Orchid fertilizer is necessary for new growth and flowers on all orchid plants. When they grow outside, orchids pick up all their necessary nutrients from their natural environment. But if you transplant them or try to grow them indoors, you become the person responsible for providing the nutrients.
The outside natural diet of an orchid is composed of minerals from rainwater, animal and bird dung, and leaves that are decomposing. When you feed them orchid fertilizer, you should use a complete blend ( balanced), which is shown in a three number range, such as 20-20-20. The first number is the amount of nitrogen, the second is phosphorus, and the third is potassium.
Orchids should get extra nitrogen when they are growing, especially if you are using a bark potting mixture. Nitrogen aids the growth of stems and leaves and helps maintain their green coloring. Phosphorus is needed for roots and flowers. Potassium builds tissue and helps the plant produce chlorophyll.
Since the beginning or orchid cultivation, how much fertilizer to give or whether to give any at all has been an item of controversy. Before 1946, growers believed that it was not necessary and maybe even harmful to fertilize epiphytic orchids. Then, almost all growers used osmunda fiber to grow orchids and most had good results. When more growing mediums started to be used, the use of fertilizer started to become necessary.
The first scientist to use fertilizer on orchids was O. Wesley Davidson at Rutgers University. The results showed that orchid fertilizer helped the plants to grow faster and to have more flowers. As experimentation has progressed over the years, recommendations now suggest using a balanced orchid fertilizer with all orchids, unless they are grown in fir bark. Bark causes the orchids to need more nitrogen.
Whatever fertilizer you decide to try, an easy way to begin is to use a 4 parts to one dilution of orchid fertilizer every time you water the plants. You should flush the orchids with plain water once a month.
Fertilizer should not be used too early in the plant’s life. Make sure that the orchid is growing before fertilizing. Today there are even orchid fertilizers which claim they can boost the number of flowers. If you have well-established plants, you might want to give these a try as well.
Today there is even controversy about what kind of nitrogen fertilizer should be used on orchids. There are three types: urea, ammoniacal, and nitrate. Many fertilizers use two types, one in a lesser and one in a higher amount. Most orchid growers recommend a formula that has a higher nitrate nitrogen and a lower ammoniacal nitrogen. Other successful growers pay no attention at all to nitrogen concentrations.
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