If you have orchids, or you know that you don’t have any fertilizer around other than orchid fertilizer, you might be wondering if you can use this fertilizer on other houseplants.
The quick answer is “yes”, but it’s a bit more complicated than that! Let’s jump in and learn more about how you can use orchid fertilizer on other plants and look at the situations where this might be appropriate.
Table of Contents
Understanding the Needs of Different Plants
Before we get into this too much, it’s important that you understand something. Every plant in your home or on your property has specific fertilization requirements. If you over-fertilize, or perhaps under-fertilize, you could certainly harm or kill the plant.
So, you have to remember that orchid fertilizer is specifically made for the nutritional needs of orchids, so it won’t be a perfect solution for other plants.
What is the Makeup of Orchid Fertilizer?
All fertilizer, including orchid fertilizer, is made of three different nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. This is known as the N-P-K ratio: N = nitrogen, P = phosphorus, and K = potassium.
A balanced fertilizer is one that has all three nutrients in an equal amount, i.e. 10-10-10 would mean the same amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are all equal.
The number is a percentage. So in a 10-10-10 fertilizer, it would be 10% of each. A formula of 5-3-3 would be 5% nitrogen, 3% phosphorus, and 3% potassium.
In addition to these nutrients, however, there are also micronutrients. So, a fertilizer that is specifically made for orchids has additional nutrients that orchids need. A fertilizer for roses has additional nutrients that roses need. This could be problematic for some plants.
Keep in mind, however, that there are some fertilizer brands that label the same exact formulas for different plants. For instance, you might find a bag labeled “houseplant fertilizer” has the same makeup as a bag labeled “raised bed fertilizer”. So, always read the labels.
Breaking Down Orchid Fertilizer
Before talking about using orchid fertilizer on other plants, let’s break it down by nutrient:
Orchids need nitrogen to help with the development of leaves, and it is very important for plants as it helps to produce chlorophyll. They require a lot of nitrogen; more than other plants, and this can cause issues.
Phosphorus is used by orchids for the flowers, roots, and seed development. Orchids actually need more phosphorus than other household plants, so this is where things might get problematic.
For orchids, most fertilizers have 10% phosphorus, but most other houseplants require about 5%. With the extra nitrogen and phosphorus in orchid fertilizer, it could be too strong for regular application on household plants.
Potassium is used for overall well-being of orchids and other plants. In this case, the ratios are closer to what other plants need.
The Other Ingredients of Orchid Fertilizer
Remember when we talked about the other nutrients that are also added to orchid fertilizer? Typically, the biggest thing you should look for is a fertilizer with magnesium.
However, when you add magnesium to other household plants, they begin lacking other nutrients like zinc, calcium, iron, and boron.
What Happens If You Put Orchid Fertilizer on Other Household Plants?
Now that you know all about orchid fertilizer, you may wonder what can happen if you use this on your other household plants.
First, since orchid fertilizer has more nitrogen, phosphorus, and perhaps potassium, you could be over-fertilizing the other plants. This, of course, could harm or even kill the plants if you use it too often.
Another thing that people don’t realize is orchids are usually fertilized every week. Other houseplants, however, are typically fertilized every two to three months. Applying orchid fertilizer to other plants each week can quickly weaken the plants.
You might notice a few signs that you are fertilizing your plants too much. First, you may notice that the leaves are turning yellow. This sometimes causes people to fertilize more! But, it’s actually slowly killing the plant.
These yellow leaves eventually turn brown and then fall off. Eventually, the root system will become affected, too.
Another sign of over-fertilization is that the soil of the plant becomes crumbly and may look like there is powder forming on it.
What Plants are the Best for Orchid Fertilizer
You can use orchid fertilizer on other plants in a pinch, but it’s best not to do this long-term. There are some plants that do better with orchid fertilizer than others.
African violets, for instance, can actually benefit from orchid fertilizer. These plants have similar nutritional needs to orchids.
Other plants, like succulents, also tend to react well to orchid fertilizer. The best thing to do here is to use the leftover fertilizer water on your succulents instead of pouring it out.