom.
If you’re curious about orchids but are overwhelmed by everything you’ve heard about growing them, don’t worry. With a little bit of research, the right amount of light and water, and a good orchid fertilizer, you’ll soon figure out how to give your plant what it needs to thrive.
The advice in this guide is a general overview. Every variety of orchid is different. Once you choose the one you like, research it so you know exactly what it needs.
One more really important thing to remember is to follow the instructions on the fertilizer you choose concerning concentration and how often to apply. Each of our top picks it unique so be sure to read the package carefully.
Finally, remember that orchids don’t actually need as much fertilizer as other plants so it’s always better to give a small dose than to over fertilize. Start with diluted concentrations and work up to what works best for your plant.